Songstress tackles gun violence a year after Parkland

Edgemont High School alumna Rebecca Angel debuted her new single “Thoughts and Prayers” on YouTube last month.

Last Valentine’s Day, a gunman stormed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in one of the deadliest mass shootings in the nation’s history. Among those scrambling to flee the attack was Rebecca Angel’s cousin, then a freshman, who survived.

For 23-year-old Angel, an Edgemont Junior/Senior High School alumna, it was a wake-up call. “When tragic things happen, sometimes you separate yourself,” she said, “especially when it keeps happening. But when it hits closer to home, you kind of realize that we are all in this together.”

The young singer/songwriter channels the tragedy in her new single, a pop-rock track titled “Thoughts and Prayers.” The song and music video, available now on YouTube, premiered last month and are expected to stream on Spotify and iTunes.

The reflective piece features Angel’s original music and lyrics. “We keep sending thoughts and prayers,” she sings. “When’s it time to really care? When we’re dead and in despair.”

The songstress said she drew on the mass shooting epidemic of recent years and the Black Lives Matter movement. “These things keep happening in different places at different times in different years,” she said. “I felt I had to write something. I had to say something.”

Angel first started penning “Thoughts and Prayers” at a vocal jazz camp in 2016 while she was still attending Ithaca College, from which she graduated in 2017. Inspired by Beatles’ melodies, she inked an unfinished version of the song, which departed from her typical jazz vein.

Her debut jazz EP “What We Had” was released on Amazon and iTunes last June, but Angel said her influences are wide-ranging, from smooth jazz vocalist Sade to Brazilian samba artist Astrud Gilberto.

Consequently, her sound will vary. “Each one will have a different element of my taste,” she said, “[but] definitely all me, definitely all with the heart.”

The early version of “Thoughts and Prayers” went largely untouched for more than a year until the Parkland shooting prompted Angel to return to it last February. From there, she partnered with longtime collaborator Jason Miles, who produced the song, and Jimmy Brealower, who mixed it. The track also features Jonah Pendergast on guitar, Reggie Washington on bass and Brian Dunne on drums.

Angel was also involved in conceptualizing the new video, which is directed by Angel’s sister, Stephanie. David Zung and Michael Burke were co-directors of photography, and Satoko Sungiyama delivered the final edit.

The team shot in various locations around Westchester over several months, including the cemetery behind Edgemont High School, Rockefeller State Park in Pleasantville and Angel’s childhood home.

The video begins with a shot of Angel underwater. A gunshot sounds and sirens blare before the music starts — “People dying in the street. Hope lost ... How much more can we take?” The video also spotlights young children playing and images of the American flag. “It seemed very representative of the broken country I see right now,” Angel said.

She hopes the song prompts listeners to take action and imparts a sense of hope.

“It’s so easy to slip back and feel helpless,” she said. “I hope this song brings light and an optimistic edge, that we’ll be okay if we join together and fight. Right now, we still have a long way to go.”

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