200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

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!

Soloists Who Sound Like the Original Artist

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #162: Soloists Who Sound Like the Original Artist

There are those a cappella soloists who flounder for trying to hard to imitate the original artist on a song—trying to nail inflection and mannerisms, often at the expense of intonation or other more foundational elements of singing.

But then there are those happy turns of fate when a soloist more naturally taps into the sound of the original recording artist. One of the most sterling examples I can recall, though unfortunately I could not find a video, was the 2007 incarnation of New York University APC Rhythm, featuring a soloist on The Cranberries’ “Hollywood” whose voice was a dead ringer for that of Dolores O’Riordan. I don’t suspect I’ll ever know if that was her natural voice or an impersonation, but the performance itself came across so effortlessly, and so beautifully, that it still rings clearly in my mind a decade later. It was the kind of solo that transcends strong mechanics and stage presence to arrive an unforgettable musical experience. On a broader level, it called attention to the merits of choosing songs that complement soloists—that allow the soloists to show off their greatest talents and capture the imagination of the audience.

I love it!

The Wall of Sound

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #161: The Wall of Sound

Particularly at the scholastic level, most a cappella groups feature ten or more singers. While a big group can lead to all sorts of complications when it comes to harmonizing, balance, and staging, it also opens up some unique opportunities when staging and sound converge for a spectacular moment.

Take the wall of sound. Group members storm the front of the stage, getting as close to the audience as they can, and sing their loudest, all on the same part, all in unison. The effect is an all but monolithic voice that compels every eye and every ear in attendance to the stage.

 Used gratuitously or to ill effect, the wall of sound can wear out its welcome. Used at the climax of a particularly powerful song, it’s the stuff standing ovations are made of.

I love it!

When Someone Nails a Stevie Wonder Solo

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #160: When Someone Nails a Stevie Wonder Solo

Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, whether you’re even old enough to know who he is, there is one universal truth: it’s impossible to resist a Stevie Wonder vocal track.

Yes, Wonder is a one-of-a-kind talent, but beyond great vocals, there’s a certain joy to the man’s voice—an indelible connection to every word he sings that turns every listener to putty in his hands, fully tapping into every emotion he conveys.

Plenty of a cappella groups have tried to cover Wonder over the years. Oftentimes, they come up short for not being able to compare to Wonder’s sensational original sound. But in those rare instances when a particularly gifted soloist nails that vocal, it can quickly make for a transcendent performance—a callback to yesteryear and a joy to hear in the present moment. 

I love it!

Next Page
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
Super-Sized Groups
Singing in a Round
A Radical Arrangement