International Championships of A Cappella

Last night (despite being sick) I had the most fun I’ve had since…well, since Rockapella came in December. It was in Berkeley. It was singing. It was the West Region Quarterfinals of the International Championships of A Cappella.

So the initial reason for going was that the UCSC group Cloud Nine was there, i.e. the group that Patrick’s in this year. But I’m really glad we (my parents came too) ended up going, because there were some really awesome groups there. I’ll just go through them one by one.

Noteworthy: “Cal’s All-Original A Cappella Group” returns from a year and a half ago (when I last saw them). They weren’t competitors, which is OK because they’d probably lose anyway. I guess I’m the only one who likes them, but…yeah I liked them. They did “Volvo 740” and “Dive”, both on their CD, and another song which was not.

Vocal Music Workshop: The first high school competitor. They were a mixed group, and they were fine. They were probably better than Cappella but not amazing.

The Waves (Youth in Arts): Second high school group. Five men with, as my mom put it, “stage presence.” They started off with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. I swear, the solo could be a true countertenor, except for the one time he came down to a “regular” octave. Musically speaking I don’t think their harmonies were quite as full as VMW, but they had a lot more presence and choreography and still quite good singing. They won the high school competition at this level.

‘Til Dawn (Lick-Wilmerding HS): Last high school group, mixed again. This group was better than the first group (I thought). Unfortunately the mic went off in “Under the Sea” and then the next solo held it too close to her face. One of the soprano solos was really nice though; she went high and smooth and clear without using the mic at all.

Cloud Nine (UCSC): First college group, and the one Patrick was in! The stand-out songs were “Love Potion #9” and “Good Vibrations”, and Patrick had a single-line solo in each. (“I took a drink” *grin*). They were quite cool and did “well.” (Honestly speaking though they weren’t in the same tier as some of the other groups, at least not yet). Still waiting for a CD of this year’s group.

Raagapella (Stanford): The most original a cappella I have ever heard. Seriously. According to the program, they “specializ[e] in the fusion of South Asian and Western musical styles.” It was very cool to hear the raaga melodies combined with more “traditional” a cappella harmonies. I thought they probably had the most full and solid harmonies. They won second place and I think they were surprised; it looked (to me) like they had entered just for the performance.

The Spokes (UC Davis): All women, not so great. They had holes in their harmonies. I liked the last song, though, “It’s Raining Men”.

And then, as the MCs put it, the “much-anticipated…intermission”

UC Men’s Octet (UC Berkeley): Not competitors, but just as good as last year and the other time I saw them. They were also the MCs for the show (alternating in pairs) and added a funny comment to just about everyone. Really, though, they could have done very well in the competition. “Eight’s company too!”

Mile 21 (University of Colorado): Probably the best mixed group there (sorry, Patrick and Cloud Nine). They started out with another non-typical piece called “Represent, Cuba” and then did the finale from RENT (plus a bit of Seasons of Love). I got a CD, which unfortunately was not as good as seeing them this year and in person.

Golden Overtones (UC Berkeley): Much better than last year, and better than the other women’s group. Nice harmonies and all. They won third place which unfortunately (for them) means they don’t advance.

Mixed Company (Stanford): They were fine, but not amazing or anything. Sad to say I can’t remember much about them despite them being the second-to-last group to perform.

Vocal Point (Brigham Young): Last group, all men, and a bit older (putting together a few bits of knowledge leads to a likely hypothesis). With only three returning members (out of nine) they still managed to put together the most impressive choreography (and again, “stage presence”). They had a quite awesome opening song, which used stomps as part of the percussion (hard to pull off for a vocal group), plus getting the audience to clap. For “something completely different”, they also did “Nearer, My God, to Thee”. They ended with a really good performance of “Thriller”, including the original MTV choreography.

And then the judges went to deliberate, leaving us with the…Men’s Octet again? Well, the group that was supposed to go wasn’t yet there, because they were waiting to see when they should go. Hmm…

And that group was the Richter Scales, a group from the Bay Area of men in their twenties and thirties (out of college) who still sing a cappella. A lot of their songs were original, including one about someone who actually profited from spam e-mail, one called “Stockholm Syndrome”, and the closing number, “I Hate A Cappella”. They got the audience to sing along on the last one, an audience full (of course) of a cappella lovers and a cappella singers. My mom bought their CD (which of course means I now have that music too).

The judges came back, and the winning group was…Vocal Point! And really, they were good enough for it. (Too bad Mile 21 didn’t get anything, in my opinion). They sang one last song, starting with the THX sound (“Deep Note”), then the 20th Century Fox theme (complete with searchlights), and finally the feature: “Spiderman”.

Really a great night. In other news, my iPod is back to where it was and worse, with illegible streaks across the screen, mostly showing up in black (worse than the below picture). It’s not at the $120 screen repair point but it’s getting there. But my cold is better.

And for something completely unrelated, here’s an interesting little movie my brother found. It’s better if you’ve played Zelda: Wind Waker or if you’re at least a Nintendo person.