Thanks to Sewanee’s stellar foreign language departments, international karaoke is back for the ninth year in a row! As a freshman, I was able to experience firsthand the trials, successes, and vocal runs of the language-learning student body.
On Wednesday, October 25, I hauled some of my friends over to Pub and sat ourselves down in a booth, which we were lucky to get; it was a full house! Rows of students were in the back, waiting for the show to start. Many of them were friends of the contestants, waiting to cheer, whoop, holler, or all three.
We also had snacks! A lovely Pennsylvanian company catered for the night and brought French quiche, Italian tiramisu, German pretzels, Russian pierogies, and more. The dumplings were delectable, and I wanted to eat more, but the show was just about to begin.
After an introduction of the judges, many of whom were representing different sections of the language department, the host spoke about how each performance was to be graded. Criteria included pronunciation, crowd response, difficulty, voice, and others. Not only was the competition based on appeal but also how correctly the singer sang the language, which was an interesting and diverse perspective to implement into the competition.
Other than Greek, all of the languages Sewanee teaches had a spot on the Pub’s stage. Even Latin was sung! But unfortunately, it wasn’t an ominous boss fight theme with Latin chanting, even though that would’ve been very funny. Instead, it was Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” but translated into the archaic language fit with a plucky and whimsical instrumental.
French was the second most popular language sung (compared to Latin and Russian). A personal favorite was FREN103A’s performance of “Alors On Danse,” a fantastic Stromae song. As a non-native French speaker, I was impressed with their handling of all the slang (verlan) the song uses. The judges thought the same thing, giving them 2nd place in the small group ranking. Congrats, FREN103A!
The most popular language sung was Spanish with 12 submissions total. It took the solo performances by storm, snatching up 1st and 2nd place. Victor Esparza, who got 1st place, gave a stunning rendition of “El Triste” that had everyone on the edge of their seats. Jack Hardy sang “Ella Bailla Sola” (I love that song!) and had everyone following along. Both singers received plenty of praise from the audience, which is always a good thing when you’re standing in the spotlight.
Some of the performances took the challenge of singing in a foreign language by the horns, and others just had fun. One group in particular sang Enrique Iglesias’s “Bailando” with what I suppose I could call gusto. They would get really quiet during the verses, and out of nowhere, like a dolphin emerging from the ocean to spin in the air, they go “BAILANDO!” At least they were having fun.
One thing I definitely learned while sitting in the audience is how much courage this had to take. Singing in public is already hard. You have so many eyes on you already, but then you have to tack on a language that, more often than not, is not your native language. I spoke with one of the winners of the big group performances (Dylan Najera from GERM103’s “Sonne” by Rammstein) about her experience. “We’re all in the same boat,” she says about everyone publicly singing in a language that’s not their native one.
Also, I believe that this competition is a great way to get the student body involved in foreign language learning here. It’s fun, puts you out of your comfort zone, and throws you into a community that will no doubt hype you up. “It’s the best of Sewanee,” says Linda Heck, one of the fantastic judges from tonight.
Altogether, the winners of the 9th Annual International Karaoke Night are:
Small group acts:
3rd: French House
2nd: mogz botankia (Russian)
Whole class acts:
1st: Chinese 103
3rd: Tina Lyu (Chinese)
2nd: Jack Hardy (Spanish)
1st: Victor Esparza (Spanish)
Congratulations, everyone, and great job to everyone else who participated! I’ll be seated for next year for sure.