New Varsity Vocals Champions Named

The stages of Town Hall and the PlayStation Theater brought a cappella to Broadway this weekend for the 2019 ICHSA and ICCA Finals.

After two evenings of performances that marked the culmination of a year of hard work from all of the finalists, two new groups joined the legacy of Varsity Vocals champions – InToneNation and the N’Harmonics.

Here are the full results:

ICHSA Finals
InToneNation ICHSA 2019

OVERALL STANDINGS
1st Place: InToneNation (New Manchester High School) – 441 Points
2nd Place: Skyline Blues (Skyline High School) – 338 Points
3rd Place: The Thursdays (Chelmsford High School) – 331 Points

SPECIAL AWARDS
Outstanding Soloist: Tyler Lewis (InToneNation) for “Dancing On My Own”
Outstanding Vocal Percussion: Chris Ekpiken (Skyline Blues) for the entire set
Outstanding Arrangement: InToneNation for the entire set & Griffin Prillwitz (Free to Breathe) for “Sweet Dreams”
Outstanding Choreography: Evolve for the entire set

ICCA Finals
N'Harmonics ICCA 2019
OVERALL STANDINGS

1st Place: N’Harmonics (New York University) – 444 Points
2nd Place: BisCaydence (University of Miami) – 358 Points
3rd Place: ScatterTones (UCLA) – 352 Points

SPECIAL AWARDS
Outstanding Soloist: Tyler Lewis (HardChord DynaMix) for “Trainwreck”
Outstanding Vocal Percussion: Lora Riehl (Pitch, Please) for the entire set
Outstanding Arrangement: Brett Castro (N’Harmonics) for the entire set
Outstanding Choreography: Brett Castro and Devon McDowell (N’Harmonics) for the entire set

ICCA 2019 Finals Preview

On April 27, a brand new ICCA Champion will be named at the Playstation Theatre in New York City.

Each of this year’s groups brings a different set of talents and strengths – which group will rise to the top? Will the ScatterTones or The Originals finally outdo their previous 2nd place finishes? Will longtime strong competitors like The Trills, the N’Harmonics, and The G-Men learn from their past attempts? Or will a newcomer surpass them all?

Seats in the theater are sold out, but there is a livestream and we’ll be sure to bring you a full recap!

Here’s a sneak peek at this year’s finalists:

Aquapella – UK Champion
University of Bath, Bath, UK

Aquapella, Prince, Bath, ICCA,, Finalist, UK

BisCaydence – South Champion
University of Miami, Miami, FL

The G-Men – Great Lakes Champion
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

G-Men, Michigan, UM, collegiate, ICCA, Great Lakes, Champions, a cappella

HardChord DynaMix – Southwest Champion
Texas A&M, College Station, TX

Texas, a cappella, collegiate, A&M, ICCA, Southwest, Champions, singing

N’Harmonics – Northeast Champions
New York University, New York City, NY

a cappella, live music, NYU, NYC, collegiate, ICCA, Northeast

The Originals – Central Champions
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA

CMU, Carnegie Mellon, a cappella, collegiate, ICCA, Pittsburgh, Central, Champions

Pitch, Please – Wildcard
Northeastern University, Boston, MA

a cappella, Northeastern, collegiate, ICCA, wildcard, singing, Boston

ScatterTones – West Champions
University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA

a cappella, UCLA, singing, India Carney, ICCA, West, Champions

Sedoctave – Midwest Champion
Ball State University, Muncie, IN

a cappella, Muncie, Indiana, Ball State, BSU, singing, ICCA, Midwest, Champions

The Trills – Mid-Atlantic Champions
Towson University, Towson, MD

a cappella, Towson, singing, Maryland, collegiate, ICCA, Mid-Atlantic, Champions, beatboxer, arranger

ICHSA 2019 Finals Preview

On April 26, this year’s top nine high school a cappella groups will take the stage at The Town Hall in New York City.

If someone told us ten years ago just how great high school a cappella would be now, we would have never believed them. But now, a seat in the house at this competition is likely to be one of the best shows you’ll see all year.

A few tickets remain, so make sure you get yours now.

Here’s a sneak peek at this year’s finalists:

PFC – Southwest Champion
MacArthur High School, San Antonio, TX

a cappella, ICHSA, PFC, Panic at the Disco, music video, singing, San Antonio, TX, Texas

The Thursdays – Northeast Champions
Chelmsford High School, Chelmsford, MA

a cappella, ICHSA, Thursdays, Chelmsford, MA, Massachusetts, high school, singing

InToneNation – South Champions
New Manchester High School, Douglasville, GA

a cappella, InToneNation, high school, ICHSA, singing, competition, Georgia

Highlands Voices – Mid-Atlantic Champions
Northern Highlands Regional High School, Allendale, NJ

a cappella, ICHSA, live music, singing, Highlands Voice, Pitch Slapped, a capella, New Jersey, NJ

Skyline Blues – Great Lakes Champions
Skyline High School, Ann Arbor, MI

Skyline Blues - 2018 ICHSA Set

Knight Club – Midwest Finalist
Oak Creek High School, Oak Creek, WI

a cappella, Knight Song, ICHSA, competition, high school, singing

Free to Breathe – West Champions
Sunset High School, Portland, OR

a cappella, ICHSA, singing, Oregon, Portland, high school, a capella

Madison Avenue – Wild Card Finalist
James Madison High School, San Antonio, TX

a cappella, ICHSA, singing, high school, San Antonio, TX, Texas, Wild Card, a capella

Evolve – Wild Card Finalist
Chesapeake High School, Pasadena, MD

a cappella, ICHSA, Evolve, Maryland, Chesapeake, singing, high school, a capella

Iris Tops The #AcaOpen

In a night of a cappella grandeur, brand-new New York City trio, Iris, tipped the scales in their favor. With masterful arranging and rhythm section work from Andrew John Kim, paired with the incredible vocals of Dara Orland and David Rowen, the halls of Carnegie were ringing with the sounds of just three voices.

Iris takes classic songs and presents them with a modern twist, bringing at once a feeling of nostalgia and a strong urge to groove. Vocals were delivered with near perfection in strong emotional arcs throughout their four-song set.  Iris kicked things off with Summertime with a simple and strong entrance that built over time. They upped the complexity with Blackbird with a natural call and response feel backing up strong solos, before moving into a breathtaking rendition of Bridge Over Trouble Water. They closed out their set with a powerful, upbeat take on Favorite Things. Kim’s beatbass was clean throughout, and he seamlessly transitioned in and out of harmony, as Rowan and Orland effortlessly captivated the audience.

But, of course, with ten of the world’s best groups on an iconic stage, there were so many more highlights throughout the night. Since there was a strict ban on any audio, video, or photos during the show, we’ll try to recreate the best parts of experience for you through storytelling.

Supergroup HIVE didn’t waste anytime bringing us spinetingling harmonies – with a mix of stellar original music and unique covers, these ladies were all sparkle. And that’s before you take their fabulous glitter attire into consideration. Whether it was the multitalented Courtney Jenson flipping between soft singing and room rattling percussion, the soulful warm tones from Lisa Forkish and Nina Kasuya, the angel-like sounds from Christina Wilson, or the stage commanding presence of Moorea Dickason, it was impossible to know where to focus – in the best way possible. (Side note – Nina, can I have your sequin cape? Pretty please?)

COLLAB took the stage next and used their strong collegiate presence to their advantage. Everything about their presentation was enjoyable – fluid movement, strong solos, and a smattering of show-stopping chords. Sara Gilbert was recognized for her efforts in leading the group’s visual presentation with the award for Outstanding Choreography.

We traveled across the pond for group three, as London-based VoCollective took the stage. The group utilized the strength of their rhythm section and offered great highlights of power singing with the female trio.  Add in a little sass and some dance moves and you had the audience coming alive and ready to sing and dance.

ICCA Finalist and Virtual Champion, RISE, stepped up the party vibe with confident soloists, a stable of talent, and a stirring rendition of Andra Day’s Rise Up. The group skillfully used key changes to amp up the emotional delivery and looked remarkably polished for a college group just getting into a new school year. The reaction from the audience was visibly positive, as they earned the first standing ovation of the evening.

Next up, we were treated to an encore competition set from ICHSA Champions, Legacy. A final performance for the 2017-2018 group, these talented young singers did not disappoint. The energy in the hall skyrocketed as these eight teenagers took the stage like seasoned professionals with a youthful exuberance. Proving they are more than just bubblegum pop, they sang one of my favorite ballads of the night in a cover of “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” which they delivered with an emotional maturity well beyond their years. Their performance landed them in a respectable fourth place overall and number one in a lot of the audience’s hearts. Only two years into their creation, we can’t help but look forward to all the great things still to come from Legacy.

Third place finisher LUXE closed out the first half of the show with clean deliveries, a smart rhythm section, and very strategic use of the individual talents in the group. Another brand-new group with a history of success in ICHSA and ICCA, LUXE successfully engaged the audience and looked very much at home on the big stage.

Back from Intermission, the second half of the show kicked off with a bang, brought by none other than five-time ICCA Champions, The SoCal VoCals. Carnegie Hall was treated to an encore reprise of the incredible set that captured them the ICCA Championship at Beacon Theatre in April, delivered with the flair and precision we’ve come to expect from this group. More excellent solos, with a special Outstanding Solo nod to Kaylah Baker, it’s possible that their performance of Pure Imagination was their best yet, and their dance moves are simply unparalleled. The group went home with a very strong second place prize.

Reigning Harmony Sweepstakes National Champions and Bay Area favorites Business Casual had the tough draw of following the ICCA legends, but did so with such confidence and engagement, that they were one of my favorite acts of the night. This group knows how to win over an audience and they presented a very clear sense of identity in their performance. Each member of the group looked so natural on stage and brought a fantastic performance – but let me tell you how much I could sit and watch Cassie Greene all day. She epitomizes what I want as an audience member – calm but commanding presence, smooth vocals, and never a doubt that she is enjoying every second of her time on stage.

Iris’ performance was next, just before the final competing group of the evening, Ember. This septet out of Baltimore brought an all-original set that showed real talent in songwriting from Alyce (Lisa) McNulty, Hansel Romero, and Erik Fredriksen. A little bit of big stage nerves were evident at the start of their performance, but they quickly settled in and delivered a wide range of moods and incredible artistry throughout their very eclectic and unique set.

With the competition over and the judges hard at work, the audience got to sit back and enjoy last year’s champions, Women of the World. A superlative performance, as always, and full of demands for audience participation.

With small groups now on a winning streak, it will be interesting to see the growth of the AcaOpen moving forward. Is less more? Is professional a cappella embracing simplicity? But most importantly, what will the talent in our community come up with next?

Tune into #TheSpotlight to hear some singing and interviews with finalists, including a full performance of the finals set from 2018 AcaOpen Champions, Iris.

 

 

The Open Approaches

The week of #AcaOpen is here and we’re gearing up for an incredible weekend in a cappella. The Finalists will fill Carnegie Hall on Saturday, September 22nd with the sweet sounds of a cappella and one will walk away with the $25,000 prize.

Tickets are still available – See the action in person.

We’ll be catching up with all of the finalists in NYC, but here’s a preview:

Wild Card: Business Casual
San Mateo, CA

Current National Harmony Sweepstakes Champions and certainly a force to be reckoned with. With a deep repertoire of originals and unique covers, their sense of brand is as strong as their stage game.

Wild Card: COLLAB
Los Angeles, CA

Bringing together performers from UCLA and CSUN these 13 singers were inspired by the first year of the Open to give it a shot themselves. They earned a shot at the Wild Card after placing second to HIVE – we think the talent pool in California runs deep.

Northeast Champion: Ember
Baltimore, MD

What do you get when you pull from a top notch collegiate group and students at Peabody Conservatory and THEN add some handpick specialty talent? Oh, and then debut a full set of stellar originals? The hottest thing to come out of Baltimore since Old Bay.

West Champion: HIVE
Los Angeles, CA

Five superstar voices. Personality for days. If you’re in the audience live, you might just catch the talent that spills out of them on stage.

New England Champion: Iris
New York, NY

Only three members and first performed as Iris on the semifinal stage at Berklee College of Music and they walked away the winner and also took home Outstanding Arrangement and Outstanding Vocal Percussion. So new that there’s no trace of them online – this may be the very best kind of a cappella witchcraft.

2018 ICHSA Champion: Legacy
Los Angeles, CA

Founder Rob Dietz taps into to some serious scholastic talent with this high school community group. This will be the group’s second appearance in the Open, representing Southern California in last year’s inaugural event.

Midwest Champion: LUXE
Columbus & Dayton, OH

Another new group – this one full of  ICHSA and ICCA all-stars, many of whom are already making huge strides as young and rising pop stars. Can they use their former success to guide them to the big prize?

Virtual Champion: RISE
Arlington, TX

After taking 4th place in the ICCA Finals, RISE will return for another shot at the top. They make their own rules and they are clearly ready for more.

2018 ICCA Champion: The SoCal VoCals
Los Angeles, CA

5-time International Champions and a legacy in the ICCA. Will this collegiate magic win at a new level? We don’t expect the audience to stay in their seats, that’s for sur

International Champion: VoCollective
London, UK

This sextet is just getting warmed up. Largely unknown outside of the UK – making their US debut on none other than Carnegie Hall feels like a good start.

AcaOpen Competition Countdown Special

There are TWO Varsity Vocals AcaOpen semifinals this weekend! Coming up, there’s a two-hour Competition Countdown special edition featuring groups taking the stage!

On July 16th at 8pm East/5pm West, hear from Echo, TONEWALL, Impromptu, Reverb, Zero to Sixty, and Due North! (We’ll rebroadcast it on semifinal day, July 21st, at 9am & 9pm East/6am & 6pm West.)