Something that many people have been craving throughout the pandemic is the return of live music. Brandeis’ all-female a cappella group, Too Cheap For Instruments, helped satisfy this desire as a part of Brandeis’s annual Folkfest. On Thursday, April 29, the group put on a virtual concert via YouTube Live, and four members of the group performed their original songs.  

The first performer of the night was Grace Elizabeth ’24, who performed three of her original piano compositions. Elizabeth described her music as having “a focus on mental health and finding the simple joys in life.” The first song she played was entitled “Evensong.” The song referenced hymns that were sung in the evening and was inspired by older church hymns. She followed this up with a song called “Pulse.” The reason she called the song “Pulse” was because the main motif of the work was a heartbeat rhythm, which continued throughout the entire work. She closed her set with “The Genesis of Purpose,” a musical representation of why she makes music. Elizabeth hoped that the listeners could make their own connections to the songs and think about their relationships with music. The push and pull of the tempo coupled with the gradual crescendo leading to the climax of the song made the listener think about the highs and lows of their experiences, be that with music or other areas of interest.Elizabeth’s music was beautifully composed, and her piano playing was exemplary. The emotions and spirits of her work were able to break through the virtual barrier to reach the audience.

The next performer was Sarah Lavin ’21. Lavin is a singer-songwriter who “loves to express herself with her music” and “wants to use music to tell stories and allow people to feel their feelings.” She is inspired by Ingrid Michaelson and Brandi Carlile. Lavin sang all of her songs and accompanied them with an acoustic guitar. The first song that she performed was a cover of Zella Day’s song “Ace of Hearts.” Lavin adapted the song to her own style by playing an acoustic rendition of it. After that, she played and sang one of her original songs called “She’s Been Waiting.” This song was an older composition of hers and is  about self-growth. This song was heartfelt and sincere both instrumentally and lyrically. The theme of self-growth is something everyone can reflect on, and Lavin did a really nice job of putting that into her work with lyrics such as “She’s been waiting for the chance to share her discoveries with the people that have stuck by her side.” The final song she performed was titled “Cotton Candy Skies.” This song was about trying to fill one’s own mind with positive energy and thoughts and how sometimes it may be difficult to do so. There is a sense of longing present in the song, for better times or ‘“cotton candy skies,” as she put it. 

The third performer was Adina Ora ’21, who sang and played acoustic guitar. Ora opened with a song named “Proud of Me.” She described the song as being about “the world being on fire and having to grow up.” The lyrics were on the edge of satire as she described the stress and pressure of getting older in today’s world. She then performed a song called “Paris,” which she wrote two months after she began dating her now-fiancé. After “Paris,” she played a song called “Four Angels.” Ora found inspiration for the song after reading an article about a bird who fell in love with a statue of the same species and ended up dying alone because of it. It was interesting to hear the story behind this song and to see how she translated it into music. The repeated refrain of “please don’t go” effectively communicated the loneliness of the bird’s story to the listener. She finished off her set with a new song called “What I Do This For” about purpose. It brought up questions about why she makes music and exposed her feelings of self-doubt.

The last performer was Lizzy Hilliard ’22. Hilliard has been writing music since she was 11 years old and she has written over 100 songs. She has been recognized for her ability to “make the mundane beautiful in song with the help of intricate lyrics and harmonies.” Lizzy sang and performed all of her songs with an acoustic guitar, though not all of them were originally written to be played “unplugged.”  The first song she performed was called “wanderlust.” The song detailed her intense longing to travel, as she has been unable to do so because of the pandemic. The next song she performed was named “right there,” a song about waiting for someone who may never come back to her and the distance between two anonymous people. This allowed the listener to insert their own experiences into the lyrics, creating a powerful listening experience. After that, she played “the joke.” The song was about the pain of backstabbing and being the subject of unwanted attention. She closed out with a song called “abington,” a tribute to her hometown. The song contained many easter eggs that referenced certain events and places within the town. 

All of these talented women did an incredible job both performing and writing their songs. Their music had very unique sounds, and the lyrics were creatively written. They made the best of performing on a digital platform, without a live audience, which can be an extremely daunting task. We can all look forward to hearing more performances and new music from these musicians in the coming semester.