A Cappella Songsters Steals Claremont Spotlight

Claremont Colleges group Midnight Echo finishes off their opening act at the ICCA Southwest Quarterfinal in Bridges Auditorium. (Adela Pfaff • The Student Life)Students, parents, and fans from Southern California eagerly gathered for the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) Southwest Quarterfinal at Pomona College’s Bridges Auditorium on Saturday, Feb. 11. Starting with over 400 groups from around the globe, with multiple quarterfinals simultaneously occurring in different locations across the country, two of the eight groups from Saturday’s competition will move on to the the semifinals at University of California, Los Angeles, on Mar. 11.

With royal blue curtains framing the empty stage, the audience keenly awaited a night of warming melodies, stories, and raw emotion evoked by the complexities of the human voice.

The first group to take the stage was the 5Cs’ very own Midnight Echo. Dressed in gold and blue, the group performed their rendition of Selena Gomez’s “Can’t Keep My Hands to Myself.” With a quick tempo directing the soloist to work the stage with an upbeat energy, the rest of the group carried the song with harmonic sustained notes.

Another notable piece was Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black.” Retaining Winehouse’s raw style, Midnight Echo sang the charged song with a heightening intensity and sultry tone.

The second group to entertain the audience was UCLA’s Resonance. The group commenced with Jessie J’s challenging “Mamma Knows Best,” as the male soloist’s smooth blending voice sang melodic riffs in line with the group’s homophonic progressions.

The discreet dissonance exuded from the arrangement allowed for moments of harmonic contrasts while the female soloist’s fierce yet sweet voice belted out the notes. The group’s tight unisons paved way for the loud silences. The duo stunned the audience as her highs complemented his lows.

UCLA’s Scattertones, one of the favorites from SCAMFest, returned to Bridges to share their music. Dressed in their signature pink and black outfits, they stood tall as the soloist sang a low, husky, soulful introduction to Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love.” With only two singers accompanying her, the soloist sang a riff ascending into a quiet lightness before the rest of the group came in with a series of open sustained notes eliciting a sense of nostalgia associated with Coldplay’s “Magic,” which the male soloist carefully delved into. They sang with a soft delicacy until the soloists climaxed into the high note, where the beat picked up and the rest of group heightened in texture and emotion.

Another noticeable group was Naked Voices from UC Santa Barbara, performing in their signature barefoot style. After performing a wild and sassy mash-up, what really drew the audience in was their rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” partly eerie, partly true to the original, for which the soloists ultimately went on to win the “Outstanding soloists” award.

With the female soloist’s addictive, elastic voice combined with the male soloist’s, the group highlighted their duet with a slower chilling tone gradually sliding into the original chorus at a quickening tempo, playing around with rubato.

Naked Voices’ melancholic version of Sia’s “Chandelier” was also very gripping. The male soloist started isolated at center stage singing a soft, slow and intimate verse. While Sia’s voice was raw, his performance was emotionally palpable. There were no crazy notes or belting tricks but just a delicate and emotional performance, which in itself made it strong.

After a long interval of deliberation, the judges crowned UCLA’s Scattertones the Quarterfinal winners. Second place went to UCLA’s Resonance, sending them to the semifinals as well. UCSB’s Naked Voices took third place.

Sreymich Lach PO ’20 thoroughly enjoyed the event.

“Every group had such a refreshing and unique take on all the pop songs.," she said. Lach was particularly drawn to the Bollywood-Western fusion group from the University of Southern California (USC), appreciating the cultural integration they incorporated into their pieces in addition to their beat boxer’s impeccable skill that led her to win the ‘Outstanding Percussionist’ award.

Lach also detailed the wholesome moment “when the Afterschool Specials brought out all the a cappella groups on stage with them during their last performance." 

Michelle Timmins PO ’20 really enjoyed SCAMFest last semester and therefore decided to attend this event. She loved hearing Naked Voices and Scattertones, among a few other groups.

“It amazes me that they’re just using their voices because it sounds like a recording sometimes," she said, “and I really enjoy [seeing] their costumes and choreography.”