A full house, seven teams, all aca-armed with nothing but their voices and a passion for singing.
This year’s annual a capella competition had all the ingredients for a great show. A capella has gained popularity in recent years thanks to Internet sensation Pentatonix and cinematic masterpiece, Pitch Perfect. I had nothing but high expectations for this year’s competition, but my numerous viewings of Anna Kendrick’s ‘No Diggity’ didn’t prepare me for what was in store.
For the fourth inception of their annual event, the Queen’s A Capella Association (QAA) welcomed three out-of-town teams: the Hit Paws of the University of Vermont, Simple Harmonic Motion of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Hawkappella from Wilfred Laurier University. Joined by Queen’s groups Momentum, The Trillers, All the Queen’s Men and The Caledonias, the night offered a range of distinct styles and an overwhelming amount of talent.
Returning champs, All the Queen’s Men, entered the stage, and a woman behind me actually shrilled — understandably so.
If you’ve never seen them perform, imagine N’Sync with five times the members and they’re all Justin Timberlake.
This all-male ensemble came prepared to defend their title with an arsenal of killer bass compositions, combined with buttery harmonies and smooth dance moves. The shining moment of the men’s set was their rendition of Sam Smith’s ‘Lay Me Down’ featuring soloists Alex Loe, and Jack Babulic. Loe and Babulic have a higher range suited for Smith’s power ballad, as well as a similar pure quality. Their voices complemented each other during the chorus of the song, and made for a blend that was soft and sweet. All the Queen’s Men sang their hearts out, all the way to third place.
Fellow Queen’s group, The Trillers, also gave a standout performance. This co-ed group made a statement with their dynamic set list, featuring Coldplay’s ‘The Scientist’ in juxtaposition with Marvin Gaye’s classic ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’, but what really set them apart was their original choreography.
Each movement was deliberate, from moving closer to the audience in one uniform line, to turning to the person beside them and putting a hand on their chest. Even details like eye contact with each other added to the intensity of their performance and emphasized Coldplay’s lyrics. Their performance was a spectacle for both eyes and ears. Clearly the judges were also impressed, as The Trillers seized second place.
And the winner is… the Hit Paws! And to me, it was no surprise. The moment they opened their mouths and Jon Bellion’s ‘All Time Low’ came out, I was captivated. I was immediately enchanted by the lead soloist whose rich tone was reminiscent of Florence and the Machine. Their set included a variety of genres including indie, choral and pop. With each cover, they made a capella look cool. These weren’t a capella singers, they were a hot indie band with a Twenty One Pilots-esque style. Although the Hit Paws was one of the smallest groups, their arrangements utilized bass vocals and beatboxing to round out their sound.
Their voices filled the room and resonated in the air as if it were a stadium concert. Vocals aside, the group used minimal choreography, however, the performers connected with each other through eye contact and allowed the song to dictate their movements. As they simply jammed in a semi-circle, it was like the audience was invited in to share an intimate moment of music.
The competition was a celebration of performance, community and of course, a capella. If you missed this sold-out show, get your tickets ahead of time next year because it was nothing short of aca-mazing.
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