At the end of February, the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) held the last of four Northeast Quarterfinals of the season in MIT’s Kresge Auditorium. This was the ICCA’s 19th season of student a capella competitions, which have become increasingly popular due to the movie Pitch Perfect. And looking around, I could see the extent of a capella’s popularity — all of Kresge’s 1200 seats were filled with enthusiastic students and supportive families.
Ten different groups from colleges in Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut performed that evening. Each team was given 12 minutes on stage to perform an average of three to four songs. The groups were then judged on aspects of their vocal and visual performance, receiving merit for precision and technique, as well as inventiveness and creativity.
The night began with a fun and energetic performance comprised of several mashups of catchy pop songs by SSockapella from Salem State University. Next up were the Touchtones from Cornell University, the first of four all-female groups to perform that night. There is a noticeable difference between co-ed groups and all-female groups: because women have higher voices than men, all-female groups usually cannot incorporate basal tones into their performance, thus necessitating stronger harmonization and more precision. The result is a distinctive, clearer, and more ethereal sound.
All of these groups proved that the lack of male singers neither hindered nor limited their performances: Pitch, Please! from Northeastern University blew the crowd away with a powerful and chilling rendition of “Howl” by Florence + The Machine, UHarmonies from the University of Hartford competed for the first time with an enjoyably nostalgic array of ’90s songs, and the Simmons Sirens from Simmons College exhibited their versatility by singing a haunting rendition of “Youth” by Daughter directly followed by an energetic performance of “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars.
At the competition, MIT was proudly represented by the Chorallaries, MIT’s oldest co-ed a capella group. The Chorallaries took full advantage of their 12 minutes, opening with a passionate execution of Carrie Underwood’s “Good Girl” soloed by Izzy Lloyd ’18 and ending with a fun and energetic mashup of “Shut up and Dance” and “Boogie Wonderland” performed by Nick Benson ’16, Royal Morris ’15, and Hannah Wood ’15. Scott Viteri ’18, Alecia Maragh ’15, and Molly Tracy ’16 also soloed, completing the Chorallaries’ phenomenal lineup that displayed impeccable technique and synchronization.
Although the competition spanned three hours, the event was anything but dull. The night was full of surprises, with the PowerChords from the Olin College of Engineering literally lighting up the night with LED-studded gloves and jackets. The information that the Nor’Easters from Northeastern University had performed for the president and first lady of the United States impressed the crowd and set the standard high.
Most noticeably, in the sea of matching black, formal attire, The Vassar Devils from Vassar College instantly grabbed attention when they came out in grey toned garb that emanated urban cool. The Vassar Devils further defied the crowd’s expectations with their unique choreography. As Ryan Chung ’18, a member of MIT’s a capella group, Toons, explained, by isolating their soloist at the opposite side of the stage “The [Vassar] Devils effectively used the entire stage to mirror the mood and content of the songs in their choreography.”
The performances concluded with some more talent from MIT. Although not competing, MIT Resonance were featured as guest performers. While the judges were deliberating, Resonance reinvigorated the crowd with a medley of “Let’s Get it Started,” “As Long as You Love Me,” and “Can’t Hold Us” soloed by Tomi Adelusi, Nick Diamantoni, and Logan Martin respectively. Other soloists included Alysse Hamm ’18, Caterina Colón ’15, and Kristina Presing ’15, who followed with powerful deliveries of “Ain’t It Fun,” “Bang Bang,” and “Titanium”.
Throughout the night, it became increasingly clear that the beauty of a capella comes from unity of the singers. The quality of a performance is contingent on the ability of the singers to harmonize with each other and stay in time. Additionally, to complement and emphasize this auditory unison, the groups used matching outfits and synchronized. The unity extended beyond team members — there was a shared sense of community and respect between competing groups, made evident when at the end of the show, everyone gathered on stage to sing “Titanium” with Resonance.
But despite the sense of community, there had to be a winner. After twenty long, anticipation filled minutes, the judges finalized their scores and announced the winners. Two groups clearly stole the show that night. One, the Vassar Devils, came in second place with 396 points. In addition, the Vassar Devils were recognized for having the best choreography and best composition.
And finally the moment the crowd had been waiting for: first place, with 400 points, was awarded to Nor’easters from Northeastern, an obvious crowd favorite from the very start, who had electrified the audience with a powerful and emotive rendition of “Elastic Hearts” by Sia. The Nor’easters were also recognized for having the Best Percussionists, honoring members Kenji Guldner and Beejul Khatrii. These two teams move on to Semifinals, which will be held in Boston Symphony Hall on March 22, 2015.