Duke a cappella group competes in regional competition Saturday

The name International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, or ICCA, may ring a bell for any lovers of the movie “Pitch Perfect,” as the fictional Barden Bellas competed the real-life a capella competition. This Saturday, the ICCAs come to Durham where Duke’s own a capella group Rhythm and Blue will compete for the chance to move on to the competition’s semifinals.

The ICCAs is the biggest collegiate a cappella competition in the United States, and groups from all around the country compete in it. The competition divides the United States up into eight different regions, with several quarterfinals taking place within each region. Rhythm and Blue will face off against eight different a cappella groups coming from North Carolina State University, College of William and Mary, High Point University, University of Tennessee and Elon University. 

“This is the competition for all a capella groups to perform in. The best groups in the country are the ones that win it every year,” said Rhythm and Blue President Andrew Jacobs, a senior.

He said that the process to enter quarterfinals is relatively easy—participants in the quarterfinals had to send in an application, including a video of the group performing three songs last fall. The lineup was announced in November.

Each a cappella group has a 12-minute set in which they can sing whatever they want, as long as it is without accompaniment. Five judges, typically comprised of music experts from the local area, will grade the singers on a variety of traits, ranging from choreography to cohesiveness to each groups’ interpretations of the songs they have selected.

The top two groups from the quarterfinals have the chance to compete in the semifinals. Rhythm and Blue competed in the ICCAs for the first time in 2014 and made it to the semifinals in Nashville, Tn. Although the group took a break last year due to the time commitment necessary to compete in such an intense competition, they are excited to be back this year.

“It was really great to get our name out there, to show that we’re a really talented group,” Jacobs said. “We’re really competitive and we’re hoping that we get to go to semis again this year.”

The ICCAs song selection process for Rhythm and Blue began last fall, when members were invited to submit songs that they wanted to perform. After their executive board narrowed down the top songs, members were again invited to vote on which songs would make the set.

The group decided on three songs: a mash-up of Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love,” Amber Run’s “I Found” and Delta Rae’s “Chasing Twisters.” Although these songs are not currently topping charts, Jacobs said they accurately represent the feeling of the group.

“We like to say our style is spook and angst, and I think our set definitely accomplishes that feel,” said Jacobs.

Rhythm and Blue is Duke’s oldest co-ed a cappella group. It was formed in 1992 as an offshoot of the Duke University Chorale. The group has deviated from its choral music origins and now sings more current, popular songs. Rhythm and Blue released their latest EP “Fresh Poison” in August 2015.

While no other Duke a cappella groups are performing in the ICCAs this year, the competition still promotes musical activity in Durham and on campus. The quarterfinals have been hosted in Page Auditorium and Baldwin Auditorium in the past, the event is now being held in Durham at the Carolina Theatre.

“It’s a really cool thing because it brings not only other a cappella groups and collegiate groups and students from all over the region, but also adults and people involved in the a capella community, involved in recording, involved in all kinds of musical endeavors,” said junior William Windham, president of the all-male a capella group Speak of the Devil.

Some Duke a capella groups are more focused on activities and performances on campus, rather than competing, which necessitates having the time and the funds to travel to further competition locations if a group passes the quarterfinal competition.

“At Duke, a lot of the groups seem to focus on recording as opposed to ICCAs,” Windham said.

Duke students are invited to attend the competition this Saturday night to give Rhythm and Blue a home field advantage. Tickets are available for a student discount of $20 at the door and in advance.

“We’re hoping that people come out to support us, and we hope that we do well,” Jacobs said.


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