When 50 people are among the audience for a show in Upper Strong Auditorium on a Friday night, it is fair to assume that it may be an interest meeting or a rehearsal for a performance the following night. No one, though, would probably guess that it was a show billed as a competition featuring four premier, on-campus performance groups. Indeed, the first annual Aca-Olympics, held this past Friday, March 22, featured four of the five on-campus a capella groups and was one of the most interesting and unique fundraisers in recent history.
Aca-Olympics was conceived by Students Helping Honduras (SHH), a chapter of a national organization of the same name that helps provide aid to communities in Honduras. The proceeds from Aca-Olympics will go toward SHH’s summer trip to Honduras, helping pay for the supplies needed to build a school in one of the thousands of communities that do not currently have one.
The show generally had a modest atmosphere that was surprisingly pleasant for the smaller audience. Rather than have all of the usual choreography, effects, and 45 minute sets of the standard UR a capella show, each group simply went up and sang, interacting with the audience and giving their utmost effort on stage. The groups were not competing vocally, but rather through the games, allowing them to perform in a more casual manner. Perhaps the greatest facet of Aca-Olympics was the positive environment each group fostered with their enthusiasm and their generally outgoing personalities that allowed them to interact well with the audience.
The presence of each group allowed for the audience to poignantly observe the strengths each is able to bring to their performance. The opening group, Vocal Point, performed three beautiful songs, with their leads dominating the stage with matchless vocal power and a more traditional sound. Freshman Carla Macias especially impressed during her solo.
After an intermission featuring the first of the “Olympic competitions” between the groups, the Midnight Ramblers took the stage, bringing unrestrained energy to every second of their performance. The relatively youthful Ramblers highlighted their performance with a cover of Andy Grammar’s “Fine by Me,” with freshman lead Tom Downey charming the audience with his affable and outgoing performance.
Trebellious was the third group to perform, and demonstrated noticeable improvement in their group dynamic and sound. Several members of other performing groups remarked on their progress, with senior Jordan Fontheim saying, “They really are coming into their own as a group.”
The final performance was from the Yellowjackets, who demonstrated their exceptional arranging and blend. Sophomore Ian Wallace-Moyer soloed on all three of their songs, demonstrating his strength as a lead and versatility as a vocalist, especially in their cover of the Beatles’ “All My Loving.”
No event, though, is without flaws. Despite the best efforts of SHH, the event was unable to live up to its full potential due to a lack of publicity. There also didn’t really seem to be anything they were competing for, and the billing of the event as a “competition” was not entirely accurate. Moreso, the focus on the games rather than the performance — the groups only spent about 45 minutes performing over the course of the show – and the relatively high cost were also downsides.
Among the multiple highlights of the show was a cover of Carrie Underwood’s “Good Girl” by Vocal Point. Led by senior Jamie Wilson, the women of Vocal Point punctuated an impressive set with a well-arranged rendition. Another highlight was the “fashion show” competition in between the second and third sets, in which the a capella groups had a representative dress in original attire constructed completely from newspaper. Despite its peculiarity, this competition was incredibly amusing to both the audience and participants.
It is interesting to note that, though a winner (the Midnight Ramblers) was announced, the groups that competed were amicable and didn’t seem to mind. As audience members left Strong, the groups united on stage for a rendition of “The Genesee.”
With each group preparing for their seasonal shows in April, Aca-Olympics was a refreshing performance that left many in the audience yearning for more. In terms of overall entertainment and concept, the Aca-Olympics was a success in the eyes of both the participants and the audience. While the latter left thoroughly entertained, many remarked that they hoped the competition returns next year. Hopefully, it will, for any concert that is able to bring together this level of talent onto the same stage should be encouraged, whether it be a competitive or non-competitive setting.
Pascutoi is a member of the class of 2015.