A cappella singers strike a chord at 2020 ICCA West Quarterfinal

A group of people sing and dance on stage.
UCLA’s Random Voices performed at the ICCA West Quarterfinal, which was hosted at Pomona Feb. 1. (Melina Kofokotsiou • The Student Life)

The International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella West Quarterfinal swept the stage at Bridges Auditorium Feb. 1, with 10 groups from seven universities in California performing unique song collections. They were all fighting for a place in the Western Semifinal, where they’ll then compete for a chance to win the title of ICCA West Champion.

UCLA left Claremont victorious, with three of their four participating a cappella groups taking the top three spots in the competition. Resonance secured the first place award that night, dazzling the audience and judges with a song set infused with Billie Eilish tracks and themes. Pitch, Please! took second place, and Random Voice followed in third.

Along with diverse music performed by the groups, the show captured the audience’s attention with humorous emcee Aaron Jung, who swiftly transitioned between the song sets with comedic stories and tidbits that helped lighten the air. 

Caitie Connelly PO ’23 credited Jung with keeping the show lively amid what may have felt like a tense, competitive environment.

“I thought the show was very interesting and engaging because of the way the emcee tried to connect with the audience, and how the music varied genres and appealed to different audience members,” Connelly said. 

The competition began slowly, with the singers’ voices softened by the low microphone quality and slightly off choreography, generating a subdued audience reaction to many of the first performers. 

Claire LeBlanc PO ’23 disappointedly noticed an initial lack of widely recognizable song choices, but was impressed with the technical dedication of the performers.

“Since it was a competition, there weren’t a lot of songs that I recognized, and I think that I was expecting it to have more songs I recognized and enjoyed more,” she said. “But you could appreciate that [song choice] was definitely geared towards more technical songs.”

A group of people sing and dance on stage.
Random Voices from UCLA performed at the ICCA West Quarterfinal 2020 hosted at Pomona College on Feb. 1. (Melina Kofokotsiou • The Student Life)

UCLA’s group Resonance then took over the stage with a sharp, emotional cover of 2020 Grammy award winner Billie Eilish’s “idontwannabeyouanymore,” after which the crowd erupted in applause. 

However, the performance provided more than impressive vocals. Resonance sought to communicate a pressing message regarding mental health, explained member Gabi Schiffler. 

“Our whole entire set is basically a message about mental health,” Schiffler said. “It starts with this girl talking to herself, saying ‘idontwannabeyouanymore’ in the mirror [repetitively]. The second song was a transition piece, [to convey] how you should focus on your life and slow down, take a minute to breathe.”

Though this was the group’s third time performing in the ICCAs, preparation and execution proved to be a stressful task all around. 

“We had basically four weeks to prepare,” Schiffler said. “It was honestly such a big group effort from everybody. There were six choreographers, and everybody pulled together to make everything work.”

Across many a cappella groups, the night instilled a sense of family between group members. 

Random Voices member Kyra Decastro said the night allowed the all-female group to stand out in competition and feel more confident.

“It has been honestly so awesome being in an all-female group, because we bond in so many ways and connect with each other onstage in a different way than I think co-ed groups do,” Decastro said. “Plus, we get to sing some pretty badass songs about women and … songs that are not usually sung by women. It’s just been really, really fun.”

Other groups felt similarly about how the night allowed them to connect as a team. 

“I think it really brought our a cappella group closer together,” said Stephanie Zappelli, a singer from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s That’s the Key. “We feel like a family, and I think that is what made the process successful. We were really supporting each other through the process and understanding of each others’ schedules.” 

With a big smile, Zappelli added, “We are just so stoked to have the opportunity to even be here. To even touch the ICCA stage is so exciting.”

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