CSUN’s vocal performing group Acasola is going to the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) semifinals after winning second place at the tournament’s quarterfinals Saturday night at the Plaza del Sol Performance Hall.
Acasola was one of six groups and with its 16 members was among the nearly 100 college students gathered at CSUN to compete for the top two spots at the semifinals.
“It takes a lot to unify,” said Ben Lin, 22, vocal performance major and member of Acasola. “It takes a while to learn and to unify them (music and choreography), making it look as one.”
Other a cappella groups included The Beat from the University of California, San Diego, Elevation from Northern Arizona University, SoundCheck from Chapman University, The Tritones from University of California, San Diego, Vocal Percussion Radio (VPR) from CSUN and Acasola.
The event, hosted by Acasola, also featured special guest performers, Circle of Fifths from the University of California, Irvine.
SoundCheck from Chapman University won the night’s competition. They also won awards for Outstanding Arrangement and Outstanding Soloist, while Acasola won the Outstanding Choreographer award.
The quarterfinal’s second runner-up was UC San Diego’s The Tritones.
Each group was given 12 minutes to perform.
The competition began with the Circle of Fifths, which was composed of 15 men wearing black pants and navy blue shirts welcoming the audience.
The Tritones were the first competitors on stage followed by Elevation, Acasola, The Beat, SoundCheck, VPR and a performance by the Circle of Fifths, while the judges tallied up their scores.
The tournament ended with a performance by SoundCheck with a standing ovation from the audience.
Each team averaged three performances, some of which were a combination of songs such as Elevation’s combination of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face,” Usher’s “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” and Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack.”
The semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, March 26 at the University of Southern California (USC) where the best group will be named Regional Champion and will advance to the International Finals in New York City.
Acasola member and president-elect Matt Atkins said Acasola will polish their show and clean it up as much as possible before the semi-finals in New York City.
“This is the time for design changes,” said Atkin, 19, instrumental music education major. “We have comments from the judges tonight. We’ll take those into consideration, make changes and try to make everything better that needs to be fixed.”
Gabe Cwern, Acasola’s musical director said the biggest aspect the judges looked for was musicianship and how tight a group is. They also looked for how good the harmony, soloist and vocal percussion are.
He added that equally important is the visual aspect, such as the costume, choreography, smiling, looking like they are having a good time and putting on a good show.
The judging panel consisted of three judges which according to the event’s program were Michael Alfera, a freelance musician, Ryan Alvarez, former member and music director of USC’s SoCal VoCals, and Dinah Steward, a former vocal soloist for the U.S. Air Force 45-piece USAF Heritage of America Concert Band and the Rhythm in Blue jazz ensemble.
“I feel great,” Cwern said before the competition. “We’ve been practicing almost every night for a number of hours and everybody is pretty pumped. I’m really proud of our music, really excited to see how well we do. We can go all the way.”
Cwern said Acasola’s biggest challenge was making the transition from singing a song to telling a story.
“We’re trying to really combine those two elements tonight,” he said. “We have a very visual show. Just putting that into how we sing a song has been the biggest challenge.”
Acasola won first place at quarterfinals in 2009 and was the first runner-up to second place at the semifinals, Atkins said.
Saturday night was the first time CSUN hosted the event and the Plaza del Sol Performance Hall nearly met its full capacity of 500 guests.