Distilled Harmony competes at ICCA Semifinals


Samuel Kim

The sound of a cappella performances filled Boston Symphony Hall Sunday afternoon as 10 groups from the Northeast participated in a semifinal competition.

Distilled Harmony was the sole group that represented Northeastern at the semifinals for the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, or ICCA. While the group will not be moving on to the finals, the members were still very happy with their performance.

“It was, of course, nerve wracking to compete in front of over 1,000 people at Symphony Hall,” said Joby Mathew, a Distilled Harmony tenor and the group’s manager. “However, it was a beautiful experience, and I’m so proud of how we did under the circumstances. I couldn’t be happier.”

The group was short three members for the competition and had to adjust their set, which was otherwise the same set they performed at the ICCA quarterfinals.

“We had to make several last minute changes, including taking out one song we performed at the quarterfinals,” said Mathew, who is a second-year economics and business administration combined major.

Karizma Kishnani, a soprano and first-year mechanical engineering major, was a soloist for the group’s first song, “Take the Money and Run” by OG3NE. Jessica Dunn, a soprano and fourth-year chemistry major, and Morgan Headden, an alto and second-year criminal justice major, were the other soloists in the song.  

“‘Take the Money and Run’ is always the most fun to perform,” Kishnani said. “There’s a lot of energy with it and it’s a trio. [Jessica, Morgan and I] always feel really sassy. We’re always interacting with each other, and both we and the audience love it.”

Following “Take the Money and Run” was “Falls” by ODESZA, which included a solo by alto Caroline Lucas, a fourth-year civil engineering major and the group’s treasurer. Next were “Liability” by Lorde and “Never Forget You” by Zara Larsson and MNEK, which included solos by Kishnani and Mathew.

Mathew said he is proud of the group’s successful season. He pointed out that six new members joined the group this semester, which makes up nearly half of the 13-person group.

“We’ve come really far this semester, especially considering how young our group is,” Mathew said. “To have made it to semifinals is a huge accomplishment that we’re all so proud of.”

Berklee’s Upper Structure won the semifinals and will be moving onto the finals in New York April 21.

“We’re really happy to see them moving on,” Mathew said. “We wish them the best of luck, and we’re glad to be friends with a great group of musicians.”

The Harvard Opportunes and the Harvard Lowkeys placed in second and third, respectively, and will not be moving onto the finals.

After all 10 groups performed, Berklee’s Pitch Slapped performed to entertain the audience while the judges made their final decisions. Lisa Morishanti, a local who has been attending a cappella competitions like the ICCAs for nearly 20 years, said although Pitch Slapped was not a part of the competition, their performance was still one of her favorites.

“Their timing, rhythm and vocals were on point,” Morishanti said. “I cried while listening to them — they were just so, so beautiful. Their arrangements touched my heart.”

Karen Harz, who came all the way from Connecticut to watch her son perform in Bryant University’s The Bottom Line, also enjoys supporting a cappella.

“A cappella is wonderful because there’s so much variety,” Harz said. “Even tonight, my family and I heard everything from the oldies like Stevie Wonder to new artists like Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé. It was all so wonderful to hear.”

Harz also said she appreciates the convivial nature of a cappella. As they waited for judges to announce the winners, members of all groups sang and danced in one large group on stage.

“I love how supportive they are of each other — it’s beautiful,” Harz said.