<![CDATA[The A Cappella Blog]]> http://acappellablog.com/ The A Cappella Blog en Copyright 2017 2017-12-16T21:31:36-05:00 <![CDATA[The Ten Can't Miss American Collegiate A Cappella Groups of 2017]]>http://acappellablog.com/newsline/the-ten-cant-miss-american-collegiate-a-cappella-groups-of-2017 http://acappellablog.com/newsline/the-ten-cant-miss-american-collegiate-a-cappella-groups-of-2017

2017 was a great year for a collegiate a cappella. As the year comes to a close, it is time to salute ten truly extraordinary groups.

A few notes:

-Groups included in The Ten Can’t-Miss American Collegiate A Cappella Groups of 2014, 2015, and 2016 were not eligible for inclusion in this year’s list. It’s not that those groups are any less exceptional this year, but I wanted to give ten different groups recognition. So, the following thirty groups were not considered this time around:

  • a.Squared
  • The AcaBelles
  • Acasola
  • All-Night Yahtzee
  • Bare Naked Statues
  • Beyond Measure
  • The BluesTones
  • The BosTones
  • Divisi
  • Faux Paz
  • Fundamentally Sound
  • Gold Vibrations
  • The Hexachords
  • Men In Drag
  • Mosaic Whispers
  • The N’Harmonics
  • The Octaves
  • The Octopodes
  • The Originals
  • Pitch, Please!
  • The ScatterTones
  • The Sil’hooettes
  • Soundcheck
  • State of Fifths
  • The Statesmen
  • The Vassar Devils
  • VirtuOSO
  • Vocal Point (Brigham Young University)
  • Vocal Point (University of Delaware)
  • Voicebox

-This list does not necessarily denote the best groups, so much as the ones that were most successful and noteworthy in 2016. The criteria for the list included (but was not necessarily limited to) accomplishments, public recognition, innovation, and quality of performance (live and recorded). Two other pieces of criteria that are least scientific, but unavoidable: my personal preferences and what I’ve been exposed to. I’m only one critic, and if I haven’t heard your group, I welcome you to send me some YouTube links or a CD to help bring me up to speed

- This list only considers groups based in the United States of America. I simply don’t have enough exposure to international groups at this time to fairly consider them in this context.

-I opted to limit this list to ten groups, which meant that many groups worthy of superlatives could not make it. I did want to acknowledge a handful of them with honorable mentions: Berklee College of Music Upper Structure, The University of Rochester YellowJackets, University of Oregon Mind the Gap, University of Pittsburgh Pittch Please, The Missouri State University Beartones, Texas A&M University HardChord DynaMix, UMass Amherst S#arp Attitude, and Georgia Tech Sympathetic Vibrations.

Without further ado, I am very pleased to present, in no particular order, The Ten Can’t-Miss American Collegiate A Cappella Groups of 2017.

University of Central Florida KeyHarmony

All-female KeyHarmony finished 2016 strong by releasing their well-received second EP, War Without Weapons. After a successful year, the group wound up winning one of the highest profile collegiate competitions there is at SoJam XV. Besides winning the competition on the whole, the group collected superlatives for Best Visual Performance and Best Vocal Percussion, solidifying their status as a star collegiate a cappella group.

The Northeastern University Nor’Easters

The Nor’Easters have been a perennial threat in the ICCA tournament for quite some time. In 2017 they won their way through the Northeast to arrive at Finals as stars. Their set not only awed the crowd in terms of soloists, complexity of sound, and visual presentation, but was so impressive for breaking down convention in a genuinely unique set. Add onto that placing a track on the Best of Collegiate A Cappella (a cover of Andra Day's "Rise Up") and The Nor’Easters furthered their legacy as an ensemble that breaks boundaries, and sounds like no other a cappella group on the planet.

University of Chicago Voices in Your Head

In speaking with a Voices in Your Head alum after ICCA Finals, I picked up the impression that this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the group. On the Finals stage, they came across as anything but a group in transition, much less trying to find itself. An inspired, original set positively took command of the competition, and rightfully landed Voices a second place finish. You can add onto that they also won a CARA in the same year—Best Mixed Collegiate Album for LIGHTS--and you have a special year for a special group.

Ohio State University Ohio State of Mind

Ohio State of Mind won its way to ICCA Finals out of the Midwest this year, with superlatives including winning the Outstanding Arrangement award at their regional semifinal. The truest story for this truly excellent group, however, may well have been their rhythm section. Not only did they pick up an Outstanding Vocal Percussion honor at the regional level, but at Finals in New York, Music Director Jojo Otseidu garnered the rare recognition of Outstanding Bass. When the most auspicious collection of judges in collegiate a cappella deems fit to tailor fit a special award to you—and the last time they did so was to honor Avi Kaplan—you’d better believe you’ve achieved something sensational.

University of Florida Gestalt

One of the rarest feats for a scholastic a cappella group is to maintain excellence over the course of a calendar year. We expect groups to peak in the spring, after a year of singing together. We expect for the fall to be rougher, as the group reorganizes after the summer, rallies from losing seniors, and incorporates new members. Gestalt is that rare group that managed to finish third in an ultra-competitive ICCA South region, only to come into the fall guns-ablaze for a second place finish at the SoJam, while collecting the Best Soloist and Best Arrangement accolades. Add onto that the release of their debut album, Beyond the Archetype and it was a heck of a year for this group. The scariest part? They were only founded in 2016. There are surely big things ahead for Gestalt.

University of Michigan Amazin' Blue

One of the greatest ICCA innovations of the last decade is the Wild Card round, which grants one regional semifinal runner up entry into the Finals. The Wild Card has offered the Finals audience in New York the opportunity to hear some truly fantastic groups, and Amazin’ Blue was a particularly luminous addition to that legacy. Coming out of the Great Lakes region, Amazin’ Blue delivered huge with a brilliantly cohesive set, that was not only fundamentally sound, but underscored with a sense of danger at every turn. 

University of Washington Furmata A Cappella

2017 saw Furmata A Cappella not only win its way out of the ICCA Northwest to their first appearance at Finals, but saw them become the first group to represent the state of Washington at Finals. They brought a wonderful intensity to competition, including a wild closing number for which the group left everything on the stage. Add onto that alumni of the group (and UW Awaaz) doing them proud as part of SeaNote—releasing a fine new album, Transititions, and competed as part of the first Varsity Vocals Open competition.

The Towson University Trills

After just a year and a half singing together, The Towson Trills did the unthinkable. The seven-member ensemble qualified for ICCA Finals. If you think that’s a small group size or a short period of time together to make it to Finals, you’re correct on both counts, and the group brought a truly unique style to the Finals stage, anchored by keen arranging work and killer VP. The best news for Trills fans? No one from the group is set to graduate before 2019, so they’ve still got a year and a half ahead of them to thrive before losing any seniors.

The University of Waterloo Water Boys

The ICCA Finals have taken a turn for the dark side. While some have criticized it, a lot of the top groups in the world have come to embrace intensity, sorrow, and rage over representing happier ideals. There’s nothing wrong with that—in fact I’d call recent years of ICCA Finals some of the best a cappella I’ve experienced—but it’s nonetheless a breath of fresh air to encounter a group like The Water Boys. While this all-male group isn’t necessarily happy go lucky, they represent a polished aesthetic that leans toward silky smooth and professional. The guys’ competition set simultaneously felt like a bit of a throwback, and like a new direction for the genre. For groups seeking to make their presence felt on the national level, its so important to forge a unique identity, and The Water Boys were one of the best groups at doing that in 2017.

The Belmont University Beltones

Nashville is known as a prime location for serious musicians and for a certain country fried sensibility. Out of these traditions, The Beltones arise as a quietly awesome group that tends to get wrongfully overlooked in conversations about the best contemporary collegiate a cappella franchises. In 2017, they reached ICCA Finals for the third time in five years by winning the very competitive South region. Their competition set this year saw them diversify their sound and their presentation, ranging from pop, to power, to a jazzier sound, lined with seamless transition and their trademark musical precision.

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2017-12-15T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Alive]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/alive http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/alive

This week we present University of Washington Furmata A Cappella performing Sia’s “Alive.”

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2017-12-12T00:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Small Groups]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/small-groups http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/small-groups

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!

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2017-12-07T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Bang Bang]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/bang-bang-2 http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/bang-bang-2

This week we present The Kings College London Rolling Tones performing Nancy Sinatra/Destiny Child’s “Bang Bang.”

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2017-12-05T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Greek Life]]>http://acappellablog.com/campus-connections/greek-life http://acappellablog.com/campus-connections/greek-life

In this edition of Campus Connections, our focus is on: Greek life.

Fraternities and sororities tend to be some of the longest standing student organizations on a college campus. Their features include large and fiercely loyal memberships, a history of putting on social gatherings, and high visibility on campus.

Greek life varies from school to school, and I can understand why some a cappella groups may be reluctant to collaborate with these groups, given their frequent reputation for debauchery and hazing. But if we can see past these stereotypes, many sororities and fraternities have cleaner acts than you might think and, regardless of how clean they are, have some serious pull on campus.

Connecting with Greek life can open performance opportunities. Fraternities and sororities tend to be known for their parties and performing at such an event can release your own group from a reputation of being goody-two-shoes, and expose your music to a host of people who might not ordinarily attend one of your shows. A cappella can be a hard sell in theory, but less so when you let a general audience hear you in the flesh, and can demonstrate just what makes this art form so special.

Moreover, if you connect with fraternities or sororities, there is the potential to win over a loyal new body of fans. Greek organizations tend to have an uncanny ability to mobilize their members—forming a voting block in elections for student government, raising significant money for charitable causes of choice, and, yes, even potentially leading their whole roster to attend your shows.

Greek life is a vibrant part of so many colleges. Work with them, and you may be surprised at how many new listeners and opportunities you can create for your music.

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2017-11-30T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Young Volcanoes]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/young-volcanoes http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/young-volcanoes

This week we present The University of Waterloo Water Boys performing Fall Out Boy’s “Young Volcanoes.”

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2017-11-28T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Dancing in the Rain]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/dancing-in-the-rain http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/dancing-in-the-rain

This week we present Rockwall High School Walk the Line performing their original “Dancing in the Rain.”

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2017-11-21T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Super-Sized Groups]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/super-sized-groups http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/super-sized-groups

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!

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2017-11-16T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Lay Me Down]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/lay-me-down http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/lay-me-down

This week we present Oregon State University Outspoken performing Sam Smith’s “Lay Me Down.”

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2017-11-14T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Singing in a Round]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/singing-in-a-round http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/singing-in-a-round

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!

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2017-11-09T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[The Light That Never Fails]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/the-light-that-never-fails http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/the-light-that-never-fails

This week we present DeKalb High School Enharmonic Fusion performing Andra Day’s “The Light That Never Fails."

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2017-11-07T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[A Radical Arrangement]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/a-radical-arrangement http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/a-radical-arrangement

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!

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2017-11-02T04:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Zombie]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/zombie http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/zombie

This week we present Hamilton College Tumbling After performing The Cranberries’ “Zombie."

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2017-10-31T04:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Mocking Women Isn’t Funny]]>http://acappellablog.com/open-letters/mocking-women-isnt-funny http://acappellablog.com/open-letters/mocking-women-isnt-funny

Dear All-Male Groups,

I get it. When On the Rocks covered Lady Gaga it was funny. Not only was the sound great, and the video professionally produced, but the very concept of these college-aged men singing “Bad Romance” and dancing (well) in Gaga fashion was really amusing.

But you know what? With each iteration of this performance, or one similar to it, by groups imitating that On the Rocks style, it got less funny. I’m talking about guys going Gaga, guys singing “Single Ladies,” guys singing Ke$ha. Over the past seven years, we’ve seen it all.

Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t feel there’s anything inherently wrong with crossing gender lines in a cappella. An all-male group soulfully covering Sarah McLachlan or making an Imogen Heap song their own can be fresh and surprising, not to mention that it can open unique opportunities for a group. But as soon as the comedy takes centerstage via over-the-top choreography, put-on falsettos, or stereotypically effeminate body language played to comedic effect, it’s no longer fun. As a critic, that’s the point at which I stop taking a group seriously as a cappella performers, and recognize that they are, instead, prioritizing playing the crowd for laughs.

There’s a place for comedic a cappella. Heck, I’ll even go so far as to say that if you know your audience and the theatrics aren’t distracting you from making good music, there may be a place for this style of performance at a campus show. But when you enter a competition, release a video into the world, or otherwise try to assert yourself as an a cappella group that a broader audience should pay attention to, you have to recognize that mocking women is not original, nor is it funny. More often than not, it’s hackneyed and kind of offensive.

Think different. Try harder. I believe in you. Now go make the most of your potential.

Sincerely,

Mike

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2017-10-25T04:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Death of a Bachelor]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/death-of-a-bachelor http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/death-of-a-bachelor

This week we present the University of Michigan G-Men performing Panic! At the Disco’s “Death of a Bachelor.”

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2017-10-24T04:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[When the Staging Emulates the Music Video]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/when-the-staging-emulates-the-music-video http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/when-the-staging-emulates-the-music-video

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!

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2017-10-19T04:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Same Drugs]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/same-drugs http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/same-drugs

This week we present Florida State University Reverb performing Chance the Rapper’s “Same Drugs.”

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2017-10-17T04:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[5 Takeaways from Varsity Vocals’ First Open Finals]]>http://acappellablog.com/the-5s/5-takeaways-from-varsity-vocals-first-open-finals http://acappellablog.com/the-5s/5-takeaways-from-varsity-vocals-first-open-finals

Last month saw the finals of the very first Open—a tournament put on by Varsity Vocals that was not restricted to any specific scholastic level, but rather, as the name implies, open to groups anywhere, of any composition, singing any style. The results were an interesting brand of competition to say the least, culminating a widely touted show at Carnegie Hall.

While I pride myself on having made it to every ICCA Finals show since 2007, and most ICHSA shows in that period as well, I wasn’t able to make it to New York for this one. Nonetheless, I followed coverage via other great outlets like AcaVille Radio and FloVoice, and while I still have some catching up to do in learning more about some of the featured groups and giving them a listen, I nonetheless walked away with some distinct impressions from the event and about what it says regarding the future of a cappella.

1. All-Female A Cappella Is Thriving

While Women of the World may have been relatively new faces to Varsity Vocals fans, they’re a group that has operated at different sizes and in different permutations since 2008, and that had previously won the National Harmony Sweepstakes in 2014. In 2017, they etched their names in history as the first Open Champions.

That an all-female group would win the Open—a rare accomplishment in the collegiate and high school ranks—makes a bold statement about the quality of the group. It’s worth noting they weren’t the only all-female group to make it to Finals, either, joined by elite western group JANE, featuring alumni from college women’s powerhouses Divisi and Noteworthy.

2. New England Is Hot

OK, so Women of the World are, by their own definition, representatives of different regions of the world. Just the same, they won their way into the Open Finals via the New England Region. They weren’t the only group based in that area to appear at Finals either, as the top runners up in the competition were the Boston-based Northeastern University Nor’easters. Think about that. The top two finishers in a tournament designed to represent the whole a cappella world, both call Boston their home base.

Consider that Pitch Slapped wasn’t even in the competition, besides the bevy of other MIT, Northeaster, Berklee, Harvard-Radcliffe, Boston University, Boston College a cappella groups, and scads of other scholastic and post-collegiate groups that call that area home. For years, the west king when it came to competitive a cappella, but New England has come back with a vengeance.

3. Scholastic Groups Can Be Great in the Fall

For college and high school groups, the most high-profile competitions traditionally go down each year in the spring. That makes sense given that the spring competitions give groups months of time to gel—making up for key members who graduated and adjusting to new recruits. In the fall, a group might sill be shaking loose summer cobwebs, and may not yet know who it is or be truly prepared to put its best foot forward.

Or so we thought.

The reigning ICCA Champions, The Nor’easters and the reigning ICHSA Champions, Vocal Rush did themselves proud at the Open Finals, despite less than ideal timing on the academic calendar. Heck, The Nor’easters finished second, which is just plain insane at this level of competition for a scholastic group in the fall. And while we can only assume Vocal Rush would have been even better evolved and more equipped to thrive come fall, their skilled performance nonetheless demonstrated that artistry and hard work can prevail and lead to great a cappella even at the start of the school year.

4. The Varsity Vocals Crew Can Kill It Year-Round

I’ve always looked to the Varsity Vocals production team with a bit of awe for their ability to oversee tournaments throughout the spring, in a task that more often than not involved extensive travel weekend after weekend after weekend (not to mention the tremendous volume of organizational work that goes on long before a show happens.

The Open tournament on the whole confirmed that this team can go year-round, and further substantiates rumors that they just might be cyborgs sent to annihilate the world of instrumental music by exposing how awesome a cappella can be.

5. Collaboration Tops Competition

The Open was, of course, a competition, but underscored like all of Varsity Vocals’ offerings the value of collaboration, exposure, and learning. Over the course of this tournament, hundreds of a cappella singers got to sing on the same stage as people they likely as not would never have otherwise met, were it not for this series of events. The Finals in particular drew in singers from around the country and abroad to assemble a unique collection of talent.

In his infinite wisdom, Deke Sharon has spoken in the past about competition drawing audiences, and how shows like The Sing Off need to competition to sell themselves, but are much more about bringing artists together and getting more ears and eyes on them and on the a cappella genre itself. That’s exactly the vision that the Open realized in my estimation, assembling a phenomenal collection of talent to help influence one another and make the a cappella world at large that much better for the experience.

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2017-10-12T04:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Wait for the Moment]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/wait-for-the-moment http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/wait-for-the-moment

This week we present Northwestern University Purple Haze performing Vulfpeck’s “Wait for the Moment.”

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2017-10-10T04:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Remembering How You Know a Song]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/remembering-how-you-know-a-song http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/remembering-how-you-know-a-song

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!

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2017-10-05T04:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[River Ghost]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/river-ghost http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/river-ghost

This week we present University of Texas at Austin Fuse A Cappella performing their mashup of Bishop Briggs’ “River” and Ella Henderson’s “Ghost.”

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2017-10-03T04:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Seeing a Group Transform On Stage and Off]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/seeing-a-group-transform-on-stage-and-off http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/seeing-a-group-transform-on-stage-and-off

Reason #133: Seeing a Group Transform On Stage and Off

When I was an undergrad, I spent a couple years working tech crew, which included setting up and taking down various apparatuses and equipment for all of the major concerts that passed through my college. While it was far from my favorite show, one of the scenes I best remember from this experience was KC and the Sunshine Band concert. The band performed with far greater energy than what might expect from people their age. I was backstage by the time they performed their encore and in perfect position to see front man Harry Wayne Casey climb off stage and recede from the public eye. I watched as a man who had just entertained an audience of thousands seemingly shrank before my eyes, from master showman to sweat-soaked, exhausted, middle-aged man, struggling to catch his breath.

 

Watching professional, collegiate, and high school a cappella groups strut their stuff on stage, it’s easy to forget that these masterful musicians and charismatic performers, are, in all reality, just regular human beings when they step off stage. The a cappella form is nothing if not underappreciated—a genre full of talented people, most of who cannot make a living based on their performance art, but pursue it just the same for the love of the art and opportunity to share their music with an audience. Thus, the practitioners of a cappella may be larger than life in the spotlight but are, by and large, everyday people when they get backstage. Seeing this transformation, and the truly humble, awesome people that make this music happen is, itself, pretty awe inspiring.

 

I love it!

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2017-09-28T04:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Blood Bank/The Wolves]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/blood-bank-the-wolves http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/blood-bank-the-wolves

This week we present The University of Southern California SoCal VoCals performing Bon Iver’s “Blood Bank”/“The Wolves.”

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2017-09-26T04:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[When a Group Squeezes an Extra Song Into Its Competition Set]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/when-a-group-squeezes-an-extra-song-into-its-competition-set http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/when-a-group-squeezes-an-extra-song-into-its-competition-set

Reason #132: When a Group Squeezes an Extra Song Into Its Competition Set

Conventional wisdom dictates that a ten-to-twelve-minute competition set will consist of three songs (and, further, that that set will consist of two up-tempo songs to bookend a ballad). The format has certainly garnered its share of success, tailored to fit three-to-four minute long songs, and organized to capture the audience’s attention, show emotional depth, and explode into an epic finish.

While format works for many groups, others have found the greatest success by bucking tradition in favor mixing up the order of songs or defying the three-song model altogether, instead squeezing in a fourth number that has all the potential in the world to add depth and diversity to a set and to win audiences over for the sheer surprise that they thought the performance was over after the third number.

I love it!

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2017-09-21T04:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[You Know You Like It]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/you-know-you-like-it http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/you-know-you-like-it

This week we present Berklee College of Music Pitch Slapped performing AlunaGeorge’s “You Know You Like It.”

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2017-09-19T04:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[The First Time You Hear a Song After You’ve Heard It A Cappella]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/the-first-time-you-hear-a-song-after-youve-heard-it-a-cappella http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/the-first-time-you-hear-a-song-after-youve-heard-it-a-cappella

Reason #131: The First Time You Hear a Song After You’ve Heard It A Cappella

It’s no secret that one of the coolest parts of attending an a cappella show—particularly at the collegiate level, is walking away having been exposed to new music you may not have come across in your everyday life. The intersection of college students and people who love music is prime territory to be exposed to something off beat, on the cusp of becoming cool, or otherwise off the mainstream radar, but nonetheless awesome.

We’ve all heard songs translated from conventional instrumentation into a cappella—sometimes it’s great, sometimes it doesn’t work out so well. It’s pretty fantastic to hear a song performed (artfully) a cappella first, though, and then go back to discover the source material, reverse-engineering the process of the arrangement and elements performance to see how they link back to the original song, not to mention walking away with a new artist or album to explore.

I love it!

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2017-09-14T04:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[EDM Mashup]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/edm-mashup http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/edm-mashup

This week we present Brigham Young University Vocal Point performing their EDM Mashup.

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2017-09-12T04:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Watching the Crowd Grow at a Public Show]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/watching-the-crowd-grow-at-a-public-show http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/watching-the-crowd-grow-at-a-public-show

Reason #130: Watching the Crowd Grow at a Public Show

One of the a cappella’s most unique and most appealing qualities is how few requirements it has. A cappella groups need a place to exist—and, well, that’s about it. While not all venues are built equally in terms of aesthetic or acoustic quality, because a cappella is all about the music people make with their bodies, it allows for spontaneous performance, and performance in unlikely places ranging from a public park to a subway platform.

Better yet, once a group gets going, it can be pretty amazing to see a crowd take notice. Starting with a few friends of the group, soon, curious onlookers will wander over. Then more people who want to see what all of these other people are crowding around, and whom get sucked in by a captivating performance. In a matter of minutes, a cappella has the power to draw together a truly impressive audience.

I love it!

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2017-09-07T04:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[The Influence of A Cappella]]>http://acappellablog.com/guest-columns/the-influence-of-a-cappella http://acappellablog.com/guest-columns/the-influence-of-a-cappella

Guest author Deborah Tayloe is a professional writer and blogger for Musical Instruments Expert. While she’s an avid a cappella fan, she can’t sing a note and will stick with playing her violin for now.

From on screen media franchises Glee and Pitch Perfect, to sensations like Pentatonix and Home Free, the influence of a cappella on American pop culture is evident everywhere you look. In the era of social media, stardom is only a few clicks away. This gives the truly talented a chance to share their vocal gifts with the world at large.

A cappella fans just can’t seem to get enough! Rightly so. We are thrilled by the angelic harmonies, the fun beat box and amazing vocal percussion. Our iPods are full of covers of hits arranged by our favorite a cappella stars.

A cappella was once pigeonholed to a college campus activity. However, over time, a cappella music's appeal and accessibility have grown. That passion for vocal perfection has created an influence that has sent shock waves into popular culture.  

Consider the following influences. First, a cappella music brings great, old songs back to life for a new generation of listeners to enjoy. Second, a cappella artists can skillfully arrange songs to cross genres and give a fresh, new viewpoint that for new listeners to appreciate.

INFLUENCE 1: OLD SONGS BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE FOR A NEW GENERATION:

More current a cappella groups have begun resurrecting good, old, enjoyable songs from the past. In fact, they have brought old songs back to life for a new generation to enjoy.

Not quite sure what that means?

“Can’t Help Falling In Love” was an Elvis Presley ballad that topped the charts in 1961 and 1962. Our grandparents and parents fell in love to this song. It had a meaningful sentiment and any older person can tell you where they were the first time that they heard this some.

Pentatonix covered this song and published it on YouTube in April 2017...it now has over 9.8 million views in just about 4 months. A whole new generation of music lovers is falling in love to this song due to the newly released version.

INFLUENCE 2: CROSSING GENRES

A cappella music has a way of crossing genres that no other music, in my opinion, does. A country song is arranged to an upbeat, or a rock anthem is slowed down to a ballad. It makes a genre that’s not widely appreciated be understood better by new fans.

In many cases, a person who doesn’t care for a particular genre, such as classic rock, will appreciate a piece of music arranged in an updated  format.

A great example of the most popular song of country superstar Garth Brooks, “Friends In Low Places,” covered in 2016 by Home Free.

Home Free took a classic country drinking song, changed the tempo and pace, and arranged into a reggae-inspired pop sound. With 1.9 million views on YouTube, younger people are hearing the 1990 country hit, many for the first time.

So whether you are an avid a cappella fan or an aspiring artist you can rest assured that a cappella is relevant. It is influencing popular culture with fresh new voice and different points of view. It’s also accessible to all through the power of the internet and social media, giving you space to express your passion through your musical talents.

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2017-08-11T05:00:00-04:00
<![CDATA[Writing's on the Wall]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/writings-on-the-wall http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/writings-on-the-wall

In this, the final Tuesday Tubin’ for our 2016-2017 publication season, we present the 2017 ICCA Champions, the Northeastern University Nor’easters performing Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall.”

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2017-05-30T04:00:00-04:00