HomeBlogsted.trembinski's blogMid-Atlantic 2011 ICCA Semifinal Review

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This past Friday, my alma mater group, The Binghamton Crosbys competed in the Mid-Atlantic 2011 Semifinals. I was there. I had a lot to say about what was going on. Here my thoughts. (And for those of you who want to know what these people look like, I took these photos: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2331760&id=8116712&l=5eec96c6de)

General Comments

Hosts - Dear Varsity Vocals. It's coming to a point in our relationship where I think we can be real with each other. That being said, please stop letting host groups actually be the hosts. Everyone is OK if you actually let charismatic people to host these events. Seriously, almost every time I got to one of these, the hosts are just the most awkward people I've ever seen. I still love you and will keep coming, and even probably laugh at my next host, but I just wanted to let you know: it's fine. Your pal, Ted.

VP - To be honest, if you're going to do vocal percussion, do it all the way. There are too many online resources, people you can talk to, and videos on YouTube to not have someone to become a great percussionist. Too often have I felt like I was listening to a well tuned and experienced band with a five year old on a drum set. It's a bummer. Look at The Pointercounts. These guys used a sweet whistle/buzz/perc/noise on the intro/outro of Telephone. I love non-traditional perc - it reminds me that the instrument to use is the human body, not just proper choral singing. Alternatively, both The Crosbys and Groovestand used various body percussion. In both cases, I thought they were able to create effective choreography while also adding positive percussive elements to their songs.

Potsdam's The Pointercounts

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kqeyrU6wfA

First off, if you're going to a Backstreet Boys song, please do "The Call". That is all I have to say about that.

My biggest shock/complaint/disappointment of the night came not in The Crosbys set, but right here. What happened to Jordan Davidson and his beautiful rendition of Unchained Melody? I saw him win Best Soloist two years ago for singing a song about Winnie-the-Pooh. Freaking check him out at Quarterfinals right here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1v440t0DNg#t=00h03m13s

Also, I loved the light up glasses the whole group used at the end of Telephone. Boys/groups can accessorize too. It was a small gag, but hey - the audience got a kick out of it. Unfortunately we could have done without the last refrain or two of the song.

Binghamton's The Crosbys

I don't know if I can really comment specifically on these guys' performance. For the few days leading up to ICCA's, I sat and watched them rehearse and perform and drill to the point that I could have stood up and done the choreo with them.

That being said, the climax of their second song, Retrovertigo, was my highlight of the night. Definitely one of, if not, the most out there song of the night. If you haven't seen them do this song, watch this one! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKEQn3aP2nY (Disclaimer: this is from 2009, aka that's me in the back in the maroon blazer!)

I'll be honest; this group didn't have the vocal quality and precision that some of the other competitors had that night, but it had something that not many other groups do have: the ability to captivate an impartial audience. Now you're going say "But Ted, it's the ICCA's! No one goes to the ICCA's unless they love a cappella!" Well, you're mostly wrong on that one. Most people who show up at events like this are going to support their friends and loved ones. Take for instance the two rows of people who sat behind me. One might have thought that they were just fun loving college kids who love a cappella. That could have been the case until Groovestand walked on and they all showed their true allegiance. That's fine though, because my row was there for The Crosbys. The point is, while The Crosbys were doing their set, all three of our rows were engaged throughout.

Finally, I applaud The Crosbys for their set structure. They brought comedy to their first song with the Flash Gordon mix and their Shots Shots Shots bit. Then they freaked us out with their mood song. Finally they left the audience with a patty-cake and marching band. This arch is something that not everyone thinks about. Think about it!

Syracuse's Groovestand

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er7TCV2Yg1U

Saw these guys at Quarterfinals this year too. Again, I thought the background syllables in Uncharted were actually pretty effective. Bing!

I really like this groups soloists, blocking, and commitment to what their doing on their second song. That's what you need for a stomp circle. I thought it looked really great from the balcony.

My one complaint for this group, and where I think they went all wrong is on their closer. Their Empire State of Mind should have never transferred from the beautiful ballad they were going on to a weird rap. Outstanding Soloist of the night, Hannah Corneau, should have been shining the whole song. The lesson here is: If you do something well, keep doing it.

Penn State's None of the Above

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdpRxMQEqQM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sq-qRfccuKc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StdoKoxSFLY

I have some serious issues here. I have a sneaking suspicion that these kids all are in their college's choral program, or had super strong high school choral programs. They had some of the strongest, cleanest ringing cutoffs of the whole night. Based on the way they danced and dressed, I bet these kids watch Glee together each and every week. Why is this bad you ask? In my opinion a set like this is the invisible killer of what can help a cappella thrive.

Song Choice - Firework and Take On Me? I guess my real problem here is that not only are these (expletive removed) songs, but you didn't change them at all. At least Home/Streets Have No Name brings some of a new voice to the material.

Soloists - It's OK to work your soloists as hard as you work your sound. It's also OK to use your best soloists for competition. I'm sorry to say it, but the bridge to the end of Take on Me was just such an amazing group performance, but your soloist did not match it at all. Instead of doing a tune like that, you guys could have killed a slow group ballad and empahsized your choral strengths.

RPI's The Rusty Pipes

Contrast makes the song. Contrast between songs, contrast within songs. All ICCA sets (should) have it. I unfortunately didn't write down which song it was, but one of their songs just made me want to fast forward. There was no textural or dynamic contrast in the arrangement, and thus no chance of me not falling asleep. To further the problem, black and red - no longer a good competition outfit.

Buffalo's The Chips

These had killer intensity, pitch and accuracy on the intros and verses of their first song, Grenade. Unfortunately, when they his the chorus and the bridge, we found out that the group was already cranked up to 10, and it got no bigger. Only if the group worked the song to their advantage. Personally, I think they needed to step back at the end of the day, and made some big stylistic decisions. I suggested to the girl I was sitting next to that they should have done the whole thing in minor, running with the spooky and sorrowful atmosphere they were so effectively creating so well. That way instead of disappointing your audience when you hit the chorus, you keep them enthused and run with it.

Overall, I thought the Chips played it safe. Their choreography was simple and traditional. Their song choices did not blow me away. To their point though, I thought their last number really showed some of the contrast I complained the Rusty Pipes did not. Still, I agree with famous pop culture internet celebrity, Alex Rabinowitz, when he tweets "The Chips (who won) had the cleanest set technically but were the least entertaining" (http://twitter.com/#!/alexrab/status/52406469907329025)

Rider's Vocalmotion

These kids kind of blew my mind in a weird way. Definitely an ICCA power group in my mind. With only 9 people, I definitely thought this was one of the most tight sounding groups of the night. I was not surprised that they are a first year group, as they seem to actually know who they are and what they want to be (often the biggest missing piece in collegiate a cappella).

They started out with what seemed to me like a traditional African song. Definitely reminded me of when Noteworthy did Ergen Deda (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kny7QT-A7vQ). I think it's a big risk doing something like that, and I of course measured it up to the wonderful performance Noteworthy gave in 2007.

Somehow, what had to be nine or ten minutes later, the group had sung (at least part of) six more songs, including "You Give Love a Bad Name" and "Don't Stop Me Now". Think a commercial for NOW 37 or for the latest Glee compilation. These kids sound and look good and are totally ready for mass consumption.

On a more serious note, I really enjoyed this groups performance of "If I was a Boy". They had the opportunity to have an amazing and genuine a cappella moment with a giant group pause, but the soloist botched the entrance. I'd really like to see her get another chance - I still got chills from it. I really wouldn't mind seeing what this group could do with a wildcard to the finals.

A final note on this group, I can't be 100% sure, (well I could with a small amount of Google foot work, but I'm super lazy today) but I'm pretty sure one of the boys from this group was the same boy from Men of Note from NBC's hit show, The Sing Off.

Potsdam's The Pitches

Their first two songs were solid. Solid soloist, solid background parts, good decent choreo. That being said, nothing that blew my mind - pretty safe stuff.

That being said, their third song got pretty interesting. It was a cross between If I Were a Boy and You Oughta Know. Personally, the soloist of You Oughta know was one of if not my favorite of the night. I thought she did really great. Thaaaat being said, I didn't love their arrangement. It felt pretty cut and pasted together. I don't really get why it went from one to the other or what the deal there was. Oh well, still thought they did an overall decent job.

Rutger's Casual Harmony

These guys were the hosts - and I just wanted to give them a shout out. When seen back to back with the competitors, all I could think was "wow, these boys do seem casual." Honestly though, they had a great sound, and some stellar soloists. I always love when all the groups who performed in the night are singing a long with the host group while the judges deliberated - this evening was no different. Instead of killing the vibe of the evening, these guys pumped it up and carried it through to the moment of truth.

Final Comments

Here's how the judges saw it:

1st: SUNY-Buffalo Buffalo Chips (389 points)

2nd: Rider University Vocalmotion (368 points)

3rd: Potsdam University Pitches (308 points)

All things considered, this is the ICCA's and I get it. Technical performance is awarded the most points in the rubric, and I suppose technically the Chips were the winners. Personally though, most of my favorite moments in (collegiate) a cappella have been when groups make statements. I just would hate to see the whole of the ICCA's turn into groups doing all the same Billboard hits of today in the same style. I would love to see big risks rewarded more heavily. Specifically, I really was into Vocalmotion.

The bottom line though is that every year the ICCA events I've attended have gotten more and more competitive. The Quarterfinals of today are the Semifinals of yesterday. All the groups who performed the other night were stellar and should have walked away from the event proud. I keep telling people, "It wasn't who was good and who was bad, it was about who was good and who was even better." I'm really looking forward to finals this year!

*Note: anything critical I've said about these groups is only because I love a cappella as an art form and would like nothing more than to see it keep growing and expanding. If you disagree with anything you've read, I'd love to talk about it and convince you I'm right.

Comments

hello

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cadeaubon , fotoservice , massive verlichting , digitale televisie

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