O-Jam relocates to Woolley Circle after fire alarm


A fire alarm disrupted O-Jam, the annual welcome-back a cappella show hosted by the class of 2019, in Chapin Auditorium on Friday night. Performers take advantage of O-Jam to introduce their groups to new and returning students and to get audience members to sign up for auditions. The four participating groups — the Nice Shoes, Victory Eights (V8s), Diversions (Divs) and M&Cs — refused to let a lack of staging and equipment stop the show. 

The Nice Shoes, a self-branded “feminist a capella group,” was the only group to perform a full set on stage. Their five-song, folk-rock set included themes of war, gender, sexuality and mental illness. 

“We like to sing empowering songs for human rights,” explained Leela Woody ’17, a member of The Nice Shoes.

M&Cs were next on stage and had reached the chorus of their first song, “Thank You” by Boyz II Men, when the lights came on and the fire alarm sounded. 

“First I thought [the fire alarm] was intentional.” said audience member Leanna Bonafini ’19. “Then I saw the look on the singers face . . .  it sounded like a bomb siren and there were flashing lights.” 

Some students left the event, but many gathered on Woolley Circle to wait for further instruction from the fire department.

“When your a capella group is too hot, you set off the fire alarm,” joked Caroline Shelton ’17, co-director of the M&Cs. 

As fire trucks arrived, the groups decided that to keep the audience there they had to keep the show going. The M&Cs resumed their set outside on Woolley Circle with audience members gathered close to hear the singers without any audio equipment. 

During the Divs performance, which followed the M&Cs, Captain Scott Brady of the South Hadley Fire Department informed the audience that they wouldn’t be able to re-enter the building that night. The sprinkler system had failed and the fire department couldn’t fix the problem. 

“We’re not sprinkler technicians, we’re firefighters,” said Brady. 

O-Jam continued outdoors. Nicolette Finder ’17, co-director of the Divs, felt much more relaxed singing outside. 

“It kind of relieved some of the stress and the pressure,” said Finder. “Especially in Chapin on that stage with those lights, it’s nerve wracking, even if you’ve done it a million times. But standing eye-level with people, it felt a little more personal.”

By the time the V8s took to the lawn with their signature “Mount Holyoke Drinking Song,” the fire trucks had departed and Woolley Circle was quieter.  “I think it shows some spunk that we all came back out and performed again even if there were no microphones or anything,” said Teagan Webb ’18, a member of the V8s.

Despite the venue snafu, all four a capella groups managed to recruit new singers after the show. “The people that stuck around for the rest of O-Jam were definitely the ones that were interested in auditioning, [which] kind of helped.” said Finder.

Among these were Lexxey Boron-Smith ’20 who auditioned for two different groups. 

“It’s a really special part of my heart to sing and do music and make bonds with people who do music so that’s why I’m auditioning,” said Boron-Smith ’20.