200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Wild Transitions Between Songs

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #123: Wild Transitions Between Songs

Contemporary a cappella groups rarely entrench themselves in single, solitary genres. Particularly at the scholastic level, most of today’s groups traverse a range of genres, artists, and time periods to represent musical interests as diverse as those represented in the group (if not the entire audience).

When groups diversify their repertoires, they not only provide something to appeal to everyone, but also allow for wild, and wildly entertaining, transitions between songs. Consider, for example, The University of Georgia Accidentals’ 2012 ICCA Finals set. They started a high energy, highly choreographed version of Justin Beiber’s “Never Say Never,” mellowed out to a sterling take on Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” then hit a modern groove on Parachute’s “Something to Believe In.” A set like this keeps audiences on their toes and accentuates the most powerful elements of each song based on how fundamentally <i>different</i> the sound and presentation was from the song that preceded it

I love it!

Meeting a Group After the Show

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #121: Meeting a Group After the Show

If you’re reading this blog, you probably agree with the sentiment that a cappella and its practitioners are under-appreciated by mainstream audiences. While, on the whole, I’d love to see a cappella singers get more attention, one of the really positive side effects of most a cappella groups arriving as mainstream celebrities is that the group members have largely remained humble, down to earth people.

After most shows I attend, I’ll talk to at least one of the people I saw sing on stage to compliment them or thank them for sharing their talents. In an overwhelming majority of these instances, I’ve been met with not arrogance or a cold shoulder, but rather the sincere appreciation of someone who is grateful to have been recognized, and who is eager to talk about his or her work.

It’s cool to meet someone whose work you admire, but the experience is far richer when that artist is eager to talk to you, too. More often than not, a cappella allows for just those sorts of interactions.

I love it!

Distinctive Syllables

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #120: Distinctive Syllables

One of the most interesting parts of listening to a cappella is hearing how groups translate instrumentation to pure vocals. Intonation is one thing, syllable choices are another. Soft syllables, hard syllables. Staccato ones, elongated ones. The best syllable choices match the mood, tone, and message of the song. And some are distinctive to a group.

Whether it’s a group like The University of Rochester Midnight Ramblers implanting additional lyrics into to amplify the lead (see the transition on “Mr. Brightside” with “I’m about to blow, just let me go”) or the SUNY Binghamton Harpur Harpeggios sliding iterations of “bing” into songs like “Uninvited,” particular syllable choices can be as distinctive as a group’s signature on a given song.

I love it!

One Group Inspiring Another

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #119: One Group Inspiring Another

A cappella does not exist in a vacuum. While a handful of great groups cultivate their unique performance styles without the influence of those who came before them, or those singing on the a cappella circuit right now, most of the top performers today were inspired by and learned from watching other greats.

Consider, for example, the progression of Divisi blowing open the doors for women in competitive a cappella with their ICCA Finals run in 2006, only to be followed by BYU Noteworthy riding a similar sensibility of power vocals and sass all the way to an ICCA Championship the following spring. Consider the subsequent rise of The FSU AcaBelles as two-time ICCA finalists. Consider the all-female powerhouse that was Delilah, rocking The Sing-Off. There’s an evolution for fans to follow here, and it’s a beautiful thing to hear it unfold.

If all of that weren’t enough, consider the first of four ICCA Championships The SoCal VoCals won—the moment after they were crowned champions, when the group’s director expressed his disbelief at winning, and referenced how hard the group had worked, including studying countless hours of YouTube footage of past champions.

Great groups beget other great groups—if the latter generation is willing to do its homework and learn.

I love it!

The Remix to Ignition

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #118: The Remix to Ignition

One of the joys of being a contemporary a cappella fan over the last decade has been, year after year, watching groups take on songs I never thought they would. Long gone are the days of groups strictly adhering to barbershop or doo-wop (though, even within such sub-genres, groups are experimenting with the boundaries of conventional song choices).

Whether it’s The Syracuse University Mandarins bring The Darkness’s “I Believe In a Thing Called Love” at ICCA Finals in 2004, Rutgers University Casual Harmony espousing material from Muse and System of a Down in 2005, or Reverb mashing up “This Is How We Do It” and “Beat It” with their distinct brand of nerdy pop sensibility in 2013, more and more, the a cappella form is proving limitless.

One of my simplest, borderline guilty pleasures in this vein is watching The Potsdam Pointercounts in 2007—the first year The A Cappella Blog posted even reviews—and seeing the guys take on R. Kelly’s “Remix to Ignition” as the encore to their ICCA quarterfinal win. with a near flawless combination of slick vocals and tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating humor, the song presented a moment in time for college a cappella, defying tradition and embracing the creative latitudes distinctive to this art form.

I love it!

When Over the Top Costuming Works

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #117: When Over the Top Costuming Works

There are times when I watch an a cappella performance and question what the group was thinking in regard to attire. There’s costuming that’s painfully gimmicky. Colors that clash. Blazers so loud that they distract from everything else happening on stage and make it impossible to take the group seriously.

And then there are those groups that make over the top wardrobe choices work for them.

Take The Amherst Zumbyes.

The group has made a name for itself through high energy, confidence, and comedy. And their (not so) secret weapon?

The banana.

Traditionally, one man in the group dons a banana costume. Ask the group about it, and the answer comes back: “What banana?”

It’s a costume choice that’s profoundly memorable. Unique. Fun. And it gets people talking. In short, it does everything that I can only assume the group wants for it to, without the group ever having to say a word about it.

I love it!

Next Page
Wild Transitions Between Songs
Meeting a Group After the Show
Distinctive Syllables
One Group Inspiring Another
The Remix to Ignition
When Over the Top Costuming Works
Aca-Wedding Proposals
The Sound of a Pitch Pipe
Hearing a Song Evolve
Seeing a Second Group Sing the Same Song—And Do It Better
The One Guy Who Wants It Badder Than Anyone Else
Hearing a Song You Thought No One Else Knew
Sweating
Fake Outs
Large Men Who Can Work The Stage
The Battle
The CMU Originals’ Boat
Witnessing Someone’s First Solo
Hearing a New Song Debuted
Spitting On Mics
Impromptu Performances
The National Anthem
American Harmony
Innovative Stage Entrances
Well-Rehearsed Exits
Pentatonix
GQ
Family A Cappella Groups
Barbershop Quartets
The A Cappella Bop