HomeBlogsaquilinum's blogLet Me Tell You 'bout My SoJam: An Outsider's Perspective

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`Let me tell you 'bout my SoJam.

Wait; let me backtrack.  Let me tell you 'bout my prior experience with and exposure to a cappella: virtually none.  A good friend of mine has been quite involved with everything a cappella for most of the past decade, and I'd occasionally hear fun tracks and think, "Oh, neat.  It's cool that some people are this in touch with their voices."  But this lack of any substantial exposure to contemporary a cappella led me to think of the genre as being one of two things: barbershop -- phasing out of cultural relevance but still certainly quirky, fun, and a good fulcrum for nostalgia (see: poignant scene in the movie “Philadelphia”), OR collegiate groups covering (already successful in the) mainstream music, just because they could.

Fast forward to 2011.  My friend, Steve, is currently the CASA treasurer or something similarly highfalutin.  Over the last several months, he's been the conduit for my increased exposure to recorded a cappella, and I had the opportunity to attend my very first (rooftop!) live show.  But I still thought of it in terms of this fun, musical adventure that was simply closed off to a select group of people who had gotten involved young enough and all seemed to know each other (or at least of each other).

Through a relatively last-minute series of decisions, I decided to head up to North Carolina the weekend of SoJam.  I already had plans to visit a friend in Charlotte, and how much farther could Durham be (ha! Whoops – 3 hours)?  Less than three days away, I wasn't even sure which night's concert I would be attending.  I ended up buying a ticket to Saturday's professional showcase.

AND LET ME TELL YOU: Holy crap.  This is where telling the tale gets truly tricky, and no amount of alliteration alleviates the addled brain.

Even as I was mulling around in the lobby, surrounded by excited SoJammers milling around with Convention Look on their faces (I know it well from Latin conventions, but that's another story), I started to realize that this was more than barbershop, and this was more than girls in their late teens just trying to sound like a home-cooked pop star.  Something sinister and awesome clearly lurked.

The house doors opened, a mad rush to obtain good seats ensued, and the pre-show music came on.  I remember thinking to myself, "Everybody's singing or humming along to Beyonce, and they're in TUNE?  What kind of an audience IS this?"

AND THEN THE SHOW BEGAN, AND MY MIND WAS BLOWN.  I could describe to you the miracle that was the Boxettes -- or no, I could try to describe it to you -- but every single person who was in that audience knows they will never be able to convey what the experience was actually like.  According to the Oxford English Language Dictionary, there are almost 45,000 adjectives in the English language (not including PoundFaceMelt, which seems to be as valid as any) -- but none of them really suffice.  For years I've said I wasn't really into live music (gasp!), but after my seven hour drive to get there, the Boxettes proved me wrong.  They jiggled my veins more than anything presented to me on a stage ever has.

Naturally 7 absolutely melted down whatever was left of the house, trickling the audience members down into little pulpy bits of post-human, seeping into the Carolina Theatre's chairs and forever staining the carpet with sheer Musical Glory of Gloriousness.

So you could say it was a good show.

What struck me in the daze afterward, lurking around the lobby and absorbing everybody else's a cappellaness, was that without this exposure I never really would have GOTTEN it.  I could have lived another 27 years blissfully living in ignorance of what makes human voices the most incredible evolutionary oddity ever.  Aside from maybe platypuses.  But I digress.

Events like SoJam -- and the availability of them to people who may not yet be actively involved in the world of a cappella -- seem crucial to me if those involved in CASA or other groups truly want to spread not only the word but the FEELING, that deep understanding, of why singers (and vocal percussionists!) get involved with the artform in the first place. 

Please, don't limit your discussions and invitations to those you already know will dig what you do.  Go, find people like me who have some sort of rudimentary appreciation for voice, and pull us in.  You may trap us forever, but there's no place we'd rather be.

About the author:
Tessa Voget is an American born to Brazilian parents.  Her first language was German, her best language is English, and her favorite language is generally censored.  You may find her working at a luxury hotel in Atlanta, GA -- or on Twitter or even Livejournal, posting as Aquilinum.  She accepts payment for writing in the form of cranberries, chocolate, and tickets to the zoo.



You would find the same experience (but a lot bigger) at the International Convention of the Barbershop Harmony Society, where seven to ten thousand people gather every year to hear the top quartets and choruses compete for the championship.

The award winning film American Harmony will give you an idea of what the quartet contest is like, and why we do what we do:


The Boxettes - Neo Can't Find the Words

Tessa, I think you'll lke this.  Maybe you were in the audience when The Boxettes did a workshop with the Florida State AcaBelles?  That's when this happened:
 Neo Can't Find the Words ~ The Boxettes at SoJam 2011 - YouTube

Joan Hare


I only wish I had been there!  Oh, man, SO happy to see that clip. Funtimes.  Thank you so much for sharing it with me!


Reposting all over in 3... 2... :)

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