Opening to loud howls of excitement, “All Hail A Cappella” kick-started the a cappella season Monday night in Bovard Auditorium.
The concert showcases USC’s eight a cappella groups and is held every year to attract new members.
Both cultural and musical diversity among the groups made for a spectacular show. Asli Baat, for example, focuses on Bollywood-English fusion while Overflow sings Christian tunes. Others tend to lean on more popular genres, such as pop and alternative: Khoir Practice sang a version of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and Reverse Osmosis performed its take on Coldplay’s “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall.”
“It’s not just about singing when it comes to a cappella. It’s also about theatrics, synchronized movement and expression through the music,” said Shefali Deshpande, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, politics and law and a member of Asli Baat.
“All Hail” made this consistently clear: The performances were often as impressive visually as they were vocally. Most of the groups had choreography to match the feel and tempo of their songs.
The most notable performances came from the older, more established groups, namely SoCal VoCals and Troy Tones. The former is the three-time reigning champ at the International Championships of Collegiate A Cappella, and members have been featured on the Today Show as well as The Sing-Off. Troy Tones celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, nodding at the milestone with an outstanding opening rendition of “Circle of Life.”
In a very creative way, “All Hail” marks the beginning of the a cappella audition process. The performances demonstrate the many factors a cappella groups will be considering as they accept new members.
First-round auditions began Tuesday night in Taper Hall and will continue through Wednesday. Those trying out will be asked to sing a piece of their choice. Some additional requirements include singing scales, sightreading and displaying aural memory.
Though these groups formed as fun, extracurricular activities, they do not take their work lightly. The audition process can be tense for the groups as well.
“There is a little competition, especially since many times we are competing to get the same singers to join our group,” said SoCal VoCal’s Richard Mattox, a sophomore majoring in narrative studies. “But for the most part all members of all groups are incredibly supportive and friendly with all the other groups.”
Inter-group drama needs to be put by the wayside as well. Even a solid group of musically savvy singers must constantly work on their skills, mastering their own parts but also matching the tones of their teammates.
“The challenge of singing a cappella is it is so easy to sound bad,” said Kevin Rutkowski, a senior majoring in theatre and political science and president of the Trojan Men. “If one person is off pitch, you can tell. If the background is too loud, people get disappointed when you can’t hear the soloist.”
Those auditioning should be able to blend with other voices. Most groups look for this skill in their prospective singers.
The best performances Monday were delivered not only by the most talented, but also by the most practiced and skilled groups of singers. Nevertheless, many of the necessary abilities are learnable, so most groups do not look for previous training during the audition process.
Fortunately, with the varied mix of groups, students can find those best suited for their interests. There are even ways for non-group members to immerse themselves in the a cappella world.
If there isn’t a concert, groups host parties. If there is a concert, there’s an after party. Fans are encouraged to attend everything.
If those events are any bit as rousing as Bovard on Monday night, you’ll likely find it worth surrounding yourself in the vocal harmonies of these groups, no matter what.