200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Small Groups

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #139: Small Groups

In reason number 138, we took a look at super-sized groups. This time we turn to the opposite extreme. Small groups have cemented themselves, particularly at the professional or semi-pro level as some of the most compelling acts in a cappella, whether we’re talking about Pentatonix, Arora, The Boxettes, GQ, Musae, or any other number of elite groups with a half dozen members or fewer.

Having fewer members can present some very real strengths. The fewer the voices, the less complex a problem it is to make voices blend, and the more opportunity there are for individual personalities to shine. Fewer group members can make visual presentation simpler, both for fewer bodies to move in synch, and on the principle that a smaller group can more readily connect with an audience on an individual level without choreographing at all, per se, but rather just focusing on a few key movements and letting stage presence and charisma do the heavy lifting.

Smaller groups allow for stars to be made, delivering some of the most captivating a cappella in the world.

I love it!

Super-Sized Groups

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #138: Super-Sized Groups

While a cappella groups with a small number of members can certainly command an audience’s attention and feature distinctive personalities, there’s also something to be said for very large groups. Ensembles with twenty-plus members have the unique capacity to stage less like a traditional singing group, more like the cast of a full-scale musical production. From elaborately choreographed crowd scenes, complete with townspeople in the background, to a deep pool of rotating soloists, super-sized groups can deliver unparalleled power, range, and pure spectacle.

I love it!

Singing in a Round

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #137: Singing in a Round

Who among us doesn’t reflect fondly upon childhood sing-alongs of “Row, Row, Row Your Boa?.” It’s a simple, feel-good song, perfect for young people just beginning to learn about music and the world around them.

Coolest of all is the way in which the song lends itself to being sung in a round—and how cool is it the first time you experience music in a round?—that the absence of synchronicity can actually be complex, captivating, haunting, and beautiful.

Such is the feeling when a cappella groups reproduce this effect in the appropriate contemporary song choice, such as the treatment a number of groups gave to Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Chain.”

Singing in a round takes us back to the roots of our love for music, besides rewarding the careful listener with an enchanting experience.

I love it!

A Radical Arrangement

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #136: A Radical Arrangement

The last decade has seen the a cappella palate multiply several times over. While industrial rock and hip-hop performances were groundbreaking at one time, it’s no longer particularly novel to hear covers of music by Muse or Usher at a college a cappella show. In an era when very few song choices are shocking in and of themselves, groups have still found ways to dazzle, surprise, and impress audiences via genuinely creative takes on existing art.

Consider Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.” A song most longstanding a cappella fans have heard covered ad infinitum. The kind of song selection we tend to roll our eyes at not out of any malice toward the group itself, but because, well, we’re a little bored.

Then, consider what The Stanford Harmonics did with the song in 2009:

or Cherry Hill High School East’s re-interpretation in 2013:

Through creative arrangement and performance, these groups made a classic song their own and reinvented it for their audiences resulting in something that may have been even cooler than a creative song choice, but rather turning every listener’s expectations on their head to find innovation within tradition.

I love it!

When the Staging Emulates the Music Video

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #135: When the Staging Emulates the Music Video

One of the biggest difference between a cappella now and a cappella fifteen to twenty years ago is that visual presentation is now fundamentally accepted as a part of a cappella performance. Sure, a handful of groups have the stage presence to get away with standing in arch, and others have the magnetism to simply walk the stage and garner all the fanfare that the average Joe would need acrobatics to attain. For the rest of us, there’s choreography.

One of the great pleasures of watching a live a cappella performance is seeing what kinds of choreography a group might come up with, and the effect is especially captivating when groups emulate the actual performer’s mannerisms—better yet, the music video. No, such interpretations aren’t for everyone, for every group, or for every setting. But every now and again you can catch a truly inspired reproduction of the “Single Ladies” dance or the sweet moves of the “Thriller” zombies, and it makes for a truly epic performance.

I love it!

Remembering How You Know a Song

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #134: Remembering How You Know a Song

One of the most powerful effects of music is its capacity to trigger memories. Because most a cappella groups focus their repertoires on cover songs, and tend to cover music from a range of time periods and genres, a performance has plenty of potential to expose a diverse range of audience members to music that will resonate with them, summoning an equally diverse range of memories.

As an audience member, one of the sweetest moments comes when you not only recognize a song, but can place the moment in time from which you remember that song. The experience offers fans, as much as the singers on stage, a rich opportunity to participate in the performance and mentally mold it as they see fit.

I love it!

Next Page
Small Groups
Super-Sized Groups
Singing in a Round
A Radical Arrangement
When the Staging Emulates the Music Video
Remembering How You Know a Song
Seeing a Group Transform On Stage and Off
When a Group Squeezes an Extra Song Into Its Competition Set
The First Time You Hear a Song After You’ve Heard It A Cappella
Watching the Crowd Grow at a Public Show
Hearing a Song That Just Came Out on the Radio
A Sold-Out Crowd
Simulating Sounds
Clean Sound
Hearing the Story Behind a Song
Intro Videos
Wild Transitions Between Songs
Buying a Group's CD After the Show
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