<![CDATA[The A Cappella Blog]]> http://acappellablog.com/ The A Cappella Blog en Copyright 2016 2016-02-09T02:24:45-05:00 <![CDATA[American Harmony]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/american-harmony http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/american-harmony

Reason #100: American Harmony

Whether you saw it at film festival, when it aired on The Documentary Channel, or *gulp* have yet to see it to this day, American Harmony is far more than a documentary—it’s an experience. And it’s one that makes you proud to be a part of the a cappella world.

From the story of Max Q—should-be champions struggling with lofty expectations, ego and perhaps too much talent; to the story of Reveille, an aging quartet that hopes for nothing more than one last chance to entertain, this film centered on the Barbershop Harmony Society International finals and the myriad journeys that culminate there. It’s a slice of something unique a cappella culture, and something as general as a slice of Americana; it’s a viewing experience few viewers—a cappella fans or not—will ever forget.

I love it!

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2016-02-08T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[ICCA Northwest Quarterfinal at Rolling Hills Community Church]]>http://acappellablog.com/event-reviews/icca-northwest-quarterfinal-at-rolling-hills-community-church http://acappellablog.com/event-reviews/icca-northwest-quarterfinal-at-rolling-hills-community-church

On Saturday, January 30, Rolling Hills Community Church in Tualatin, Oregon hosted an ICCA Northwest Quarterfinal. Before the review, here’s a quick summary of the show.

Competing Groups:
George Fox University Quakers and Notes
University of Oregon Mind the Gap
University of Oregon Divisi
Central Washington University Fermata Nowhere
South Oregon University Dulcet
Oregon State University Outspoken
Oregon State University Power Chord
Linn-Benton Community College Blue Light Special
The Portland State University Green Note
The Linn-Benton Community College Sirens

Emcee: Courtney Jensen

Guest Group: Wilsonville High School Soul’d Out

Courtney Jensen opened the evening with the standard announcements, delivered with killer personality.

George Fox University Quakers and Notes was the first group out. The co-ed group took the stage in a hodge-podge of bright colors and big ol’ signs representing their school and group name. They launched into a Disney medley “Eye to Eye” from A Goofy Movie, which gave way to ”Be our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast. The transitions were fast and furious, with songs to follow including Aladdin’s “You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me,” a jazzy take on The Little Mermaid’s “Kiss the Girl,” “So This Is Love” from Cinderella, ”For The First Time In Forever” from Frozen, and ”You’ll Be In My Heart” from Tarzan. This medley was fun and I liked the continuity of hooking back to one central protagonist from a visual perspective, but when a group wedges in so many songs it begins to come across as a bit scatter-brained—not giving any individual selection enough time to really gather momentum or tell a story, and perhaps more importantly making it harder for the group to really ground itself and maintain its sound while worrying about all of those transitions. Also, I was a bit baffled at the inclusion of Haddaway’s ”What Is Love” but maybe that’s a Disney reference I missed.

A Review 11

Coming out of the medley, the central player looked distraught, dismissed as a “beast,” in the final sample of the title song from Beauty and the Beast  and next soloist singing to him. They moved into "You Have More Friends Than You Know" from Glee. Nice choral handling of this version with some really lovely harmonies.

From there, the Disney medley was back on with selections including “I’ll Make A Man Out of You” from Mulan with a ton of theatrics and “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King. They incorporated a funny bit of dragging a collapsed group member to the back of the pack for this song, before she reemerged to complete the, well, circle of life. I really appreciated the tongue in cheek, unironic optimism here. This wasn’t a knockout set, but it did looks as though the group enjoyed itself and was sincere in its performance, which can make all the difference between a fun performance and one that grows uncomfortable for the audience. While I have my knocks, particularly in regards to set structure, this set was easy to consume and an enjoyable start to the night.

University of Oregon Mind the Gap was out next. The returning quarterfinal champs wore all black on stage and opened with a dark, slowed down reimagining of Beyonce’s "Crazy In Love." Very slick vocals on this lead and the backing sound was not only technically smooth, but sold with tremendous attitude both visually and aurally.

A Review 12

Next up, ”I Didn’t Plan It” from Sara Bareilles’s Waitress musical. Really nice rhythm section here, and a good transition into the song with the soloist planted at the center of a circle on stage. The solo really took off when the sound got bigger on this one. This was really well staged, with the group spanning the performance space. Nice choice to go choral on the bridge and really mix it up.

Nicely executed seamless transition to Kelly Clarkson’s "Dark Side" Phenomenal solo work for this one and excellent dynamic work to grow this one from a soft emotional piece to an explosion of emotional intensity. Really nice backing solo parts in the end game to open this one wide. Continued strong choreo work here, keeping the stage dynamic, keeping it interesting to watch without ever growing overly literal or distracting. Nice soft outro with the heartbeat VP as an anchor.

Mind the Gap closed with Years & Years’ “King.” The movement got a little clunky on a tightly clustered pyramid that they tried to step and bob in, but when the group went freer flowing, it was fun to watch. Strong sound, all around and a well-executed synchronized stomp on the finish. This group really demonstrated a lot of professional polish on the whole. I think they might have been a bit better served with a more traditional three-song structure, but I appreciate the ambition and thought that their power vocals in particular made them an instant, early contender to win the night.

University of Oregon Divisi was next out of the chute. The all-female powerhouse with a legacy of awesome took the stage in black and white with bright red ties. The women opened on a slowed down, jazzy interpretation of "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" by Jet, that saw a very talented soloist weave her way around her stationary group mates. They picked up the tempo coming out of the first chorus and launched into motion, but retained the jazz style. Cool, fresh take on this song. Nice dynamic build as this one grew fuller and bigger. My only knock on this opener was that the outro was slow and grew a little plodding in a way that seemed to beg for a big climax, but there was no such pay off to follow.

A Review 13

The women froze, forming a Manhattan skyline with their bodies en route to Sara Bareilles’s ”Manhatttan.” Nice, understated instrumentation beneath a lovely solo. I loved the quiet, sincere, faithful take on this one. Really lovely unison on the bridge with pristine high harmonies on that final verse. Nicely planned transition with the group all in a line and the soloist filling a gap to hand off the mic to the last soloist.

Given the set up to this point, I was waiting on a really big closer. Divisi delivered “Start A Riot” by Jetta. Nice solo work on this one I appreciated the palpable energy from the group, though I actually thought they might have reeled back the sound a little to pack more punch into the bigger moments. Nice explosion on the end, as the soloist emerged from a tight cluster to tattack the front of the stage and the group to spanned the space behind her. Particularly impressive intonation on the big unison on the finish. While I think there’s room for some small changes to take this set to the next level, I was, just the same, inclined to lump Divisi in with their sibling group, Mind the Gap, as another likely top finisher for the evening.

Next up, Central Washington University Fermata Nowhere. They opened with Hailee Steinfeld’s “Love Myself” before transitioning into Ariana Grande’s “Break Free” and then Icona Pop’s “I Love It.” Not altogether unlike the Quakers and Oats set, this opener was another medley that felt as though it was moving too fast for its own good and too fast to appreciate the energy of any individual song (though I did appreciate the enthusiasm of the group itself. I was grasping for a sense of build or narrative, but this one came across a bit more like random snippets of songs thrown together. I can understand the choice to open on a piece like this to get butterflies out and center the group moving forward, but follow up would be key.

A Review 14

The set continued with Little Big Town’s "Girl Crush." Good, earnest performance on this solo. Really nice harmony on the chorus, and I was into the subtle instrumentation here, a good contrast to preceding medley. My only real knock on this middle song  connects with my colleague J.D. Frizzell’s recent commentary on breaking the a cappella arc—finding other more engaging and interesting formations to stage a performance. There’s plenty of utility to the arc, and it certainly has its place for campus shows and on songs the group is still mastering the sound of, before they ironing out visuals. By the tie a group brings a song to competition, though, I do hope for the visual presentation to be a bit more engaging, though. Not necessarily choreographed (I feel too many groups have taken to over-choreographing ballads) but perhaps having group members staggered throughout stage in a more interesting formation.

Next up, "Promises" by Ryn Weaver. In terms of sheer membership, this was a smaller group, and they produced smaller sound. Given the number of bodies on stage, may have been a good idea to step a little closer to the area mics to let the speakers do some of the work for them. In the end game, the group began an electric transition to “Shake It Out” by Florence and the Machine.

“Shake It out” had a nicely subdued start here and very nice solo work before the VP chimed in and the tempo picked up. Nice motion on this one as the group finally challenged the front of the stage

Dulcet closed with OneRepublic’s "Love Runs Out." I liked that they cut a little looser here, particularly on the rap from the VP guy. Nice moment of snapping into the background for the soloist to stand alone up front on the finish. Good finish with the group lining the front of the stage to close out their set. All in all, Fermata Nowhere demonstrated good potential. The opening medley diminished the set a bit for me for a lack of direction. While this choice and the use of shorter, clipped songs does keep a set moving and no one song feels over-long, it can also have the reverse effect of making a set feel awfully long for sheer number of pieces performed (five distinct pieces, eight songs represented). I’m all for breaking from the traditional three-song set, but do feel it’s important groups plan carefully in order to do so, because there is a reason why three songs is the standard.

On the interlude, we got a mass audience beatbox bit, courtesy of Courtney. This is why she’s my favorite.

South Oregon University Dulcet was up next. The co-ed crew wore black and red. They led off with Lorde’s "Royals." Nice attitude all around this one and a good solo for the part. Good VP here. The choreo was a little over the top, particularly on an opener and a little on the nose for my tastes, but well executed, nonetheless. Clean finish to the song.

A Review 15

They followed up with "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera. Fine staging with the group staggered around the stage as the soloist emerged from the pack to the front of the stage. Really nice solo work here. The background was nicely subdued before grooving in on the second verse—nice differentiation to keep this one engaging.  I think the group could have afforded to keep the movement simpler here as it got a little distracting to me—movement on stage should be all about enhancing the sound, and an authentically emotional number, full-on choreo often undercuts the sincerity of the song.  

"Uptown Funk" up next. Nice attitude and here’s where the group earned the dance breakout it had been building toward all around. I’ll argue that this visual presentation could have popped more had there not been so much dancing leading up to it. Still, this was the right type of song choice for a closer. Really fun breakdown section with just the sopranos and beatboxer before the sound spread to the whole group with a nice underlay of “girls hit your hallelujah” beneath the repeated "uptown funk you up," leading to a nice bit of acrobatics and groups of three breaking it down in the middle of the stage with their best dance moves. In a vacuum, this was an entertaining set, and particularly good final song. I do have to harp once more about song selection, though, as I did feel that using three songs that have become so played out in a cappella limited the group’s potential to put on a fresh-feeling performance.

Oregon State University Outspoken finished off the first half of the show. Nice full sound on the opening to Journey’s “Separate Ways” The key to making a song like this work in the competition setting is selling it with the utmost sincerity , at least in the early-going, and the guys nailed that. The second verse saw a gentle switch in formation and change of soloist, before the group doubled up on the solo on the chorus. Nice reeling back on the volume to help make the bigger moments of the song really pop, not to mention demonstrating the guys’ ability to vary their dynamics. All told, this was a really good off beat opener. It’s a gambit to go with an oldie on the first song, but the guys were prepared to breathe new life into it for a solid showing.

A Review 16

Smooth transition into “You Never Need Nobody” by The Lone Bellow. Really nice emotion on the lead here, and smooth sound from the backing vocals. The perc well delivered. My main knock on this performance was that, after a couple minutes, it began to feel a little stagnant. The impulse to add a  backing solo on the second chorus was good, but the guys could have used a little more spice at that point.  Really great intensity before a brilliant fallout moment leading into the finish. I thought this song really would have benefited from having a verse cut to keep it moving, and ensure that the excellent solo work got the spotlight without losing the audience’s attention, and to cut to the strong finish sooner.

The guys introduced a sample of B.O.B.’s “Airplanes” on the transition before keying in on Paramore’s ”Brick By Boring Brick” Really nice intensity all around on this one, though I thought the group could have afforded some bigger movement than a fist pump at its biggest moment. This is where visuals need to match up with the sound to really complement and enhance it—in this moment, I felt the anticlimactic visuals actually undercut the sound. Full-on, complicated choreo may be outside this group’s wheel house, but this where sheet movement on stage—spreading out or marching forward for example—can create the illusion of something more epic happening. Nitpicking aside, this was a fine closer for a solid set, and I was particularly impressed to see the way in which the group had refined its competition chops since the previous year.

After intermission, Oregon State University Power Chord led off the second half. Killer bass sound on the opening to Justin Timberlake’s "What Goes Around comes Around" Nice stage presence from the group, and nice little salute to Timblerake’s roots with a bye-bye-bye motion on the goodbye lyric. Gesticulation like that can easily go over the top, but I felt the group hit just the right sweet spot of making the joke but not belaboring it. The choreography was a little overdone for me on this one—it’s a fine line and I understand the desire to wow the crowd early on, but I’d suggest that the group start simpler and more purely focused on the music, then ramp up the movement late in the set.

A Review 17

Power Chord followed with "Falling Slowly" from Once. Good soft start from the group and smooth male solo on the first bit before a female soloist joined him. Really nice emotion all around on this one. I felt the group would have been better served to have gone simpler on the sound, in particular keeping the beatbox out (or at least saving it for the very end. The choreography felt really out of place on this one. Very nice call as the group grew still and sang chorally en route to falling out for the soloists to operate unaccompanied leading into the wall of sound on the end game. This song really came together in its final stages for a very good finish.

The group started its closing number with “For Your Love” before transitioning full-tilt to Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” Nice energy and a very well-suited solo for this one. This was a good point for the group to cut loose on its dancing instincts, and to put its tremendous energy on display—it all added up to, by far, my favorite leg of the Power Chord set.

Linn-Benton Community College Blue Light Special was up next. The guys wore blue dress shirts, white bow ties and suspenders, and black slacks. They opened with some really nice attitude on Marc Ronson’s "Uptown Funk." Really terrific charisma on this solo and great willingness to go all in on the movement in the background. The guys introduced “Blue Light Special” into the syllables in the background—a fun, subtle addition. I have and will continue to give groups a hard for song selections like this, because we’ve heard this song so much in a cappella last year and this year. Just the same, if a group is to use “Uptown Funk,” this is exactly the way it ought to be used—to clearly communicate this group’s raucous and crowd-friendly identity. This performance, and particularly placing it as an opener, made an immediate statement, and made it Blue Light Special instantly memorable amidst a crowd of ten competing groups.  

A Review 18

Really interesting choice to switch to Imogen Heap’s "Hide and Seek." I very much get this as a choice to showcase what the group can do musically in juxtaposition to a showstopper, but, despite some bright point, the blend was often uneven and parts were a little sharp. To be honest, I don’t know that it might not have been in the group’s best interest to keep the energy up and showcase what they’re best at rather than wedging in a song outside their sweet spot—especially when it’s a song that so, so many groups have given a very similar treatment over the last nine years. Surprisingly on point with the falsetto in the end game to end this song on a high note (pun intended).

Sassy walk to the front en route to The Weather Girls’ "It’s Raining Men." This was exactly the type of barn-burning comedy number that this group <i>nails</i> in a way so few groups can. Three-part lead here and stellar choreo in the back. Ton of fun and a nice place to showcase some high-pitched vocals on the lead (though they were still edging a little sharp. Late in the song, the guys started a a kick line. Why not? This was precisely the platform for kitchen-sink choreo. While Blue Light Special isn’t quite at the point where they’re contending for placement at an ICCA quarterfinal, I do appreciate that they have one of the best defined collective personalities in their region. If they can continue playing to their strong suits, polish their mechanics, and freshen up their song selections, I do feel this may be a group to watch in the next few years.

The Portland State University Green Note was up next. Nice green and black look for this co-ed group. They opened with The Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two.” Nice country-tinged solo on this one. Clean sound from the group. The choreo was perfectly reasonable from a planning perspective but a little stiff on the execution. Ambitious choreography is like singing ambitiously high notes. It’s awesome if you can pull it off. If you can’t, it sticks out as a negative. (Note: The Green Note wasn’t that bad on movement—I’m belaboring the point more so because I think there are a lot of groups out there that could stand to hear it.)  Good fall out moment into a bold, loud march that looked fantastic, and the intensity really clicked from aural and visual perspectives in that moment.

A Review 19

Jason Walker’s “Echo” was next. Another solid solo and I appreciated the choice to keep the visuals simpler on this one. Really nice swell of sound on the crescendo as the rhythm section drove the action. This one built really nicely to its moments of intensity before settling back down to a soft finish and a nice visual close with the soloist receding behind the circle of group members before another group member subtly took her place.

The Green Note wrapped up with “Emperor’s New Clothes” by Panic! At the Disco. There was a little a little bit of an old school jazzy sound embedded in the background for this one that I thought both sounded great and set apart this performance. Cool visual moment on the climax with the group in two lines before the soloist split between to explode into the final chorus. Nice clean finish with the group encircling the soloist, then collapsing around him. From a purely musical stand point, I felt that The Green Note was in contention to place in this competition; with continued refinement on (which may include just reeling back) the visuals, I feel this is a group that could easily be advancing to semifinals in the not-too-distant future.

Last up, The Linn-Benton Community College Sirens. Glittery violet tops over black slacks for this all-female group. They opened with Sia’s "Elastic Heart." Cool unaccompanied solo on the start. Very good VP here and wonderful intensity from the group to sell every second of this one both aurally and visually at every instant. Solid, off beat opener.

A Review 20

They continued the set with “My Heart With You” by The Rescues.  Choral handling here. This one was a little over choreographed, which made it feel more melodramatically staged than purely heartfelt, as I felt it should have landed. Nonetheless, the song was cleanly executed, featuring a nice control of the dynamics

The Sirens closed things down with Tori Kelly’s “Nobody Love.” Nice power solo and good energy from the group on the choreo, which was a better fit here. Good choice for a closer—a big, show-stopping number with opportunities for big dance moves. Nice doubling up on the lead, before falling out for a choral take on the close. This was a good closer to a compelling set from this up-and-coming group.

While the judges deliberated, Wilsonville high School Soul’d Out entertained the crowd. Their set included “Just Keep Breathing,” “I Want You Back,” “ET,” “Drag Me Down,” “What Goes Around Comes Around,” “Get It Right,” and a mashup called “Bye Bye One More Time,” featuring work from Britney Spears and N’Sync that had my partner asking me how old the performers would have been when these songs were popular—you know, when I was in high school. I crunched the numbers, and the answers range from in utero to toddler. Moving on. I’m always impressed with the group’s showmanship and polish. They came across as charming and laid back, and thus a terrific diversion while the crowd awaited the results of the night’s competition.

As Soul’d Out performed, I made my picks for the night. It was a good, diverse, night of a cappella, I was able to narrow things down to four groups I felt were in close contention for the top spots. I had The Green Note as a hard and fast number four—right on the cusp of breaking through to the next level. Then there were the top three, who I felt were very, very clear, though the order in which to rank them was anything but clear. Mind the Gap delivered a star-making solo, solid all-around sound, tremendous vocal percussion, and the visual presentation that I found the most simultaneously dynamic and unobtrusive this evening. Outspoken delivered a clean sound and exceptional solo work. Divisi brought solid mechanics, an authenticity of emotion, and an off-beat spin on their opener that made their set immediately memorable and worth of recognition, despite not quite ever kicking into the third gear I was waiting on. To be honest, I shuffled my rankings multiple times with each of these groups rotating through each of the top three spots, before finally settling on Divisi as my winners for the evening.

In the end, the judges agreed with me for the winner, though it was tough to see Mind The Gap end up going home empty handed. Divisi closed out the night with their encore, an entertaining rendition of “Killing Me Softly.”

Thanks for reading. I’m tentatively planning to have the ICCA Northwest Semifinal covered (pending confirmation of location). Until then, I hope you’ll keeping checking in for our regular content, posted multiple times each week.

Official ICCA Results

Overall Placement:
1. Divisi
2. Outspoken
3. The Green Note

Outstanding Soloist: Divisi for “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”

Outstanding Choreography: Divisi for “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”

Outstanding Arrangement: Blue Light Special for “It’s Raining Men”

Outstanding Vocal Percussion: Power Chord for “What Goes Around”

Mike Chin’s Picks for the Night

Overall Placement:
1. Divisi
2. Outspoken
3. Mind The Gap

Outstanding Soloist:
1. Mind The Gap for “Dark Side”
2. Outspoken for “You Never Need Nobody”
3. Divisi for “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”

Outstanding Visual Presentation:
1. Mind the Gap for the full set
2. Divisi for the full set
3. Blue Light Special for the full set

Outstanding Arrangement:
1. Divisi for “Are You Gonna Be My Girl”
2. Mind The Gap for “Crazy in Love”
3. The Sirens for “Elastic Heart”

Outstanding Vocal Percussion:
1. Power Chord for the full set
2. Mind The Gap for the full set

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2016-02-05T22:30:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Heart Attack]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/heart-attack http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/heart-attack

This week, we present University of Colorado-Denver Mix performing Demi Lovato’s “Heart Attack.”

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2016-02-02T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[ICHSA Northwest Semifinal at Rolling Hills Community Church]]>http://acappellablog.com/event-reviews/ichsa-northwest-semifinal-at-rolling-hills-community-church http://acappellablog.com/event-reviews/ichsa-northwest-semifinal-at-rolling-hills-community-church

On Friday, January 29, Rolling Hills Community Church in Tualatin, Oregon played host to an ICHSA Semifinal. Before the review, a quick summary of the show:

The Competing Groups
Oregon Children's Choir Some Cool Guys
Lincoln High School Vivace 
South Albany High School Rebelation! 
The Athenian High School hOWLers 
West Albany High School Rhythmix 
Corvallis High School Spartacappella 
Oregon Children’s Choir Synergy 
Wilsonville High School Soul’d Out 
Bend High School Dynamics 
The Sherwood High School Mixolydians

Emcee: Courtney Jensen

Guest Performers: University of Oregon Mind The Gap

We have a full set of photos from the show available now on our Facebook page.

Courtney Jensen opened the evening with the standard announcements and her standard brand of charisma and awesome sauce.

The first competing group was Oregon Children’s Choir Some Cool Guys. The guys looked sharp, dressed in all black with purple ties. Nice beatbox lead in on this one before the guys led off with pulsing energy for their first song. Nice bob into motion on the chorus with some nice spoken word secondary solo work. The guys wove in a moment of intensity on a clap-hand drive bit, and some fun little insertions of guys coming out of the pack to work to play hype man and rile the crowd. All in all, this was a strong choice for an opener that could have used a smidge more confidence, but nonetheless felt quite good as a get-the-butterflies-out statement song and I appreciated that the guys tackled the stage with so much energy.

A Review 1

The group followed up with Jason Mraz’s "I Won’t Give Up." It’s a beautiful song and the guys—particularly the soloist sang it beautifully. Nice warm blend from the group, and some really fine harmonizing on a two, and then three-part lead. My only real knock on this middle song comes to song selection itself—while “I Won’t Give Up” is, itself, a great song for an a cappella group, in the year 2016it has been so extensively covered in competition settings that it’s at least two year’s past its aca-expiration date and demands some full-fledged reinvention to justify bringing it to competition.

The guys wrapped up with Taylor Swift’s "Bad Blood." I appreciate the choice to go full-tilt into a song originally by an all-female artist—not the innovative choice it once was but still unexpected, and the song itself is a contemporary, recognizable finisher to get the crowd into the performance. Good intensity again, which is the right call for the identity this group established and I liked that his song gave a lot of different soloists an opportunities to shine on both the Swift part and the Kendrick Lamar rap.

Lincoln High School Vivace was out next, a co-ed group that took the stage all in black. Impressive that they’re a student-run high school group—a real rarity for a high school crew, and particularly one that would go on to perform at this level. They opened with Ariana Grande’s "Honeymoon Avenue." Really nice stage presence on the part of this soloist and a nice, smooth sound from the group on the whole. I liked the staging here, all oriented toward repositioning bodies on stage as opposed to literal interpretations or hand drives. Solid, mellow opener.



A Review 2

Vivace continued with Michael Jackson’s "PYT (Pretty Young Thing)" Very cool, distinctive tone on this lead vocal. Interesting composition in the background, mixing up the style and letting the rhythm drive the backing sound.

They closed with Sara Bareilles’s ”Islands.” Interesting staging, starting out in triads with breathy syllables that mirrored the sound of the original song. Very professional, smooth solo for this song. Nice differentiation on the second verse, as the bass weighed in and the group worked its way into a steady groove. Very nice visual and aural work on the group falling out as they crouched down and encircled the soloist for her to sing unaccompanied on the outro. This was a nice, off-beat way to finish the set.

South Albany High School Rebelation! was up next. Bold bright red jacket over black tees and jeans look. They opened on Bon Jovi’s <b>”You Give Love A Bad Name.”</b> The group demonstrated high energy with particularly good charisma on the part of the soloist who worked each side of the stage nicely as the group whirled in motion on each transition. Interesting choice to go choral on the second verse—I liked the impulse to mix up the sound but I’m not sure that this was the right song for that effect.

A Review 3

Next up, Sara Bareilles’s "Gonna Get Over You" The soloist did a good job of selling her part visually, asserting herself with different group members over the course of the first verse. I liked the backup part on the second chorus, with a portion of the group doubling up on the lyrics. Lots of good visual work here, particularly on the bridge with the group splitting in two for the soloist to work her way through the middle.

Fun transition into Styx’s "Mr. Roboto" with a robotic “powering down” before the group sagged, then split into two clusters to do the robot behind the soloist. Fun count off transition from there to “Safety Dance.” Really fun selection of songs here, and I particularly liked that the group looked at home in the staging doing the signature dances of each song. When a group can make the performance fun, they have the best chance of making it fun for the audience as well. Impressive cartwheel move on the transition into Rick Astley’s ”Never Gonna Give You Up,” leading up to fun clap breakdown on the finish, wrapping up the set with tremendous energy and a sense of light-heartedness.

The Athenian High School hOWLers were up next, clad in black and white. They opened their set with Bon Iver’s "Woods." Really lovely blend here. While I wish they could have pulled it off without the conducting on stage, the sound was well worth that gambit—some of the most pristine harmonies of the night. Nice little break out soprano part here, too.

A Review 4

Simply beautiful seamless transition into "House of Gold" by Twenty One Pilots before the beatbox joined in. Electric transition there. Really nice solo work, and great confidence all around from the group for this middle song.

They wrapped with "Little Lion Man" by Mumford and Son. Good, steady sound here. Awesome bit of stomp percussion worked into the first chorus. Good staging work again with the group finding nice, subtle ways of rearranging itself on every available transition. I would have been interested in hearing a more original song choice to cap this strong set, but just the same, it was a fine, energized finish for The hOWLers, a technically sound group that really performed its set at a high level.

 West Albany High School Rhythmix hit the stage next. Nice blue and yellow dudes for this co-ed crew. They kicked off with Imagine Dragons’ "Roots." Nice jazzy sound and bass groove here on the choral opening. The soloist demonstrated great charisma and was the first lead of the night to break the fourth wall and step off the main stage to the steps below to engage the audience.

A Review 5

The group employed another choral opening on Kelly Clarkson’s "Dark Side." The soloist emerged on the lyric, “will you stay even if it hurts?” Nice poise on her part and purity of sound. I really liked the staging as the group re-clustered with members looking out in different directions to the crowd on the second chorus. Really good staging with the soloist caught in the middle as the groups moved to separate sides and she was left alone to sing unaccompanied.

Rhythmix shut it down with Panic! At the Disco’s "This Is Gospel." Another choral intro. If I were to change one thing for this group, that’d be it—as much as I appreciated their technical precision and recognize how the choral bit lent a sense of uniformity, it grew predictable and I didn’t feel it afforded soloists as much of an opportunity to establish themselves in the early going. Really nice personality on all of the solo work here  once it got going, and more solid staging. I thought the group could have afforded to have gone a little bigger on sound to milk this one for all it was worth. Just the same, it was an excellent closer.

Corvallis High School Spartacappella were up next, clad in black and blue, with white suspenders for the gentlemen. They opened with The Civil Wars’ "Barton Hollow." Really nice sound on this one, with those high harmonies really off-setting the low end perfectly, and a nice silky smooth solo work on this one from both the male and female leads. Good staging at the end with the group staggering in time with the music as the soloists converged, back to back at the front of the stage.

A Review 6

Really nice chanting follow up on an incredibly serious take on Bonnie Tyler’s "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Cool effect with the group still and spread around stage while one of the soloists wove between them and a kick drum sound added an extra sense of gravity. They grooved into a sample of Meatloaf’s “I Would Do Anything For Love." It felt a little strange not to have the third song here—I may have cut the Meatloaf and trimmed the Total Eclipse <i>a little</i> to squeeze in another little something.

Oregon Children’s Choir Synergy led off the second half, starting with Janet Jackson’s "Girls (Who Runs The World)." It’s funny that they started at back of stage and I consciously thought they looked too timid for their own good, before a perfect surprise march to the front of the stage, chanting, full-throttle, full-power. Awesome attitude and strength on this one to assemble a really bold starting number. Follow up would be key, though, because this one had the energy of a closing number.

A Review 7

Synergy continued the set with James Bay’s “Let It Go.” This was a nice contrast to their opener--still a good confident sound and particularly good when the perc keyed in. Really nice mix of different lead vocals on this one—smooth transitions, distinctive sounds and personalities and a steady, soft backing sound. Lovely un-mic’ed four-part harmony toward the end before the group keyed in again and built to a clap-along segment.

The group huddled at the back of the stage before they spread into <i>dance</i>-y motion into Joy Williams’ “Woman (Oh Mama).” Tremendous power sound here. <i>Scintillating</i> solo. Interesting that I might have flipped the set for song order, but with this killer lead to put a bow on the set, I don’t blame them for leaving this one as a last impression. Awesome syllable work. Such a distinctive sound on this one, really sculpting an identity. As far as I was concerned, this set, and particularly this closer set a new bar for the evening.

Next up, Wilsonville High School Soul’d Out. Killer opening with just three members on stage, the others waiting to the side before they launched onto stage for One Direction’s “Drag Me Down.” Really nice stage presence and confidence. Cool moment as the leads stepped off stage to break the fourth wall.

A Review 8

Slick seamless transition with hints of the preceding song en route to Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around Comes Around.” Really nice staging again, particularly from the soloist’s showmanship at the fore.  Nice dynamic variation here, really spiking the sound at key moments. Well-planned reconfigurations in the background. Cool mashing up of the two songs on the finish to lend some much appreciated continuity to the set.

Soul’d Out made another seamless transition into “Get It Right.” Really nice, vulnerable solo work here, with the lead standing at center stage, in contrast to the more-in-your-face showmanship of the performances before it.

Bend High School Dynamics hit the stage next in black and silver formal wear and launched straight into instrumental work from Star Wars, complete with a well-placed Wookie sound effect before transitioning to a choral take on Stevie Wonder’s "Signed, Sealed Delivered." The Star Wars bit was entertaining and topical, but given that it didn’t meaningfully connect to the rest of the set, the group may have been better off leaving it out of a competition set. Just the same, on to Stevie, they delivered some nice little riffs off of it, mixing up the tempo and letting parts fall in and out. Very clean. From a visual perspective, there wasn’t much choreo to speak of, per se, but I liked it better for that—how natural the group looked, and the extent to which they looked as though were sincerely having fun.

A Review 9

Dynamics followed up with “Green Garden” by Laura Mvula. Constant clap on this one from the whole group. I liked the idea and get how it mirrored the original track, but thought they really could have afforded to scale back to half or less of the group clapping to keep the effect better controlled and prevent it from overwhelming the song. Really slick, soulful solo on this song and nice motion again as the group kept reconfiguring. Fun bit from the soloist on the “I’ll go wherever you’ll go” lyric, as she proceeded to lead the group in a circle around the stage, clapping along. Really fun interpretation.

Dynamics wrapped up with “Dreams” by Beck. They started with the group sagged and one member wandering through to rouse them as the soloist performed up front. Again, this one was more entertaining for the degree to which the group was clearly having fun on stage. The bulk of them fell into sleeping positions as one of the guys explained that it was a gag related to the name of the song. The lead VPer remained unconscious up front before he was individually roused for a fun little moment. Cool stop motion movement in the end game. This was a super entertaining, fun to watch set.

Last up, we heard from The Sherwood High School Mixolydians, one last co-ed group, in black and purple. Nice full sound on the lead-in to “Love Like You” by Eric Hutchinson. Terrific energy and confidence from this group. They went for clap along early here—I’d usually wait until the closer—but they had a large contingent of fans up front who bit on it to make it work.

A Review 10

A choral opening gave way to two group members singing from either side of the stage on Vienna Teng’s “The Hymn of Acxiom.” Good mechanics on this one and I really liked  the sharp contrast to the first song, as this number afforded more of a showcase for the group’s polished technical skill after more of a showmanship-oriented number. The whole group came together for a lovely, warm finish.

The group knelt and rose one-by-one on the intro to "Feeling Good." Nice build to a big crescendo on the end of the first verse, before a female lead stepped forward for AWOLNATION’s "Sail." Great sound here, particularly on the lead—sensational attitude. I don’t suspect I ever would have thought to mash these particular two songs together, but I’ll be darned if the results weren’t electric. Positively haunting fall out finish. What a fresh, surprising, thoroughly entertaining set to finish out the competiion!

As the judges deliberated, University of Oregon Mind The Gap entertained the crowd with a stellar set including “Higher Love,” “Where Have You Been” “Crazy In Love,” “Rather Be”  “Here’s Where I Stand,” “A Little Party,” and “Sweater Weather” I really love the dynamic of a rock solid college group performing in this spot, rounding out the night with a polished, mature sound and offering a taste of what some of these high schoolers have to look forward to in their futures.

While Mind The Gap worked their magic, I made my picks for the night. It was a tough show to call between Vivace’s stellar solo work and song selection, Soul’d Out’s polish (particularly on those transitions!), The Mixolydians diversity of sound and stupendous closer, Spartacappella’s off-beat takes on classics, and The hOWLers’ purity of sound and winning personalities, and Rhythmix’s stellar mechanics and glowing stage presence. In the end, though, the act I best remembered and found most startlingly clear in identity was Synergy. The young women delivered a bold, smart, super-powered story of a set that sounded terrific and had something to say. I went on and on about this last year when Vocal Rush took home first at this very show, but when terrific artists can use their gifts to in turn use their craft to put forth a worthwhile statement into the world, it has the potential to transcend music into message. In so many walks of life, women have a tendency to be overlooked, dismissed, or treated as lesser than their male counterparts. Synergy put forth one of those special performances that not only compelled the audience to take them seriously, but arrived as unforgettable.

As it turned out, Rhythmix picked up the victory. I can certainly understand this pick, but was quite surprised to see Synergy not place. In any event, the crew from Sherwood High wrapped up the night with their rendition of “Carol of the Bells.”

Check back later this week for my review of the ICCA quarterfinal from the next night in Tualatin!

Official ICHSA Results

Overall Placement:
1. Rhythmix
2. Soul’d Out
3. The Mixolydians

Outstanding Soloist: Vivace for “Islands” and Synergy for “Woman (Oh Mama)

Outstanding Choreography: Synergy

Outstanding Arrangement: Vivace and The Mixolydians

Outstanding Vocal Percussion: Soul’d Out and Some Cool Guys

Mike Chin's Picks for the Night

Overall Placement:
1. Synergy
2. The Mixolydians
3. Tie: Rhythmix and Soul’d Out

Outstanding Soloist:
1. Synergy for “Woman (Oh Mama)”
2. Vivace for “Islands”
3. Soul’d Out for “Get It Right”

Outstanding Visual Presentation:
1. Soul’d Out
2. Synergy
3. Dynamics

Outstanding Arrangement:
1. The Mixolydians for “Feeling Good”/”Sail”
2. Spartacappella for “Total Eclipse of the Heart”

Outstanding Vocal Percussion:
1. Soul’d Out
2. The hOWLers
3. Some Cool Guys

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2016-02-01T02:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Working With Professionals]]>http://acappellablog.com/recording-recommendations/working-with-professionals http://acappellablog.com/recording-recommendations/working-with-professionals

In this edition, our focus is on working with professionals.

The last decade has seen a radical proliferation in the number of, scope of , and abilities of professionals who manage a cappella recording and various stages of production. From ACappellaPsych to The Vocal Company to Liquid 5th to Plaid Productions to Bill Hare Productions to A Cappella Productions to Vocal Mastering and dozens more, there are an unprecedentedly high number of very talented people who have decided to make a cappella a professional endeavor. Better yet, the passage of time has afforded them better and better tools and equipment to ply their trade at a high level.

But with recording software, microphones, and other tools of the trade increasingly accessible and affordable, does a group need to call in professionals? Or are they just as well off handling things in house, and, in the process, cultivating those skills within the group?

The answer is: maybe.

The decision of whether and to what extent a group should work with professionals varies depending on what a group hopes to accomplish. If your intention is to record a traditional “yearbook” album that documents a group’s repertoire for the year and gives every group member a solo, and you don’t intend to sell that CD beyond your local community, then you really may not need or be able to financially justify contracting with pros.

That said, if your intention is to break out—to sell your new EP nationally, to vie for Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards, and to ultimately pursue great critical acclaim, fame, or monetary gain, then you do need to be more careful. Studios and productions companies dedicated to a cappella know the tricks of the trade. How to effectively record multiple group members at once, and when to isolate. How to adjust levels to make the most of your group’s sound. How to apply production effects tastefully, judiciously, and in a way that best enhances what your group sings. From there, the mastering process can make all the difference in the world in creating a polished final product—subjecting your work to an objective ear, and letting a professional tinker, refine, and truly perfect your work.

Groups that decide to move toward professional recording should do their homework. They should shop around and take the time to talk to the professionals from different a cappella production companies to figure out what they’re getting, how the process will work and, sure, how much they’re paying and what exactly they’re getting for their money. Work with the right professionals and you may be surprised at just how much higher your group can soar.

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2016-01-29T00:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[iTunes]]>http://acappellablog.com/social-networking/itunes http://acappellablog.com/social-networking/itunes

Lots of folks like physical CDs. They like having something tangible for money, they having cover art, they like popping that music into their Discman and going for a run—

OK, so no one actually uses a Discman anymore.

And while there are, truthfully, still folks who dig physical media, it’s worth noting that nowadays far more people are buying their music online, and in the current marketplace, iTunes is king.

In a social networking age, iTunes is more accessible from a participatory standpoint than any Coconut Records ever was. You may work through services like CDBaby or TuneCore, which will get your foot in the door and do most of the legwork for you for a fee, or you may apply to be a content provider directly with iTunes, but note the qualifications are pretty steep.

However you approach iTunes, the core value remains the same that getting your music sold there means opening your music up to just about the largest body of music consumers possible. Fans of your music are much more likely to double click to buy their favorite song from your group than they are to navigate your website to actually a buy CD—much less actually go out and hand you physical cash for the physical media.

In using iTunes you’re making your group more accessible to the masses, which is ultimately what social networking should be all about for an a cappella group.

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2016-01-28T00:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Jolene]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/jolene http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/jolene

This week, we present University of Michigan Amazin’ Blue performing Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.”

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2016-01-26T00:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Marc Silverberg (Who Will Never Be In Pentatonix)]]>http://acappellablog.com/interviews/marc-silverberg-who-will-never-be-in-pentatonix http://acappellablog.com/interviews/marc-silverberg-who-will-never-be-in-pentatonix

If you’re an a cappella fan who uses the Internet, the odds are good that you’ve encountered “I’ll Never Be In Pentatonix.” The lyric video surfaced on YouTube on New Year’s Day, complete with free download link, and has gone on to over fifteen-thousand views and plenty of discussion over social media.

But who is this Marc Silverberg who released video?

In a cappella circles, Silverberg is probably best known as an educator. He writes a very smart blog, with a wealth of practical advice called The Quest For The A cappella Major. He serves as the Director of Education for the Contemporary A Cappella society. All of this is in addition to working on his dissertation, geared toward, as Silverberg describes it, “creating the first four-year bachelors degree in contemporary a cappella.”

“I Will Never Be In Pentatonix” is not only musically sound and very funny—it’s also complex—more or less equal parts tribute, parody, and stellar original music. Silverberg explained, “I had wanted to create some of my own music for a while but I knew that if I didn't have a song that would appeal to the masses, the other songs would be overlooked. I got the idea shortly after Pentatonix hit number one on the Billboard chart. I knew that they were probably now the biggest rising stars of the music world, and a comedy song about them would probably go over really well. Plus I wanted to make sure I was the one leeching off their fame and popularity, as I have neither of those things.”

And so Silverberg went to work. “I listened to almost nothing but Pentatonix for a while,” he said, “trying to pick out the musical nuances that defined their ‘style.’ I also knew I wanted to quote as many of their songs as possible. Conceptualizing the song took about a month, recording and mixing took most of December. Most people are unaware of how many Pentatonix references there are in the song. Everything, from the way the background vocals were written, to the harmony, to the vocal percussion rhythms are all references to specific Pentatonix songs. Overall, I'd say there are about eight or nine references in total.”

Of course, Pentatonix was not the only influence on this particular song. Like others, on my first listen, I caught more than a whiff of Weird Al Yankovic in the recording, and was delighted when his name actually showed up late in the song. “Weird Al is my hero,” Silverberg said. “I'm not just saying that because I'm a huge fan. He is my actual hero. I grew up on Weird Al. His albums taught me how to be myself, be silly, be weird, and not care what anyone else thought about me. I often make the joke that my iPhone only has two types of music on it: a cappella records and Weird Al. (This is about 90% an actual fact.)”

Parodies aren’t all funny business, though. “Many people think writing a parody is simply about changing the lyrics of a song, but a good parody is about so much more: capturing the essence of the song, re-using some of the actual lyrics in a new way, and honoring the artist's style as much as possible.” Silverberg went on to cite Peter Hollens and Mister Tim as two additional influences, particularly when it comes to creating solo a cappella tracks.

Once “I’ll Never Be In Pentatonix” was out, the next task was getting people to listen to it. “I had no idea it was going to get this much attention,” Silverberg explained.” When I originally posted it, I thought getting one thousand viewers was an unrealistic, but highly optimistic goal. And then Kevin [Olausola] and Scott [Hoying] re-tweeted it.” Indeed, attention from actual Pentatonix members offered the song a huge boost. Silverberg went on to say, “What a cappella groups have to realize now is that the fad of a cappella, or the fad of performing music with nothing but your voices, has burnt itself out. Now, if you want to stand out, you have to evolve a cappella in a way that no one has tried yet. I found a niche in comedy, because there are very few artists trying to be silly. Everyone wants to be ‘cool’ and ‘epic.’ There's nothing wrong with that, but it won't get you the attention that you truly want. You have to think outside the box.”

Silverberg put it bluntly. “In terms of marketing, Facebook is useless. You have to find work-arounds on Facebook if you even want to be noticed, let alone get lots of attention. I found success by posting in specific groups, and I'm not even sure that would have worked if I didn't already have a following from my blog. And what you really need is a celebrity endorsement. We wouldn't even be having this conversation if Kevin hadn't re-tweeted the video.”

Silverberg also had something to say about the benefits of offering music for free. “Give some of your stuff away for free. It sends a subtle but effective message that you care more about the enjoyment of music than you do about money. If you post it on iTunes, Loudr, etc. it will not be easily accessible or easy to find; and the more work your audience has to do to find your song, the less likely they will do it.”

The story of the lyric video to this song, in particular, is surprisingly straightforward. “I just Googled ‘How to make a lyric video.’ Took me less than an hour to learn the whole thing. And because it was a lyric video, I knew I had to throw in some extra jokes or there would be no reason to watch it.”

For those who enjoyed the song and the video, you can rest assured that there’s more on the way. On January 12, Silverberg released his follow up original, “A cappella Girl,” in addition to planning for the release of a full-length album come March. While all of these projects roll out, though, Silverberg says that his priority will always be education. “As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a teacher. As fun as recording my own stuff is and as exciting as it is to get this kind of attention, it will never stop me from being a teacher.” He also articulated the ways in which the many facets of his a cappella career intersect. “The research from the dissertation helps improve the performance and recording, and the performance and recording inspires ideas for the research. I'm a firm believer in constant learning—if you think you know everything, you're wrong. There's always something new to learn, and I want to learn everything.”

In addition to reading his blog, you can follow Silverberg on Twitter @docacappella.

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2016-01-25T00:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Res Life]]>http://acappellablog.com/campus-connections/res-life http://acappellablog.com/campus-connections/res-life

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

Over the last century, the student affairs field has emerged at colleges around the world as a support structure, beyond academics, to help students feel safe, supported, and nurtured outside the classroom. What started as a field that was ancillary to academics has become a vibrant part of college life as people, particularly in the United States, increasingly look at colleges less as trade schools that will feed into particular careers, and more as opportunities to grow as whole people—yes, earning degrees, but also learning how to live as independent adults and coexist with others.

Residential life is one of the crown jewels in the student affairs crown, not only providing housing to students, but providing programming and resources for students who live in campus housing. Given that so many colleges and universities mandate that students live on campus for at least their first years, you could argue that residence life has become an auxiliary piece of the core curriculum in higher education.

So what does all of this have to do with a cappella?

As someone who had his first full-time job working in residence life, I know firsthand that residence hall staffs are always on the lookout for programming opportunities that will build community and otherwise enrich the residential experience. So, if a cappella groups connect with residence life. It can set up an excellent opportunity to perform for a captive audience (after all, they won’t even need to go outside to attend your show) and many residence halls have programming budgets through which they might even be able to pay you. As an alternative or additional option, the residence hall staff might be interested in making the event an educational opportunity, too, thus you might get some invaluable, informal experience as a clinician talking about the craft of a cappella, or delivering a lesson on how to beatbox.

On top of reaching an eager audience in the residence hall setting, connecting with residence life can be an excellent way of bolstering awareness about your group. Lots of college students—particularly first years—are beholden to their residence halls to make them aware of opportunities to socialize and engage with their communities. Thus, performing in a residence hall opens the doorway for you to grab the attention of people who might become your fans for the next four years, or better yet to recruit singers who may not have otherwise sought out opportunities in a cappella.

Collaborating with your school’s residence life program opens opportunities to connect with your school community, potentially get a paying gig, and boost your brand awareness on campus. It’s a wholly under-utilized resource, available at a majority of contemporary college campuses.

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2016-01-20T00:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Elastic Heart]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/elastic-heart http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/elastic-heart

This week, we present The University of Maryland Treblemakers performing Sia’s “Elastic Heart.”

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2016-01-19T00:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Jon Smith from Hyannis Sound]]>http://acappellablog.com/interviews/jon-smith-from-hyannis-sound http://acappellablog.com/interviews/jon-smith-from-hyannis-sound

Each summer, Cape Cod in Massachusetts plays host to a unique a cappella sensation: Hyannis Sound. It’s an all-star powerhouse that since 1994 has draws ten talented young men from across the country to provide entertainment at a variety of locales. As current member Jon Smith explained to me, the group assembled “with the mission of entertaining Cape Cod audiences with a repertoire of popular music spanning the last century while the ten members live, work and grow together throughout the summer.”

Smith is an alum of University of Delaware Vocal Point who, as a senior, guided the group to a third place finish at ICCA Finals in 2014. Smith emphasized that people “can be in Hyannis Sound and their college group at the same time, since Hyannis Sound operates in the summer.” Though the group performs together for one season out of the year, Smith explained, “When we are together, we’re rehearsing or doing a show pretty much every day. While a collegiate group might rehearse two or three times a week and have a gig or two, HS might do all of that in a day.” The upshot? “You grow so much as a group both musically and personally because you’re living and working together twenty-four-seven. By the end of the summer we’ll have a repertoire of about forty songs, have recorded our annual live Bootleg album and half of the next studio album.”

As of now, Hyannis Sound is in search of new members for the summer of 2016. Smith reports that the group asks auditionees to submit a video of approximately five minutes to hyannissoundauditions@gmail.com. “It should include an introduction so we can get to know you, warming up and down so we can see your range, and a solo piece that you feel comfortable singing and that best shows off your voices. After that, you may get invited to the live auditions in Boston which are the weekend of March 18.”

The benefits of Hyannis sound go well beyond performance. “I think if you asked any current or past member of Hyannis Sound, they would say the network of about eighty guys that have become their family is one of the best benefits of being in this group,” Smith said. In addition to that, you grow so much as a person and a musician from the other guys. HS has also helped current and recent group members (including myself) land jobs both in an out of the music industry because employers are so interested in the unique experience.”

Despite its lengthy tradition, Hyannis Sound runs under the direction and leadership of current members. Smith explained, “There’s a Business Manager who books all of our shows and gigs, the Music Director who runs rehearsals, an Operations Manager who handles all of our in-house logistics. The seven other members all have their own jobs as well, and each one is important to the group’s success. The fact that ten college-aged guys who start off not knowing each other so well can work together to make this happen every year is pretty awesome.”

The summer of 2016 will be a busy one for the group with recurring gigs in Falmouth on Mondays, Chatham on Tuesdays, Dennis on Thursdays and Hyannis on Fridays. “The rest of the days are normally filled with other shows, private parties, etc.” Smith said, noting that the group is adding quite a few weddings to their slate this year, and also made particular note of the annual “live bootleg concert where we record our entire repertoire and have it ready by the end of the summer so we and our audiences have the summer captured on a CD.” The group will also finish work on a new studio album, to be released in 2017.

Hyannis Sound and its members—new and returning—certainly have a lot to look forward to in the summer ahead. For those intending to audition, Smith said, “We’re definitely looking for guys who are ready to hit the ground running and take advantage of the whole experience. Guys who are confident and bring something unique to the table but also those that are willing to learn and grow from the group.” He went on to articulate that, “when looking for new members, we’re not just looking for singers for our a cappella group, we’re also looking for guys that will be our housemates for the summer and eventually become family.” The best advice he had for hopefuls was simple: “be yourself! I know it sounds cliché but we want to see a real piece of you, who you are and what you can bring to our group as a person, not just as a musician.”

Smith has clearly enjoyed his experience with Hyannis Sound and rounded out our interview by not only encouraging people to audition, but also invited others to come hear the group in action. “Take a trip to the beautiful Cape Cod,” he said, “and come see a show this summer!”

Hyannis Sound’s most recent studio album, is available here. You can follow the group on Facebook as well, and follow them on Twitter and Instagram @thehyannissound.

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2016-01-18T00:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Soloists]]>http://acappellablog.com/the-competitors-edge/soloists http://acappellablog.com/the-competitors-edge/soloists

In this edition, the focus is soloists.

Go with your best.

It sounds intuitive for a group to put its best soloists forth in competition, but you may be surprised with how many groups talk themselves out of that very scenario. They think that they need to show more range, or that they need to highlight equal number of male and female leads, or that they need to reward long-time group members with the opportunity to have a solo in competition. These ideas are all well and noble, but groups shouldn’t lose sight of the inescapable fact that judges and objective audience members simply do not care.

In competition a group gets twelve minutes to prove itself. Most of the audience won’t have the context of the group’s larger story and if the judges are doing their job, they’ll be judging based on what they hear and see—nothing more. The soloist is aurally and visually the most noticeable piece of most any performance, and thus a group needs to prioritize putting its best possible leads forward.

Think about fit.

While it’s important to put your best soloists forward, it’s equally important to find the appropriate vehicles to showcase why they’re the best your group has to offer. Giving your animated showman a soft ballad will squander the gifts that make him stand out; similarly, assigning your most gifted soprano a largely spoken-word or rap lead fails to show off what makes her special in the first place.

Think about your soloists’ signature sounds—the music that they sound at home with, that they seem to have a connection to, and let the group build around that lead.

Aim for unique.

With the exception of a very small handful of groups in the world, you cannot count on your soloists being flat-out better than the soloists from any other group. But you can make strides toward making your soloists unique. Whether it’s the timbre of their voices, a cool audio effect they’re capable of, or something as seemingly negligible as their hair or the way they dress, unique soloists are memorable and that can make all the difference when judges are making their subjective placements and when audience members are talking after the show.

What have you found to be the best practices for a cappella soloists? What are the best solos you’ve heard? Let us know in the comments.

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2016-01-14T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Midnight/Maps]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/midnight-maps http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/midnight-maps

This week, we present UT Austin One Note Stand performing “Midnight/Maps.”


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2016-01-12T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Innovative Stage Entrances]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/innovative-stage-entrances http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/innovative-stage-entrances

Reason #99: Innovative Stage Entrances

There are groups who walk on stage and form arcs, or who stagger themselves across the stage, poised to key into a song’s choreography. There are those that demonstrate wonderful energy, bounding onto the stage and jumping, chest-bumping, and inspiring the crowd to start cheering before they’ve sung a single note.

And then there are those who get creative.

There’s nothing wrong with a traditional stage entrance, but there is something distinctively cool about an innovative entrance. Take The University of Rochester Midnight Ramblers’ 2005 ICCA Finals-bound set that started with members of the group clustered in quintets around the auditorium, passing the lead around as they made their way from the audience to the stage only to form an arc and launch seamlessly into their second song.

Other groups have achieved similar intrigue by starting with a small percentage of the group on stage before others join in both in music and physically, or by keying off a set with the sort of wall of sound that would traditionally mark the set’s climax.
An innovative entrance surprises and captivates the audience from the opening notes. It forces the audience to pay attention.

I love it!

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2016-01-11T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Amanda Newman and David Rabizadeh from Varsity Vocals]]>http://acappellablog.com/interviews/amanda-newman-and-david-rabizadeh-from-varsity-vocals http://acappellablog.com/interviews/amanda-newman-and-david-rabizadeh-from-varsity-vocals

In 2009, NBC debuted The Sing-Off, a short-run reality show in which competing a cappella groups drew as many as seven million viewers. In 2011, the show launched Pentatonix, a YouTube juggernaut that has taken to routinely accruing over a million viewers to their infectious covers of music by acts like Beyonce and Daft Punk, en route to winning a Grammy. In 2012, the crown jewel of the a cappella media empire settled into place—Pitch Perfect, a movie very loosely based on a book by the same title, which grossed over one hundred million dollars, added terms like “aca-scuse me” to the cultural vernacular and produced the best-selling movie soundtrack of the year.

Before any of that, I discovered a cappella for myself.

It was spring 2005. I sat in a pew at Sage Chapel on the Cornell University to attend what was only my second International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella show. Like so many in the crowd, I came to a cappella as a boyfriend. I knew that singing pop lyrics over backing harmonies and vocal percussion was important to my girlfriend, so I went to these shows to support her.

After my first ICCA show, I told that girlfriend that I loved her. There was something ineffable about seeing someone I cared about excel at something that she was so clearly invested in. Watching her and The Syracuse University Mandarins perform “Accidentally In Love” (including choreography that saw them spell the word “LOVE” with their bodies, YMCA-style, on each chorus) felt transcendent. It was no surprise when they won first place.

After my second ICCA show—a tournament semifinal—I loved a cappella. I had observed not only The Mandarins repeat their set, but I also heard Rutgers University Casual Harmony—a group that had first formed only one year earlier—perform a raucous set that featured music by System of a Down, and featured an impossibly high falsetto lead for Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” I felt changed.

I started a blog about a cappella music, and went on to attend as many as eight ICCA shows a year, writing a detailed summary, analysis, and review for each twelve-minute competition set. It became a point of contention between that girlfriend and I—particularly after she finished her MBA and, after a prolonged career of six years, could no longer justify singing with her college group anymore. She found herself without a place in the a cappella world. Her appreciation of my appreciation of a cappella transmogrified into resentment at stealing the form from her.

We broke up. It wasn’t about a cappella. Not really.

I went years without seeing her. But at least once a year, I saw Casual Harmony—a regular competitor from 2005 on. I saw them through covers of Muse, Kanye West, and Pearl Jam, in addition to more standard fare along the lines of Gnarls Barkley and Jason Mraz. I even got to the point of befriending a few group members, most notably co-founder and one-time director David Rabizadeh.

Ten years removed from my first encounter with Casual Harmony, David and I get to talking.

Some things have changed for him. He graduated from Rutgers with a BS in Information Technology and BA in Economics, and moved to Philadelphia to work for a marketing research firm. On the side, he has earned his real estate license and he owns a sports bar. He is a self-described CrossFit addict who has lost weight since college and who finds that daily exercise gives him the energy to pursue so many other endeavors.

Some things have stayed the same for him. He still spends an inordinate amount of his would-be spare time working on a cappella. David hardly sings anymore, but rather is finishing his fifth year heading up the ICCA tournament. “After college, I tried to keep singing,” he says. “But I also kept pushing Amanda to let me produce events.”

The Amanda he’s referring to is Amanda Newman, the Executive Director of Varsity Vocals who bought the a cappella competition and recording brand in the mid-2000s, and has overseen ICCA, it’s sibling International Championship of High School A Cappella, and two annual Best of… recording compilations ever since. In 2015, it’s an anomaly to see her at a live competition, but she does grace the stage in New York each year—despite her disarming, self-deprecating brand of humor, still as close as the scholastic a cappella world has to a monarch—to crown that year’s world champions. She has made Varsity Vocals her full-time career, a undertaking that started with her working from bedroom and with an avalanche of CDs covering her dining room table, and has matured to her working from a dedicated office space from which she is the leading force in coordinating and arbitrating the fates of thousands of young a cappella singers.

David built a relationship with Amanda over a period of years and progressed from teaming with Varsity Vocals staff as his group’s liaison to host events at Rutgers, to traveling up and down the east coast to produce events, to earning the title of Regional Producer, before Amanda appointed him to the role of Director of ICCA.

David describes his movement between these positions as seamless, given that so many of the tasks have carried over from one role to the next. While the details of producing a show may not have changed all that profoundly over the years, the scale has increased. From my own experiencing reviewing shows, I recall that when I started blogging about a cappella in 2007, it was not unusual for a show to feature as few as five or six groups. Now it’s difficult to find a quarterfinal with fewer than eight, and most of these shows at the first tier of live competition feature ten-to-twelve competitors. Not only are individual shows bigger, but most regions have added an additional quarterfinal to accommodate increased interest.

David recognizes the importance of Pitch Perfect and The Sing-Off in broadening the field of competitors. “Seeing how incredible these groups are encourages more people to participate,” he says. He goes on to clarify, “groups that competed every other year or every three years are now competing every year. And then maybe ten to fifteen percent of the groups are brand new.” With additional groups and greater notoriety, Varsity Vocals has also seen larger audiences attend each show. For 2015, the ICCA Finals moved to the Beacon Theatre, with over one thousand more seats than any previous Finals venue. Tickets to the show still sold out within hours of becoming available to the public.

Amanda notes that the crowds have changed, too. Whereas past audiences numbered in the hundreds, and tended to consist of hardcore fans, the parents of group members, and loyal significant others like I had once been, the tournament now has more mass appeal. “The big thing is there are a lot more people going to shows with no experience with ICCA besides having seen Pitch Perfect,” Amanda says. “There’s a broader audience, and more of a need to explain how things work, and where information is available.”

Varsity Vocals is anticipating even larger numbers of competitors and fans in attendance after the launch of Sing It On, which she describes a docu-series. Representatives of POP TV have stationed themselves in rehearsal rooms and been in attendance at selected Varsity Vocals events collecting footage for the show which debuts a month after Finals. While Amanda and David agree that the a cappella community’s overarching response to news of the show has been positive, they did hit one bump in the road early on. No Comment, a co-ed group based out of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign that had won the Midwest region of ICCA in 2013, is among the show’s featured groups, and became the center of Sing It On’s first controversy.

The official ICCA rules dictate that “Each group has 12 minutes” and that “Groups who exceed the time limit—if only by several seconds—will be penalized by one place.” To put it in plainer terms, if a first-place group’s performance lasts any longer than twelve minutes, the group is to be automatically demoted to second place; if the group that was supposed to place second went over time, they would be moved to third, and so on.

On January 24, at the very first ICCA quarterfinal of 2015, and the first show at which POP TV camera crews were in attendance, No Comment did run several seconds over their allotted time on stage, and yet still finished in first place. It didn’t take long for questions to surface about how Sing It On may have affected the integrity of the competition—wasn’t it convenient that a group featured on the show would happen to win its way to the tournament semifinals, despite what appeared to be a clear cut case they shouldn’t have even been eligible for first place on account of the time penalty?

“Criticism started coming from the peanut gallery on Twitter,” Amanda says. “I should have said in advance that groups on TV show are not getting any preferential treatment.” She goes on to explain that she put language into all of the TV contracts “to ensure they cannot interfere with how the tournament happens, they can’t change results, they can’t know results before the time, they can’t put judges on the panel, and everything happens the way it had before.” In regards to the specific case of No Comment, Amanda notes, “groups often go a couple seconds over time. The spirit of the rule is for groups to not have an unfair advantage; we have never been too strict in enforcing it.” Amanda elaborated on these points in an official statement on the Varsity Vocals website, noting, “we have historically offered all groups a grace period on that rule, to account for the human error of timekeeping or the audience applauding excessively.” From my own experience, I’ve never observed an overt case of judges penalizing a group for going overtime, though I have speculated as to whether it might have been the case in a handful of particularly close competitions, during which the second-place finisher did seem to be pushing twelve minutes.

By the time that ICCA Finals roll around, Amanda’s point has been shored up in practice. POP TV elected to follow five historically strong groups on their ICCA journeys. Though their TV cameras loomed on the periphery of the stage at The Beacon Theatre for each set, only one of those featured groups had made it to the last stage of the competition.

That group didn’t win. In fact, despite a unique, almost monstrous swell of sound and the emotional story of having lost a group member to suicide between semifinals and Finals, The Nor’easters out of Northeastern University did not place in this competition.

The group that did walk out victorious was the University of Southern California’s SoCal VoCal, who earned their fourth world championship in as many tournament bids over the last eight years. If The SoCal VoCals’ triumph was not altogether surprising, their song selection was. A glance at the group’s set list would reveal to dedicated ICCA fans that they chose to bookend their performance with a pair of competition faux pas. Their opener was Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”—a fifteen-year-old party anthem that is beyond played in a cappella circles. They dedicated their finale space to Jessie J’s “Bang Bang”—a popular contemporary track that was covered into oblivion in the 2015 ICCAs.

All of this conventional logic doesn’t apply to a group as innovative and thoroughly talented as The SoCal VoCals. They reinvented “Crazy” as a slowed down jam, lingering soft and slow on the “I remember when” lyrics to create a retro feel before exploding into motion and pushing the tempo on the first chorus. While their take on “Bang Bang” was, superficially, more straightforward, the group nonetheless varied its dynamics and assaulted the song with palpable energy to create an irresistible sound and stage show.

The truest highlight of the set, however, came with the middle song, a cover of Tori Kelly’s “Paper Hearts.” At this juncture of the set, the group called back to an old trick from their playbook that helped carry them to championships in 2011 and 2013—rotating between lead vocalists from one line of the song to the next. This maneuver not only depends upon having a deep roster of talented soloists, but also calls for impeccable mechanics on the part of the ensemble to maintain blend and compensate for constantly gaining and losing parts in the background harmonies. It’s a technique that no other group really brings to competition for the simple reason that no other group can pull it off on a consistent basis.

But lest fans wary of the same group playing the same tricks to hog the championship glory, Amanda is quick to point out, that this year’s iteration of The SoCal Vocals “had no direct connection to groups that had won in the past,” meaning that none of the current group members were members of any of the previous championship-winning incarnations of the group. Moreover, she recounts that she spoke with Juliette Goglia, whose older sister Emily had previously won a championship with The SoCal VoCals. “Juliette was eleven years old watching her sister compete, and dreamed of getting to do that,” Amanda says. “For the students that made it happen this year, it means every bit as much to them as it would for a group that never competed before.”

And one has to wonder how many similar stories might emerge in the years ahead—not necessarily of little sisters looking up to older siblings, but in a nation full of young singers who are increasingly exposed to the realities and potentialities of high-level vocal music.

A month after the dust has settled from Finals, the premiere of Sing It On airs on PopTV. This episode focuses on the audition process—a bunch of starry-eyed college students singing for spots with established groups, interspersed with segments of those groups performing their signature songs, sans post-production effects or even particularly flattering acoustics. The episode captures moments of in-fighting and a mesmerizingly intense inter-group tussle in which Florida State University’s All-Night Yahtzee and AcaBelles squabble over which group should have dibs on a particularly talented sophomore who auditioned for both of their ensembles. But in the end, the show comes back to the core principles of competitive scholastic a cappella. The parties featured are invested in making music together, sure, but also in selecting group mates who will be their new friends, while simultaneously building a collection of musical talents who will make them competitive in their bid for ICCA glory.

I watch the show with my fiancée. For a moment, I consider texting the girlfriend who introduced me to a cappella all those years ago. I’d like to hear what she thinks of the show (because of course she’s watching, too). Is it true to her experience? Does it bring back memories? Does seeing this segment of her past life play out on the small screen feel like a celebration? Or does this show steal and cheapen what she had once worked so hard on, just as she had suggested my blog did in one of our last fights?

I opt not to text.

It’s with all of these a cappella experiences—both live and filtered through a TV screen—fresh in my mind that I go to see Pitch Perfect 2 in the theater on opening night. In small town Corvallis, Oregon, I don’t recognize anyone else who was in attendance for ICCA Finals. The local college a cappella groups (Outspoken and Power Chord, both based out of Oregon State) failed to advance from the quarterfinal round of this year’s ICCA tournament.

Just the same a group of girls, high school aged, walk into the theater with their arms linked together, singing a surprisingly on-key rendition of “Cups,” the song with which Anna Kendrick’s character auditioned for the fictitious Barden Bellas in the original Pitch Perfect film. And I think that perhaps these girls—or girls just like them—will be a cappella stars in a year or two. Maybe tomorrow.


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2016-01-07T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Pitching New Ideas to the Group With Confidence]]>http://acappellablog.com/for-your-own-good/pitching-new-ideas-to-the-group-with-confidence http://acappellablog.com/for-your-own-good/pitching-new-ideas-to-the-group-with-confidence

You have an idea for an awesome song for your group to sing. You thought of a way to restructure rehearsals or changing the way the group communicates internally. You have a suggestion for a new venue in which to perform. Any time you’re working with a group and intend to suggest a new idea, there are social and political factors you need to take into account beyond the confines of whether the idea itself is good. So how do you make your best pitch? How do you sway others to your opinion? In the long run, how can you best help your group?

​Make sure you believe in your idea.

There are people who share ideas just for the sake of doing so—because they like the sound of their own voices, or because they’re less invested in the success of the group than they are in being able to claim that they were important to the group. Don’t be “that guy.” Instead, earn the respect of your peers and do what’s actually in the common interest by bringing forth ideas that you yourself believe in, that you can earnestly defend, and that you honestly believe are not only worth the group’s time, but that will help the group better itself in a meaningful way.

​Don’t be scared.

This pointer might seem redundant in a post about pitching ideas with confidence, and yet it’s easy to miss in the midst of planning your proposal. While good ideas can stand on their own, it’s a lot easier for people to poke holes in a suggestion when the presenter himself doesn’t seem sure of it, or even goes so far to bring up his own plan’s shortcomings without addressing how the group will overcome them, or why the pros outweigh the cons. Be bold, be sure of yourself, and you’ll give your idea the best platform to succeed.

​Do your homework.

The difference between brainstorming and making a proposal is all about elbow grease. Spit balling is useful—you come up with a body of ideas and select the best ones from it. But when you can identify those ideas you’re passionate about, it’s time to do the research. Has the idea worked for other a cappella groups? What are its limitations and how will you overcome them? Will it cost money? How will it affect other group members; who can you expect to be your allies or your opponents on this and how can you make the most of each to give your idea the best chance of flying? An idea is only as good as the work behind it.

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2016-01-06T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Hair]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/hair http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/hair

This week, we present The Florida State University Acaphiliacs performing P!nk’s “Hair.”

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2016-01-05T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Danny Olefsky (AKA zedarius)]]>http://acappellablog.com/interviews/danny-olefsky-aka-zedarius http://acappellablog.com/interviews/danny-olefsky-aka-zedarius

Danny Olefsky makes a cappella electronic dance music.

As the contemporary a cappella landscape broadens, it’s not so unusual to hear about a group or artist embracing a sub-genre, and Olefsky isn’t the first person to consider giving Deadmau5 a whirl a cappella. Just the same, Olefsky (under the moniker zedarius) is the only working artist I know of aiming to focus his recording projects in this realm, and doing so with quite his level of technological precision.

But let’s take a step back.

Olefsky wasn’t always an EDM artist and is not a new contributor to the a cappella world. “I have a sister ten years older than me, and when I was eight, she brought home a CD by The Xtension Chords from the University of Illinois,” Olefsky recalled in a recent conversation. He recalled listening to the CD on repeat as he began to develop his own skills as a musician and his voice matured from a tenor to a bass. He aspired to be a part of Ow!—a six-person, student-run a cappella group at his school—and got his wish during his senior year. Despite casually singing with different people prior to this point, Ow! marked a major tradition, becoming part of a popular group that was part of the local establishment.

Olefsky progressed to the collegiate a cappella universe, singing with Butler University Out of the Dawghouse, including a year and half tour as music director, and eventually moving into the role of full-time vocal percussionist.

Post-college, Olefsky did not see himself leaving a cappella behind--if anything, he became more invested. He moved to San Francisco and became part of Rapid Transit, before he and one of the group’s basses split off to form Business Casual. Around the same time, Olefsky connected with The Vocal Company and began working on video and then audio production for them. As of last October, he moved to Rochester to work with The Vocal Company full time.

The tricks of the trade that Olefsky has learned from his comrades at The Vocal Company proved key to figuring out how he would create his own EDM a cappella. “I’m surrounded by other people who are working full time in a cappella and can offer advice and introduce me to ways of doing things I wouldn’t have otherwise thought of,” Olefsky said. “Plus I always have a network of resources to bounce ideas off of; I can’t even imagine trying to learn all of this without them.”

But what motivated Olefsky to take his music in an electronic direction? “I was a music industry major, but never really fell in love with it,” Olefsky explained. “San Francisco introduced me to EDM.” He recognized that a cappella and EDM were the two genres of music he consumed most, and thought to put the two together. Olefsky said that the fusion “pushes me really hard on the production side, learning how far a vocal sample can be modulated and pushed.”

Olefsky acknowledged that, “some people might be up in arms and say that’s not a cappella” in regards to his latest projects. He clarified, though that all of the sounds in his recordings “start as a voice or body percussion.” He went on to report, “it’s been interesting to hear weird sounds in the original song, and then try to recreate them through a series of plugins.” In particular, he cited a kickdrum sound that he simulated by thumping his chest and then adding an EQ curve and shaping the tone with reverb. “I’ll use six-to-eight plugins to warp the sound to what I want,” Olefsky said. “It’s sort of like sculpture—you take a sound and then keep chipping away and adding things until it fits into what I’m trying to make of it.”

Olefsky’s work has evolved in a different direction from many other a cappella recording projects. “I don’t have an arranging background … so I arrange songs live in the studio, in terms of what it needs as opposed to frontloading that work.” He went on to describe his process: “I find a song I like, I cover it as closely as possible … which helps me work within the constraints of the original song. Once that’s done, my creativity comes in and I branch away in terms of sound or style.”

Olefsky tends to work in Reaper, which he described as more open and cheaper than Pro Tools. “I use standard EQ, compression, and a lot of distortion, and various types of it—some make it grainy, some are a little more transparent, some are more full-bodied,” he said. He described the process of using guitar plug-ins, designed to record a guitar signal, and the interesting results that can lead to when feeding in the human voice instead. “I like experimenting with listening as I sing into a plug in,” he said and went on to explain that the software allows for a lot of automation so he can, for example “visually draw in any level of distortion and fine tune how things play with each other.”

YouTube has been another source of support for Olefsky’s pursuits. He explained, “when I get obsessed with something, I’ll sit for an hour or two a day and watch YouTube videos about how people are making sounds, apply ideas from outside a cappella to voices, and dive full into all of the resources of the Internet.”

Olefsky indicated that he likes his work in EDM “because not a lot of other people doing it; I’d love to get more other people to stop shying away from experimenting in the studio; with a couple hundred dollars of investment you can start making music, start playing around with stuff. I’d love to see more people doing that.” Indeed, Olefsky’s long road in a cappella seems to have steered him to a fruitful creative niche that makes the most of technology and his musical acumen. You can check out a sampling of Olefsky’s work—recordings of Deadmau5’s “Raise Your Weapon” and Zeds Dead’s “Eyes on Fire” via Soundcloud and visit him on Facebook. His video to “Eyes on Fire,” which he released to the world at the end of 2015 is embedded below.

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2016-01-04T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Done]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/done http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/done

This week, we present The Washington University Amateurs performing The Band Perry’s “Done.”

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2015-12-29T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Well-Rehearsed Exits]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/well-rehearsed-exits http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/well-rehearsed-exits ]]> 2015-12-28T05:00:00-05:00 <![CDATA[Who Would Have Dreamed]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/who-would-have-dreamed http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/who-would-have-dreamed

This week, we present The Cedarville University Inversions performing “Who Would Have Dreamed.”

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2015-12-22T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Pentatonix]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/pentatonix http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/pentatonix ]]> 2015-12-21T05:00:00-05:00 <![CDATA[Award Hunting]]>http://acappellablog.com/recording-recommendations/award-hunting http://acappellablog.com/recording-recommendations/award-hunting ]]> 2015-12-18T05:00:00-05:00 <![CDATA[The Ten Can’t Miss American Collegiate A Cappella Groups of 2015]]>http://acappellablog.com/newsline/the-ten-cant-miss-american-collegiate-a-cappella-groups-of-2015 http://acappellablog.com/newsline/the-ten-cant-miss-american-collegiate-a-cappella-groups-of-2015 ]]> 2015-12-16T05:00:00-05:00 <![CDATA[Whisper]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/whisper http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/whisper ]]> 2015-12-15T05:00:00-05:00 <![CDATA[GQ]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/gq http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/gq ]]> 2015-12-14T05:00:00-05:00 <![CDATA[Dynamics]]>http://acappellablog.com/the-competitors-edge/dynamics http://acappellablog.com/the-competitors-edge/dynamics

In this edition, the focus is dynamics.

A demonstration of skill

While the ability to increase and decrease a group’s volume may seem somewhat elementary to a spectator, the ability to coordinate shifts in dynamics fluidly among an ensemble can be tricky business. Doing so successfully is one of the clearest ways in which a group can demonstrate its precision, level of practice, and cohesion as a unit.

Making moments pop

A group that wishes to compete at the highest level shouldn’t vary its dynamics at random, but rather think about what dynamics will mean to a piece. Many groups want to arrive at a big moment in their sets—the point at which group members line the front of the stage and hit the audience with a wall of sound. That’s all well and good, but can only be so effective if the group hasn’t earned its moment by starting small and affording themselves someplace to build from.

Flow

In a New Year’s themed episode of How I Met Your Mother, Neil Patrick Harris’s Barney comments on how the perfect playlist isn’t about rises and falls, but rather a constant, steady build from loud and upbeat to even louder and upbeater. The point is debatable and subject to personal opinion, but in the context of an a cappella competition, the group that doesn’t switch things up threatens to bore an audience with their quiet, mellow sound or irritate them by making too much noise and ostensibly yelling at the crowd. Dynamics facilitate a group presenting different sides of itself and taking each audience member on a nuanced journey with them.

Why do you think dynamics are important to a competition set? How have you seen them used? Let us know in the comments.

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2015-12-10T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Fire]]>http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/fire http://acappellablog.com/tuesday-tubin/fire

This week, we present The Boston University Treblemakers performing Jessie J’s “Fire.”

Addendum

As a bonus, we'd also like to recognize The Treblemakers' more recent recording with to original recording artist of "Love Like You," Eric Hutchinson.

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2015-12-08T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Family A Cappella Groups]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/family-a-cappella-groups http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/family-a-cappella-groups

Reason #95: Family A Cappella Groups

Members of a cappella groups often refer to their groupmates as family. There are those groups that take this to a whole ‘nother level, though—groups that are literal, biological and legal relations. Whether it’s the Fannin Family of Sing-Off, the California-based barbershop quartet My Three Sons, or any of a number less-known or less public outfits, intra-familial a cappella groups mark one of the most distinctive, interesting, and intimate make ups of a cappella groups possible.

Family a cappella groups celebrate the propinquity of a close family, provide the family a unique opportunity to collaborate and provide a real treasure for not just the family, but the surrounding community to drink in as a real inspiration and source of aural beauty.

I love it!

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2015-12-07T05:00:00-05:00
<![CDATA[Barbershop Quartets]]>http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/barbershop-quartets http://acappellablog.com/200-reasons-to-love-a-cappella/barbershop-quartets

Reason #94: Barbershop Quartets

When you start talking about a cappella amidst non-fans, you’ll inevitably come upon at least one person whose mind leaps to red-vested, top hat wearing, barbershop days of yore, and dismisses the form that you love as one-hundred-percent lame.

But even though barbershop is a less edgy, less current approach to a cappella than the contemporary style on which this blog and most younger fans focus upon, should we dismiss it out of hand?

No.

Barbershop represents some of the very best of a cappella, stripped down without the beatboxing, the choreo and, for the most part, even the synthesis of instruments, barbershop focuses on what just four voices can do to complement each other, flesh out a full sound and even achieve the illusion of notes that aren’t there for the way in which the vocalists harmonize. It’s an extraordinary genre of a cappella with a long tradition—one that non-barbershop singers would probably benefit from studying a little bit more closely to get a new perspective on some of the fundamentals and round out their ears.

I love it!

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2015-12-03T05:00:00-05:00