Five Reasons for the A Cappella Community to be Thankful

The 5s

In this edition, in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, we’re taking a look at five reasons for the a cappella world to be thankful this year.

1. The Sing-Off--In 2009, when we first heard of NBC planned to air an a cappella show, most of us fans were cautiously optimistic. There’s no question it would be awesome for a cappella to get major network coverage—but would network execs respect the purity of the form and really keep it instrument and over-production free? If they did, would the public come along for the ride?

The Sing-Off isn’t perfect, but it has offered America the musically amazing, entertaining, and quirky world of a cappella that a cappella artists and fans have always loved. An extended season of 11 episodes for season three was a nice vote of confidence for the form, and though the ratings haven’t delivered as well as previous years, it’s still astonishing to think that millions of people checked out 16 a cappella groups this fall; that groups like Sonos and North Shore became household names; that ensembles like Delilah have functioned as role models for young women who aspire to sing; that Afro-Blue has made jazz vocals cool; that Pentatonix is, in its own small way, revolutionizing the a cappella sound. Thanks, NBC.

2. Bigger, Better ICCA--Those who attended International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella quarterfinals in most regions this year were in for an interesting surprise—gone were five-or-six-group contests. In were ten-way marathons that lasted deep into the night. Sure, it made for some long nights, but how cool is it that a record number of groups went out for ICCA competition this year? Better yet, the increased sample size did little to dilute the talent pool; on the contrary, I would argue this year offered up some of the most competitive shows I’ve ever seen, with a more diverse array of sounds to boot. 2012 promises even bigger things, with a new record of 189 groups vying for the international championship.

3. A cappella on YouTube—It used to be that you knew the a cappella groups at your school or in your local community, and maybe a guest group or two that visited to sing a few songs. The YouTube a cappella library has grown with each passing year, to the point where the vast majority of groups are taking advantage of the platform, multiplying audiences in the process and creating an exciting environment for groups to both share their innovations, and learn from those who are setting new standards.

4. One-person bands—In addition to furthering the a cappella conversation in general, YouTube has played a major role in the propagation of one man bands, from Peter Hollens to Mike Tompkins to Sam Tsui and numerous others. These people take on multiple parts, backing their own solo for an effect that’s easy for anyone to play with, but very, very difficult to do really well. In this vein, there’s an exciting crop of up and comers following suit with their own attempts. By the time these acts all find their own sounds and reach their own points of innovation, the a cappella experience as a whole will likely end up in a very interesting place.

5. Diversity of Sound—In 2004, The Syracuse University Mandarins brought their rendition of The Darkness’s “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” to the ICCA Finals stage. In 2005, University of Oregon Divisi challenged every preconception about female a cappella further with a stirring take on Usher’s “Yeah.” In 2009, the men of Mt. San Antonio College Fermata Nowhere put on their dancing shoes for a fully choreographed sampling of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” 2010-2011 marked the rise of “guys going Gaga” as Oregon’s On the Rocks led a rush of all-male ensembles to take on Lady Gaga staples. What’s next? Who knows?! That’s one of the great things about contemporary a cappella—thanks to the work of all of these pioneering groups, there’s virtually nothing off limits for any group at any given time. While a conventional song choice like Adele’s “Someone Like You” will almost certainly be over-exposed this competition season, there’s every possibility that acts like 30 Seconds to Mars, Drake, and Kelly Clarkson will each get their due as well. There’s a cappella for everyone nowadays, and that’s a very cool thing.

From The A Cappella Blog to all our American readers, Happy Thanksgiving!

... and, Fifth Element has you covered with the a cappella rendition of "The Thanksgiving Song."