Preview: ICCA Final 2014

Last week it was revealed that the UK’s representatives to the home of collegiate a cappella, the United States, and competing in the ICCA Finals in New York City, would be All the King’s Men from King’s College London, who will be competing in the world finals for the second time, having placed third back in 2012.

The Men scored 363 points via a video submission round to qualify for the Final – but what sort of competition are they up against? Here at UACUK, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s the line up in full:

ICCA Great Lakes Champions: The G-Men, University of Michigan
ICCA Northeast Champions: Pitch Slapped, Berklee College of Music
ICCA South Champions: Vocal Point, University of Delaware
ICCA West Champions: Scattertones, UCLA
ICCA Midwest Champions: Bare Naked Statues, Saint Louis University
ICCA Mid-Atlantic Champions: N’Harmonics, New York University
ICCA International Champions: All the King’s Men, King’s College London
ICCA Wild Card Champions: The Beltones, Belmont University

The G-Men

Semi-Final: 1st place (394pts)
Quarter-Final: 1st place (385pts)

Established in 1995, The G-Men are facing their second Final in as many years. Their record in the ICCAs has been astonishing in recent years, having made four consecutive semi-finals since 2011. Short for ‘The Gentlemen’, they are an all-male group known for their ‘biceps, obsession with puppies, and rocking audiences with the power of 100 raging buffalo.’ Having scored consistently in both the quarters and the semis, placing first in both, they’ll be hoping to do better than in last year’s final when they were unable to place.

Watch Out For…

Their arrangement of Skinny Love, which earned them an Outstanding Soloist award at the Quarters and an Outstanding Arrangement award at the semis.

Pitch Slapped

Semi-Final: 1st place (414pts)
Quarter-Final: 1st place (431pts)

Pitch Slapped have a massive history, and have this year received massive point scores to back this up. In 2010 they appeared on The Sing-Off; in 2011 they won the ICCAs; and since first competing in 2008, they have won their ICCA Quarter-Final every single year. A co-ed group from Berklee College of Music, they were named one of the Top 5 Best A Cappella Groups in the country by USA Today in November 2012. All of this is hugely impressive given the group was only founded in 2006, relatively recent in the US a cappella scene. These lot definitely look like a force to be reckoned with.

Watch Out For…

Their choreography – despite picking up multiple awards across the quarters and semis, they won Outstanding Choreography for the Entire Set in both – signifying their relentless energy.

Vocal Point

Semi-Final: 1st place (398pts)
Quarter-Final: 1st place (439pts)

Despite those points tallies, this is Vocal Point’s first foray into ICCA Final territory. A co-ed group founded in 1998 with a focus on 80s music, the group has since branched out from their 80s roots and are enjoying the most successful competitive year in the group’s history. They made the Mid-Atlantic Semi-Final last year having won their Quarter, but are against stiff competition in their first ever Final, and will need to pull out a performance similar to that in their Quarter-Final if they’re to stand a chance of winning the title.

Watch Out For…

Their arrangement of Kelly Clarkson’s Dark Side which picked up Outstanding Arrangement at the Quarter-Final.

Scattertones

Semi-Final: 1st place (427pts)
Quarter-Final: 1st place (424pts)

Competing in their third consecutive final, the UCLA Scattertones will be desperate to do better than in the previous two years: they’ve placed second in both 2012 and 2013, and will be hoping to go one better this year. I don’t want to jinx them, as I said the same last year, but with pedigree such as that, they have to be considered the favourites this time around. Their Quarter-Final and Semi-Final scores are consistently huge, and for the co-ed group founded in 2002, this could and should be their year.

Watch Out For…

India Carney’s solo on Stop This Train, which picked up Outstanding Soloist in both the Quarters and the Semis.

Bare Naked Statues

Semi-Final: 1st place (368pts)
Quarter-Final: 2nd place (380pts)

Judging by their record in this year’s competition, you’d think that the all-male Bare Naked Statues from Saint Louis University would be considered outsiders for the title. One of only two groups to make the Final after finishing second in their Quarter-Final, they pipped their St. Louis rivals The Stereotypes to the final by a single point in the Semi to reach their first ever ICCA Final. Founded in 2000, the group have gained a strong repuation among the SLU community for innovative style, musical talent, and creative performances. Will this be enough to triumph over the more experience groups in the competition?

Watch Out For…

Their choreography, which picked up the Outstanding Choreography for the Entire Set in both the Quarter- and the Semi-Finals.

N’Harmonics

Semi-Final: 1st place (406pts)
Quarter-Final: 1st place (427pts)

Another group of Final debutants, the NYU N’Harmonics are another co-ed group that have fared well competitively this year, scoring 400+ in both the Quarter- and the Semi-Finals. With alumni that have been seen and heard on Glee and on Broadway, the group certainly have a record for individual success post-college, but how will they fare as a group in the present day? Going strong since 1997, with scores like that they’ll definitely be in with a shout.

Watch Out For…

Kiah Victoria’s solo on Green Garden which won Outstanding Soloist at both the Quarter- and the Semi-Finals.

The Beltones

Wild Card Round: 1st place (329pts)
Semi-Final: 2nd place (344pts)
Quarter-Final: 2nd place (341pts)

The Belmont Beltones have been here before: last year, they won their Quarter-Final but came second to Vocal Point in their Semi, only making the Final through the Wild Card Round. They’ve done the same again this year, but have the lowest set of scores in the entire Final and will need to up their game if they’re to have a chance. But don’t write them off – in 2012, the SoCal VoCals won their third title after coming through the Wild Card Round, so they’re by no means their to simply make up the numbers. The co-ed group were only founded in 2009 so are one of the newest groups in the Final, but they do have experience here and could spring a surprise or two.

Watch Out For…

Their consistency – they picked up no awards en route to the Final but have consistently placed throughout, meaning they have a knack of winning the judges over.

So that’s who All the King’s Men have to face in the Final. How do you rate the boys’ chances? It’s their second time of asking having placed third in 2012. Can they do better this year?

Best of British 2013: 3. Wonderwall

The Best of British 2013 is our unofficial countdown of the top ten UK a cappella tracks of the past year. Over the next few weeks leading up to the Christmas period, we will be counting down, from ten to one, what we believe have been the best tracks on show this year, ranging from awesome arrangements, sensational solos, marvellous mash-ups, punny parodies and everything in between.

Eligible Tracks

In order to determine which tracks were to be considered for this accolade, we decided to restrict our selections to songs that fell under ONE or BOTH of the following categories:
a) A song that made its live OR competitive debut since our last countdown commenced (Dec 2012 – Nov 2013)
b) A song that was featured on an album released since our last countdown commenced (Dec 2012 – Nov 2013)
Furthermore:
c) No tracks considered for last year’s countdown are eligible this year.
For example, although The Other Guys‘ Christmas was released in 2012, last year’s countdown started before the release of the album, so all the tracks on the album were eligible. On the flip side, although The Oxford Alternotives wowed with their rendition of Regina Spektor’s Samson at this year’s VF-UK, because it was released in album form in 2012, it was considered last year and therefore was ineligible this year.

The Process

We made a list of all the eligible songs from all the eligible groups, and then picked the top three tracks from each group, where possible. We then narrowed this shortlist down to 25, before picking our 10 favourite tracks. Opinions were divided, scores were combined, and in the end there was only one winner. But who will it be?

The countdown continues:

10. Semi-Toned – Knights of Cydonia
9. The Oxford Belles – This Is Titanium
8. The Alleycats – Dancing On My Own
7. The Oxford Alternotives – Lovely Day
6. Choral Stimulation – Ode To Glasgow
5. All the King’s Men – Higher Love
4. The Other Guys – Christmas Gets Worse Every Year

3. The Sons of Pitches – Wonderwall

In at number 3 is one of the tracks from The Sons of Pitches‘ well received VF-UK set from 2013 and arguably one of the numbers which took them to the ICCAs in New York last April, their cover of Oasis’ Wonderwall. I’ve already raved about their album, Not Too Shabby, a masterpiece from the back end of last year, and so it’s no surprise that the group feature highly on our list.

Something the group prides itself on is their ability to make a song their own. Wonderwall is far from a straight cover of the Oasis original; in fact, the song was inspired by a swing cover by Paul Anka, and was written and arranged over one late night by the group’s vocal percussionist and now Liquid 5th employee Jack Blume. “The song immediately appealed to Jack’s sense of humour,” says Joe Novelli. “The whole concept seemed so funny and had so much performance potential for The Sons. He went home and transcribed and arranged right through the night, turned those high horn riffs into the ‘boyband’ falsetto BVs that seem to get every audience laughing, and sent us all a message saying ‘Ok, it’s 3am, but I’ve finally finished. I may be tired, but I’m pretty sure it’s funny!'”

Despite conforming to the group’s tendency to take songs apart and put them together again in their own unique way, the style of the song itself is very unusual for the boys from Birmingham, and indeed, the rest of the group were initially unsure of Blume’s arrangement. “We tend to cover a lot more chart stuff these days, throwing in dubstep, drum & bass, and occasional reggae and latin inflections for flavour,” said Novelli, before continuing: “We were all a little sceptical when Jack brought the arrangement to us and we saw he’d written ‘doo’ and ‘ba’ syllables. But as soon as Belham took the solo and the other Joes did their thing, it just kinda worked.”

The song made its début in the group’s Voice Festival set at the Birmingham Regional, where it was received raucously by the crowd. “We had a big audience full of our friends and they were laughing throughout. The YouTubers commenting on our videos may hate the ambient laughter, but we were loving it on the night!” As much as the group love performing the song, one of the other tracks from “Not Too Shabby” is held to high affection by the group. “Lose Yourself is probably our favourite from the past year, partly because it was our first ever ‘group arrangement’, and partly because it was never really notated, so it only really exists in our heads! There’s something special to be said about a song like that.”

As for the success of Wonderwall, Novelli concluded by saying: “Our performance aims to bring the very silly British humour out of all us! I think it just makes people smile in a way that more serious arrangements might not. And isn’t that sort of the whole point of a cappella?”

You can buy Not Too Shabby, which contains this song, right here.

VF-UK 2013: The Good, The Bad and The Unsustainable

After what has been yet another successful and record-breaking year for the not-for-profit Voice Festival UK, having successfully overseen five Regional Rounds and a Final of a University Competition, a Community Competition and a Big Weekend, it’s time to take a step back and have a look at what worked, what didn’t, and what could be improved for next year.

The University Competition

The Good:

More Groups Than Ever: This year saw 27 groups competing in the university competition, one more than last year, with debuts coming from Vive, The Houghtones, The Scopes, The Treblemakers, The Augmentals, and Illuminations. What’s more, these debutants added two new institutions to the VF-UK repertoire: the Birmingham Conservatoire and the Guildhall School for Music and Drama, evidence that collegiate a cappella is expanding further afield.

High-Quality A Cappella: There is no doubting the quality of a cappella at every single Regional, and indeed the Final, was much higher than in previous years. Relatively new groups are learning fast from American (and indeed, British) role models and embarking on crucial tours to enhance their stage presence and group image, while groups who had never won awards before picked up awards in several different categories, closing the gaps between themselves and the groups traditionally ahead of them. The competitive side of UK a cappella has never been so fierce, and this can only encourage groups to step up their game even further.

The Bad:

The Judging System: One criticism that has been seemingly forever lodged with the competition side of the Voice Festival is that of the judging system and criteria. While VF-UK have continually argued against having a points-system, because the judges felt in the past “they spent more time looking down at their adjudication forms trying to decide on point values than they did actually watching the performances, which often meant that they would miss out on funny or memorable parts of the performance.” However, whilst at the Final, I sat pretty much next to the judges, and while they were watching the groups for the most part, a great deal of time was still spent jotting down notes on the performances, in order to give the groups feedback at the end of the evening, both orally on stage and privately in paper form later on.
According to an experienced American collegiate singer who was at the London Final, the advantage of the points system not only allows transparency and clarity in the results, and therefore less scope for accusations of bias and subjectivity, but also saves time. This year, at both the St Andrews Regional and the Final, the judges took almost a full hour to deliberate and come up with a result, and at the latter, despite a lengthy half hour interval, pro group and MCs Overboard had to work overtime (and jetlagged, might I add) to continue to entertain us until the judges were ready (not that I’m complaining, though, because they were awesome.) In America, the judges simply tally up their collective scores and declare a winner, and it is all done within ten minutes. While the American system is admittedly not flawless, and controversial decisions are still made at certain times, the system has been tried and tested successfully for years in the States and I see no reason why it shouldn’t be employed over here.

The Awards System: Perhaps even more fiercely debated, particularly on this blog by numerous commenters, is the awards system in place throughout the competition. While awards for Soloist, Arrangement, VP and Choreography are a given (and indeed, the ICCAs religiously stick to these awards), there have been several previously unheard of awards that have seemingly been created on the night to honour certain aspects of performance. While I am not against giving credit where credit is due, I feel it is a little unjust to give out awards when the availability of these awards have not been explicitly written in the Voice Festival Adjudication Guide (sent out to each group before the competition).
I refer specifically to two occasions: initially, the Sons of Pitches claiming the ‘Outstanding Stagecraft’ award at last year’s final, which has now been incorporated into the rules but at the time was a brand new award, and doesn’t seem to be very different to the award for ‘Outstanding Choreography’. One opinion at the time discussed where the line should be drawn: “If the judges are going to just make up awards on the night, then what’s to say that in three years’ time, there’s not going to be an award for the craziest outfits?”, while another believed that it is “inherently wrong to create an award at random.” The second occasion was at this year’s Birmingham Regional Round, where a member of The Augmentals won the award for ‘Outstanding Audience Interaction’, which seems even more arbitrary, and prompted another comment claiming that the Voice Festival UK was “a total farce.” Indeed, quoting from the Adjudication Guide for the award for ‘Outstanding Performance’: “This award recognises a group that demonstrates outstanding performance and presentation, including stagecraft, stage presence, engagement with the audience, and professionalism.” Why weren’t both groups just given the award for ‘Outstanding Performance’, which incorporates both Stagecraft and Audience Interaction? There is clearly some disgruntlement at the way in which the awards are distributed almost willy-nilly at Regional Rounds, and this gives rise to another arguable flaw of the Voice Festival…:

The Festival is ‘Too Nice’: Being ‘too nice’ is a very British problem, something my Russian girlfriend is quick to remind me of every time I apologise for something completely out of my control. While the Voice Festival UK predominantly exists to further a cappella in the UK, the competition element of it is just that – a competition. Awards should be distributed to those groups deserving of them and not dished out to everyone in the interests of making sure everyone gets some sort of recognition (as was discussed in the aftermath of last year’s Final). To be fair to this year’s competition, only three groups received awards at this year’s final, all of which were, in my eyes, just and deserved awards, so perhaps this lesson has been learned.
However, perhaps there is another thing to be discussed here: is the judges’ feedback on stage before the revelation of the winner really necessary and/or in the best interests of the group or the audience? Each group at the end of the competition is sent detailed, tailored feedback forms from their performance, so do we really need the evening to be stretched out even further by the judges saying only nice things about every single group, when this discussion sugar-coats the judges’ real views on each group’s performance, and all everyone really wants to know is the winner? It’s definitely something to consider cutting a little shorter on the night.

The Reward Isn’t Big Enough Anymore: While no official partnership has ever existed between the Voice Festival UK and the ICCAs, for the first four years of the competition, the winners of VF-UK were invited to perform in New York alongside the best collegiate groups in America at what can only be described as the single most exciting opportunity that any UK university group has at its disposal. This, as evidenced by recent developments, is no longer the case, with the Sons of Pitches qualifying ahead of VF-UK Winners Vive in the International Wild Card round.
What place does the VF-UK University Competition therefore have in the wider a cappella world? Aside from the rewards on offer to the winning group of VF-UK, now that there is no guaranteed higher stage on which to showcase the talents of the winning group, what is there to play for? Big name UK groups relish the opportunity to put themselves to the test against US groups, and the fact that the Voice Festival no longer provides a means to do this is definitely a negative progression.

High-Profile Drop-Outs: Certain groups have made decisions in the past couple of years to abstain from competing in the Voice Festival, perhaps due to a combination of the factors mentioned above, or perhaps for other, unknown reasons. While not wishing to do any discredit to any of this years Finalists or indeed, the eventual winners, Vive, but it is inherently more satisfying to win a competition that has a full strength field than it is to win one that has a couple of big hitters missing. Not only that, but groups like Out of the Blue, The Oxford Gargoyles and Cadenza are all previous winners and big collegiate presences in the UK a cappella world, and it is a huge shame for Voice Festival fans to miss out on the opportunity to see these groups perform at the top of their game. I believe the Voice Festival should be doing all they can to reincorporate these groups into the competition in whatever form it may take next year.

The Unsustainable:

The Regional Round System: Despite everything said above, it must not be forgotten that the Voice Festival is run by a team of volunteers, all of whom have full-time jobs to hold down alongside the significant effort that the Voice Festival requires on top of all that. With that in mind, I understand why the initial intention was to cut the Regional Rounds all together and incorporate the entire University Competition into the Big Weekend in London. The decision to have members of the groups themselves organise the Regionals was a good one, but as proved in Oxford when the organising committee pulled out and the VF-UK team had to organise everything themselves, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee success.
Added to this is the ever increasing number groups popping up around the country, these Regional Rounds will become ever more unmanageable as more of them require organisation. Can the Voice Festival team really be expected to put so much unpaid time aside while sacrificing significant chunks of their personal lives in the process?

The Big Weekend

The Good:

Great Turnout: One thing that was very prominent during the Big Weekend was the great turnout of groups, from both university and community backgrounds, and even some members of the general public or simply a cappella fans. Clearly the event captured the attention of musicians around the country and it was great to see so many people sharing the same passion in one place. On a similar note, the Big Weekend allowed people from all walks of life to come together and sing, something which can be considered a real triumph of organisation.

Productive Workshops and Discussions: The spirit around the City of London School for Girls was great, and there was a lot of productive and stimulating discussions and workshops from all kinds of people, which would have been a huge help for many of the singers present on the day, myself included. Whether it was a debate about all-female a cappella, a jazz workshop led by newly crowned champions Vive or studio recording workshops led by Overboard, the Big Weekend workshops were truly a success.

New Opportunities: The weekend also gave exciting new opportunities for groups and group members alike. The studio sessions allowed groups to get a taster of the techniques involved with recording a professional studio track, as well as giving them vital experience within a recording environment. Let’s hope this experience prompts yet more groups to release their own albums so that we can enjoy their music on demand.

Big Names From Abroad: One of the highlights of the weekend was the performances and workshops from American super-group Overboard. Despite having worked with the group externally on several recordings with The Other Guys, I had never seen the group perform live and, aided with a pretty slick sound system, they blew me and everyone else away while filling time at the Final of the University Competition. It also gave Overboard themselves an opportunity to perform to a brand new audience, and also to impart their experience and knowledge onto others who would fill their shoes this side of the pond.

Fan of the Year: On a more personal note, it was great to see one of UACUK’s own pick up the new award for ‘Fan of the Year’. We’d like to think John’s work as our ‘Festival Maestro’ has gone some away to helping him claim this award. 🙂

The Bad:

London-Centric: A murmur of discontent at the location of the competition Final and the Big Weekend has been steadily growing stronger over the past few years, especially given the growing number of groups springing up significantly outside of the capital. While I appreciate London is ideally placed in terms of access, there are many other places where a cappella is arguably more popular where a Final would go down like a storm. The Regional in St Andrews sells almost 1,000 tickets every year. Perhaps one way of pleasing everyone would be to change the location every year – have a Final in St Andrews one year, Oxford another, Exeter the next… It would not only allow blossoming audiences in those areas to further develop a taste for top quality a cappella, but also gives each group a chance to perform to a brand new audience year after year.

The Unsustainable:

The Weekend Itself: Certain clues throughout the VF-UK year led many aca-folk to believe that The Big Weekend was the main focus of this year’s calendar, with the competitive side of the Festival sidelined slightly: VF-UK were initially wanting to scrap the Regional Rounds and hold one large competition at the Big Weekend; this was eventually modified after consultation with groups across the country. The result, however, was that groups themselves would organise the Regional Rounds (under VF-UK supervision), while the VF-UK team themselves focused their efforts on making the Big Weekend, as I have indicated above, a huge success. However, having spoken with many of the team (who, I will remind you again, are all volunteers) during the weekend, they were exhausted, pushed to the limits for time, and stretched for numbers (hence their recent #bestself recruitment launch). Can such a monumental event, however successful it was, be sustained year after year in its current format?

The Fringe

This year’s VF-UK Fringe presence was questionable. Having managed in previous years to organise and set up (despite however last minute it may have been) some relatively successful showcases and socials thereafter, this year, after some sustained efforts to rekindle it, for whatever reason the showcase never materialised, and instead groups were invited to a VF-UK social, with mixed success. Out of the Blue, The Alternotives, an All the King’s Man and some Accidentals were in attendance, but all-in-all it did not achieve the same scope as previous years’ efforts had done. Perhaps a hangover from all the hard work put in for the Big Weekend?

What Next?

Perhaps it is time to ask that question again: is the Voice Festival UK an a cappella festival or an a cappella competition? And with more and more groups forming in brand new regions of the country, can it realistically be both for much longer, given the time (or lack thereof) and resources available to the hard-working team of volunteers?

I believe it is time for those at VF-UK to make some difficult decisions, and to fall on one side or another. In order to continue to provide the excellent standard of Big Weekend that they managed to achieve this year, they either need to recruit significantly (which they appear to be in the process of doing at the moment) or to cut back in their ambitions.

Judging by events in the past year, I am inclined to believe that should this cutback occur, it will be the competition element that suffers, as the VF-UK team have been leaning quite significantly towards the Festival side of their work this year. If this does happen, perhaps it’s time to invite the ICCAs back to Britain and once again give the British champions a guaranteed shot at the international Final.

The work that VF-UK does to promote a cappella is hugely beneficial and is well deserving of praise. Without its impact on the UK a cappella scene, several groups may not exist, this blog may never have come into being and several people, including myself, may have never gotten involved in a cappella. But with success comes the need for change – and the time has come to make a big decision.

As always, we appreciate your comments. Do you disagree with anything written above? Feel free to share your views.

To apply to be a part of the Voice Festival team, click here.

Nor’easters Claim World Title in New York; Sons of Pitches Do Britain Proud

It was not the night the UK was hoping for at the Town Hall in New York City last night, as our boys from Birmingham took their jumpsuits and their incredible music to the States to compete against the very best from around the a cappella-crazy nation. While the seven men performed their hearts out to an adoring crowd, it wasn’t to be for them, as Northeastern University’s Nor’easters, who had performed strongly throughout the competition,took the title, and will be delighted to come away with the victory.

Also placing were previous Finalists The Chordials from Cornell University, and last years runners-up The Scattertones from UCLA, who repeated last years feat by coming second for the second consecutive year. Meanwhile, the Sons of Pitches were praised for providing ‘the first good dubstep breakdown of the night’, and must be credited for adapting well to the use of microphones that is required at these events.

Overall, the reception of our boys was great, and they must be praised for bringing British A Cappella at its best to the home of a cappella.

We will be providing a full review of the night via The A Cappella Blog in due course.

Sons of Pitches to Line Up Against America’s Best at ICCA Final in New York

With the ICCA Final in New York just days away, and Britain’s own Sons of Pitches leading the line from our side of the pond, we felt it prudent to provide our readers with the full line-up for the upcoming finals, to take place at the Town Hall in NYC on April 20th, this Saturday night, and assess the Sons’ chances of winning.

Here is the line-up in full:

ICCA Great Lakes Champions: The G-Men, University of Michigan
ICCA Northeast Champions: The Nor’easters, Northeastern University
ICCA South Champions: Reverb, Florida State University
ICCA West Champions: Scattertones, University of California, Los Angeles
ICCA Midwest Champions: No Comment, University Of Illinois Champaign-Urbana
ICCA Mid-Atlantic Champions: The Chordials, Cornell University
ICCA International Wildcard Champions: The Sons of Pitches, University of Birmingham, UK
ICCA National Wildcard Champions: The Beltones, Belmont University

The G-Men

Semi-Final: 1st place (423pts)
Quarter-Final: 1st place (358pts)

Established in 1995, The G-Men have only really made a splash on the ICCAs in the past couple of years – in 2011, they missed out on qualification for the final by a single point, while they reached the semi-finals last year too. Short for ‘The Gentlemen’, they are an all-male group known for their ‘biceps, obsession with puppies, and rocking audiences with the power of 100 raging buffalo.’ Having stepped up their game significantly in the semi-final, adding nearly 70 points to their quarter-final points tally, they will be hoping to further improve on that in their first ever final.

Watch Out For…
Brendan Asante, their soloist on Kimbra’s Settle Down, which won ‘Outstanding Soloist’ at both the quarters and the semis.

The Nor’easters

Semi-Final: 1st place (431pts)
Quarter-Final: 1st place (422pts)

The first mixed-group of the final, the Nor’easters were established in 1997, and have come even closer to the Final than the G-Men in the past couple of years, having come second in the National Wild Card Round on two consecutive occasions in 2011 and 2012. They will be delighted to reach their first final after two hugely impressive Regional performances, and with some of the highest scores of all the groups competing, they will definitely feel confident of placing in the top three, if not winning the entire competition.

Watch Out For…
Shams Ahmed has won two ‘Outstanding Arrangement’ awards, one at the semi-final for Wrong Side of a Love Song and the other at the quarters for the entire set. Expect to be blown away by their arrangements.

Reverb

Semi-Final: 1st place (403pts)
Quarter-Final: 1st place (426pts)

Two-time unplaced semi-finalists, Reverb are Florida State’s only all-male a cappella group and, like the previous two acts, are having their most successful competitive season yet. A relatively new group, founded in 2006, they have typically won awards for arranging in their two previous successful years, in 2009 and last year. With two 400+ scores in the Regionals, they will also feel like they have a solid foundation to go on – if they can perform to their best, they too could be challenging for the top three.

Watch Out For…
Another group with an exceptional talent for arranging, their entire set won ‘Outstanding Arrangement’ at both the quarters and the semis – credit to duo David Ko and Skipper Stradtman for that. Arrangements seem to be key this year, and this group seems to be best placed to capitalise on that.

Scattertones

Semi-Final: 1st place (437pts)
Quarter-Final: 1st place (412pts)

Competing in their second successive final, the Scattertones are surely considered the favourites to win this year’s competition, having beaten All the King’s Men into second place last year, falling just short of perennial rivals the SoCal VoCals. Founded in 2002, the co-ed group have a rich history in the ICCAs, having made the semi-finals three times before their unexpected triumph over the SoCal VoCals in the West Semi-Final last year that saw them through to the Final. With two exceptionally high scores in the Regionals again this time around, you’d have to say it will take something special to beat this lot.

Watch Out For…
Their cover of Coldplay’s Paradise, which won them not only ‘Outstanding Arrangement’ at the Quarter-Finals, but also ‘Outstanding Soloist’ – definitely a lynchpin of their successful set.

No Comment

Semi-Final: 1st place (No Data Available)
Quarter-Final: 1st place (423pts)

A group with relatively small history in the ICCAs in past years, this co-ed group have found their rhythm this year to reach their first semi-final, let alone first final. Their lack of experience at this level of competition may hinder them, but having been founded in 2004, they are no strangers to collegiate a cappella and racked up an impressive score in the Quarter-Finals, picking up several awards en route to the final. Dark horses, perhaps, but will undoubtedly be in with a shot.

Watch Out For…
Kelsey Stanker, their soloist on Breathe Again, who picked up the ‘Outstanding Soloist’ award at both the quarters and the semis.

The Chordials

Semi-Final: 1st place (366pts)
Quarter-Final: 1st (393pts)

Founded in 1997, Cornell University’s co-ed Chordials do have previous Final experience, having placed third way back in 2004. While none of the members from that successful year remain, the current group will surely have drawn upon the experiences of that incarnation of the group to help them to prepare for this year’s Final. With some of the lowest scores from the Regionals, they will need to step up their game slightly if they are to challenge to other groups, but with appearances of BOCA in 2006 and 2010, they could well be in with a shot.

Watch Out For…
Jay Grollman, who takes the solo on Lies, who won ‘Outstanding Soloist’ at both the Quarter- and Semi-Finals.

The Beltones

Wild Card Round: 1st place (381pts)
Semi-Final: 2nd place (391pts)
Quarter-Final: 1st place (395pts)

Perhaps the most consistent group this year, The Beltones are the national wild card entry, having been beaten by Reverb in the Semi-Final at Vanderbilt University. However, last year, the SoCal VoCals came through the Wild Card Round to win the competition, so the mixed-voice group will take heart from last year’s winners. The youngest group in the final, founded just in 2009, this is their first real stab at the ICCAs and it has been a thoroughly successful debut – whether they can go one step further and win the thing remains to be seen.

Watch Out For…
Their choreography, which picked up the ‘Outstanding Choreography’ award in the Quarter-Finals for the entire set.

So there we have it – the line-up that will be facing The Sons of Pitches in the Final this weekend. How do you rate the boys’ chances of success? Have your say in the comments below.

Sons of Pitches Pip Vive to ICCA Final

Yesterday evening, the announcement was made as to which international group would be representing the Rest of the World at the upcoming ICCA Finals at the Lincoln Center in New York City. With several of our UK groups having submitted video setlists to the ICCAs, it was in the end a close run thing between this year’s VF-UK champions, Vive, and the arguable runners-up, The Sons of Pitches, whose disappointment will surely be annulled by this particular result.

It means for the first time, the winners of this year’s university competition will not be invited to perform as the representatives of the UK, with the ICCAs using a different system this year with which to allocate the International Wild Card, that being through video applications.

Previous UK entrants to the ICCAs have fared well – Out of the Blue has come second twice, in 2006 and 2009, while last year’s champions All the King’s Men came in third behind third-time champions the SoCal VoCals.

We’ll be previewing the Final as soon as all the entrants are through, but for now let us wish The Sons of Pitches good luck in their endeavours in New York. The UK is behind you!

Results Round-Up
1st: The Sons of Pitches (363 Points)
2nd: Vive (350 Points)
3rd: The Oxford Belles (295 Points)

Last Call for International ICCA Applications – March 22 Deadline

Calling all UK university groups: the deadline for applications for the International WildCard for the ICCA Finals in New York next month is fast approaching. Don’t miss out on your chance to perform at the ICCA Finals at the Lincoln Center in New York as the international representative of a cappella.

According to the official website, “For international groups who cannot participate in a live ICCA event, we offer one additional competition space for ICCA Finals in New York City each season.”

“Groups can videotape their competition set, just as though they were performing at a live ICCA event–no stops, edits, or cuts. Three Varsity Vocals adjudicators will evaluate the performances.”

“On April 1, the top-scoring group will be declared the winner of the International Round and will be invited to appear at ICCA Finals.”

You can find out more about how to apply to compete at the ICCA Finals right here.