Lights, camera, harmonize

The lights blind you, the crowd grows silent and months of preparation are all on the line. There are no instruments to drown out potential mistakes. Despite the pressure, UWaterloo's a cappella teams sang their way to international victory

A large acapella team performs on stage

Photo by Matthew Leandres

Last month, ​UWaterloo had four a cappella teams compete internationally: the Unaccompanied Minors, the AcaBellas, the Water Boys and the Committee. The first three groups competed at the annual International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) quarterfinals in Ithaca and Rochester, New York. This is the competition that the famed Pitch Perfect is based on. The movie displays a rookie a cappella group who climbs to the top, much like UWaterloo did last month.

At their first time competing, the AcaBella’s were the first core UWaterloo a cappella group to place at ICCA. In the ICCA quarterfinals, the all-female AcaBellas placed third in their category with renditions of Britney Spears' "Oops I Did It Again" and Drake's "Hotling Bling". 

A lot of our members weren't even nervous on stage,” says Leona De Souza, a fourth-year Science and Business student and member of The AcaBellas. “We weren't hanging our hopes on placing or winning an award. We just wanted to put on a performance that we would never forget, and that's what we ended up doing.

AcaBellas

The Committee meanwhile placed second out of nine teams at their Central Area quarterfinals. The group's set included renditions of Amber Run's "I Found" and Janet Jackson’s "Rhythm Nation", both of which will be performed at the semi-finals. This co-ed team, along with the other top eight teams of the 39 that competed in the collective Central Region Quarterfinals, will move to the semi-finals in Buffalo on April 2. 

The Water Boys started singing as a ensemble in 2008 and first travelled to the United States back in 2011. Since then, student interest in a cappella has exploded and Waterloo groups have performed on both the Canadian and international stage

A cappella isn't just about singing, as Yang Chen, chair of UW A Cappella Club and musical director for the Committee, explains.

Once the arrangement is done, the group can start rehearsing,” says the third year System Design Engineering student. “We first learn the music vocally, making sure everyone sings the correct rhythms and pitches, and has a unified sound with dynamic contrast. We then add in the choreography when the music is stable.

A cappella isn't just about competition either. Its also about have fun with your peers and soon-to-be besties:

Singing beautiful, emotional harmonies and doing cool choreography together is a big escape from the usual stress of school and life. It is also lots fun and rewarding in itself; however, the true rewards come from making music with new best friends and feeling that special connection with your fellow aca-peeps.

 

Students have to have commitment and talent in order to do a cappella and keep up with trends in the field:

UWACC

A lot of members in our club are very creative with interpreting well-known songs. We like to learn from what other collegiate a cappella groups are doing, adapting and innovating.

 

Students can come out and enjoy the a cappella at the club's end-of-term show March 18-19 in Hagey Hall. Stay up to date with events and opportunities with UWaterloo a cappella! 

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