Shades of Yale put a contemporary spin on its annual Valentine’s Day Jam in Battell Chapel Saturday evening.

Sporting black and red for Valentine’s Day, Shades performed 17 songs, including two single-sex ensemble performances. The group kicked off the show with a rendition by Tahj Lakey ’21 of “Jam Tonight.” Shades surprised the audience by mixing in songs currently on Billboard’s Top 100 chart, along with the group’s standard numbers.

“Musically, I think we had a pretty unique V-Day Jam,” said Cami Arboles ’20, musical director of Shades. “I was most excited that we added lots of new arrangements to this jam, with more contemporary artists, such as Beyoncé, Khalid, Jazmine Sullivan and Bruno Mars, in addition to our usual Valentine’s Day repertoire of 90s R&B tunes and love songs.”

While Shades usually holds the performances on the actual day of Valentine’s Day, this year’s performance took place on a Saturday night a few days after Valentine’s Day. The weekend concert allowed for a much larger audience than usual, Arboles said.

The group did not limit itself to a capella, though, accompanying its music with choreographed dances.

“That is one of the things that really sets Shades apart from many other a cappella groups at Yale,” said Jheri’ Richards ’20, a member of Shades. “We strive to craft a truly entertaining experience both vocally and visually, and because of this, we believe that detailed choreography like we did last night allows us to create well-rounded, unique performances.”

Arboles said Shades’ mission is to sing and represent music of the African diaspora and the African-American tradition. The group usually sings gospel, soul, jazz, R&B and spirituals, but this year, the group has expanded its repertoire to include Afro-Cuban and Latin music, she added.

In this year’s set list, about half of the musical arrangements were planned by members who joined the group within the past two years, Arboles said, adding that past or present Shades members arranged all of the songs.

“I thought the use of more contemporary songs was a welcome change, and it was really cool to hear ‘If You Love Me’ mashed up as ‘Say It,’ amongst other creative takes on songs,” said Sam Maniscalco ’21, who attended the show. “I thought it was really cool how they turned a lot of the songs into something more, and it didn’t hurt that their voices were so amazing.”

Shades just completed a tour of several American cities before this performance, said Dhruv Sharma ’21, a singer in the group. Because the group has had so much performance exposure, even the newer members no longer feel as nervous on stage, and they could appreciate the energy of the audience, he added.

Richards said the crowd was the largest ever in her experience as a Shades member, but the show “still felt so intimate.”

“As a member of the group for two years, I can say that I have never felt more moved by the audience as I did last night,” Richards said. “People were so engaged and attentive and I feel like the show was as much of an emotional experience for them as it was for the members of Shades. That is one of the things that I think is so wonderfully unique about Shades shows and a huge reason why I love being a member of this extremely powerful, moving group.”

Shades’ final major performance at Yale this semester will be the group’s Spring Jam.

Jever Mariwala |