Soul music tends to incorporate a wide variety of musical genres. It is rooted in gospel and rhythm and blues, dating back to Curtis Mayfield and the outbreak of "sweet soul" that swept the northern inner cities of the United States 40 years back. On Thursday, May 6, the same "call and response" R&B music from the contemporary likes of R. Kelly, Janet Jackson, Black Eyed Peas and more echoed through the South Campus Commons as Brandeis' coed a cappella group Voices of Soul presented its annual spring show.Since its inception in 2001, Voices of Soul has been highly regarded at Brandeis for its contagious rhythms and unique compilations of contemporary R&B. It is no secret that a cappella at Brandeis, with a plethora of musical competition, is a large time commitment; to be the best, members of such a cappella groups often meet several times a week for practice, performance and publicity purposes. But the most distinguishing factor of Voices of Soul is not so much its wealth of talent as the admirable accomplishments of its current members. Jeremy Sherer '10 established the Brandeis branch of J Street U, an Israel advocacy group for college campuses. Lisa Fitzgerald '10, the group's current musical director, implemented a nonprofit support network for Quito, one of Ecuador's many women's shelters, during her time abroad there last year. Lexi Kriss '11, the group's unassumingly talented and energetic main beatboxer, was heavily involved in orientation last fall and Ji Yun Lee '11, who has also served as an orientation leader in the past, has been noted around campus for her impeccable sense of style and continues to be an active participant in Brandeis' Korean Student Association. And while the list of involvements continues to grow for the group's 16 members, this semester show aimed to introduce the audience to both the group's musical talents and its array of diverse participants.

The group began the show with one of its most recognizable pieces, "Black or White," originally sung by Michael Jackson. Fitzgerald's soprano solo set a high energy level for the show's opening with her expressive style, complemented by harmonies by Rani Schloss '11 and Kriss' highly energetic beatboxing.

The group's humorous choreography garnered giggles from audience members at various points throughout the evening, as when the group "got down" in recovering its rendition of Jay Sean's "Down" from the struggling vocals of its beginning soloist. Alicia Keys' "No One," however, needed no recovery with a vivacious and powerful solo from Stephanie Johnson '13, whose ability to reach and connect a varying scale of notes sent a chill across the room and caused audience members to cheer throughout the song. Following Johnson's outstanding introductory solo, Kriss switched the stage lights off, and all that lit the South Campus Commons was an incandescent light from above. The group formed a semicircle and danced with attitude to the beat as Sherer entered the foreground, rapping about themes of discrimination, terrorism, love and humanity. Other individuals stepped into the center, continuing the group's original free-flowing rap to the piece.

In the group's performance of "Together Again," a song popularized by Janet Jackson, the energy started low with a solo from Geraldine Rothschild '12. Her strong, controlled voice served as a natural progression to the upbeat key change that the audience anticipated from familiarity with the original song. As the song progressed to a faster pace, I found it hard to fully appreciate the group's unique harmonies with the sopranos in front overshadowing the tenors and altos in the back row. The group's configuration throughout the show, however, was in no way stagnant. For the next song, "No Diggity" by Blackstreet, the male group members shuffled to the front of the stage while the ladies took their places in the back. With soulful runs and lively instrumentals of "hey-yahs" and repetitive "no diggitys," the song incorporated several soloists who gave audience members an extensive taste of the eclectic voices within the group. While some of the baritone solos were slightly muffled and rushed, others exhibited all that Voices of Soul had to offer: Lucas Silva's '13 featured an impressive falsetto; Joshua Kahane's '12 displayed his finely tuned vocals; and Darlene Zephryne's '12 had a sultry twist.

As occurs in most of?Brandeis' spring semester shows, Voices of Soul reached moments of bittersweet sentiment as the group bade farewell to its longstanding senior members. Sherer, whom Kriss called the "godfather of the group," and Fitzgerald, who claimed she found she found her soul in the group, performed the fitting Al Green classic "Just the Two of Us," which was followed by emotional speeches from the group's younger members, who recounted their personal and professional interactions with the soon-to-be graduates. While Lee will continue her role as president of the group, the responsibilities of musical director will be divided between Kriss and Schloss. Although group members expressed doubt in their ability to continue without the guidance and support of their beloved seniors, the songs performed at their semester show leave me with faith that Voices of Soul will continue to improve and thrive on the talents and enthusiasm of its rising leaders.