A Cappella Singers Become Viral Voice of Women’s March

All-female musical group the GW Sirens comprised half of the choir in a video from the D.C. march viewed more than 14 million times.

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The Sirens' performance has attracted nationwide media attention. (Courtesy GW Sirens)
January 30, 2017

By Ruth Steinhardt

In the wake of the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, a song called “Quiet” has arisen as a kind of unofficial anthem. In a viral video taken at the protest, musician Connie Lim—known professionally as MILCK—leads a choir of pink-hatted women in a stirring chorus: “I can’t keep quiet/a one-woman riot.”

Half the members of that choir are students at the George Washington University, members of all-female a cappella group the GW Sirens.

“It’s been surreal,” said GW junior Juliette Geller, the Sirens’ publicity manager. “It all happened so quickly.”

In the week since the march, the phone video by filmmaker Alma Har’el has been viewed 15 million times on Facebook. Celebrities like Harry Potter actress Emma Watson featured it on their own social media streams. Alongside Ms. Lim and three singers from Washington, D.C.,-area women’s professional a cappella group Capital Blend, four members of the Sirens performed “Can’t Keep Quiet” live and a cappella on weekly TBS show "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee."

The group also traveled to Vienna, Va., to record a professional-quality version of the track—all profits from which will go to women’s nonprofit organizations.

The Sirens’ journey to stardom began over winter break. According to The Washington Post, Ms. Lim wrote “Quiet” to deal with the emotional trauma of an abusive relationship. After the election of Donald Trump in November, she began to see a broader application for her song as a source of healing and a call to action for women upset by the political climate.

She arranged “Quiet” for an all-female a cappella choir and planned to perform it in “flash mobs” at the planned Women’s March on Washington the day after the Presidential Inauguration.

Ms. Lim reached out to the Sirens after finding their website, which Ms. Geller  characterizes as “pretty feminist.” The Sirens were eager to help, Ms. Geller said. Most were already planning to attend the march, and some even had family members coming to town to join them.

Over the next few weeks, the group adapted and refined Ms. Lim’s seven-part a cappella arrangement, meeting and practicing with her over Skype. The 15-member Sirens were soon joined by the 13-member Capital Blend, and all met Ms. Lim in person two days before the march.

“We ate pizza and talked about our feelings surrounding the election and the march,” Ms. Geller said. “Girl stuff.”

On the day of the march, the women arrived on the National Mall in the early morning. By midday, an estimated 470,000 people crowded the area to the point that the official parade route was almost immovable. But as protesters began to gather, the group still had a little space to sing.

“It’s always crazy until you start singing, and then you channel all that energy into the music,” said Madison Sherman, the Sirens’ musical director.

As she looked at her pink-wearing, sign-carrying audience, Ms. Sherman was jolted by the intensity of the response. “We saw women crying, men crying—people were so moved.”

The choir moved through the crowd, assembling to sing several times. Ms. Har’el, the maker of the viral video, described encountering the group as “healing and empowering.”

“This song and its sentiment made me cry tears of relief the whole time I was filming it,” Ms. Har’el wrote on Facebook. “The beauty and the harmony of their voices captured for me how women can come together to find their voice.”

Ms. Lim plans to make the arrangement of “Quiet” available online to facilitate more performances. Two hashtags—#jointhechoir and #icantkeepquiet—have gathered momentum on Twitter and Instagram.

For the singers, “Quiet” has resonance both global and personal.

“[Ms. Lim] always told us to think about who we were singing for and why we were there,” Ms. Sherman said. “We were singing for our moms, for our sisters, for the people who helped us get here.”

 

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