THE INTERNATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP OF COLLEGIATE

A CAPPELLA

DEAR FRIENDS,

 

Welcome to Varsity Vocals’ 24th 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 660 groups and more than 10,000 singers at 90 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 Perfectfranchise remains the highest-grossing musical series of all time.

The stories of our real ICCA competitors were also the subject of the TV docu-series "Sing It On," which followed 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 three 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 fourth 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 24 years ago, and we can’t wait to see where our 2020 season will take 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, January 26th, 2020

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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 four 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 at The Town Hall in New York City on Saturday, April 18th.

The high school tournament is now in its 15th year and continues to grow every year. We are now holding Quarterfinal rounds in all of our regions, and the 2020 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 on Saturday, April 17th.

The Open Tournament celebrated its third year in summer 2019 and featured six Semifinals that lead to the Open Finals featuring those six Regional Champions, two Wild Card Champions, and our 2019 ICHSA and ICCA Champions. Those 10 groups competed in October 2019 at Carnegie Hall in New York City.



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

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 False Relations is a quartet of singers from the University of Exeter. They first got to know one another as choral scholars in the university's chapel choir, but decided to try and bring the skills  they learned there to a contemporary a cappella context. They debuted as a quartet in July 2019 with two of their current members (Hugo and Jake) and two who have since graduated, and took on Bella and Ed this past September to carry on in their places. The False Relations is the first a cappella quartet at Exeter University in a great many years, and is the smallest group there by a significant amount. Their repertoire includes both traditional barbershop music and more modern arrangements. 

The Bluebelles is a fun and funky all-female group from The University of Exeter! They are known for their unique, jazzy twists on contemporary songs, but with an ever-expanding repertoire, who knows what they will do next? For the last five years, they have been taking stages at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to share their unique arrangements, such as “The Musical Medley,” which included 37 songs and went viral on Facebook. Founded in 2013, these talented ladies have wowed many audiences with their cheeky personalities, tight harmonies and infectious rhythm. You don’t want to miss their highly successful 2018 EP, Double Denim, and newly released single “Slip,” on Spotify! 

Fresh off the release of their latest single, “Love Me” (available to stream on all major platforms now), the Bristol boys in blue are back with a new generation. Academy is the University of Bristol's award-winning all-male-identifying competitive a cappella group, known for bringing fun and thrills to the stage. Having performed all around the U.K., from Edinburgh to London, Academy looks forward to yet another exciting year. In addition to this ICCA season, they will be returning to the Edinburgh Fringe with their sister group, Pitch Fight, as well as recording and releasing their debut album! From absolute bangers to songs that will give you goosebumps, Academy brings something for everyone, with extra personality to boot. 

Pitch Fight (a.k.a. the “Empresses of Bristol,” The Tab - 2018) is the University of Bristol's 15-part all-female-identifying competitive a cappella group. Over the past four years, Pitch Fight has built a reputation for being one of the top all-female collegiate groups in the U.K. Having returned from their second Edinburgh Fringe run with their brother group, Academy A Cappella, Pitch Fight has big plans for the year ahead, and is now recording their first EP. The last four years have seen the group grow from strength to strength, featuring on Sky One's "Sing: Ultimate A Cappella,” reaching the Finals of VoiceFest 2018, competing in ICCA 2018 and 2019, and scooping up awards for Outstanding Soloist and Outstanding Choreography along the way.  Now in the group’s fifth year, Pitch Fight is excited to return for its fourth ICCA season. 

Illuminations is Exeter University's only mixed contemporary a cappella group, and from its creation in 2011 the group has gone from strength to strength. From Beyoncé to Muse to One Direction and back again, the orange army always has something to sing about and they will not be ignored. With slick harmonies and tight choreo, Illuminations are back to light it up in 2020! 

Semi-Toned is the University of Exeter’s all-male a cappella sensation, having won national and international awards for their stunning performances and music videos, as well as appearances on national television and critically acclaimed shows all across the U.S. Since its inception, Semi-Toned has become one of the leading forces in U.K. a cappella. They were crowned champions of 2015 Voice Festival U.K. and they are still the only a cappella group ever to win a Broadway Baby Bobby Award. 

Sweet Nothings is an all-female, contemporary a cappella group from the University of Exeter. The group is composed of 12 girls from diverse backgrounds with numerous interests, all united by their love for performing. As the group turns 14 this year, they are excited to continue growing stronger. Their repertoire ranges from soft and emotional to strong and powerful to cheeky and fun. The group represents that range in their new EP, Amplify. Released just two months ago, it features a fun girl group mashup of “Woman Like Me,” an edgy medley of “Human,” “La La La,” and the slow and beautiful “Landslide.” When Sweet Nothings are not competing, they enjoy a number of more relaxed performance opportunities, such as busking in the town center,  gigs in pubs, and performing around Exeter in weddings, festivals, or society events. They performed their show, “Ocean’s 9,” in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and sold out multiple tim es! They hope to return to Fringe with a fresh new setlist. Identified by their fierce red lipstick and black and red clothing, they hope to keep spreading the word that girls can be as sweet as they are sexy, all while expressing themselves through great songs. 

RadioOctave is a vibrant and fun, mixed auditioned a cappella group at the University of Nottingham. They have big plans for the year ahead, including another performance at the Edinburgh Fringe. The group sang at a number of different events last year, including performing a week’s worth of shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, to singing at the turning on of the Nottingham Christmas lights, to the Nottingham Varsity Futsal. The group sings a variety of music, from chart hits to jazz to ballads. Henry Chappell (third year), Alanna Gilmartin (second year), and Nell Sumners (second year) are this year’s music directors, leading the current group of 12 members. This fun group loves to socialise and spend time together and with the rest of the a cappella society at Nottingham.

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. 

Sara Edwards is the founder, music director, and soprano of VERSA. She also works as a professional arranger for internationally-acclaimed vocal company, Liquid 5th, as well as an agent in the classical music industry. Sara joined the a cappella community whilst studying Music at King's College London. Under her two-year directorship, KCL’s all-female group, The Rolling Tones, achieved national recognition and prominence unique in the group’s history. In 2018, Sara was awarded Outstanding Arrangement for her innovative reworking of Eivør’s “Trøllabundin” at the ICCA U.K. Semifinal, which went on to win a CARA for Best Female Collegiate Arrangement in 2019. Sara was also awarded prizes for Outstanding Arrangement and Outstanding Soloist at the ICCA 2017 for her original song “Sleepless Child” (which also took her to the Finals of the 2015 U.K. Songwriting Contest), and her arrangement of “Teardrop” quickly became a U.K. favourite before receiving the runner-up prize at the 2018 CARAs. The Rolling Tones became the first all-female group to win the Voice Festival U.K. and the first all-female U.K. representatives at ICCA Finals. A trained pianist, singer, and flautist, Sara also has a strong academic interest in ethnomusicology. She regularly draws on a wealth of musical education in her arrangements and is always excited by the technical possibilities of the voice and the thrill of bringing other genres into a cappella. 

David Green has been performing a cappella for over 16 years, with over 200 performances under his belt. He began first as a singer and arranger for Naked Voices, touring all over the U.K. for eight years. Naked Voices was an early arrival on the U.K. a cappella scene, establishing a cappella music at the Edinburgh Fringe in the 2000s, winning the festival's "Sell Out Show" award for three visits in a row, and featuring on the BBC's "Best of the Fringe" show. In 2009, David formed Original Sing from former Naked Voices members, who went on to win the 2013 Voice Festival Community Championship and the open category of the Bristol Choir of the Year contest. 

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 producers Christopher Witham and Gemma Davies, production assistant Chloe Stally-Gibson, sound engineer Max Hunter, emcee Dan Mailer, guest performer The Exeter University Jazz Orchestra, and our venue team, including Mark Gambrill and all of the Exeter Northcott Theatre staff; 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

Patty Floyd
 Accountant

Virginia DeMoss
 Album Production Coordinator

Sara Yood
Senior Producer

Courtney Jensen
 Associate Producer

Holli Kitching
ICCA Mid-Atlantic Producer

Lindsay Howerton-Hastings
 ICCA South Producer

Leah Alrutz
 ICCA Midwest Producer

Bronwyn Jensen
 ICCA Southwest Producer

Gemma Davies
 ICCA United Kingdom Producer

Christopher Witham
 ICCA United Kingdom Producer

Holly Hayes
 ICCA Northeast Producer

Arvin Zabalerio
ICCA Central Producer

Elise Hackl
PA/MA Program Coordinator  
ICHSA Great Lakes, Midwest, & Southwest Producer

Matt Shirer
 ICHSA West 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 two placing groups will advance to the 2020 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?


FALL 2020