..Kathy Barrett..

A Cappella: The Virtuosos of Voice

If you've ever sung "Happy Birthday" a cappella with a group of friends or family then you know how difficult it is to blend human voices without melting the icing on the cake. That was not a problem on Sunday at the finals for the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) where six college groups competed for a First Place Trophy and a check for $1,000 at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall before an almost sold-out crowd.

The tension was so thick in the auditorium it might as well have been the vocal Olympics. The ICCA finalists in order of appearance were University of Oregon's ON THE ROCKS, Boston University's TERPSICHORE, Skidmore's DYNAMICS, University of Michigan's COMPULSIVE LYRES, University of Maryland's FAUX PAZ and Cornell's LAST CALL. Each group performed three songs and was required to do it within a fifteen-minute time span.

These are not the Barber Shop Quartets of old. The song styles ranged from original material to a cover of U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." The vocal arrangements were sophisticated and the performances were entertaining and original.

The choreography ranged from minimal to elaborate dance moves, similar to what you might see in an *Nsync music video.

The collegiate finalists were wonderful ambassadors for the a cappella style (unaccompanied vocal performance). According to the ICCA there are 800 collegiate a cappella groups in North America and that number continues to grow. Collegiate groups have their own websites, produce their own CD's and go on the road to perform. It's not just the crazy kids in America who are nuts for a cappella, U.S. style a cappella groups can also be found in Canada, Taiwan, Japan and Britain.

ON THE ROCKS, The University of Oregon took third place. LAST CALL, the gentlemen from Cornell (the biggest crowd pleasers), took second place. But, it all came down to the voices. COMPULSIVE LYRES from the University of Michigan won the hearts of the judges and first prize with their flawless performance. Their outstanding soloists (Jesse Nager, Brianna Sarr and Kevin Morgan) along with an equally talented ensemble, demonstrated that the blending of human voices is a beautiful art form.

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For more information about the ICCA and varsity vocals, go to www.varsityvocals.com.