A capella competition comes to RPI’s campus

THE ALL GIRLS CHOIR, SERENDIPITY, GRACE the stage at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center.

As the lights dimmed, the audience grew quiet, and I got ready to take fastidious notes on my laptop. Now, considering that there were nine groups—10 if you count the guest performers—at the Northeast International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, it would be thoroughly impossible for me to review all of them in detail without boring everyone; in any case, I’m not an a cappella connoisseur, so there’s no need for me to go into extreme detail. As such, I will be reviewing the sets that I found to have the most entertainment value and glossing over the others.

Serendipity, University at Albany: The first of two all-female groups, their set consisted of“Settle Down” by Kimbra, “Only Time” by Enya, and “Fallin’” by Alicia Keys, mixed a bit with “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”

Overall: this group had a solid swagger and nice feminine touch, and I can definitely see where they’re drawing influence from Beyonce, in both visual and vocal style.

Absolut A Cappella, SUNY New Paltz: Their outfits were coordinated in purple and black. As they walked in, they spread out over stage and started their first song, “Testify To Love” by Avalon. It started out with the softest of notes, with chilling, expressive movements. As they moved into square formation, their voices grew stronger in a beautiful harmony with no solo.

Later, a male solo did break out of the group, as they moved onto their second song, “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon. I felt that their rendition of the song really reflected the original well. They made vigorous use of the stage, moving about and making formations of different sizes.

Their next song was “Breakeven” by The Script. It was loud and passionate, but, at the same time, I thought it wasn’t as emotionally expressive as the original; the solo used volume, but didn’t have emotional sharp hits on the loudest note of the chorus, at “what am I supposed to do?” While it was certainly riveting, especially combined with wonderful choreography, at the same time I felt that the solo’s voice didn’t allow for very flawless harmonizing.

For their final song, they performed “Cosmic Love” by Florence + the Machine. It was a nice take on the band’s style, and I really felt their choreography truly expressed their understanding of the emotion in the music—they even made heartbeat movements to match with the sounds from the song. They reflected artistic expression in a fantastic combination of not only the solo and group voice, but visual presence as well. The solo ended on a high note, and everyone fell as the heartbeat from the song stopped.

Overall: they were beast, hands down. Amazing stage presence, coordination, and vocal performance. I felt like it was straight out of a movie (ahem, Pitch Perfect).

Rensselyrics, RPI: Their set consisted of “Stacy’s Mom” by Fountains of Wayne, “Blue Ocean Floor” by Justin Timberlake, and “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child.

Overall: they had nice touches of humor and an invariably smooth solo for “Blue Ocean Floor”, but sometimes sounded rather immature.

Hooked on Tonics, SUNY Oneonta: Their set consisted of “Under The Bridge” by Red Hot Chili Peppers and “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” by Boyz II Men. Their last composition was a Daft Punk medley featuring songs such as “Higher, Better, Faster, Stronger”, “One More Time”, “Get Lucky”, and “Digital Love.”

Overall: it was a solid performance with various unique qualities that were thrown into the mix. Thoroughly enjoyable. I’d just like to point out that their name is the bomb dot com, just like Hooked on Phonics.

Partial Credit, RPI: Their set consisted of “Bottom Of The River” by Delta Rae, “Eat That Up It’s Good For You” by Two Door Cinema Club, and “Moon River” as performed by Audrey Hepburn.

Overall: I thought that this group’s song choices were spectacular. Even though the vocal and visual performances were a little rough around the edges, they really captured and portrayed the emotions of each song accurately.

The Girls Next Door, The College of Saint Rose: The second of two all-female groups, The Girls Next Door were clad in diverse black-and-white outfits that managed to look coordinated despite the variety. After entering, the group stood in a picture pose with two members sitting on the floor. Their first song was “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen. It had a slow start with a solo, before breaking out the beats. Like Absolut A Cappella, they commanded an excellent use of the stage, moving around in varying formations with awareness of the stage size, and they certainly had a large stage presence. The solo was fantastic: she was facially expressive with energetic and expressive moves, high kicks, and full of confidence. The group choreography was equally intense, with spins and squats in the mix. At one point the beatboxer broke out of formation, and her movements as she performed were interesting to watch. At certain points, they even paired up to do moves, like the bernie. They also performed “Winter Song” by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson in a duet, and “Fly” by Nicki Minaj, with two rappers who were actually pretty good and reminiscent of Minaj.

Overall: everything came across as very practiced, smooth, and confident. Even the messier parts seemed like organized chaos. They were movie-like, as with Absolut A Cappella. Truly something that can be considered a performance.

The Other Guys, The College of Saint Rose: They started “Stutter” by Marianas Trench with an intense clap and stomp beat that was extremely energetic, and a solo with that naturally hoarse kind of voice. They also had a good command of presence and presentation, with strong, sharp movements and clean formations. The energy they possessed was the kind that only, well, a group of self-described ladies’ men could bring to the stage. As a result, it was a very fun set to watch.

They also performed a mashup of “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan and “Skin” by Rascal Flatts. The solo had a beautifully full and rich voice, though it seemed like they couldn’t really hit their lowest note—it was more rumbly than clear. The transition was seamless, and the second solo also had a great voice; they broke out of formation and multiple voices mingled, which were all very solid overall, but the solo took a breath before the ending note.

Their finishing song was “Cmon Talk” by Jarle Bernhoft. They had some very nice falsettos, and the solo felt very boy band in a way that was almost professional.

Overall: the entire set was energetic, and they had smashing voices. It could be considered vocal sex appeal, if that’s how you roll.

The Rusty Pipes, RPI: Their set consisted of “Where Are Ü Now” by Jack Ü/“Tonight” by Pitbull, “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder, and a OneRepublic medley including “Apologize”, “If I Lose Myself”, “All The Right Moves”, and “Stop and Stare.”

Overall: this was another solid set with nice voices and very level performance. I was hoping for more stage presence, but their vocal talent overwhelmingly compensated.

Pitch Please, University at Albany: Their set consisted of “Hooked On A Feeling” by Blue Swede, “Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift, and “Found A Way” by Drake Bell.

Overall: this set left a refreshing feeling. The group has a wonderful natural ability to make things upbeat, as their first two songs were significantly more energetic than the originals—in a good way.

Duly Noted, RPI’s best and only all-male a cappella group. They didn’t actually compete, but were guest performers to fill time as the adjudicators finished scoring. They had hodgepodge outfits, all wearing blazers with different solid-colored tees underneath. They performed “Animal” by Neon Trees, “Complimentary Me” by Elizabeth and the Catapult, and “Coffee” by Miguel, but their true value lay in their comedic presence. They brought water bottles on stage. Go them. And then… they performed “Robots” by Flight of the Concords—a fun song about robots taking over the world when humans are dead—“Hey Laura” by Gregory Porter, and “I Want It All” by Queen.

They also sang “Shia LaBeouf” by Rob Cantor—God bless their souls—“Telegraph” by Childish Gambino, “Sleeping With The Television On” by Billy Joel, “Diner” by Martin Sexton, and “Just A Friend” by Biz Markie. They finished with “Another Irish Drinking Song” by Da Vinci’s Notebook. Throughout it all, their presentation and commentary left the crowd reeling with laughter.

Overall: though it may seem unfortunate that they were the only RPI group that didn’t make the competition, their performance convinced me otherwise. If you’re looking for a musical night of entertainment and laughter, Duly Noted is the group you’re looking for. After Duly Noted finished, awards were announced as follows.

Outstanding Choreography: The Other Guys

Outstanding Arrangement: The Rusty Pipes, Partial Credit

Outstanding Solo: Pitch Please, The Girls Next Door

ICCA Semifinalists:

3. The Other Guys

2. The Girls Next Door

1. The Rusty Pipes

All groups left the stage, and the first-place winners, The Rusty Pipes, returned for an encore. They performed “Latch” by Disclosure, which was just as beautiful as everything from their original set. Congratulations and good luck to The Rusty Pipes as they move on to the semifinals!