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On Sunday, April 7, WERS 88.9 FM was pleased to present the 8th Annual A Cappella Live, broadcast from Emerson College’s Cutler Majestic Theatre and presented in front of a nearly sold out audience. The show started at 2 pm, with Emerson student hosts Danielle Pointer and Maria Vivas warming up the crowd. The girls performed an opening sketch, which promptly led into the first number of the show. Emerson College’s own A cappella group, Achoired Taste, performed a special song called “The Rules” which was all about this year’s show, singing, “All A Cappella Live/ we’re here and we’re feeling fine/ five groups put it on the line” to the tune of Mumford & Sons’ “Little Lion Man.” The five groups “putting it on the line” for a $750 check this year were The Chorallaries of MIT, Brandeis Voicemale, Wellesley Widows, Harvard Opportunes, and Columbia Nonsequitur. In addition to these were also four non-competitive groups including the aforementioned Achoired Taste, Emerson A Capellics Anonymous, The Newtones, and Ball in the House.
Before the competition could start, however, the judges had to be introduced. This year, the three judges weighing in on each competitive group’s performance were Naveed Easton, Brendan Buckley, and Dan Campagna. Easton was a member of the Emerson College’s Class of 2012, where he was a member of Noteworthy, Emerson’s oldest A Cappella group; as a member, he spent time arranging and directing, as well as heading the production of two of Noteworthy’s albums. The next judge was Brendan Buckley, a Massachusetts native who graduated from The University of Massachusetts. In addition to his academics, Buckley has risen through the ranks and was recently a part of Boston Opera Collaborative’s “Orpheus in the Underworld.” The third judge was Dan Campagna, the co-founder and business manager of the Boston-based A Cappella group, Fermata Town. Of the three, Buckley was probably the most generous, while Easton seemed to give the most detailed critiques throughout.
However, judge input only went so far – because audience voting was what actually decided the final winners. In house, the clear champions were the Harvard Opportunes, with 493 votes. Columbia Nonsequiter followed up with 153 and Brandeis with 57. Online, however, The Chorallaries of MIT led with 1472 votes, while Brandeis Voicemale brought in 223, and Columbia Nonsequiter followed with 211. Overall, with the total of house votes and online votes equaling 1,480 votes, The Chorallaries were crowned this year’s winners and given a check for $750.
The Chorallaries of MIT’s winning performance was the first one, and consisted of four musical numbers. First, they opened with Sweedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child.” Second in the set was “Finish What I Start” by The Shadowboxers, and then a rendition of “Barton Hollow” by The Civil Wars, which maintained the soulfulness of the original. They finished off with “Sunny Eyed”, a mashup of Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” and Ellie Goulding’s “Starry Eyed.” The judges decided that the group was, as a whole, very good – and said that any problems that they may have had were probably due to nerves alone.
Next up was Brandeis VoiceMale, a four member, all male group; hosts Danielle and Maria joked about having a crush on every one of them. VoiceMale performed four songs, including “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” by Boyz II Men and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” by Stevie Wonder. After the set, the judges had time to make their critiques: Buckley commended them on their song choices, while Campagna praised their dynamics and their “phenomenal arrangements.” Easton also told the group that they had “wonderful presence” and pointed out the fact that his only issue was with the tonality of their third song. All of the judges asserted that there were only very minor things to critique, and they were overall very impressed with the performance.
After Brandeis Voicemale came All A Cappella’s high school showcase group, The Newtones, from Newton South High School. The group performed two songs, starting out with Jim Croce’s “I’ll Have to Say I Love You in A Song” and “Shake It Out” by Florence + The Machine. The group was not part of the five competing however, so they did not receive judge critiques. Instead, the hosts went right into introducing the Wellesley Widows, who sang four songs, including Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men.
After Wellesley came the Harvard Opportunes, this year’s house favorite. The Opportunes took the stage with a Michael Jackson medley, which Campagna later told them was a decision that was “shooting high” but that they “nailed it.” Next, they performed James Morrison’s “You Give Me Something” and followed it up with another medley, this time a conglomerate of Destiny’s Child numbers. It seemed that what the judges liked most were the strong soloists the group featured. At one point however, a judge made the comment that having two medleys was a little much; the audience booed at this comment, as the medleys were a crowd favorite and clearly a large source of energy as well.
After the Opportunes came Columbia Nonsequiter, a group from Columbia University whose student members hail from all over the country. The group performed Gavin Degraw’s “Radiation”, followed by “Hometown Glory” by Adele, and “Falling Slowly” from Once. The group’s closing song was “Titanium” by David Guetta, a song they recently performed at The Varsity Vocals International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA). “Titanium” was a favorite amongst both the crowd and the judges, who said it was their strongest song of the set.
This concluded the competitor’s performances. While the votes were being tallied, another one of Emerson College’s A Cappella groups, Acapellics Anonymous, performed a three-song set. After that was Ball in the House, a professional, all male a cappella group. They performed four songs, two of which were original compositions. The crowd received this group enthusiastically – they had a lot of energy, and though their original songs were unfamiliar to those in the audience, it did not seem to matter.
After winners were announced, Emerson’s Achoired Taste performed an appropriate and uplifting rendition of “Life Is a Highway” to close out the show, as audience members left the Cutler Majestic Theatre after yet another successful All A Cappella Live.