A capella echoes through EMPAC in ICCA Quarterfinals
Last Saturday night, Features Editor Anna Zuniga ’26 and I happened upon the Varsity Vocals International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella in the Main Concert Hall at EMPAC. As the show began, Nicole Kholweiss, ICCA’s Central Day-Of Producer, entered the stage, introducing the competition, five judges, and the MC for the night, Katherine Scoullos ’23 from the Rensselyrics.
The first group to perform was Noteworthy of Wilfrid Laurier University from Ontario, Canada. Their lyrical set featured several songs including covers of “Fix You” by Coldplay, “Creep” by Radiohead, and other popular tracks.
The next performance featured Rensselaer's very own Rusty Pipes who performed a variety of pop songs such as “my future” by Billie Eilish with unique vocal effects and rhythm. After combining music and movement into a seamless performance, they finished their ten minute set with a cover of “good 4 u” by Olivia Rodrigo.
Following the Rusty Pipes was The Musical InterDudes from the University of Waterloo based in Ontario, Canada. Using a myriad of rhythm and sound techniques, the group performed several songs which tied together into one seamless set.
Next up was one of RPI’s smaller a capella groups, Partial Credit. Despite only having eight singers, they held their own. Their power and immense musical talent was openly displayed in their set.
From the University of Albany, Pitch Please started off their set performing a cover of “Centuries” by Fall Out Boy followed by many other complementary pop songs.
Returning from intermission, the Soundbytes from Carnegie Mellon University performed an outstanding set with cohesive songs and sound effects which tied their entire set together. Their interlinking voices and exemplary soloists elevated their performance, making it quite memorable amongst their peers.
From Rochester Institute of Technology, Encore A Cappella performed their selection with choreography which effectively complimented each other. Their singers’ varying voices and movement throughout the stage drew the audience in as they moved from one song to the next.
The final group of the night was The Midnight Ramblers from the University of Rochester. Coming onstage dressed in baseball jerseys, they immediately stood out against their competitors and performed a set to match with their outstanding vocals and unique choreography moving throughout the stage.
Unfortunately, the judges were not quite ready when the Soundbytes performed after intermission, so they had to re perform their set for the judges again. Afterwards, RPI’s The Rensselyrics and Dually Noted entertained the crowd while the judges deliberated. The Rensselyrics performed covers of a few songs including “THAT’S WHAT I WANT” by Lil Nas X and “Haunting” by Halsey. Then Dually Noted came onto the stage and performed another collection of covers to finish out the night.
Finally, the individual and overall awards were presented. The prize for Outstanding Soloist was a tie between Adrian Calderon from The Midnight Ramblers for "I'm Tired/Let It Be" and Joshua Yeoum from The Soundbytes for "Vertigo." Next, Outstanding Vocal Percussion was given to Evelyn Ferwalt of The Midnight Ramblers for the entire set and Outstanding Arrangement presented to Anisha Nilakantan, Ava Badie, and Joshua Yeoum of The Soundbytes for "Vertigo." Lastly, winning Outstanding Choreography was Colin Walters, Mia Alicia Gouis, and Sofia Johnson from The Soundbytes for their entire set. Then, the overall placements were announced. The Rusty Pipes from RPI arrived in third place, one spot shy of making it to the ICCAs semifinals. Placing second was Carnegie Mellon’s SoundBytes, and finishing at the top was the University of Rochester’s Midnight Ramblers.
The top two groups of the night, the SoundBytes and The Midnight Ramblers, are now advancing to the semifinals of ICCA at the University of Buffalo on March 25. From there, the top group at the semifinals will be advancing to the finals at the town hall in New York City on April 29.