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 SEMIFINAL

 

The New Wimbledon Theatre
Saturday, March 9, 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 Northern Lights is a mixed a cappella group made up of talented, diverse and passionate performers who seek to thrill their audiences through the power of the human voice. The Northern Lights are entering their sixth year of existence and hope to build on last year’s success, which included 3rd at the U.K. Semifinals of the ICCA, performing at Castle June Ball and Durham Cathedral, recording an EP and putting on sold-out shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The group is proud to arrange their own music and choreograph their own routines. Above all, the group fosters a close, supportive environment while aiming for musical excellence. Northern Lights now has a significant back catalogue of music to listen to, including their new EP, Castles in the Sky, and a third music video of Katie Melua’s debut-single, “The Closest Thing to Crazy.” 

Since forming in January 2016, Tone Up has been a prominent feature on the University of Edinburgh campus and in the U.K. a cappella scene. A combination of creative song choices (past favourites include a mash-up of Beyoncé and Papa Roach), emotive and dramatic solos, and their signature purple jackets, create memorable performances every time. In their competitive debut at the 2016 SACC, their performance won over the audience and the judges, winning them awards for choreography and vocal percussion. Since then, they launched themselves onto the national scene with appearances in consecutive Voice Festival U.K. University Finals in 2017 and 2018 and numerous other outstanding award wins and commendations along the way. The 2017-18 year also saw the release of Tone Up’s debut single and accompanying music video, “New York,” an integral part of their Outstanding Overall Performance win from Voice Festival U.K. 2018. Tone Up also enjoys performing in venues around the city, as well as at events in the wider Edinburgh A Cappella Society (EUAC). This year, Tone Up is excited to bring their unique style of music to the ICCA and perform for a new audience of a cappella lovers! 

Situated in the dynamic musical city of Manchester, The Royal Northern College of Music is the only conservatoire in the U.K. sector to have Bachelor and Master’s programmes in both classical and popular music. Inspired by the talented popular music students, Northern Voices is a new group led by musical director and fourth-year vocalist Grettel Killing. A graduate of the A Cappella Academy (2014-15), Grettel is an accomplished singer and arranger with extensive a cappella experience. Northern Voices is the RNCM’s first a cappella group and consists of 15 talented singers from countries including Estonia, Cyprus, Germany, Poland, Holland, China, Malaysia, and the United States. To date, the group has performed for the Mayor of Manchester, for the Royal Northern College of Music Session Orchestra showcase, and most recently at the Manchester City Council Culture Awards at the Etihad Stadium. Northern Voices’ ethos is built on professionalism, musical integrity, creativity, and collaboration. There is a shared responsibility for repertoire choices, influenced by artists including Michael Jackson, Tori Kelly, Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, and more. After an impressive debut season, the ensemble hopes to establish itself as one of the U.K.’s top student a cappella groups.

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. 

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. 

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! 

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.

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. 

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, is “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!

TONIGHT'S JUDGES

 

James Davey is one of the U.K.'s most distinguished and respected young choral directors, in demand for his work as a conductor, choir trainer, choral education practitioner, arranger, and adjudicator. Formerly the chief choral advisor for the BBC's sheet music archive, James has delivered projects for the BBC Singers Education Department, and regularly conducts and prepares choirs for television and radio broadcasts. James music-directs a number of choirs and vocal groups, including Chantage (BBC Radio 3 Choir of the Year 2006), the Chandos Chamber Choir, the Fleet Singers, and 4Tunes (Channel 4's own staff choir). He is also a choir trainer and tutor for the Royal College of Music Junior Department, a guest conductor for the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, and a tutor for the Ingenium Academy, the Sherborne Summer School of Music, and the Music of Life Foundation. 

A baritone, mouth drummer, coach, arranger, adjudicator, and Toronto native, Kevin Fox is a recognized voice in the world of contemporary a cappella. For the last nine years, he has toured the globe with Grammy-winning supergroup, The Swingles, right on the heels of another nine-year stint with Toronto’s Juno-nominated vocal band, Cadence. He serves as artistic director of the Israeli choral project, Vocalocity, and his improvisation workshops (including “Sing Without A Safety Net” and “Beatbox And Beyond”) have received rave reviews across North America and Europe. Kevin’s latest initiative, a masterclass series called Coach K Music, launched in 2017. 

Megan Smania is currently pursuing a Master of Music from the University of Cambridge. Before moving across the pond, she studied at the University of Michigan, where she received her Bachelor of Music in vocal performance and music education. During her time there, she sang with Amazin' Blue, serving as president, music director, and arranger. Her arrangements and leadership led the group to be ICCA Wild Card Champions, placing 4th at Finals in New York. Since her time in AB, Megan has been a sought-out arranger and mentor for other groups around the U.S. 

Since graduating from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Liz Swain has become a well-established and versatile ensemble vocalist, MD, and soloist, known for her passionate and forward-thinking approach. She has sung with The Swingles, Voxtet, flamenco legend Paco Peña, Mary King, the 606 Gospel Group, Chantage and the Aurora Orchestra, and appeared at international venues and festivals including the Montreux and London Jazz Festivals, the Proms, the Big Chill, the Royal Festival Hall, The Barbican, and the London A Cappella Festival. Her work has been featured on radio and television worldwide, including underscoring for NBC’s “The Sing Off.” Liz leads a choir for national musical charity, The Choir With No Name, and runs workplace choirs at The Guardian newspaper and Comic Relief. As founder and musical director of London’s ambitious XL vocal group, SOUND, Liz is dedicated to creating opportunities for vocalists, expanding choral education, and pushing creative boundaries of the U.K. vocal scene. For more information, visit www.lizswain.co.uk.   

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 placing group advances to the 2019 ICCA Finals!

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