The collegiate a cappella world is one of great complexity. Amidst all that there is to take in, The Importance Of… highlights what is truly important, and elements of a cappella that may otherwise be overlooked.
This week, we look at the importance of… performing different material from your peers.
The nature of collegiate a cappella dictates that many of the people who take it in will be college students, and with that, not lifetime a cappella enthusiasts, but rather folks who are stopping in because they have a friend who is performing, or because word of mouth suggested that a group puts on a good show. Taking all of this into consideration, there’s a fair chance that an a cappella consumer will be uninitiated, and therefore have a bit of a struggle in distinguishing one group from another in his or her memory. With this sort of audience in mind, its really important for a group to make itself stand out.
There area lot of ways for a group to stand out—innovative arrangements, memorable choreography, all around aural performance. But the most fundamental thing a group can do to be different is to pick its songs with an eye toward energy and creativity. More often than not, a new a cappella fan may struggle to remember a particular group based on its soloists or harmonies, but will remember individual songs. This is where it becomes vital for groups to pick songs that will be distinctive.
In addition to making themselves stand out from the crowd, groups should choose different material from their peers in order to provide an overall more entertaining show. One of the best qualities of a well-crafted a cappella show is that the music can easily cross genres, original artists and styles over the course of just one set by one group. When you have multiple groups sharing the stage, it should provide all the more opportunity for musical diversity.
Lastly, choosing different material can be a way of indirectly promoting good will in the a cappella community. When two groups perform the same song its like wearing the same dress to a party—it’s just awkward. And what’s more, it’s almost inevitable that one person’s going to look better in that dress than the other—or at least that onlookers will think so. I’m all for competition in collegiate a cappella, but only when the event itself is, indeed, a competition. When groups are just performing to put on a good show, it’s for the best that every group will do its own, unique thing, and be celebrated in its own right. One of the easiest ways to ensure this is to develop a repertoire of distinctive song choices.