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ND, USC a cappella groups to perform

Jenn Metz | Friday, March 20, 2009

Rivalries with USC only go as far as the sports field; this weekend, the Trojans’ famed a cappella group, the SoCal VoCals, will make the trip to South Bend to perform with the Notre Dame group Halftime.

“They are the cream of the crop when it comes to a cappella groups,” Brian Kastenholz, the music director for Halftime, said.

On their spring break tour of colleges and universities, the SoCal VoCals asked Halftime to perform in a joint concert.

This marks the first time Halftime will perform with an a cappella group from outside of Notre Dame.

The relationship between the two groups has been anything but tense like that seen on the football field when the two schools interact.

“It’s nothing like the football team, that’s for sure,” Kastenholz, a junior, said. “They’ve been really welcoming, and we have as well.”

Performing with other groups is beneficial to the members of Halftime, he said.

“It’s really good thing to have for kind of a growing group like ours,” he said of Halftime, which is in its fifth year. “The experience of being with another group, especially another group that’s so prestigious as they are is great.”

The SoCal VoCals boasts a win at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella annual competition, where they took home top honors.

Halftime performs pop-rock arrangements – “modern, popular stuff,” Kastenholz, who arranges the songs for the group, said.

“We like to bounce ideas off the group. It’s a good process,” he said of the group’s song selections.

“Ultimately we decide what would be the most fun to arrange and the most fun for the group to perform,” Kastenholz said.

Singing a cappella comes with some challenges.

“It’s our goal to emulate what you hear on the radio,” Kastenholz said. “You try to embody the instruments you’re singing.”

A cappella is an Italian phrase that, in music terms, means without musical accompaniment.

“It’s definitely a challenge there – trying to embody what the song is with the instruments and then trying to take over the instruments with our voices,” Kastenholz said.

The 13-member group boasts a wide range of sounds; one member is able to imitate a “guitar-synth voice,” he said.

Learning to sing a cappella is a transition from other musical forms, but “the people in the group are all very musically inclined to begin with. It’s not really a challenge to learn the music, just to perfect it,” Kastenholz said.

Perfecting the a cappella sound comes from “observation – viewing other a cappella groups, listening to them,” he said.

The concert this weekend with the USC group is “not just about us – it’s about the SoCal VoCals – there’s no better group than the SoCal VoCals – we’re really honored that they want to do a concert with us,” Kastenholz said. “If you’ve ever been interested in a cappella, this is the group to see.”

Something to look forward to for fans of Miley Cyrus: Kastenholz said the group’s five- or six-song set will wrap with her hit single “See You Again.”

“It’s our fun song right now,” he said.

Halftime has made a name for itself since it first came to campus; last fall over 50 people came out to audition for three open spots, Kastenholz said.

“I really feel like this concert is just going to put us over the edge and get more recognition,” he said.

They’ve still been trying to find their role among other campus groups, however, like The Undertones.

“The Undertones are connected … they’re more established, they’ve been around longer, they have more tradition than we do,” he said.

Another way the co-ed Halftime differs from the all-male Undertones: “Every girl is obsessed with them,” Kastenholz said.

The concert with the SoCal VoCals, which will take place Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Carey Auditorium in the Hesburgh Library, is just one event Halftime has on its schedule this weekend; the group will also perform in an exhibition with other Notre Dame a cappella groups, including The Undertones on Sunday.

Tickets for the SoCal VoCals and Halftime are $3 for students and $5 for non-students and are available at the LaFortune Box Office or at the door.