Every a cappella group has a story. In this unique, episodic, narrative feature we will trace the formation and first, tumultuous year in the history of the fictional Acapocalypse.
All around Josh, eyes drooped, bodies sagged, and voices began to wane. Josh spun around, turning his back to the rest of The Acapocalypse, his hand spewing a whirl of chalk as he scrawled Xs and Os on the chalkboard at the front of the classroom, outlining where each of them would stand. He defied fatigue and restlessness. Boredom was a foreign concept. After all, the group was embroiled in its final rehearsal before competition.
It’s third hour of its final rehearsal before competition.
Josh felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned around to find Amanda there. “Maybe we oughta skip ahead,” she said, soft and low. “I think we’re losing people.” Josh looked out at the room again, and, indeed, everyone looked tired. Even Katie. Katie, who always paid attention. Katie who had arranged and choreographed the final song of their competition set. Katie, who he was depending on to explain the story of how she came to that song as a way to help them leave rehearsal energized and ready for their biggest stage.
Josh nodded. “OK, we’re going to leave that one alone,” he said to the group. “And we’re going to wrap up. Katie, you have the floor.”
To her credit, once Josh had cued her Katie sprang to her feet, looked like a new woman. “So Josh asked for me to talk with you all about our last song.”
After the explanation, the entire group stood again in formation. Josh counted off, then entered into his vocal cymbal routine. The group started soft before allowing its sound swell, bolstering Russ’s bass sound.
“Music shouldn’t be about singing a song you’ve heard before—about reciting lyrics,” Katie had said. “It should be about telling a story—remembering the emotion—remembering that, for someone listening, its probably the first time they’ve ever heard the story.”
Amanda keyed in.“Tommy used to work on the docks. Union’s been on strike, he’s down on his luck. It’s tough.”
“And when you’re telling that story, it’s because you’re feeling it at that moment. You’re not thinking about blend or tuning. You’re not thinking about anything. You’re feeling.”
That part had worried Josh when Katie first told it to him, but he warmed to it. The members of The Acapocalypse were all good singers, but most of them remained unpolished, they certainly hadn’t mastered the art of harmonizing with one another. And if they wouldn’t be able to do that better than the rest of the groups, maybe they could make up ground by feeling the music. In kind, the crescendo built to the first chorus, on which Evangeline and Katie joined Amanda on the solo.
“And that’s when you start to realize that each individual voice, every divergent understanding of a story, every different perspective is beautiful. And the way they come together—that’s how you shape a whole.”
Josh let rip on a very brief drum solo, paving the way to the second verse.
“And that’s like any person. Think about how you act, or how people see you in different lights—how different of a person you are in the eyes of your mom, compared to your best friend, compared to your ex, compared to your professor. When all of those different types come together, you start to figure out who you really are.”
The group stepped, pivoted, danced. It was all choreographed to the extent that they were all supposed to move, to get from one point to another, But everyone danced his her own dance. They created a cacophony of sound, the image of any party or any city street full of individuals, unconsciously achieving some form of a communal meaning.
And then they all stopped in perfect unison, and all turned to face the chalkboard the way they would turn to face the crowd. For one moment, they returned to a cappella convention, singing as one, one last time, “living on a prayer.”
Josh smiled. They were ready.