200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #144: BOSS

In 2012, The Contemporary A Cappella Society (CASA) started a new a cappella festival, Boston Sings, more commonly referred to as BOSS. It made sense for Boston to have its own major festival—a city that’s been a longtime hub for a cappella, particularly at the collegiate level, with major groups coming out of Berklee, Northeastern, Tufts, Harvard,  Boston University, Boston College, Brandeis and other schools in the area.

In just a few years, the festival has grown into one of the most celebrated in the a cappella world. When it comes to live competition, it features one of the most electric one-night contests in the country, which has seen scintillating performances from the likes of Voices in Your Head, Reverb, and Ithacappella. Moreover, it’s become one of a cappella’s grandest stages for recognition with the live announcement of the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards (CARAs) becoming a black-tie affair. Add onto all of this a growing tradition of brilliant pro performances and excellent workshops, and you have one of a cappella’s most inspired weekends.

I love it!

There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back

Tuesday Tubin'

This week we present the Vanderbilt Melodores performing Shawn Mendes’s “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back.”

A Well-Executed Choral Arrangement

200 Reasons To Love A Cappella

Reason #143: A Well-Executed Choral Arrangement

Bringing a choral piece to a contemporary a cappella show may seem counter-intuitive. After all, the form has garnered much of its popularity by eschewing traditionalism in favor of covering cool music in cool ways, and what could come across less innovative than singing something soft and slow in the same style as your high school chorus or the college’s madrigal choir?

The thing is that the excellent execution of a choral arrangement highlights so many of the core elements of what great a cappella is all about—seamless blend, intentional use of dynamics, compounding harmonies upon harmonies to reimagine a piece of music.

Yes, star soloists can go a long way toward captivating an audience, but a choral arrangement casts a spotlight on a group as a united whole, and there are few sounds in the a cappella world more magical than a choral arrangement executed to perfection.

I love it!

To Build a Home

Tuesday Tubin'

This week we present Central Washington University Nada Cantata performing the Cinematic Orchestra’s “To Build a Home.”


The Competitor's Edge

In this addition, the focus is on attire.

Does it really matter?

The biggest question about attire in collegiate a cappella may well be whether it really makes a difference at all. After all, if a groups sound sensational, and incorporates a professional-grade visual show via choreography and staging, is anyone really going to care about how a group dressed?


The thing about attire is that it goes a long way toward making a first impression and informing the audience’s understanding of group's identity. There are opportunities to play with and subvert such expectations. For example, consider the seemingly stodgy group wearing tuxedos with tails that proceeds throw down a high-octane set with a hip hop bent. Even if you’re not trying be satirical, it is worth thinking about what message your group’s attire is sending.  


It’s exceedingly rare to see a group in t-shirt and jeans compete in the ICCA Finals.

Don’t get me wrong, casual attire is fine and perhaps even preferable for a casual show on campus. But when a group takes the stage in competition, the choice of outfits should reflect thought, preparation and coordination. Professional threads tend to play better with grown-up judges, and communicate a tone that a group takes itself seriously.


There are exceptions, but, in general, if a group doesn’t take the time to coordinate at least a general color scheme or min/max standard for how formally they will dress, the group ends up looking sloppy on stage, and are often more difficult for judges and audience members to distinctively remember, because they can’t point to “the women who wore black dresses” or “the mixed group that wore purple.”


Within the context of uniformity, it’s ideal if a group can find opportunities to celebrate individual characters—the hipster, the nerd, and the jock can all co-exist within a color scheme of black and yellow; group members can go with or without ties, and in blue skirts or blue jeans and still look like a unit, without looking like clones.


Can you perform your choreography in those blazers? In those heels? Does your director have a pocket to carry her pitch pipe? Is that skirt too short to be anything but distracting on stage?

Attire does more than communicate group identity—when a group doesn’t carefully consider its threads, it runs the risk of hindering the groups ability to effectively perform by becoming a functional inhibitor or distraction for the performers or the audience.

How have you seen attire affect a group’s performance in competition? What helps? What hurts? Let us know in the comments.

Glitter in the Air

Tuesday Tubin'

This week we present Penn State University Blue in the FACE performing P!nk’s “Glitter in the Air.”

Next Page
There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back
A Well-Executed Choral Arrangement
To Build a Home
Glitter in the Air
Update On A Cappella Blog Event Reviews
We Don't Talk Anymore
When a Group Defies What You’d Expect By Looking at Them
Back to Me
Using Instruments
What Now
10 Reasons Every College-Aged Male Singer Should Audition for the Hyannis Sound
Cherry Wine
Breath as a Sound Effect
Death of a Bachelor
Seniors’ Last Show
A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)
Greedy for Freedom
This Christmas
The Ten Can't Miss American Collegiate A Cappella Groups of 2017
Small Groups
Bang Bang
Greek Life
Young Volcanoes
Dancing in the Rain
Super-Sized Groups
Lay Me Down
Singing in a Round