When it comes to a cappella groups, Georgetown has no shortage. This means that making a group stand out among the many musical ensembles on campus is not an easy task. However, Resonant Essence Live is a group taking up this very challenge. The group’s mission is to leave a distinguished legacy among the numerous a cappella groups on campus by bringing a culturally-conscious twist to the Georgetown music scene.
“The group’s presence is so important to ensuring that the Hilltop is reflective of the growing diverse student population, especially those who share a love for music and the arts. The way we arrange and perform our music is a direct reflection of an important pillar of African-American culture,” R.E.L.s former president Brittney Blakely (COL’14) said.
While the 13-person group describes its sound as being particularly “soulful and urban,” it always tries to mix up its sound in order to cater to its audience’s taste. From Bob Marley remixes to Caribbean mashups, the group is never afraid of experimenting with its sound.
“We’re really dynamic in everything that we sing. We’re not really set in one mold.” said President Michelle Darko (NHS ’17).
R.E.L. has performed for a number of Georgetown’s ethnic groups including the Caribbean Culture Society and the African Society of Georgetown.
Nona Johnson (COL ’17), the group’s vice president, said that the group has remained adamant about maintaining cultural diversity.
“The community doesn’t really see a need for it, but we respect the founder of our group. He really had a vision,” Johnson said.
R.E.L. was founded in 2007 by the late Terrance Davis (COL ’10). Davis was a part of Georgetown University’s Gospel Choir and was active in the theater program. He died in 2008 in a presumed drowning while studying abroad in South Africa.
“A lot of students lost a great presence when [Davis] passed,” Johnson said. “He was a huge part of the atmosphere on campus. We’re just lucky to be a part of something he left behind.”
While the group is interested in creating culturally varied music, it also performs a number of mixes with contemporary American rhythm and blues and hip-hop artists from Beyoncé to John Legend to Wale. One of the group’s latest mixes features a number of hits by Michael Jackson.
The groups song producing process varies depending on the occasion.
“If there’s a specific event, we want to sing a song that the audience] will know so that they’ll be able to sing along with us,” said Darko, who is in charge of most of R.E.L.’s musical arrangements.
“Our sound is soulful, eclectic and distinct, and any opportunity to share that with an audience is an honor for us, an ode to those before us and a good time for those who hear and feel what we aim to deliver,” Brinkley said.
The group tries to maintain an open environment during rehearsals, allowing members to exert creative control as it desires.
“If anyone has a song they really like, they might suggest it in one of our practices, and I’ll see if I can come up with a mix,” Darko said.
“Also I might bring a song to the group and someone might add a better suggestion. It really is a creative environment where everybody gets to put in their input so we can create something that’s great.”
Johnson and Darko emphasized that they developed a love of music at a young age; from singing in church choirs to being active in their school theater programs, music has always been more of an instinct than hobby.
“The idea of being able to turn the song, that’s what makes it most exciting,” secretary Jordan Smith (NHS ’17) said. “It’s just you. You’re recreating all these drums and bass with just your voice.”