Two Claremont a cappella teams brought their A-game to the stage last Saturday at the 23rd annual West Quarterfinal of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, held at Pomona College’s Bridges Auditorium.
First to perform were the Claremont Shades, which had hosted the competition for the past four years, and took to the stage this time around. They were professional and calm on their home turf, and started the night with a jazzy “Alright” by Jordan Rakei, sung by soloist Ernesto Fritz PZ ’22. The group went on to perform three pieces from their SCAMFest (Southern California A Cappella Music Festival) set, including “Liability” by Lorde, “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers and “Curious” by SwayDay.
The Shades didn’t have much time to prepare for the competition.
“We were kind of like, ‘We have to do our SCAMFest set because that’s what we have ready right now,’ and then we learned ‘Alright’ over break on our own,” music director Saif Saigol CM ’19 said.
How do you arrange a song over break?
“It was hard honestly; we had people send in voice memos. It was a lot of work, but we got it done,” Saigol said.
Another Claremont a cappella group, Mood Swing, also performed for the first time at the ICCA quarterfinal, and showcased an energetic performance indicative of their group’s personality. They started with teen classic “Youngblood” by 5 Seconds of Summer, followed by “Escape” by Kehlani and ended with “When We Were Young” by Adele. The group was all smiles on stage, and enjoyed the performance overall.
“I felt all the people around me and thought, ‘This is just fun. I’m singing with this group of people I really love and they’re feeding me good energy,’” soloist Maddy Yardumian SC ’21 said. “It just doesn’t feel high stakes. It feels like you’re doing something that is good and feels right.”
The other eight teams hailed from CSU Northridge, UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and UC Riverside. Nearly 1,000 people attended from the 5Cs and the surrounding community.
The teams were judged on arrangement, professionalism, creativity of movement and interpretation, among other criteria. Every team showed a unique personality and style in their performance.
The only all-male group of the competition, UCLA’s Bruin Harmony, took home first place. Their use of overlapping transitions and echoing harmonies also led the team to receive the Outstanding Arrangement award.
The ScatterTones, another veteran ICCA group from UCLA, came in second place. They impressed with strong solo performances from senior group members, and also scored the Outstanding Choreography award.
Acasola of CSU Northridge finished third. Their performance’s theatrical component set them apart from the competition, and their three soloists delivered emotional vocal performances that made their unrequited love act engaging.
The top three teams advanced to the West Semifinals in Oregon, and the winner there will head to the ICCA Finals in New York City.
Entering the ICCA competition is a serious undertaking for groups. Competitors must decide in October to put together a music video submission, and only have two weeks to prepare for the competition post-break. Usually, this includes late hours or extra practices.
“It was really fun and a brand new experience, but that was quite the turnaround,” Yardumian said. “If we decide to keep doing it in the future, and we had a lovely time so I hope we do, we’ll have to be more conscious about time planning and stuff. It’s a lot.”
For the Claremont groups, ICCA is a different experience than other a cappella performances.
“For SCAMFest we’re trying to live up to our own standards and make ourselves proud, and ideally we’re doing the same with ICCA but there’s also a panel of judges you’re trying to impress and a score sheet and a rubric that you’re trying to hit every point on,” Saigol said.
The competition also brings new groups and audience members.
“For SCAMFest it’s all the Claremont groups, but for [ICCA] it was a lot of groups we had never heard before, so there was a sense of excitement around it,“ Mood Swing co-president Gabby Teodoro HM ’21 said.