In honor of University President John Hennessy stepping down at the end of the academic year, the Stanford Alumni Association (SAA) organized an a cappella group songwriting competition. The three winning groups performed their songs at the Block Party honoring Hennessy on Saturday.
“The performances were terrific,” Hennessy said.
The a cappella groups had to either write a new song or do a parody of an existing one to bid farewell to Hennessy. Mixed Company, Everyday People (EP) and the Stanford Mendicants were declared the winners of the contest, receiving a grant of a $1000 each.
Julie Bore, one of the members of SAA, came up with the idea of organizing an “artsy” contest to commemorate the President as well as engage the alums during the reunion. The Stanford Reunion Homecoming team formed the jury for the competition, said Peter Litzow ‘18, the business director of EP.
EP parodied The Beatles’ “Yesterday” in their tribute. Mayuka Sarrukai ‘19, one of EP’s newest members and also the lyricist for the song, claims the process of writing the song was not very difficult. After the group was told about the contest, Mayuka sat down to procrastinate homework and came up with a song that would win Everyday People $1000.
In fact, EP’s “Yesterday” parody succeeded in leaving quite a lasting impact on Hennessy’s mind. He claimed that the song brought a tear to his wife’s eye, which included lines like “But you won’t fly too far from the/ Tree Oh, we will miss you Hennessy” and “We know you’ll make a change/ In this world, oh Hennessy.” For Hennessy, what struck the strongest chord was the line, “Oh we’ll always beat Berkeley.”
Having sung covers of other artists in the past, the competition provided a unique opportunity, said Megan Calfas ‘18, the lyricist for MixedCo. “[The competition] was a cool way to be a part of the reunion celebrations and the President’s last year,” Calfas said.
As far as the lyrics writing went, Calfas tried to include facts about Hennessy and her own Stanford experiences to come up with MixedCo’s “No one Like Hennessy,” sung to the tune of Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be.” She said that Hennessy’s ear-to-ear smile and his excitement as they sang was reward enough for her.
Hennessy specifically mentioned the Stanford Mendicants, whose song he thought was very funny. As for himself, Hennessy claimed not to be as talented as any of the a cappella singers.
“No, I can’t sing,” he said. “So it’s very dangerous.”
The melodious performances by the a cappella groups were followed by a hip-hop flash mob that had children and adults dancing with equal enthusiasm. Hennessy, who was rather taken aback by the sudden display of energy, was astounded to see his wife jump down to the dance group.
The Band trotted in right after, playing “All Right Now.” Hennessy, who lifted the baton and turned band conductor for that moment, claimed that “the Band was always exciting.”
“I have developed so many relations with alumni and students over the years — I will miss those,” he said.
He ended the speech he gave at the party with a message for all the students. “These four years will go off very quickly, so make the best of them,” Hennessy said.
Contact Simar Malhotra at simar ‘at ‘ stanford.edu.