If you’re not following the world of a capella right now, know one thing: Waterloo’s teams are the ones to look out for. The International Championship of Colligate A Capella (ICCA) Quarterfinal has been covered at length, celebrating the accomplishments and historic feats of Waterloo’s a capella community. Last year, a historic first was set by the Waterboys, the first Canadian team to win the semi-finals. This year, the University swept the competition on home terf – which is the first time the ICCA’s came north — with “In Full Colour” coming up as the quarterfinal winners. So who is this team, and what do they stand for?
Last fall a group of veteran a capella performers at Waterloo came together to innovate and challenge what traditional a capella sets look like. Among them was Yang Chen, who is now the Co-musical Director of In Full Colour.
Yang started his a capella career in first year and has since been a part of ACE, The Waterboys, and The Committee. Now, in his 4B term, he has been a member of the UWACC for 14 terms and was seeking something more. Reaching the ICCA Semifinals with The Committee was a dream come true, but faced with his impending graduation, he asks himself, what comes after?
“I had already seemingly accomplished my biggest dream, but I felt like I still wanted to do something different. One day I had a bit of a eureka moment while thinking about my experiences of being a lead in a musical when I was away on exchange in England last Winter, and my love for show choirs, which have strong storyline elements in their sets. I knew it would be challenging and something different, something I haven’t quite seen done in the competition before, and from that moment on I felt motivated and passionate to accomplish this.”
With this vision, Yang set out to bring his idea to life: create an a capella performance with an overarching storyline. He began by reaching out to the people who would eventually become his executive team. With their passion for signing and performance, together they began crafting the performance. Leeann Lu, Assistant Musical Director, talks about the process:
“Once we realized that this was real and our passion for making all these cool ideas come to life was basically on fire, we held auditions and boom! Here we are having such committed and passionate group members giving everything we have got to show you our story!”
At the time of auditions, they were called, “Once Upon a Time” fitting for the kind of performance they were creating.
“Members thought it was a bit cheesy, and it was just something temporary,” Yang admits. Once they chose founding members, they opened the floor to renaming the group and decided on “In Full Colour” because they felt it best represented them as a whole.
“It has a lot of meanings,” he explains. “We have members from all six undergraduate faculties, coming from a mix of musical and ethnic backgrounds, geographic locations, experienced and new Waterloo a cappella club members...it really just represents our diversity. It also refers to how much passion we have for the art we’re creating. Finally, it also hints a little at some of the themes of our set this year.”
“We also liked the fact that if we ever had the chance to perform in the US we would have the Canadian spelling of colour,” Erika Kolli, the General Manager, adds.
The road to this championship was not easy. The a capella season doesn’t align perfectly with the term calendar set out by the University and students are often working elsewhere for the following co-op term.
“Some of our members who are on their work term in Toronto take the time to Skype into our weekday rehearsals and travel every weekend to be here.” Erika recalls, “I remember a time when our musical director, Yang, wanted me to remind him to take a selfie at one of our rehearsals because it was one of the only ones where the entire group was there.”
For Yang, his idea challenged his abilities as an artist; from scoring and arranging harmonies and rhythms he had to become a storyteller using already existing music. “I’m not much of a writer, and I’ve definitely never tackled an a cappella project that has involved such an explicit storyline before. A huge challenge was making a story that people could relate to and connect to, and creating a set through covers of existing songs that would make sure the story actually makes sense.”
That work definitely paid off, earning them the win at competition. During the quarterfinals, however, the teams had nothing but love and excitement for each other, and found comfort as they performed on home soil.
“[It] made the day feel like it was leading up to a performance rather than a competition. I felt like there were zero thoughts of competitiveness so I was able to just focus on giving it my all while trying to be the best me that I can be,” says Leeann. “I just feel very happy and satisfied with the effort and emotion we put into our performance and I am glad people could relate and have feels for our story.”
In all, a capella at Waterloo goes beyond the awards and acclaim, and creates a spirit of community through the shared passion of music, performance, and storytelling.
Yang’s final message to campus a capella fans:
“We’re grateful for everyone’s support, and would like to thank everyone for coming to the ICCA show and supporting the arts, supporting a cappella. We’re extremely excited to be sharing our set again at semifinals, and grateful for the opportunity.
We’re also not sure yet if this group will continue next year, as it was a bit of an experiment that started this year. But with the way things are looking, we definitely hope to and will have auditions again in the fall. If you’re interested in joining us or any other group, please check out the UW A Cappella Club Facebook page to stay updated on when auditions are for any of the groups here on campus!”
Interested in hearing more from In Full Colour? Their next performance will be at the EOT on March 22 and 23 in Modern Languages (ML). Inspired to join an a capella group? Follow UWACC for information on auditions and keep an eye on In Full Colour on their road to semifinals.