What was the best ICCA set ever? Do same-school groups compete against each other or work together?


Adele (probably not the famous one) gets right to the point…

What was the best ICCA set ever?

There’s a great deal of subjectivity on this one. There’s still enough buzz around the show Voices in Your Head put on in 2012 that some people will surely champion their cause. Others might turn to the iconic showing by Divisi when they were arguably robbed of the ICCA Championship in 2005. The Melodores turned in one of the most distinctive sets in ICCA history their debut year in the tournament in 2011.

But I’m going to go with a group that did take home the championship—the 2008 USC SoCal VoCals. The group has won the tournament twice since, and there’s an argument to be made that their later two showing were more memorable, between their innovative rotating soloist approach to “Crazy Ever After” in 2010 (reiterated in “Poison and Wine” later…) and an unreal solo on “Tightrope” in 2012. 2008 didn’t have quite the same iconic moments, but rather represented a truly extraordinary fusion of sublime musicianship with unparalleled showmanship—a complex sound, extraordinary dynamic range, star soloists, and choreography that nailed the holy trinity of visual presentation: relevant to the song, innovative, and perfectly executed. To be fair, there are hundreds of ICCA sets I haven’t seen, but out of those I have, that particular set still takes the cake.

Jeremiah was neither a bullfrog, nor a good friend of mine, but he does raise a good question.

Nowadays, it seems like every school has at least two or three a cappella groups (some have way more!). Do groups at the same school see themselves as rivals? Allies? Or do they ignore each other and go about their own business?

The answer to this question will vary based on the school, the groups, and even the particular academic year. I have heard of some rivalries—rarely out-and-out feuds, but petty disagreements because one group placed ahead of the other in competition or both groups wanted to sing the same song, or was hoping to induct the same first-year student into their ranks. More often, though, it seems that groups from the same school are relatively collaborative—putting on shows together, Tweeting on each other’s behalves, and even joining forces for the occasional allied-power performance/recording.

Bottom line: while the petty stuff can lead to some serious dissent, in most cases there’s a lot of commonality between the kind of people who sing in college a cappella groups—they’re into singing, dig the community a cappella provides them, maintain at least somewhat similar rehearsal schedules, etc. And so, there’s more room to make friends than foes.

For further, if fictionalized insight into this dynamic, check out Stephen Harrison’s AcaPolitics.