Kate McCabe / Gavel Media

Sing It to the Heights 2020: ELP Hosts Annual Choral Competition

Winning isn’t everything, but taking home a $300 check and bragging rights isn’t too bad. Sing it to the Heights is an annual singing competition showcasing ten of Boston College’s best vocalists. The competition started 16 years ago as a lip sync battle, and has grown into a fierce contest showcasing some of the strongest singers at BC. Contestants go head-to-head, each singing one song for a panel of judges who offer brief feedback. At the end of the night, the winner is decided by an audience vote. 

Many of the vocalists on campus congregate in a cappella groups, and this year nearly half of the Sing it to the Heights participants were in these groups––three performers alone hailed from the Acoustics. Nevertheless, on February 25, the brightest star came from an unexpected place. The bold, daring, and chill-inducing Stencia Bastien, CSOM ’23, doesn’t sing for a campus a cappella group, but instead dances in the popular Presenting Africa to You (PATU) dance team. 

In a night featuring stunning voices from the Acoustics, BC Bop, the Heightsmen, and Jammin’ Toast, Bastien emerged as the standout performer. Although Bastien isn’t part of the a cappella or music scene, there were many members of the audience privy to her talent. Even before she began to sing, the roar from the crowd informed the rest of us that we were in for a treat—and we truly were. Her deeply resonant, crowd-hushing rendition of “Listen” by Beyoncé showcased the range of her voice beautifully.

Bastien riffed, belted, and dazzled all the way to first prize. “I knew it was over [after that],” Remarked Tommy Boyce, CSOM ’21, after watching Bastien’s performance. “I guess I’m going for second.” Boyce delivered a powerful rendition of “Falling” by Harry Styles, and despite his excellent performance, he knew defeat was imminent. 

Coming in second was the Acoustic’s own AJ Singh, CSOM ’23, whose laid-back and chill demeanor indicated a seasoned performer. He even found time at the beginning of his performance to wish his mother a happy birthday, and then delivered her the best gift a mother could ask for: an awe-inspiring performance. Singh sang “Who’s Lovin’ You” by The Jackson 5, and his effortless range and riffing ability set him apart from the other contestants. Singh also accompanied himself on the piano, with style and swagger reminiscent of a young Billy Joel. 

In third was Kaitlin Meeks, MCAS ’20, who sang “Lay Me Down” by Sam Smith. “I decided to pick a song that showed off a little more range,” Meeks told me after the performance. “More range than one that I would normally perform in an open mic setting or at Jammin’ Toast.” 

Meeks is no stranger to performing, a setting like this one was new to her. “I get super nervous before performing alone,” Meeks said. If Meeks was anxious during her performance, it didn’t show. Her normal entourage of Jammin’ Toast and open mic musicians were not all there to support her, but it didn’t faze her. Meeks replicated the style of Adele and Sam Smith with her full and resonant voice.

All ten performers were truly impeccable. Korinne Arenas, MCAS ‘22, stylistically stood apart from the others as her song was one of the only selections from a musical. Arenas utilized the song’s theatricality in a performance that was moving and soul-cradling. During her cover of “She Used to Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles, she used all parts of her vocal register. From a beautiful head voice to a powerful belt, Arenas wowed the audience with her range.

Although the whiff of competition electrified the crowd, the night’s main purpose was to raise money for the Saint Columbkille Partnership School’s music department. Their headmaster, William Gartside, graciously thanked Boston College for their contribution, as well as heralding the students as inspirations and models for their young students. The school’s choir performed three heartwarming songs, including “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers. The performance reminded the audience of the night’s purpose, to support young and aspiring musicians.

The Saint Columbkille Partnership School was not the only group to benefit from the event, as BC’s Emerging Leader Program (ELP), who sponsored the program, also gained valuable experience. “Fundraising, marketing, and hosting Sing it to the Heights is a huge event for members of ELP,” Explained Claire Wilson, Lynch ’20, a former ELP member who helped organize tonight’s event. “It is meaningful coming together as freshmen to work towards a cause greater than an individual.” 

Sing it to the Heights gives the drama-loving Boston College community the chance to crown one of the most talented singers on campus, and the newest champion certainly deserved the prize. Despite the intensity of the competition, the night had a distinctly celebratory atmosphere, as the crowd relentlessly roared in support of their friends and classmates. 

Alex is a features writer for the Gavel.