Women of the World are changing lives through a cappella

Four Berklee singers advance to national finals at Carnegie Hall on Sept. 23


Kelly Russell

The a cappella group Women of the World — Ayumi Ueda (left), Deborah Pierre (back row), Annette Philip (second from right), and Giorgia Renosto (right) — pose with a reporter at the A Cappella Open national semifinals at Berklee Performance Center on July 29, 2017.

Kelly Russell, Covenant Christian Academy

If you asked me what a cappella was two days ago, I would’ve told you that it’s simply music without instruments, about singing pop songs with harmonies and vocal percussion to create the atmosphere.

I would’ve been wrong. 

Women of the World took the Berklee Performance Center stage on Saturday night at the A Cappella Open national semifinals and their performance blew the audience away. Showcasing six languages, none of them being English, the four singers used the atmosphere to convey their message instead of using the words we could understand. In their allotted 12 minutes, they took the audience all over the world, with their smooth Asian melody, rhythmic Haitian, vibrant Indian, and charming Italian sequences.

The meaning behind it all lies much deeper than the pretty number, though, and that’s what really made them stand out from the rest. Women of the World’s message is, as singer Giorgia Renosto put it, “that people of the world can live in unity and in peace. Through sharing languages and the stage, music is just a medium. It’s not really the focus. The focus is what you see and what can happen in the world.”

This idea originally came from Ayumi Ueda, who grew up in Japan and studied at Berklee to discover other cultures through music. She found three other Berklee alumni — Giorgia, Annette Philip, and Deborah Pierre — and soon enough, Women of the World was formed. They’re all about “bringing people from different parts of the world together, [to] learn about each other, create music, and share harmonies and stories,” said Ayumi.

Each of their stories is new and fresh. They don’t conform to contemporary a cappella standards, because they don’t need pop songs and flashy runs to capture the audience members’ emotions.

“We break so many stereotypes in the a cappella music in general,” Giorgia said. “We don’t have the classic vocal percussion, we don’t have anyone on bass, we don’t sing pop songs at all. We sing songs that nobody knows. It’s already a disadvantage if you think about it. The rules are completely out for us. We’re just us.”

They each embody their message, with their fluid harmony on and off stage. They are genuine, and that’s what makes Women of the World’s story so beautiful.

Women of the World competed against six other a cappella groups at the semifinals: 6Mix, Martini Glass A Cappella, Fermata Town, Birdland Avenue, The Cycle, and Similar Jones.

Women of the World and winners of the five other semifinals automatically move on to the A Cappella Championship event at Carnegie Hall on Sept. 23. They will be joined by an international group and a wild-card pick the judges will pick from the other semifinalists. There they will perform for $25,000.

The singers in Women of the World put their heart and soul into their performance at the semifinals. Winning it all is their dream, but not because of the cash incentive.

“I want to go to Carnegie because I can reach more people and share the message that we have because I think more people are seeing the changes, too,” Ayumi said. “We could focus on, ‘Oh, the world is collapsing,’ but many people are also working hard to bring people together and I want to share that. We are a team. That’s the big reason I want to go to Carnegie, to reach more people. We are here, and let’s unite.”

Ayumi, your dream is about to come to true.

Women of the World redefined a cappella, and it wasn’t hard for the judges to see that. That’s why they won their semifinal competition and are moving on to sing their hearts out at Carnegie Hall. See you in New York, ladies!

–July 31, 2017–