A capella groups sing their way to the top

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A capella groups sing their way to the top

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SLU’s presence is strong at ICCA

The International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) hosted their Midwest quarterfinals on Saturday, Jan. 31, at Washington University’s E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall. 10 groups, including four from SLU, were chosen to compete in this first round of the competition. Astha, Bare Naked Statues (BNS), Beyond All Reason (BAR) and Decadence had the opportunity to perform in front of a large crowd and show enthusiastic fans and experienced judges alike what they have been working on for the past year.

The competition was tough, and the stakes were high, but the judges made the decisions they were there to make: Two groups from Wash U, The Stereotypes (with 387 points) and The Amateurs (with 348 points), will proceed to the regional semifinals on March 14. BNS, with a close 342 points, scored as the second runner-up.

The evening was hosted by Sean Binkley and Jim Kane, two SLU alumni and former members of BNS, SLU’s all-male a cappella group. Last year, BNS was the ICCA regional champions. Binkley and Kane introduced each group and filled the downtime between performances with humor, while the judges scribbled away on their clipboards, filling out score sheets for each group.

ICCA offers collegiate a cappella groups an opportunity to polish their work, present it to a wider audience and challenge themselves to improve the quality of their performances. The audience, filled with students from multiple universities, as well as family members, is able to experience high-quality music and discover a cappella groups from different schools. The competitive aspect of the evening provides a different atmosphere than the a cappella concerts most students are accustomed to attending. Choreography also becomes an important part of these performances, as the groups are judged on their stage presence as well as their vocal abilities.

“Competition is a completely different feel from our usual performances. The adrenaline that you feel shoots way up in competition,” said Sally Iocca, a member of BAR, SLU’s all-female a cappella group. “The large crowd is fantastic. Nothing pumps you up more than hearing an audience of so many different people, who don’t even know you, send up a cheer after a synchronized move, a crazy chord or a powerful belt.”

Megan Kania, a member of Decadence, highlighted how supportive the a cappella community is, despite the competition. “We all support each other no matter what gig, competition, or event we are performing at. The SLU a cappella community is truly like a family. A cappella groups are about getting together with your friends and producing the best music you can.”

Iocca echoed the sentiment: “Even though we are all in competition, everyone is very friendly and supportive.”

In addition to the value of being in a supportive community, performing and receiving feedback from expert judges is another huge benefit to participating in ICCA. The five judges all come with years of a cappella experience; some are currently music educators or working in music production. Many of them were previously part of groups that garnered ICCA awards themselves.

“We completely value the judges’ notes and opinions,” said Iocca. “We take the judges’ thoughts and try to progress as a group so that we become better musically. … There is always room for improvement.”

One student who attended the ICCA event was Beau Guedry, a SLU junior. Guedry helped to create SLU’s newest a cappella group, Six Eight, and he arranges much of their repertoire. “I went to the ICCAs for three reasons: to support the other SLU a cappella groups, to see what new things I could see and learn from the performances, and to hear some great music. ICCA competitions have the highest concentration of singing talent around, and it’s really just phenomenal to watch. … I think all of the groups did a particularly good job this year.”

The audience cheered loudly for all the groups that performed, and the sold-out status of the night demonstrated the enthusiasm students have for a cappella music.

“Once the show started, there was never a dull moment,” said Johanna Reicks, another SLU student who attended. “There was a lot of excitement, and it was so much fun to be in the crowd that night.”

Hosts Binkley and Kane were joined by Maurice Roper, another BNS alum, and Garvaundo Hamilton, a current SLU student, to perform at the end of the night, while the judges were deliberating.

Despite the strong community of collegiate a cappella, at the end of the night, each group stood across the stage, waiting with bated breath to hear the results from the judges. When their names were announced and they discovered they would move on to the semifinals, The Amateurs and The Stereotypes jumped and hugged one another with joy. The Stereotypes, who placed first, performed a short celebratory song through tears of joy.

ICCA hosts four quarterfinals in each of seven regions, with the top two groups from each quarterfinal moving on to their region’s semifinal. The winner of each semifinal has the opportunity to perform in New York and compete for the title of International Champion. ICCA is run by Varsity Vocals, a non-profit that promotes a cappella music for college and high school students across the world.

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Courtesy of Astha Facebook page

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Courtesy of Decadence Facebook page

Sing-off: Astha (top) and Decadence (bottom) pose. They all competed in the Midwest quarterfinals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Capella, on Saturday, Jan. 31.