WOODBURY — An A Cappella Collegiate Invitational Competition featuring vocal groups from three Connecticut universities is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, November 9, in the auditorium at Nonnewaug High School, 5 Minortown Rd.
Presented by the Woodbury-Bethlehem Community Music Foundation, the event will pit the Wesleyan Spirits, The Conn-Men from the University of Connecticut and Yale’s Mixed Company against one another in a competition for cash prizes and a musical experience unmatched in this area.
By definition, a cappella groups perform without instruments, although there may be vocal sound effects to create the impression of instrumental accompaniment.
The genre is familiar to fans of the popular “Pitch Perfect” movies, a three-part series in which the Barden Bellas, an all-female college a cappella group, evolve from a band of vocal misfits to a leading collegiate a cappella group and eventually compete to star in a USO show.
At the competition, the Conn-Men, Mixed Company and Wesleyan Spirits will each sing for 25 to 35 minutes.
Using criteria developed by the A Cappella Education Association, a panel of judges will rate each group in musical, performance and vocal elements, assigning a numerical score to such sub-categories as rhythm and groove, musicality, vocalization, visual presentation, tone, intonation and balance/unity.
The first place winners will take home a $500 cash prize, with second and third winning $300 and $200 respectively.
Event organizers said the event is suitable for all ages, and issued a special invitation to members of middle and high school music groups — as well as students who don’t currently participate.
“Young kids in particular, when they see how much fun these groups are having, are going to go home thinking, ‘I want to sing,’” said WBCMF Founder and President Bill Geddes. “That fits with our mission, to do music and have fun doing it.
“We also want to help Region 14 schools increase enrollment in music programs.”
The event is a fundraiser for the music foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which seeks to enhance community consciousness and enthusiasm for music activities and experiences to provide residents with valuable life learning and appreciation of music.
“We’ve tried to do events where people don’t just come and give us money,” said Mr. Geddes. “We’re pairing a great evening of musical entertainment, something you don’t see every day, with an opportunity to raise money.”
Each of the three groups scheduled to perform could easily command its own audience. Mr. Geddes believes that a competition between the three will up the ante considerably, guaranteeing a most exciting evening of music.
The UConn Conn-Men is a top-flight, all-male a cappella group started 18 years ago at the University of Connecticut. The elite group has performed at the White House and the Connecticut governor’s mansion, at UConn athletic events and convocation, and has opened for the world-renowned Pentatonix and the legendary Yale Whiffenpoofs. The group has three acclaimed albums and recorded a track on the CD “2010 Best of Collegiate A Cappella.”
Yale’s Mixed Company was formed in 1981, incorporating the best elements of sketch comedy and a cappella singing. Over the years, its focus shifted away from sketch comedy and toward more serious singing, but the group’s unique brand of humor still shines through. Mixed Company now exists as an experiment in a cappella music: The group has a strong choral foundation and a diverse repertoire that includes songs from almost every genre of vocal music, from old Yale football chants to classic Motown, Broadway show tunes and last month’s hit singles.
Wesleyan Spirits is the oldest TTBB-voiced singing group at Wesleyan University, committed to performing a diverse, ever-changing repertoire of beautiful and challenging music while upholding the college’s great singing tradition. Wesleyan was once known throughout the collegiate world as “The Singing College of New England,” where students wooed the girls of Connecticut College and sang every weekend, simply for the love of song. During the 1960s, however, that tradition disappeared; though alumni returned each year to sing the songs of their youth, students stopped participating. Charlie North, ‘82, came to Wesleyan full of his father’s and grandfather’s stories about the school’s music and formed Wesleyan Spirits in the spirit of the school’s singing past.
Bill Geddes told Voices he’d love to see the A Cappella Collegiate Invitational become an annual event.
“There’s plenty to draw from,” he said. “There are so many a cappella groups on campuses these days, every school in Connecticut has a handful or more. Yale has at least 15 in addition to the Whiffenpoofs — the granddaddy of them all.”
Mr. Geddes is a retired music teacher, having taught in Region 14 for 18 years and in Danbury prior to that.
He is a huge proponent of college level music activities, which he believes help new students to find their “home” in what may be a large and somewhat intimidating environment.
“Our youngest daughter was in an a cappella group in college,” he said. “They would do events with two or three groups from campus or have a group from another college come in.
“There was a ‘strut your stuff’ kind of feeling,” he recalled. “You wanted to be the best group there. Seeing the camaraderie and the competitive spirit at those events was something I kind of liked.”
Like the “Pitch Perfect” movies, an event like the A Cappella Collegiate Invitational gives a hint of what membership in a college-level musical group is all about.
“It gives people an inside view of what kids really do on college campuses,” he said. “A lot of people have the misconception that everything revolves around tailgating at football games, but there are a lot of these types of activities going on. There’s a lot of positive energy, a lot of positive things to do.”
Doors will open at 7 p.m. for the November 9 event in Nonnewaug High School’s newly renovated auditorium. The competition will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $15, available in advance at www.wbcmusicfoundation.org or at the door.