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

 

University of Exeter
Sunday, February 3, 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

 

The Acappellads is an all-male a cappella group from Cardiff University. They love to sing music from a wide range of artists and genres and are passionate about bringing energy and fun to every performance. Being from Wales, The Lads feel a strong connection to Pinocchio, who was also eaten by a whale. As legend tells us, when Pinocchio tells a lie, his nose grows, and that principle suggests that one’s nose would grow should they sing the wrong note. It is not a coincidence that all of The Lads have normal sized noses. Formed in 2013, The Lads have mainly performed locally in and around South Wales, with performances for the University and fight nights. However, it was eventually time to show off their enthusiasm and passion to the wider community, with what the group refers to as showing “Welsh choir singers turned to the dark side.” They have performed in showcases such as the world-famous Best of South West, and performed several successful sets in various Cardiff venues. 

Aquapella is back at the ICCA with fresh music, styling, and focus. Following the group’s 2017 ICCA U.K. Semifinal win, they embarked on their first U.K. tour, “I Wouldn’t Be,” working in support of the mental health charity, Mind. The group was overwhelmed by the response to this show, and are proud to continue their association with Mind this coming year. Aquapella is currently recording its first full length album, and cannot wait to debut some of those tracks on the ICCA stage tonight. 

The Decibelles is an all-female, sassy, green, and glittery 14-member university group hailing from across the bridge in Cardiff. Performing repertoire arranged by group members at multiple charity and university events, they have diverse music tastes, primarily consisting of songs originally conceived and performed by strong female artists, from Little Mix to MILCK and Peggy Lee to Aurora. They aim to have fun and bring a touch of sass, sensitivity, and power to their performances as lean, green, fighting machine queens! 

Illuminations is the University of Exeter's only mixed contemporary a cappella group, and is known for its “Sound of Silence” and Genghis Khan/Sugar music videos. You may have seen them on “Sky 1's Sing: Ultimate A Cappella,” the Edinburgh Fringe, at previous ICCA Semifinals in London, or in any one of their other efforts to (try to) claim celebrity status on campus. This year, they've ditched the orange braces and sashes, but they're brighter than ever (sorry) and ready to fight it out in this year's ICCA. 

Pitch Fight is the University of Bristol’s only auditioned all-female-identifying a cappella group, and self-proclaimed sassiest group in Bristol. Now in its fourth year of existence, Pitch Fight has paved its way into the a cappella world, singing at private functions, collaborating with various U.K. a cappella groups, and taking home awards. Fresh from their debut Edinburgh Fringe show, this 14-piece group is thrilled to return to the ICCA and show off some of its brilliant new talent. Fiercely feminist, Pitch Fight has performed for numerous women's rights events, appearing with Dr. Helen Pankhurst, singing at Bristol Women’s Voice’s International Women's Day event, and supporting One25’s annual celebration. Pitch Fight was also proud to open for Clickendales' annual fundraiser show at the sold-out O2 Academy. Dressed appropriately in purple, the colour of imperial Rome, Pitch Fight works tirelessly to pair tight harmonies with their award-winning choreography. They work hard to empower one another, welcoming the unique vocal backgrounds of each singer and celebrating the wide array of styles within the group. Pitch Fight spent its first three years establishing a place in the U.K. a cappella scene, and they’re ready to take this year by storm. 

Semi-Toned is the University of Exeter’s all male a cappella sensation. The boys in burgundy make up one of the U.K.’s leading a cappella groups, having been crowned champions of BBC2’s “The Choir” with Gareth Malone, and finalists of “Sing: Ultimate A Cappella” on Sky 1. This nine-man group is renowned for its international tours, award-winning Edinburgh fringe shows, and music videos. One of their videos, “Rich Man,” made the front page of Buzzfeed in 2015 and has amassed over 130,000 views on YouTube. They are renowned for their unique combination of slick choreography, tight harmonies, and entertaining humour. 

Sweet Nothings is the University of Exeter’s oldest all-female a cappella group. They’ve been around for 12 years, meaning they came into being in the same year as Twitter. Unlike the latter, Sweet Nothings is still popular with today’s youth, and keeps busy performing up and down the country, at Edinburgh Fringe, and in music videos, much to the approval of their hysterical fans. This year, Sweet Nothings welcomed a record-breaking 10 new members, meaning the committee has had an absolute field day introducing them to the ins-and-outs, the dums-and-dos and the doo-wup-shawaddywaddys of U.K. a cappella. The group leans towards pop tunes with unexpected drops and rogue touches of choral brilliance, favouring crop-top and flare combos over bowties and boater hats. They aim to make a cappella cool again, and, following the wake of the “Pitch Perfect” franchise, they can report that the goal has not yet been achieved. Sweet Nothings approach this season with over a decade of experience under their collective belts, and some fresh new talent to tear up the competition. If Harry Potter can defeat the basilisk in the Chamber of Secrets at age 12, surely there’s nothing that Sweet Nothings can’t do now. 

Having burst onto the a cappella scene in 2013, The Bluebelles is one of Exeter University’s two all-female a cappella groups, and they have gone from strength to strength in recent years! They are known for rocking double denim and red lipstick like no one else, and for their jazzy remixes of modern tunes. They sing a wide repertoire of music, ranging from swing to pop and even Spanish rap. Their 2017 music video, “The Sound of Musicals,” features 37 musicals in six minutes, and went viral with over half a million views in 36 hours on the Facebook page, Theatre Nerds. In the summer of 2018, the girls released their debut EP, Double Denim. The Bluebelles have competed in ICCA Quarterfinals several times, the Voice Fest U.K. Semifinals, and have had four successful sell-out runs at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, for which they received five-star reviews. Last September, they recruited several new members who quickly became part of the close-knit Bluebelles family. The girls have lots of exciting things planned this year, including another music video and another summer Fringe show. The Bluebelles pride themselves on their close harmonies, dynamic choreography and fun, friendly nature. 

As Imperial College London’s first all-female a cappella group, The Imperielles are known for their refreshing contemporary sound, innovative mashups, and engaging stage presence. From Ariana Grande to Mumford and Sons and even some classic Disney tunes, they’ve brought a wide range of songs and artists to the instrument-free stage. They are always open to experimenting with different sounds and bigger and better ways of presenting their sets, so you can always expect polished and exciting performances when they’ve got their iconic royal blue on. Of course, the full Elles experience goes beyond just learning music. As close friends on and offstage, they always prioritize enjoying the performance together and sharing that enjoyment with the audience as well. 

Vox is a fun and exuberant mixed group of 14 friends from Cardiff University, averaging around 19 years old. Formed in 2014, the group has gone from strength to strength each year. The group’s members come from very different walks of life, but are all brought together through a cappella. Many of them get involved arranging pieces for the group, creating a diverse repertoire, ranging from Stevie Wonder to Coldplay. They’ve had several new members this year and are really excited to show off their fresh new sound. Watch out for their power chords, smooth choreography and vibrant purple attire!

TONIGHT'S JUDGES

 

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! 

At Imperial College London, Peter Noden was a member of The Techtonics and helped them claim the title of ICCA Champions in 2016, the first non-U.S. group to do so in the competition's history. Since then, Peter has pursued a career as a professional actor and singer and has performed with various ensembles, including the Maida Vale Singers, the BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and John Wilson Orchestra. Having graduated from the M.A. musical theatre course with distinction at the Royal Academy of Music, Peter has built up an extensive and ongoing resumé of theatrical experience. 

Joe Novelli is one of the longest serving members of professional U.K. a cappella group, The Sons of Pitches. He has arranged for The Sons of Pitches and for the a cappella show, "Gobsmacked!" Other achievements with The Sons of Pitches include four U.K. tours, being part of the house band for Sky 1's "Sing: Ultimate A Cappella" in 2017, headlining at the 2017 London A Cappella Festival, winning BBC2's "The Naked Choir" in 2015 and competing in the 2013 ICCA Finals in New York. In addition to performing, Joe also has experience with The Sons of Pitches as a recording, mixing and mastering engineer. 

Clare Wheeler grew up in Kenya, before moving to Manchester to attend Chethams School of Music, where she trained as a violinist and studied classical voice. She went on to study jazz composition and voice at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and has sung in African gospel choirs, U.K. gospel choirs, jazz vocal ensembles, classical chamber choirs, and symphonic choirs. She also sang and arranged for world-renowned group, The Swingles, for 11 years. She is a solo jazz singer, improviser, composer, and arranger, and worked behind the scenes as an arranger and vocal coach for BBC One's "Pitch Battle". Clare is based just outside of London. 

SPECIAL THANKS

 

Varsity Vocals would like to recognize and thank Dan Mailer, Gemma Davies, Ben Smith, Exeter University Jazz Orchestra, Mark Gambrill and all the team at the Northcott Theatre, Amy Miler, Emily Young, and Henry Harrod; 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

varsityvocals

THE OPEN

 

The International Championship
of A Cappella Open

ARE YOU READY?

Carnegie Hall
 Saturday, October 5, 2019