In Measure for Measure, an A Cappella Blog contributor takes a look at both sides of a controversial issue in collegiate a cappella.
This edition’s topic: Varsity Vocals should continue to hold the ICCA and ICHSA finals as separate events.
True: There are two main disadvantages to holding the finals of the high school and collegiate competitions on the same night, in the same venue. For one thing, the resulting show is just too long. Generally speaking, quarter and semifinals have six to ten groups competing—adding in intermission, the judges’ deliberations, host group performances, and words from the emcees, this comfortably fills a two-to-three hour show. This is very reasonable for an evening’s entertainment, offering the audience its money’s worth without running the risk of boring anyone, or necessitating that families take their kids home because its past their bedtime. The last time the finals event featured both the high school and collegiate competitions, four high school groups and seven collegiate groups. While some die-hard fans will enjoy a long evening of a cappella, this results in a show that’s going to test most anyone’s attention span. My hat’s off to the organizers for keeping the show moving along, but, seriously, this is just too much.
In addition to the sheer length of the show, there’s the element of perceived performance. When all of the high school groups perform before all of the collegiate ones, it creates the perception that the high school competition is, quite frankly, less important. While there’s no denying that the collegiate groups tend to be more advanced in all around performance, it’s still a bit of a disservice to these championship-caliber high school groups to have them serve as opening acts. Ultimately, each collection of competitors is more justly served to have an event devoted exclusively to itself.
False: Sure, holding the ICCA and ICHSA finals at the same time makes for a long show, but, in attending that show for the last three years in which it was set up as such, I have to say that I never felt that one of these shows dragged. When the performances are as good as these finalists tend to produce, it’s easy to get lost in the music, and lose track of time in enjoying a great show. That’s what the finals is all about.
In addition to creating a really good, long show, holding the finals of both tournaments at once maximizes the audience for each. While there is a core group of us a cappella enthusiasts who will travel to New York for the finals each year for the music, there are a lot of people who attend purely for the purpose of cheering on their friends or family members who are competing. Regardless of why you go to the show, the fact that you end up there really contributes to the ‘big show’ feel, and is a service to all of the performers. Having the supporters of high school groups and college groups come together is, therefore a great contribution to the energy of the overall show.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the combined who gives high school performers the opportunity to look ahead. Year after year I’ve been amazed with what these high school kids are able to do at their age; what better way to foster and nurture their growth as performers than to put them in the same auditorium with top notch performers at the next level. I don’t know that anyone has been keeping track, but I’d be really interested to see how many ICHSA champs go on to take part in high profile collegiate groups. The combined finals show supports this natural progression.