By Sophie Cannon, deputy A&E editor
** This article can be found here **
If the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) had a March Madness bracket, this past week’s semifinal competition would be the final four and the Northeastern teams would be seeded right at the top. With three of the 10 teams competing in the semis from Northeastern, the odds were in the Huskies’ favor.
Northeastern’s own Nor’easters showed everyone that they truly are a No. 1 seed, taking home not only the winning title and moving on to finals, but also winning the awards for Outstanding Arrangement, Outstanding Choreography and one of two awards for Outstanding Soloist. Upper Structure from Berklee School of Music was awarded runner-up, and the N’Harmonics from New York University received third place. The Nor’easters will take the stage in the final competition in New York City’s Beacon Theatre on April 22.
“I am literally on cloud nine and cannot believe what just happened,” said Nor’easters President Anthony Rodriguez, third-year psychology major and winner of the Outstanding Soloist award. “I’ve never been more nervous in my entire life to be on that stage with all the other groups and just awaiting the results and clutching [Nor’easters Secretary] Sarah’s [Miller] hand with all of my might.”
During each group’s set, they were able to request the audience to either hold applause until the end, clap quickly in between songs or cheer whenever they wanted. The Nor’easters voted for the last option and the audience happily obliged. The group opened the show with the song “Cheyenne” by Jason Derulo and then seamlessly moved into “Creeps” by Bon Iver, “Who’s that Girl” by Rosie Lowe and finished with “Writings on the Wall” by Sam Smith.
At the end of their set was a moment like no other: Without any prompting by the group, the audience stood up and erupted into fierce applause, giving the Nor’easters an unscripted standing ovation—the only one of the evening sans the grand finale.
“After performing and seeing the standing ovation, we went back into the room and, I know it sounds corny, but the most exciting part of making our music is sharing it with the people we are performing for,” said Miller, a junior psychology major. “We are all so excited before we perform to share our set with the audience, and seeing them respond like they understood what we were trying to communicate, that is so rewarding to us. At that point, we all said to each other that we don’t care if we win, it was just so awesome to see that.”
After the Nor’easters were declared the champions of the semifinal competition and handed their many awards, they broke out into the traditional winners’ encore song. As they sang “Sorry” by Justin Bieber, all of the nine other a cappella groups sang and danced along, celebrating what had been a difficult, rewarding and amazing ICCA season.
“The coolest part is that you look around and every single group there is so freaking good and it’s such a cool celebration of a cappella and it’s cool to see other people doing what we love and making it such a big deal because it’s like everyone sharing this awesome experience,” Miller said. “My favorite part was when we danced on stage afterward and everyone joined us. You just feel so good and are surrounded by friends and truly the best people.”
The two other Northeastern teams that made it to the semifinals were Distilled Harmony and the Downbeats. The other seven groups hail from all over the east coast and include the Harvard LowKeys, the New Hampshire Notables from University of New Hampshire and the Fordham Hot Notes from Fordham University. Northeastern University set itself apart as the only college with more than one group that competed for the spot at finals.
Regardless of the semifinal results, all three of the Northeastern groups have faced the quarterfinals and won, no small feat for any collegiate a cappella group. Preparing for any of the ICCA rounds can be challenging, but Downbeats business manager Leo Poggie said quarterfinal preparation had the most rigorous training regimen, while prepping for semis was more of a relaxing downhill coast.
“We aren’t changing all that much from our quarterfinal choreography or arrangements, and we have all of that down pat,” said Poggie, a junior industrial engineering major. “Our intense rehearsing for quarters has really helped us a lot, where we didn’t have to kill ourselves preparing for semis.”
The Downbeats performed their quarterfinal hits such as “Leave (Get Out)” by JoJo and the expertly arranged mashup of “Pray You Catch Me” by Beyoncé and “Believe” by Mumford and Sons, both catchy crowd favorites that allowed millennials to sing along to throwbacks from the beloved Aquamarine and RV star and the Queen B.
The third NU group, Distilled Harmony (DH), performed many of their same quarterfinal songs such as “Take Me Home” by Jess Glynne and wore their signature all-black ensemble with the male members in red suspenders. DH did not place at the competition, but did the Huskies proud with their stage presence and amazing vocals from each and every member.
In the last few weeks of this semester all six of the Northeastern a capella groups, including the three that did not compete, have a lot of work ahead of them and performances to prepare for now that the ICCA season is coming to a close.The Downbeats have a spring show coming up on March 31 with the Unisons from Northeastern and Upper Structure from Berklee. Other upcoming a cappella events can be found on the various group’s social media.
The Nor’easter’s schedule for the next three weeks leading up to finals in New York are sure to be jam-packed, as they are now going to be up against the best of the best from the eight other regional semifinals as well as the Wildcard winning group, yet to be announced. Now, it’s back to work for the group, with the end goal being to take home the championship trophy in April.
“Back to rehearsals for us,” said Austin Chen, third-year business administration major, baritone and treasurer of the Nor’easters. “I would assume maybe a week of break where we can just relax but definitely more rehearsals. We’re just really excited to continue to work on the set. It’s honestly such a work of art to do this amazing set that we have and I’m so glad we get to do it again and perform it in New York City.”
The international competition in April will include veteran groups such as Voices in Your Head from the University of Chicago, the Beltones from Belmont University and the Water Boys from the University of Waterloo. It is also not the Nor’easter’s first time on the finals stage in NYC, as they won the championship in 2013 and advanced to the finals with a Wildcard win in 2015.
“I would never ever make a prediction about finals without seeing all the other semifinalists. However, I know that the Nor’easters are an incredibly seasoned group and I am confident that they will represent themselves and Northeastern incredibly well,” said Emily Flanders, adjudication director for Varsity Vocals Great Lakes Producer and the emcee for the semifinals competition. “It’s an absolute privilege to be able to work with these phenomenal groups. The northeast consistently has such incredibly high caliber performances, but they are also just convivial and wonderful people backstage and it’s great to get to work with those wonderful humans.”
From the smaller stage at Berklee School of Music to the beautiful Boston Symphony Hall, the Downbeats, Distilled Harmony and the Nor’easters have made Northeastern very proud, to say the least. Now for the Nor’easters, it’s time to bring that Husky pride and winning streak to the Big Apple.
photo by Lauren Scornavacca