200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

The Diversity of Acts In a Competition

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #167: The Diversity of Acts In a Competition

Watching an a cappella group perform a show can be entertaining and enriching for the opportunity to see everything a group has to offer—their whole repertoire, or at least a broad enough sampling to get the gist of everything they’re capable of. Just the same, I find myself drawing even more enjoyment from watching groups in competition.

That’s not to say that competition itself intrinsically good (or, at the least, that’s not an argument I intend to delve into here) but rather that I especially appreciate the opportunity to hear a variety of groups perform in the same sitting. Moreover, it’s particularly entertaining to hear them perform what they think of as their best ten-to-fifteen minutes of material—the material they feel is most likely to win the competition.

The past fifteen years have seen an outstanding proliferation of a cappella styles. Gone are the days when it was wacky for a group to perform a song by an original artist of another gender, or when it’s mind-blowing to hear progressive rock covered in contemporary a cappella. Sub-genres of electronic dance music, country, alternative, hip-hop, and (increasingly) originals are all equally as likely to have representation as top forty songs or classics. Moreover, it’s increasingly likely that you’ll hear all of these sub-genres—and all these sub-genres handled with different aesthetics and core sounds—within a single show.

Today’s a cappella shows allow attendees to tune into the diversity of music available in the world, and the diversity of what a cappella groups are up to.

 

I love it!

Rediscovering an Album

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

b>Reason #166: Rediscovering an Album

You’re flipping through radio stations in the car, and you come upon a song you used to love. One you haven’t thought of, much less heard, for years. Maybe that song transports you back in time. Or maybe you write a new chapter, re-appropriating that song for the present moment.

For those of us with scores of a cappella on our hard drives and phones, it’s not unusual to have this very experience with vocal music. It can be all the more intriguing to take a stroll through a cappella memory lane for the changes in voices—particularly for scholastic groups that tend to have major turn over at least once every four years—in addition to changes in recording and production technology that have made it all the easier to earmark different eras in a group’s history.

Out of all of this, I take particular pleasure in rediscovering an old album. Time flies, and while discovering new music remains an ongoing, important process, taking a moment to indulge in something old can be a pleasure all its own.

I love it!

Bringing Alumni on Stage

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #165: Bringing Alumni on Stage

Hands down, one of my favorite aspects of a live a cappella show is the incorporation of former group members on stage.

There are limitations to this model, of course. Incorporating alumni usually means depending on a song that has been in the group’s repertoire for a long time, rather than a fresh selection. By its nature, the group plus alumni tends to sound less rehearsed and polished. There’s often a temptation to give an alum a solo or plum spot on a song at the expense of a current member having that role.

Just the same, when alumni join a performance it lends a sense of the a cappella group as a family—people might come and go, but you’re never not a part of that group. You always have a home. What’s more, as an audience member, it’s a delight to see members from the distant past stand alongside wide-eyed freshmen who are just getting started in their a cappella careers, not to mention their lives. It lends a sense of permanence to a show—that this group has existed for a long time before this moment, and that it is in good hands for the future.

Big Crescendos

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #164: Big Crescendos

When I review a cappella shows, it’s not unusual for me to highlight groups that show care in planning and precision in executing their dynamics. These are groups that aren’t afraid to go soft and small, and by the same token don’t hesitate to flip switch to build up to a monster swell of sound.

A part of what’s great a big crescendo is it transcends technical knowledge. A completely casual fan may not know what’s happening when a crescendo hits, or have the vocabulary to name it, but when it’s done right, you can rest assured that she or he will feel it—a build of excitement and emotion to accompany the surge on stage. 

I love it!

Big Crescendos

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #164: Big Crescendos

When I review a cappella shows, it’s not unusual for me to highlight groups that show care in planning and precision in executing their dynamics. These are groups that aren’t afraid to go soft and small, and by the same token don’t hesitate to flip switch to build up to a monster swell of sound.

A part of what’s great a big crescendo is it transcends technical knowledge. A completely casual fan may not know what’s happening when a crescendo hits, or have the vocabulary to name it, but when it’s done right, you can rest assured that she or he will feel it—a build of excitement and emotion to accompany the surge on stage. 

I love it!

Fun Encores

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #163: Fun Encores

For every Varsity Vocals competition, the night wraps up with the winning group retaking the stage for one more song—an encore.

After hours of watching groups sing with technical precision and care, it can be a real treat to watch marvelously talented young singers cut a little bit looser. Riffing, dancing, sharing their celebration with the live audience—fighting back smiles that might belie the song at hand, trying to figure out how to balance awards certificates with their microphones while singing.

Encores—un-judged, un-scored, without another song to save the group’s voices for, present a rare, raw treat for live audiences, and an opportunity for champions to be themselves in front of an appreciative audience.

I love it!

Next Page
The Diversity of Acts In a Competition
Rediscovering an Album
Bringing Alumni on Stage
Big Crescendos
Big Crescendos
Fun Encores
Soloists Who Sound Like the Original Artist
The Wall of Sound
When Someone Nails a Stevie Wonder Solo
Building a Personal Connection to a Song
Dedications
Subtle Movement
Adapting to the Audience
Adapting To The Environment
Embedded Solos
Personal Style
The Robot
Front Row Seats
Balcony Seats
Transitions on Your Playlist
Law School Groups
Incorporating Foreign Languages
Raw Solos
Connecting With a Song
BOSS
A Well-Executed Choral Arrangement
When a Group Defies What You’d Expect By Looking at Them
Breath as a Sound Effect
Seniors’ Last Show
Small Groups