Talisman brings together 25 years of alumni

Jan. 22, 2015, 9:39 p.m.
Talisman 13-14 and Alumni. Photo courtesy of Talisman
Talisman 13-14 and alumni. Courtesy of Talisman

On Feb. 8, the 22 already powerful voices of Stanford’s Talisman a cappella group will unite with those of at least 80 Talisman alumni in Bing Concert Hall. To celebrate 25 years as a co-ed a cappella group dedicated to sharing oral traditions from around the world, Talisman has invited any and all alumni from the “Talisfam” to return to Stanford’s campus for an official 25th Anniversary Concert.

Founded in 1989, Talisman began with a mission to sing music from the contemporary anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Since then, the group has expanded its repertoire to a global scale, which now incorporates songs from cultural traditions across the world, linked by the group’s desire to share stories.

Talisman director Harry Levine ’15 said, “I think what matters most to me about Talisman, in its current form, is the idea that music has an ability to connect and inspire people that have no common background. I hope that this music can serve as a way to bridge people on Stanford’s campus to people across the world.”

For the 25th Anniversary Concert, past alumni members will be coming to campus from various corners of the globe, including the U.S., France, the U.K. and beyond. Alumni will be divided into multiple “cohorts” (such as members from year 2000-2004), and each cohort will sing two songs that they introduced to the a cappella group as undergraduates. Only when all participants have arrived on campus will intensive rehearsals begin — essentially two days before the main event.

With songs from unfamiliar times and foreign places, Talisman members strive to adopt languages they do not speak, empathize with people they do not know, and understand struggles they have not witnessed, even from afar.

Levine, a third-year member, said, “I think what attracted me to Talisman, in particular, was the sincerity in the music. I didn’t understand everything they were singing necessarily, and they were singing in South African languages that I don’t speak, but there’s a real emotion behind it all.”

Charlie Yang ’17, co-producer of the anniversary concert, who discovered the a cappella group at his Admit Weekend, explained that despite not knowing the language of every song he sings, the meaning of the song remains of utmost import.

“As long as time allows, we do our best to let people know the context of each song so as to honor the culture,” Yang said.

Sincere emotion has been an enduring thread in Talisman’s colorful vocal history from the beginning. The 25th Anniversary Concert will allow the audience to experience selections of the group’s historic soundtrack, from some of the earliest pieces the group sang to its more recent selections, with a quarter-century of voices in one room.

Talisman’s 25th Anniversary Concert will take place on Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. in Bing Concert Hall.

Contact Jenna Shapiro at jennshap ‘at’ stanford.edu.


Jenna Shapiro is a staff writer for The Stanford Daily who enjoys writing about art, culture and social issues. Originally from Laguna Beach, Calif., Jenna is a beach-goer, an owner of 18 personal journals, a big fan of Stephen Covey, and an avid seeker of the untold story. Jenna is a prospective Science, Technology, and Society major and an Art History minor. To contact her, please email jennshap "at" stanford.edu.

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