O-Tone is right on beat

May 19, 2022, 9:18 p.m.

Late arrivals were out of luck at O-Tone’s “Reflections” performance on Sunday night. The Elliott Program Center (EPC) was packed with students and O-Tone alumni; photos of the group and reflective streamers decorated the walls, adding to the concert’s personal feel. Even without any seats left, many chose to stay and watch by standing at the back of the room; a few even watched from outside through the building’s open windows.

O-Tone is Stanford’s newest a cappella group, established in 2016. The group specializes in East Asian music across many genres, and includes both undergraduate and graduate students of all genders. Their “Reflections” concert on Sunday celebrated the group’s fifth year on campus. The performance consisted of eight songs — sung in English, Chinese and Japanese — from East Asian and Asian American artists.

The event was well-planned and well-executed. Performances had only a few moments of downtime between them, during which members of the group explained the meanings of their set’s foreign-language lyrics. Many also delivered short and touching addresses recounting their experiences with O-Tone, describing how they found joy and community with the group.

The song choice was a true showcase of the group’s talent for performance, leading the audience through an hour of emotional highs and lows, fasts and slows. Each song was performed by all the group’s 18 members, monopolizing on their rich, unified sound. The solos were passionately performed, and the backing vocals were intriguing and well-arranged. Adam Sun ’25 added atmosphere to the arrangements with a steady beat of vocal percussion. Additionally, the performances were accompanied by classic a cappella choreography: step touches and formation changes enhanced the group’s overall stage presence.

The first two songs were excellent. The opening number was “借” (Jiè) by Mao Bu Yi, arranged by music director Sherwin Lai ’24. The song was moving and intense, with strong performances from soloists Kiana Hu ’23 and Kevin Chen ’23 and accompanied by a great depth of emotion brought from the ensemble. 

The second song, “カタオモイ” (Kataomoi) by Japanese pop singer Aimer, arranged by former O-Tone member and co-founder Akira Wang ’17 M.S. ’18, was sweet and groovy. The dreamy love song was perfectly portrayed by the bright tones of soloists Emily Wan ’22 and Ph.D. candidate Alan Cheng, and is an instant addition to any playlist.

Sun’s vocal-percussion showcase following the intermission was a crowd favorite: a few minutes of non-stop beatboxing left even observers of the performance out of breath. Sun displayed an exciting arrangement of sounds, rousing the crowd with calls of “drop the mic” and “put your hands in the air,” eliciting cheers and screams from the audience.

Another highlight was “残酷龙天使の 一七” (Zankoku na Tenshi no Tēze) from “Neon Genesis Evangelion.” The upbeat, infectious song, led by the bright tones of soloists Shina Peñaranda ’23 and Jacqueline Fong ’23, got the crowd pumped up and dancing along.

The event ended in exactly an hour, after which the audience was led outside for some complimentary boba on the EPC’s scenic deck. Moving, exciting and sincere, O-Tone’s showcase was an undoubted success.

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.

Cameron Duran '24 writes for the Arts & Life section. Contact The Daily’s Arts & Life section at arts ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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