The 2015 ICHSA Finals

Event Reviews

On April 17, 2015, Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York played host to the International Championship of High School A Cappella (ICHSA) Finals. As ICHSA Director Andrea Poole announced at the top of the show, a field of over one hundred twenty competing groups had been narrowed to the final twelve, representing eleven geographic regions throughout the US, plus a Wild Card champ. Before the review, here’s a quick summary of the show.

The Competitors:
The ICHSA Midwest Champions, DeKalb High School Enharmonic Fusion
The ICHSA Mid-Atlantic Champions , Western Alamance High School WA Cappella
The ICHSA Northeast Champions, The Northern Highlands Regional High School Highlands Voices
The ICHSA Wisconsin Champions, The Appleton East High School Insongniacs
The ICHSA New England Champions, Danvers High School Falconize
The ICHSA South Champions, Winter Park High School Take 7
The ICHSA Southwest Champions, Marcus High School Fusion
The ICHSA Wild Card Champions, Centerville High School Forte
The ICHSA East Coast Champions, The Wheeler School 18 Wheelers
The ICHSA Ohio Valley Champions, Crest High School Tonal Spectrum
The ICHSA Northwest Champions, Oakland School for the Arts Vocal Rush
The ICHSA Great Lakes Champions, Port Clinton High School Touch of Class

Guest Performers: The 2014 ICCA Champions, Berklee College of Music Pitch Slapped

Emcee: Courtney Jensen

Judges:
Ed Boyer
Bill Hare
Candice Helfand-Rogers
Julia Hoffman
Sean Patrick Riley

Sound: Liquid 5th

The 2014 ICCA Champs, Pitch Slapped, opened the evening singing a grooving cover of Ariana Grande’s “The Way.” As I’ve written when it has come together before, I think that having the reigning ICCA champs perform at these shows is such an excellent choice. Not only does it provide the crowd with an entertaining act, but it also offers the budding high school stars an act to look up to and hopefully encourage them to stick with a cappella when they progress to college. Better yet, Pitch Slapped is that special brand of act that cannot only assemble a killer twelve-minute competition set, but also just as easily compile a looser half hour set that capitalizes on a variety of moods and musical styles. We’ll revisit that when we get to the deliberation period, though. There was a whoooooooole lot of a cappella to hear in between.

Courtney Jensen had emcee duties for the evening, Jensen is the ICHSA Northwest producer, and also a 2007 ICCA champ with Brigham Young University Noteworthy who appeared with that same group as well as The Back Beats on The Sing-Off. So, she’s pretty cool. As those who have seen her emcee before would expect, Jensen brought her usual brand of high energy, humor, and charisma to the stage, though it seemed as though someone may have messed with her cue cards because there were a few points of confusion about which act she was introducing at various points of the night.

Enharmonic Fusion was the first of the competing groups. The co-ed crew looked really sharp, all dressed in black and a rusty-maroon-ish color. They started with “This Is Gospel,” originally by Panic! At The Disco. This was such a shrewd choice for an opener, highlighted by an opening spot that actually sounded like gospel before the group slipped right into a smoother pop sound. They threw in some body percussion to help differentiate the second verse and keep things interesting. Really good creative choices, really good sound, for a strong start to the set.

Next up, the group sang Sam Smith’s ”I Know I’m Not The Only One.” Very nice stage presence and vocals from the female lead for this song, who built nicely, growing both louder and more intense on the second verse. A big bass sound keyed in on that second verse, too, which worked really nicely. The whole group sold the emotion of the song nicely, they worked in some really pretty high harmonies on the outro.

Enharmonic Fusion closed with a mashup of Meghan Trainor’s “Dear Future Husband” and Olly Murs’s “Dance With Me Tonight.” I tend to be skeptical of lightweight, freewheeling numbers at this level of competition but I was pleasantly surprised that the group positively owned this number, capitalizing on star female and male leads and playing off that dynamic with guys acting hesitant, the women in charge of the choreography. Just terrific staging and showmanship all around on this number and, perhaps best of all, this was quite sincerely a performance like none other that evening—so well-sung, well-acted, and just plain fun, allowing Enharmonic Fusion to leave a lasting impression on the audience with their closer.

Next up was WA Cappella, a co-ed group clad in black and blue, that bounded onto the stage with tremendous energy. They opened with ”Bring Me To Life,” originally by Evanescence. The highlight of this performance was the visual show, with the group in constant motion and really lining up the musical and visual transitions nicely. I really liked the choice to spotlight the group’s drummer. He happened to be a very tall guy, and he was going to stand out from the crowd. Rather than ignore or try to work around that inevitability, the group embraced that dynamic by putting him visually front and center as often as the soloists, weaving in and out of the action and adding to the sense of off-beat electricity and controlled chaos that this group had from the get-go. Parts of this performance got a little shout-y for my tastes, particularly on the chorus, but overall it was effective as both a statement song for this group to assert itself, and a chance to head off any big stage nerves by getting right into a high impact number.

The group segued to a clipped version of Bill Withers’s ”Ain’t No Sunshine” with some really good solo work, before gliding right into “Fallin’,” originally by Alicia Keys. Really nice transition there, and I dug the attitude from the second lead. While these two songs are a cappella staples, I don’t recall hearing them put together before, and I thought it may have been prudent for the group to have taken even more advantage of that and to have really mashed the songs together. Just the same, the pieces fit together nicely side by side, and the group was well-served to deliver a more technically sound second number, to show a different side of their personality.

WA Cappella wrapped up with Alex Clare’s ”Too Close.” This turned out to be the first of three different renditions of this song by different competitors throughout the night—it’s always a gamble to bring a song so widely covered to a competition this prominent, and each of these groups had its proverbial bet called. While the song wasn’t as impactful as it might have been if no one else had covered it, WA Cappella nonetheless benefited both from being the first group to sing it and from the combination of a particularly good female lead and great vocal percussion. Very good visual presentation, too, with the group continuing to appear confident and energetic. Electric little moment on a transition as the group leaned back, the percussionist leapt in the air, and the soloist keyed back in after a moment of silence. It was a strong finish to good set from this group.

Next up, we heard from the reigning ICHSA National Champions, The Highlands Voices. The co-ed group wore its traditional red and black and opened with Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be.” The group delivered on all of its trademarks from the beginning—a wonderfully powerful solo, solid VP, show stopping choreography, and a general sense of confidence and storytelling. This is a special group in that they’re just so much fun to witness as a dramatic spectacle, as opposed to a traditional a cappella act. Great opener.

The group moved seamlessly to Bea Miller’s ”Young Blood”--another powerful, fast-moving statement song. I liked the decision for the group to maintain a big sound at this point, vital to shaping their identity and helping them stand out from the pack of twelve competing groups. Awesome moment as the group stormed the front of the stage to create a wall of sound, every single one of these young women and men singing their hearts out. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again as it pertains to this group—champions care, and you never spot a single one of them looking disengaged or distracted in the midst of a competition number.

One more seamless transition and we were en route to Kimbra’s ”Miracle.” Very good sound all around again, though I couldn’t help feeling that this number lacked some of the punch of “Young Blood” and even “Rather Be,” and thus felt like an odd choice to end with. Groups performing at this level—and I do feel The Highlands Voices were in the hunt for another championship—need to think about that level of detail, and how they can use all of the separate parts of their set to enhance one another and put their best foot forward. As such, “Miracle” felt like a little bit of a let down. Just the same, in a vacuum, it was a solid closing number, capped with a well-rehearsed bit of staging to segue into the group’s final bow.

The Insongniacs took the stage next, the first all-female group to compete that night. They opened with “The Real Thing” from Nashville. Good vocals from the group, and a slick handoff of the solo mic as they transitioned to the second verse. The young women presented an interesting case study in choreography because, to their credit they pulled off some really complex moves fluidly, like jumping to criss-cross their ankles in synch. Are moves like that impressive? Absolutely! But do they leave an impression? That’s where I question the choice, because for the degree of difficulty involved, it didn’t result in movement across the stage and in only using their lower bodies when the audience’s eye is naturally drawn to singers’ faces, I worry that the motion was largely lost on the audience. It’s a picky point, I don’t mean to harp on it for too long, but to the extent that visual presentation is a part of the ICHSA scoring criteria, I feel groups need to make those moments count by not only showing their dexterity, but by creating movement and rearrangement on the stage in a way that enhances the music.

The Insgoniacs followed up with a largely choral handling of “Iscariot”, originally by Walk the Moon. I really liked this song choice at this stage in the set to follow up a show-y song with a big sound and choreography with a song more rooted in harmonies and blend to prove the group’s musical chops. Nice middle number.

The group continued its set with Arty’s “Up All Night.” I loved the attitude the group projected and that the choreography was more oriented toward spanning the stage this time around. Fun dubstep break down. Good sound from the lead. To be really nitpicky, I questioned the choice for the soloist to dangle a set of keys on the “keys in my hand” lyric. One could argue that a gesture like that places the audience in the scene of the song, but when a prop is that literal and doesn’t come back later in the song, I don’t really see what it adds to the presentation and, if anything, it runs the risk of being a distraction for the performer if the keys get stuck in someone’s pocket or accidentally drop out of the soloist’s hand. Again, a very minor quibble for a very good song.

The Insongniacs transitioned seamlessly to a mashup of Beyonce’s ”Pretty Hurts” and Jessie J’s ”Who You Are.” I felt that this was the point at which The Insgoniacs really hit their stride in a song that showcased their command of dynamics, starting very soft, then letting the sound swell all around as the percussion keyed in. Nice, warm sound on the finish.

The set came to a close with a clipped version of Whitney Houston’s ”I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” In principle, I like this song as a closer, though it has grown a bit over-exposed over the last few years. (Though they didn’t originate a cappella covers of the song, I felt The Sing-Off’s Afro-Blue delivered the definitive take on this song, and all too many groups have come across as imitators since). That said, The Insongniacs proved they were more than up to the task of this song aurally. The song more or less demands heavy duty choreo, and the group was up to it there, too, particularly with a fun bit toward the end that saw pairs of group members dancing down a line on stage. All in all, this was a fun cap to an ambitious, diverse set.

Falconize hit the stage next, a co-ed group wearing black and gray. They started sparse, with just the soloist and VP for The Band Perry’s ”Better Dig Two.” Really good staging on this song, particularly with the women taking the lead and the guys lurching after them. Great solo work, and a really full sound from the group. They used transitions to their advantage, particularly in stomping into an explosion of sound. I really liked this song choice to force the group to sing big early so they could get comfortable on stage and ease into the next movements of the set.

They followed up with Alex Clare’s ”Too Close.” To the group’s credit, this was the most innovative of the three different takes on this song, this night, slowed down and steered by a female lead, joined by a second lead later in the song. They really reinvented the song from a power pop rock anthem to a quiet meditation on being too close to someone to love them the right way. Really lovely interpretation here, capped with a very soft, precise choral finish. While I wish the group had applied its creativity and craft to a different song, the performance itself was pretty stunning.

The opening to Little Mix’s ”Move” felt a little sloppy to me, but once Falconize settled in it, it quickly became a really fun party number, with a very charismatic female lead and a lot of great visual work ranging from pairs of group members dancing together, to more free-style movement to the music. Very cool bass sound on the solo in the end. I liked the idea to finish up big to lend symmetry to the set, and that that group cut a little looser on this song to help them get the audience on their side and having fun to finish off the set.

The women of Take 7 were up next, an all-female group dressed in black and blue. They kicked off their set with a really lovely reinvention of “How To Save A Life”, originally by The Fray. They played it very, very softly and really nailed on the “pray to God” lyric which they repeated time and again, each time louder, rawer, and more desperate. I can hardly express how much I love it when a group really sinks its teeth into the heart of a song and makes it their own in honest, organic ways, and this was a near perfect way to do that, in addition to allowing the group an off-beat, musically sound opener that subverted expectations for what I had previously known to be a more aggressive, power group. Awesome opener.

The group continued with ZZ Ward’s “Til The Casket Drops.” Nice intensity here, with a soloist who really owned the stage. More than anything, this was a study in contrasts, taking a sharp, electric turn out of the preceding song. I dug it.

Seamless transition to Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me.” Tremendous emotion on this song, with the group truly communicating the sorrow of the piece via some tremendous solo work, perfectly subtle VP, and everyone selling the facial expressions of the moment. Very good moment when the voices merged into unison, before settling into a quiet hum on the finish. My only knock on this song is that the emotional timbre may have come off a little too close to the way the group played “How To Save A Life,” thus it may have been prudent to have picked just one of those songs and gone longer on it than doing both. Just the same, both songs were pretty terrific in their own right.

Take 7 wrapped up with ”Ghost,” originally by Ella Henderson. While this song is a little over-exposed and begs some comparisons to the Timothy’s Gift version from The Sing-Off, it nonetheless felt like a very natural transition to cap this set with a song that combines a spiritual essence with power vocals and a pop sensibility that fit right in this group’s wheelhouse. Great solo work, and I really liked the incorporation of body percussion toward the end to ramp up the intensity and call back to the gospel influences embedded in the song. Very strong finish to a very strong set.

The final group before intermission was Fusion, another all-female group, this one sporting black and red. They launched their set with Ellie Goulding’s “Burn.” I know I keep harping on the risks of covering over-played songs. I get the appeal of covering a song like this, but, again, groups only make competition more difficult for themselves when they stack up their performance against not only the other competitors but all of the other groups that have covered the same song (and I’d wager that at least adjudicator Bill Hare has heard the more popular a cappella songs from two dozen group already). The upside is that Fusion did deliver a very good rendition of this song, featuring some really excellent percussion work (particularly when the perc built on the bridge) and very good staging choices, including several wholesale reconfigurations that kept the visual presentation interesting.

Fusion continued with Jessie J’s “Who You Are.” Really nice echo of the song title during the first chorus and repositioning of the group into an arc for the second verse. I loved the choice to blend in P!nk’s “Perfect” later on—a song that is not only thematically linked, but that flowed very nice aurally, doing everything that a good mashup should do. Great vocals all around on this one for a unique, beautiful song with an excellent message, particularly from a high school group.

The group closed its set with Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood’s “Somethin’ Bad.” This was a really shrewd choice for a barnburner finish, featuring stellar solo work, very good movement, and some truly impressive musical chops on the part of the whole group to stay so cohesive despite a rip-roaring tempo. A cappella—be it competitive or not—tends to land best when you get the impression the group loves what it’s doing and is having fun on stage and that’s exactly what Fusion accomplished with this killer finish.

Forte was up next, returning to the Finals stage after finishing second in back-to-back years, 2012 and 2013. The co-ed group has made a name for itself on the national scene by not only being very, very good, but also by writing and recording original music, including two albums of composed exclusively of original songs. I was delighted that 2015 was the year when the group decided to bring its originals to competition. They opened with “Uncharted Heart,” the title track from an album they released earlier this year. Really excellent vocal percussion on this one, and a good group sound all around. I really liked the symmetry of this number, starting with just the percussionist and soloist on stage before the rest of the group filtered in, and then ending with parts falling out until they were back to the barest of bones. This was a really solid opener, and my only real suggestion is that the group might have insisted on that the all-original angle get played up in their introduction so more of the audience was clued into just how impressive their work was.

Next up, another original, “Like You Know Me To.” Stellar bass and percussion again as the rhythm section continued to kill it. Great intensity all around, including a stomp into one of the transitions. Nice bit of staging with the soloist all alone up front and group clustered at the back of the stage before they engaged in a flurry of motion to storm the front of the stage and build to a big finish. This was a really artful second song that sounded fundamentally different from anything else that night, again, helping Forte stand out from the pack.

I loved the choice to move from originals to a more familiar closer that really drew in the audience and created a party atmosphere. OneRepublic’s “Love Runs Out” was just the ticket. Awesome intensity again and a phenomenal solo for the first one, and the group did a great job of keeping things fresh by fluidly transitioning to a female lead on the second verse. The bass got a shot at the spotlight later on. All in all, this felt like just the right song at just the right time to cap off a set that would challenge for top honors on almost any stage.

Next up, The 18 Wheelers, a sizeable co-ed group clad in different brightly colored tops and black bottoms. Having such a big group is always a tradeoff—it opens the potential for a much bigger sound than smaller groups can pull off, but it also means harnessing all of that vocal power into a well-tuned, cohesive unit. On their opener, Bastille’s “These Streets,” the group sound was mostly on point, and I was particularly impressed with the staging choices as they had various group members break off for signature dance moves including a cartwheel, a split, and a pirouette. When you have that many bodies at your disposal, there are definitely opportunities for parts to fall out to different, interesting things, and The 18 Wheelers took advantage of that dynamic.

The group continued seamlessly, moving to Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You.” Really nice group sound, and I particularly appreciated the choral echo of the soloist’s lines that came in midway through the song, creating a gospel-esque feel. A very moving second song.

The 18 Wheelers wrapped up with, well, ”Wrapped Up,” originally by Olly Murs. Excellent solo work on this one, nicely restrained at the beginning to give it plenty of room to grow. I really liked the infusion of an original rap in the late stages of the song to help show off another facet of the group’s talents, and to do something distinctive and memorable in the end game to help them stand out to the judges and audience. Just a really fun closer for a very entertaining set.

Tonal Spectrum was up next. This co-ed group wore black tops and different colored bottoms—an interesting inversion of the color scheme from The 18 Wheelers right in front of them. They opened in unique fashion, mashing together signature bits of a number of songs they would visit throughout the set in a really artful fashion, including “Now and Forever, “ “Animals,” and “Bottom of the River,” before settling into a simply lovely minute of “Hanging Tree,” capped with the signature whistling sound from The Hunger Games. I found this opening artful and captivating. When you’re entering a competition with no fewer than twelve competitors, each performing twelve minutes of music, it’s critical to offer moments that make your set stand out from all of the rest, and I felt this a pretty optimal example of doing just that—creative, musically sound, and unforgettable.

The first fully realized song was Serena Ryder’s “Stompa.” The part of this song that most stood out to me was the group’s stage presence—always active, constantly reconfiguring to keep the visual story interesting, while maintaining a clean sound. From there, the group quickly moved to slowed down take on ”Animals,” originally by Maroon 5 before a nicely executed vocal trumpet paved the way for a transition to Richard Marx’s ”Now and Forever.” I actually like this is a song choice—as dated as the song itself may be, it’s an emotionally rich ballad that hasn’t been over-exposed and let the group connect with an older demographic in the crowd. That said, the soloist on this one sounded a little off his game, and this was the point at which the otherwise polished, complex musical stylings from this group started to show their seams to me. Nice transition to Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” which fit really nicely with “Now and Forever” and looked to get the group’s blend and tuning back on track.

From there, the group moved to a very nicely sung foreign language song that I couldn’t pick up the title of. Great charisma from the soloist on that segment of the performance and stellar VP work. From there, the group was on to Delta Rae’s ”Bottom of the River.” For all of the exposure this song has had in a cappella circles, I loved the ways in which the group made it their own. In so many ways, this was the set’s defining song for me, mixing up the tempo of the song significantly and weaving in an original rap—wildly complex, threatening to teeter out of control, but walking that wire and staying balanced to present something original and irresistible. Strong closer to a very good set.

Next up, Vocal Rush. Twice before this group had entered the ICHSA tournament, and twice before they emerged ICHSA Champions. They also made it all the way to the finals of The Sing-Off season four, and operate under the direction of Lisa Forkish who is the real-life Divisi star who (loosely speaking) inspired Anna Kendrick’s Barton Bella game changer in Pitch Perfect. How’s that for buzz surrounding a group? But would they live up to all of this hype in 2015? The co-ed crew took the stage in black and white formal duds and opened up with Paloma Faith’s ”Upside Down.” This group has made a name for itself on bigger, higher energy music and I really appreciated the impulse to embrace something jazzier and more musically intricate here. Good groups follow the trends Great groups set them. Sensational solo work, and this was about as close as it gets to technically perfect. Dazzler of an opener.

The group hummed into the intro for ”Awake My Soul,” originally by Mumford and Sons. I kind of loved the idea of theming this set around anachronistic sounds—all contemporary pop music, all of it in off-beat sub-genres, this one the epitome of folk simplicity, with hidden layers of complexity embedded in the arrangement. The low end was especially killer here, and the group even managed to make the instrumental segments of this song feel pretty epic, leading into a positively gossamer harmonic finish.

Vocal Rush closed with a slowed down take on Sara Bareilles’s ”Brave”--the least off-beat song choice with the most radical reinterpretation by the group. Yes, this an over-played pop song that has gone on to be over-covered in the a cappella world. Someone from Vocal Rush took the time to strip all that right down though to the core, essential heart of the song. It’s a song about being courageous enough to do and say the unpopular. To be true to yourself. To do right. The group made it about that, showing impeccable musicianship for the duration, and culminating in a moment when they sang the refrain of “let the words fall out,” stopped, froze and sang in unison, “speak out.” The moment proved a harbinger for the bigger message revealed when the group members turned around on the finish to reveal that “#BLACKLIVESMATTER” was written tape across their backs, while the leads kneeled down up front with their hands in the air. I had already had the privilege of seeing this whole set at the Northwest semifinals. Just the same, it gave me goosebumps all over again in New York.

The final competing group was Touch of Class, a co-ed group that wore black and red. They kicked off with Alex Clare’s “Too Close.” I won’t belabor the point much further, but performing twelfth out of twelve groups is probably the last time when you want to cover a song that the audience has already heard twice. That said, the group, and particularly the soloist demonstrated great stage presence and the choreographed full-body bobs looked sharp. Good, full group sound for an all-around solid opener.

Next up, ”Wings,” originally by Little Mix. Big sound on this one and the group played with the gender divide a good bit, including a fun bit when they separated into two packs with the guys lurching behind the young women. The energy was off the charts by the end of this song which begged the question where the group would take the set from there.

And, perhaps suitably, in the end Touch of Class sang “In the End,” originally by Linkin Park. It’s sort of wild to think of high school kids singing this song in 2015, when this is a song I remember hearing when I was in high school fifteen years earlier. Dear God, is this golden oldie to them? How ancient am I? I’m going to put aside that existential crisis and turn back to Touch of Class. Nicely executed rap on this one with a very good female lead vocal singing over, under, and alongside him. Nice taper-off ending that demonstrated this group’s control of its dynamics and, like Tonal Spectrum and The 18 Wheelers before them, I felt this group was well served to spotlight a rapper in the end game to provide a memorable point of differentiation from so many of the other acts that night.

As the judges headed off to deliberate Pitch Slapped returned to the stage to entertain the crowd with a set that included “Superstition,” “Princess of China,” “Good Life,” and remixed take on “Single Ladies.” As I wrote about at the top of this review, this is a group that knows how to deliver a knockout set of any length, and hearing them perform was a treat to wind down the evening.

While Pitch Slapped sang, I made my picks for the night. In my book, there were a clear top two, which I’ll get to in a minute. The third place spot was much harder to pick with the charming early set from Enharmonic Fusion, the bombast and showmanship of The Highlands Voices, the emotional richness of Take 7, the quality soloists and reimaginings of Falconize, and the clever arranging of Tonal Spectrum putting all of these groups in the mix. In the end, I had The Highlands Voices eking out that third place spot.

For second place, I felt it had to be Forte. It’s genuinely special for a group to bring two originals to the big stage in New York, besides having the foresight to follow them up with a crowd-pleasing party track on the finish. Add to all of that some simply stellar VP work and untouchable fundamentals and you have a truly special set.

And then there is Vocal Rush. Their sound was untouchable. Their soloists fantastic. Their staging brilliant. But rare and special are those truly gifted individuals who use their artistic platform for a bigger purpose. At the risk of hyperbole, I’ll say it—seeing the young women and men of Vocal Rush tell the crowd in New York that black lives matter may go down as the single most iconic image in high school a cappella history. Some folks will criticize that that last image had nothing to do with music, and to those folks I will reply, “You are dead wrong.” Vocal Rush expertly built their version of “Brave” to communicate a sense of sorrow and in adding those key lyrics, “speak out,” set up everyone who was listening to understand this was more than a performance. This a mission. We live in complicated times in which it’s easier not to watch the news and to roll your eyes at a politically charged Facebook rant. There are people who insist that the hashtag should be changed to express that “all lives matter,” and while I agree with that on an idealized and literal level, it’s not all lives that have systematically been treated as less than in our contemporary culture or in our nation’s history. Vocal Rush took a stand and it’s ultimately up to you whether you stand with them. I like to think of myself as a member of the a cappella tribe, though. As such, with a tear in my eye, I am proud to say that the Vocal Rush kids are champions within this community.

Whether the judges had all the same rationale as me, or simply ended up appreciating the same songs, our picks weren’t so far off. Vocal Rush won it and remained on stage to cap the night with a India.Arie’s “Just Do You,” a fine way to cap a fine season of high school a cappella.

That’s a wrap for this show. Please check back later this week for my review of the ICCA Finals. Apologies for the longer turnaround time for these reviews this year—Varsity Vocals indicated that I would not be permitted to take notes on a computer at Finals this year so I’ve had to transcribe my longhand notes which is a process; that coupled with the new challenge of cross-country travel to get to and from New York has made it a bit more arduous task to finish these reviews, and I appreciate your patience!

Mike Chin’s Picks for the Night

Overall Placement
1. Vocal Rush
2. Forte
3. Highlands Voices

Outstanding Soloist:
1. Highlands Voices for “Young Blood”
2. Vocal Rush for “Upside Down”
3. Enharmonic Fusion for “I Know I’m Not The Only One"

Outstanding Visual Presentation:
1. Take 7 for the full set
2. Highlands Voices for the full set
3. Vocal Rush for the full set

Outstanding Vocal Percussion:
1. Forte
2. Vocal Rush
3. Highlands Voices

Outstanding Arrangement:
1. Vocal Rush for the full set
2. Tonal Spectrum for the full set
3. Forte for the full set

Official ICHSA Results

Overall Placement
1. Vocal Rush
2. Forte
3. Falconize

Outstanding Soloist: Vocal Rush for “Upside Down”

Outstanding Choreography: Take 7 for the full set

Outstanding Vocal Percussion: Forte for the full set

Outstanding Arrangement: Tonal Spectrum for the full set