THE INTERNATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP OF COLLEGIATE

A CAPPELLA

DEAR FRIENDS,

 

Welcome to Varsity Vocals’ 23rd season! Our enthusiasm for the art of a cappella is greater than ever after almost a quarter century of presenting the best student groups on stage and in the studio.

Our tournaments have grown from a handful of events to the massive showcase they are today, featuring more than 650 groups and 9,800 singers at 87 events across North America and the United Kingdom.

Our original tournament inspired the hit movie Pitch Perfect, based on the nonfiction book documenting the true story of rival groups competing against each other in our very own ICCA. The Pitch Perfect franchise remains the highest-grossing musical series of all time.

The stories of our real ICCA competitors are also the subject on the TV docu-series Sing It On, which follows competing groups on their journey to ICCA Finals. Sing It On aired in 80 million homes on POP TV and enjoyed a long stay on Netflix.

Despite the incredible growth and mainstream popularity we’ve enjoyed, our focus remains sharply on the promotion and development of the talent that crosses our stage. We believe competition fosters growth, as groups work together toward a specific goal and cultivate lifelong friendships. 

We provide top-notch feedback from our highly qualified judges – but more importantly, our singers get to connect with a larger audience from across the country, learning from their peers and finding inspiration in other groups.

With those same goals in mind, we were thrilled to launch the International Championship of A Cappella Open two years ago. “The Open” (#AcaOpen) is an all-access a cappella tournament that brings together singers of all ages, regardless of student status, to compete on an international stage for a chance at $25,000. Its third season will kick off this summer.

We hope that over the years, The Open will encourage the growth of professional a cappella, much in the way the ICCA helped catapult competitive a cappella into the mainstream in Pitch Perfect and Sing It On, or how the development of the ICHSA contributed to the rapid growth of high school a cappella programs across the country. 

This is the biggest program extension in our long history, and we think it’s a natural one. After all, our founding goal was “to inspire young people to sing their entire lives.” If we want people to keep singing past the age of 22, well, they’re going to need a stage, right? 

We have seen a cappella make great strides from where it began on our stage 23 years ago, and we can’t wait to see where our 2019 season takes us. Committed to promoting our singers and energized by the great music they create, we look forward to another memorable season. Thank you for joining us!

Sincerely,

Amanda Newman
Executive Director

ICCA UNITED KINGDOM QUARTERFINAL

 

Birmingham City University 
Sunday, February 17, 2019

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ABOUT VARSITY VOCALS

 

Since 1996, we have encouraged students worldwide to sing a cappella throughout their lives. Our programs include the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA), the International Championship of High School A Cappella (ICHSA), and the International Championship of A Cappella Open (The Open). We also annually produce The Best of College A Cappella (BOCA) and The Best of High School A Cappella (BOHSA) compilation albums.

Our a cappella competitions give top-notch a cappella groups the opportunity to showcase their talents for an international audience and to take home valuable feedback from our qualified judges. This year, competing groups will appear in venues all around the world, offering their energetic musical performances for your enjoyment.

The college tournament takes place from January through April in nine regions across the country and around the world. Each region holds anywhere from three to five Quarterfinals, and the top groups from each Quarterfinal advance to the Semifinal. The winning group at each Semifinal is named Regional Champion and advances to the ICCA Finals in New York City.

The high school tournament is now in its 14th year and continues to grow fast. We are now holding Quarterfinal rounds in all of our regions, and the 2019 season will feature the largest high school tournament field in our history. The winners of each of seven Semifinal rounds will advance to the ICHSA Finals at The Town Hall in New York City.

The Open Tournament took place for the second time ever in summer 2018 and featured six semifinals that lead to the Open Finals featuring those six Regional Champions, two Wild Card Champions, and our 2018 ICHSA and ICCA Champions. Those 10 groups competed at Carnegie Hall in New York City this past September.

 For a full tournament schedule, visit us at 
www.varsityvocals.com.

ABOUT TONIGHT'S SHOW

 

The performance order was determined by random draw this afternoon and will be announced from stage.        

Tonight’s performers will be evaluated on elements of their vocal and visual performance, which carry numerical weight. The highest and lowest score from the individual judges will be dropped for each group. Our judges may recognize exceptional performances with special awards as they see fit.

There will be a 15-minute intermission. After the final group has performed, a guest performer will entertain you while the scores are tabulated.

Because each group only has 12 minutes to perform, we ask you to keep your applause to an enthusiastic minimum between songs. Please feel welcome to applaud as much as you want after each group has finished its set.

Videotaping and non-flash photography for personal use is permitted during the concert, so long as you do not disrupt our performers or other patrons. Due to licensing regulations, we do not provide a video or audio recording of this performance.

TONIGHT'S COMPETITORS

 

Aca-pocalypse is a mixed group from the University of Nottingham. After four years of running, they have become one of the university’s best-established groups, and have come into their stride this year. They  have busked, performed, and sung their way to the ICCA for their second year in a row. As always, every piece they perform is original and arranged by their own members, and this puts their own Nottingham green and gold twist on everything they do! They perform songs from every genre and era, and this year’s set centers on the theme of “Legacy,” which they hope to convey onstage in their performance. 

Academy is University of Bristol's only auditioned all-male identifying a cappella group. Fresh from “Sky One’s Sing: Ultimate A Cappella,” ICCA U.K. Finals 2018, Voice Fest U.K. Semifinals 2018, and from their joint Fringe show with Pitch Fight, Academy has had its most successful year yet! With an expanded group, including seven brand new members, Academy is excited for what lies ahead this season! They had a flying start with the release of their debut music video, which, as one reviewer put it, “it’s just…fun!” As a group, Academy likes to put as much energy as possible into their performances and show off their personalities. They want their audiences to experience a whole range of emotions, so they try to come up with a just as diverse a repertoire of arrangements. From powerful ballads to cheesy tunes, they always aim to put on an exciting show, which should be more fun than being in the library all day! Academy always tries to incorporate comedy into their sets, whether that through cheeky choreography or unexpected twists on popular songs. Academy strives to leave a smile on their audience’s faces at the end of each show! 

Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them is the University of Manchester’s a cappella group and part of the wider University of Manchester a cappella society. A mixed-gender group formed in October 2016, they are in their third aca-demic year and have had a lot of fun so far. They perform at various events across campus and Manchester, including a mayoral assembly, a “battle of the societies” (which they won), and an arts and media award event. Last November, they performed in Leeds at a showcase of university a cappella talent from the north of England, putting Manchester on the map! In early 2018, they made it to Semifinals of the Voice Festival U.K., and were thrilled to win awards for Outstanding Choreography, Outstanding Soloist, and to progress on to Finals. As well as creating great a cappella, Fantastic Beats and Where to Find Them has become a close group of friends. They love creating original sets that tell stories through their choreography and lyrics, and also have a passion for mash-ups!  Although they are a competitive group, none of the Fantastic Beats members study music or have music backgrounds. Their music comes purely from passion for a cappella! 

Steelworks is the premier co-ed a cappella group from Sheffield University. What began in 2014 as a small group of friends officially became Steelworks in summer 2017, when they made their competitive debut in “Sky One’s Sing: Ultimate A Cappella.” Since then, the group has remained active the current roster of Steelworks singers are ready for their first-ever ICCA competition. Along with their parent group, the non-auditioned University of Sheffield A Cappella and Beatbox Society, they perform at local venues in their home city of Sheffield. Particular favorites among Steelworks members are singing in the cathedral, the perfect stage for some Christmas songs or close-harmony tunes, or at the students' union for society balls and other events. However, none can compete with the end-of-year showcase, a ninety-minute show filled with all the new material they have learned, plus some classics! This year is an emotional one for many of the members as they gear up to complete their studies and say goodbye to Steelworks. The group’s bond is incomparable, and though the song may be ending, the melody is sure to linger on for years to come. 

Take Five is a one-per-part, five-person vocal group from the University of Nottingham. The group focuses on close harmonies and have recently have exploring more upbeat music. Having only five people means they are a super close-knit group of friends, although it means that they often have too much fun and can't stop laughing during rehearsals, tea and doughnuts in hand! They have been pushing their boundaries and held their first concert last summer. They are excited for the opportunity to develop their skills further in ICCA and meet other groups doing the same thing! 

The Bristol Suspensions is a 16-piece mixed a cappella group from the University of Bristol and just celebrated its five-year anniversary. The group has had success in the last few years, winning the Voice Festival U.K. in 2016 and placing 2nd in last year’s ICCA U.K. Final, with awards in Outstanding Vocal Percussion, Choreography, and Arrangement. Fresh from the 2019 London A Cappella Festival, ready with eight new members (and a new logo!), the group is fired up for another competitive season of a cappella. The group has enjoyed performing across the country and beyond, including four runs at the Edinburgh Fringe, a tour of the United States East Coast, and even in Wales! Stylistically, The Suspensions are renowned for their electric stage presence and incredibly high-energy performances, mixed with strong vocals and moments of comedy. This year is no different and the group is excited to make another big impact on the ICCA. 

The Guildhall Conchords is a jazz-infused a cappella ensemble formed by vocal students from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. This newly formed group is giving its debut ICCA performance this year. The Conchords’ lineup of eight female voices and one male bass voice gives the group its unique blend and sound.

The Other Guys was founded in 2004 by a group of friends who wanted to bring the American tradition of collegiate a cappella to the University town of St Andrews, and have rapidly grown into the premier all-male a cappella ensemble in Scotland. Combining the classical with the contemporary, their philosophy has always been to entertain. Formed of students from University of St. Andrews, the group performs at fashion shows, music festivals, balls, charity events, birthdays, and everything in between. Their reputation has become synonymous with great harmony, great humour, and suspect dance moves! Raising money for charity has always been central to the group’s ethos, and they have several successful charity music videos under their belts. 

The Oxford Commas, Oxford University’s hottest (TM) all-male a cappella group, has been tearing up a storm across campus and beyond since its founding five years ago. In this short space of time, the group has established a name for itself as one of the university’s most musically diverse student a cappella groups, performing contemporary pop, classical songs, and everything in-between. With termly gigs, collaboration projects, and performances at various university events, the group is constantly in-demand. The group includes undergraduate and graduate students, with areas of study ranging from music to theology to chemistry. A melting pot of different singers, the group has choristers, musical theatre stars, and pop soloists, a range that reflects in The Commas’ arrangements. The group is excited to build on its success of the past few years, which include a tour to America, a critically-acclaimed performance on Sky TV’s “Sing: Ultimate A Cappella!”, and the release of a Beyoncé and Gnarls Barkley mash-up music video in summer 2018. The Commas take pride in entertaining their audiences with new twists on known and unknown music, hoping that each time, the listener will take away a new appreciation of music and a cappella. 

In a city plagued by techno music, wavey garms, and boring choral groups, The University of Leeds’ The Songsmiths have used their experience gigging all over Yorkshire to create a unique set they can't wait to perform. Having reached ICCA Semifinals for the first time in 2018, they are ready to step up to the challenge and go all the way this year! With new faces and a brand new look, prepare to hear The Songsmiths as you've never heard them before.

TONIGHT'S JUDGES

 

Matt Chinery is an a cappella singer and recording engineer with over a decade of experience in contemporary a cappella. He sang for two years with Oxford University's Out of the Blue, and with them, finished 2nd place at the 2006 ICCA Final in New York. He also directed scratch group, Last Minute, in the 2008 BBC television series, "Last Choir Standing." He currently sings with AfterParty A Cappella, a former Shard Choir of the Year and member of the Contemporary A Cappella League (CAL). As a recording engineer, Matt's credits include one Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award (CARA) and several further nominations, a track on prestigious compilation album Sing 9, a Recorded A Cappella Review Board (RARB) Pick of 2015, and multiple tracks on U.K. Compilation, The Voice Collection. In his limited spare time, he is a lawyer. 

Before coming to The Swingle Singers in 2009, Sara Brimer Davey lived in East Tennessee and studied music education, opera, and choral studies. She participated in high school musicals, including "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," "The Music Man," and "My Fair Lady." She also attended All East and All State Choir competitions. At University, Sara traveled internationally with the ETSU Chorale as a soloist and ensemble singer, participated in operas, including "The Marriage of Figaro" (Susanna), "Dido and Aneas," and "The Pirates of Penzance" (Mabel). In 2008,  she auditioned for The Swingle Singers and joined the Grammy-winning group in 2009, touring more than 49 countries over nine and a half years. Sara recently left the group to continue singing closer to home, and currently provides backing vocals for films, including "Wonder Woman," "The Hunger Games," and "Beauty and the Beast." She also gives lessons, judges competitions, and coaches small groups around the London and Cambridge areas.

Adam Fletcher has a diverse performance history as a session musician, as a pianist, singer-guitarist, and drummer. He has performed for popular artists on U.K. and international tours, visiting countries such as France, Germany, Portugal, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, and Argentina, and performing for audiences up to 30,000 people. Adam performed twice as a pianist on  ITV’s "This Morning," and has composed and produced songs that have been played on BBC Radio 1, XFM, BBC Radio 2, Absolute Radio, BBC 6 Music, and BBC London. He has performed at notable U.K. venues and festivals, such as Glastonbury, Bestival, Isle of Wight Festival, The Olympic Park and Athlete’s Village (during the 2012 Olympics), Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elisabeth Hall, and the Barbican Concert Hall and Theatre. Adam has also performed for, collaborated with, or opened for numerous artists, including Sir Tim Rice, Eliza Doolittle, the Hofesh Shechter Dance Company, Bacchus String Quartet, Matthew Herbert, ESKA (formally of Zero 7), McFly, The Kooks, The Feeling, Gomez, and Eddie Izzard.

Midé Naike developed an avid interest in a cappella in 2012, and joined Sons of Pitches the following year as its beatboxer. Highlights over his two years with the group include performances at the Edinburgh Fringe, Paderborn (Germany) 2015, and a crazy three weeks in Hong Kong. In the U.K., they've run a number of school workshops, including his own solo beatbox masterclass. In 2015, he and the boys won BBC's The Naked Choir, which was a truly awesome experience! 

Samuel Swinnerton-Woolf grew up in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, competing as a concert pianist. He moved to the south of England in 2008 and is now a professional session musician and producer, specializing in pop music and the keytar. As a performer, Samuel has toured venues all over the world, from stadium performances across Asia to a tiny ice-shelf in Antarctica. In between mini-tours of Europe and playing gigs all over the U.K., he spends what time is left producing and arranging music for all sorts of bands and choirs. With a plethora of a cappella groups under his belt (including Out of the Blue and AfterParty A Cappella), including dozens of arrangements, choreographies, and almost a decade of performing as a bass, Samuel looks forward to seeing the incredible standard of a cappella that the next generation has to offer. 

SPECIAL THANKS

 

Varsity Vocals would like to recognize and thank our judges, hosts, competitors, volunteers, partners, and producers; and you, the audience, for supporting Varsity Vocals programming.

 

Amanda Newman
 Executive Director

Dave Rabizadeh
 ICCA Director

Andrea Poole
 ICHSA Director

Lucy Jacobs
The Open Director
 ICCA West Producer

Andrew Poole
 Director of Digital Media

Erica Tackett
 Director of Marketing & Social Strategy

Emily Flanders
Director of Adjudication
 ICCA Great Lakes Producer

Emily Sucher
 Director of Publications

Virginia DeMoss
 Album Production Coordinator

Sara Yood
Senior Producer

Helena Benthall
 ICCA United Kingdom Producer

Holli Kitching
ICCA Mid-Atlantic Producer

Lindsay Howerton-Hastings
 ICCA South Producer

Leah Alrutz
 ICCA Midwest Producer

Courtney Jensen
 ICCA Southwest Producer

Holly Hayes
 ICCA Northeast Producer

Arvin Zabalerio
ICCA Central Producer

Elise Hackl
 ICHSA Midwest & Southwest

Producer

Matt Shirer
 ICHSA West Producer

Riley McMahon
 ICHSA Great Lakes Producer

Jillian Kimberlin
 ICHSA Mid-Atlantic Producer

Evan Powers
 ICHSA South Producer

Nicole Kohlweiss
 ICHSA Northeast Producer

OUR TEAM

 

We have an amazing team of people who work tirelessly to make our programs so valuable for our singers and audiences alike — and they all do it while holding down full-time day jobs, too! 

 

The top three finishing groups advance to the ICCA United Kingdom Semifinal!

BRING THE HARMONY HOME

 

Find your favorite groups on The Best of College A Cappella (BOCA) and The Best of High School A Cappella (BOHSA), available for purchase on Apple Music and Amazon Music!

VIEW ALBUMS

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THE OPEN

 

The International Championship
of A Cappella Open

ARE YOU READY?

Carnegie Hall
 Saturday, October 5, 2019