UR a cappella groups Trebellious and the Midnight Ramblers competed at the 2018 International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella Centra Semifinal on Saturday, March 24, where the Ramblers’ senior Keegan Cavanaugh Stricker picked up an “Outstanding Vocal Percussion” award.

SUNY Potsdam’s Potsdam Pitches got first place at Buffalo Center for the Arts, in an event featuring 10 a cappella groups from UR, Potsdam, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Waterloo, RIT, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Five judges scored the semifinalists according to their tone, pitch, arrangement, and choreography. The order of the performances was determined by a random draw and announced from the stage.

Each group used its own unique methods to intrigue the audience. The Water Boys from the University of Waterloo, for instance, introduced themselves by cautioning the audience to “put on your seat belts, get your trays in the upright position, and prepare for takeoff, before diving deep into the watery trenches of supersaturated a cappella music, with a dynamic splash and a sizzling drizzle.” C Flat Run from the University of Pittsburgh called themselves “the sexiest group onstage with an emphasize on S.”

Because each group had only 12 minutes to perform, the audience was asked to keep applause to an “enthusiastic minimum.” Despite this, the audience roared its approval as the performances proceeded.

The co-ed group Trebellious arranged a cohesive set of three songs: “Fire” by Bishop Briggs, “What About Us” by Pink, and “Unstoppable” by Sia.

“We wanted to tell a story of different people with internal vices and struggles,” said junior Jay Shim, a beatboxer and a music director for Trebellious. “They feel isolated, trying to meet the world’s expectations.”

While ICCA semifinal first-timer Trebellious didn’t place, the group left a unique impression in the memory of the audience.

“I don’t know which word to choose, but Trebellious did really well,” said junior Mojin Yu, who is a member of Vocal Point at UR.

Unlike Trebellious, this was not uncharted territory for the Midnight Ramblers. In the 2016 semifinal, the all-male Ramblers won second place. After taking a year-long break from competing, they were back again. “It’s a tough but rewarding work. Rehearsals are excessive and oftentimes at night, because you have to focus on every detail. You just have to budget your time,” said senior Justin Maldonado, the Ramblers’ general manager and second tenor, who sang a solo in “Miss Jackson” by Panic! at the Disco. “We needed tempo songs to feature our beatboxer [Keegan] Stricker, who beatboxes house music — really cool stuff,” he added.

Performed at the competition, the heartbeat and trumpet sounds in “Pray” by Sam Smith and “Redbone” by Childish Gambino were reproduced by Stricker.

The Potsdam Pitches emerged earning a total of 408 points. Catching the audience’s eyes by dressing up like their favorite Disney characters, they performed British group Little Mix’s 2016 hit “Power.”

Waterloo’s In Full Colour took home 350 points, earning second place. Their  performance mixed choreography with storytelling. “It is not a typical a cappella, and I love it,” audience member Janice Ashes said.

Eight Beat Measure, an all-male a capella group from RIT, took third place with 313 points. The group originally began as an octet named the RIT Singers, but changed to today’s name and expanded their repertoire, playing diverse genres such as folk, R&B, rock and hip-hop.

The Potsdam Pitches will move on to the final round of the championship, hosted at the Beacon Theatre in New York City on April 21.

Correction (4/2/18): The original version of this story erroneously reported the order of some setlists during a performance, mistook the name of Vocal Point for VeepzFeed, and mistakenly listed In Full Colour’s name with the American English “color.”

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