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A Capella Fest Hits All the Right Notes

Erin Thomassen | Monday, November 18, 2013

Last Saturday night, eager students packed the Carey Auditorium in Hesburgh Library to see Notre Dame’s various a capella groups perform. Students sat in the aisles and stood in the back rather than miss the A Capella Fest hosted by Halftime, Notre Dame’s “premiere co-ed a capella group.”

The Undertones, a select group of dashing young men from Glee Club, performed first. This charming ensemble set the tone for the evening, with soloists more fit for American Idol than a college a capella group. The Undertones performed classic tunes that have been in their repertoire since the 90’s, though the material seemed fresh with their improvised choreography. The girls sighed in disappointment when one of the emcees for the evening joked that every member of the Club was married.

Next up was Harmonia, Notre Dame’s entirely female a capella. The girls were dressed à la Pitch Perfect, with pearl necklaces and pearly white smiles. They step-touched and bopped their hearts out, but the audience seemed to feel that the group was not as comfortable on stage as the Undertones were. Their numbers were well rehearsed, but their repertoire was challenging because their pieces were set in high keys. While the girls clearly had vocal talent, they did not have the Undertones’ stage presence.

Unchained Melodies, Notre Dame’s sole Christian a capella group, came next. Freshman Scott Moore nailed his solo in “Baba Yetu,” tackling the challenging African lyrics with his powerful voice. The group performed a version of “This I Promise You,” explaining that the love Justin Timberlake expresses in the song is comparable to the love God has for His people. Amanda Ly, a senior who co-directs the group, said, “Being the only Christian a capella group really allows us to focus on living out the Gospel and sharing the light of Christ through music without worrying about having compete with another of the same genre.” 

The group sings at nursing homes, elementary and middle schools and Theology Club events. It is clear that the group wants their music to be a ministry, not just entertainment.

Bellacapella hit the stage next, literally. They stomped their feet in perfect unison, proving that they could not only sing, but dance. With their exaggerated dance moves, they showed their collective confidence and humor. Unlike the other groups, Bellacapella had multiple girls sing duets throughout their slower songs instead of having one soloist perform the entire piece. So, the audience was engaged during their set, because they were constantly listening to a new voice. This staging technique also demonstrated the talent of the entire group, because almost every member was showcased in some way.

Next, the Echoes, Notre Dame’s newest a capella group, surprised the crowd with a cherished Disney melody. As soon as the crowd realized they were singing “Be Our Guest,” they started clapping. The soloist in “Be Our Guest” had a surprisingly convincing French accent, and those who sang “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” paid tribute to Shang from Mulan by executing some of his power moves. 

Closing up the show was Halftime, dressed in black, white and royal blue. The crowd swayed along to their rendition of “Brown-Eyed Girl” and couldn’t help but enjoy one of their middle school favorites, “Shut Up And Drive.” The ensemble was extremely well put together in regards to dress, choreography, and voice. They deserve kudos for successfully planning and publicizing the event. The great turnout suggests that Notre Dame students may love a capella as much as they love free food and football.

 Contact Erin Thomassen at ethomass@nd.edu