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The Huntington News

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ICCA Semifinal features spellbinding performances, student camaraderie

The+Boston+College+Dynamics%2C+a+co-ed+a+cappella+group+at+Boston+College%2C+performs.+10+a+cappella+groups+from+Northeast+colleges+and+universities+performed+at+the+ICCA+Semifinal+March+23.
Elizabeth Scholl
The Boston College Dynamics, a co-ed a cappella group at Boston College, performs. 10 a cappella groups from Northeast colleges and universities performed at the ICCA Semifinal March 23.

It was a full house when Berklee Performing Arts Center hosted the annual International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, or ICCA, Semifinal March 23.

Each of the 10 competing a cappella groups from colleges and universities in the Northeast performed three songs, eliciting rapturous applause. Audience members donned merchandise of their preferred a cappella group and were ecstatic when Upper Structure from Berklee College of Music won first place, advancing them to the ICCA Finals in New York City set for April 27.

Other special awards included Outstanding Vocal Percussion, which Dean Maida of Upper Structure and Melody Henrich of The Unisons won for “Begin Again” by Taylor Swift and for “creature” by halfᐧalive, respectively; Outstanding Arrangement, which Brooklyn Boehme and Benjamin Angus of A Minor won for “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls; and Outstanding Choreography, which Mia Roberts and Lucas Farol of Vocollision won for the entire set.

All talented a cappella groups earned the judges’ hearts and attention, making it impossible for them to choose a singer for the Best Soloist award. 

“We had a little fight. Because there were so many incredible soloists, our judges could not pick a shining star to get this award,” said ICCA Northeast Producer Jane Benjamin when presenting the award.

Although each group’s performance lasted only 10 minutes, significantly more time went into preparation for the big day, singers told The News. Bryant Kessie, the Allegrettos’ performance director and a third-year at Boston University studying music education, said that the group rehearsed for eight hours a week leading up to the semifinal. 

“[Long rehearsals are] tough, for sure. Other people, I wouldn’t be able to do it with, but for this group of people, I’d spend more than eight hours a week with them,” he said. “They’re the best people in the world to be around.” 

Kessie considers members of the Allegrettos family and, despite not winning or receiving any special awards, he believes that the most important part of the experience was having fun with them.

“More than what we do on stage, it’s the stuff we do when we’re just hanging out. That’s the best part of being part of the Allegrettos,” he said.

The Unisons, one of Northeastern’s a cappella groups, shares this sentiment.

“It’s an unmatched experience. Being able to sing in a circle with your friends is proven to release endorphins — that’s why many people connect it with spirituality,” said Grace Wayrynen, The Unisons’ president and a third-year behavioral neuroscience major.

Although the tournament that inspired the 2013 American Music Award-winning movie “Pitch Perfect” was portrayed with a heavy dose of drama and sabotage in the film, Kessie and Wayrynen described the ICCA Semifinal as a friendly competition. 

“Some people, especially as you get to further competitions, are a little more cutthroat, but we’re all still friendly competitors,” Wayrynen said. 

Kessie has learned to be more laid-back when it comes to competitions. He explained that the more pressure one puts on themselves, the less fun an experience will be.

“You get to see other people who enjoy the same thing you do and bond about the fact that we spend most of our weeks making robot noises,” he said.

Both Kessie and Wayrynen wanted their performances to have an emotional impact on the audience. In general, a cappella songs feature themes of love, acceptance and self-discovery. 

The songs in The Unisons’ set were intentionally sequenced to tell a story. 

“At the beginning of the set, the character is dealing with a relationship where they’re relying on the other person for a lot of their happiness,” Wayrynen said. “By the end of the set, the character is taking back control of their life and identity.”

When the competition ended, all a cappella groups received standing ovations from an impressed audience. 

Philip Auerswald, a father who flew in earlier that day from Washington D.C. to see his daughter perform with the Cleftomaniacs of New York University, described what made him happiest when his daughter performed.

“I love the way [the Cleftomaniacs] make each other stronger,” he said. 

Even though he was rooting for the Cleftomaniacs to win, he was happy with the results. 

“Upper Structure deserved their win,” he said. “Once Upper Structure performed, I was like, ‘That was an amazing performance.’”

About the Contributor
Elizabeth Scholl, Deputy Photo Editor
Elizabeth Scholl is a second-year pharmaceutical sciences major with a minor in business administration. She currently serves as one of the deputy photo editors for The News. Her favorite events to photograph include sports, concerts and anything The News needs last minute.
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