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Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s a cappella group to participate in competition

| Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Sleek melodies, bouncy beats and charming choreography will enliven Legends this Thursday during the “Aca–Off.” Four Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s a cappella groups are set to face off in this battle of voice at 9 p.m.

The groups Harmonia, Unchained Melodies, The Echoes and Bellacappella will compete. The winner of the competition must best its competitors in three separate categories and will win a $500 reward.

Senior Laura Eckert, member of the Notre Dame Christian a cappella group Unchained Melodies, said the Aca–Off is a way for a cappella groups to exhibit the music they have been rehearsing and bond through a mutual passion for singing.

“There‘s going to be a lot of different musical styles there,” Eckert said. “It’s a really interesting way for all of the a cappella groups to come together and share our music.”

The categories for this year’s event are ballads, throwbacks and chart–toppers. Each group has prepared four songs, one for each category, as well as a final “battle song.” The audience will choose the winner.

The Aca–Off is expected to demonstrate a variety of musical styles while allowing the groups to engage with each other and a new audience, Eckert said.

“Everyone tends to pick soloists who do great on a specific song because everyone has something unique to bring as far as voice goes,” she said. “What I really enjoy about Unchained Melodies is our purpose beyond just singing the songs. All of our songs have a really deep meaningful message. Sharing that message with a broader audience who wouldn’t necessarily come to one of our concerts will be great.”

In addition to their work on–campus, Unchained Melodies also reaches out to the South Bend and Chicago communities to perform at nursing homes and homeless shelters, Eckert said.

The Aca–Off allows each group to can gain experience with competitive singing. In addition, the Aca–Off helps Legends continue to build a relationship with student groups on campus. It also offers a chance to build community amongst the a cappella groups, senior and co–director of Saint Mary‘s group Bellacappella Franny Wall said.

“I think our biggest takeaway will be experience performing in front of audiences, which is always beneficial,” Bellacappella co–director and senior Franny Wall said in an email. “It is also a great opportunity to get to know members from other groups and hear what kind of repertoire they are performing this semester.”

To prepare for the Aca–Off, Bellacappella picked out music it has previously rehearsed on and also incorporated a new piece into its set.

“Once we had all the songs chosen, it was just a matter of pulling them out regularly at rehearsals to keep them fresh in our minds and voices,” Wall said.

Bellacappella also performs a full concert each semester and at various other events on and off campus, such as football tailgates and Board of Trustees dinners.

Harmonia co–president and senior Claire Alexander said Aca–Off is an opportunity for the group to perform songs it may use for future concerts and to build community within Harmonia. Harmonia is Notre Dame’s only all-female a cappella group.

“Of course Harmonia would love to win the event, but our main goal is to help build friendly, collaborative, fun relationships between the a cappella groups of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s,” Alexander said in an email. “We also want to sound our best and use this event to reintroduce members we’re welcoming back from being abroad last semester.”

Harmonia will also have a spring concert April 20 and recently performed at Junior Parents Weekend.

“We always like having different performances throughout the semester before our main concert at the end of the semester,” senior and Harmonia member Molly Chen said in an email. “Competitions are an especially fun way for us to see what other groups have been working on and support them.”

Editor’s Note: Molly Chen is Scene Writer for The Observer.

Sophomore Mary Hope Clark, member of Notre Dame’s co–ed a cappella group The Echoes, said she hopes that the Aca–Off will help publicize the group and that the singers can use the event as a forum of support and pride.

“We really want to show people what The Echoes are all about,” Clark said in an email. “We love getting to perform for students, so we just want to do our best and say, ‘Hey, we’re The Echoes. We’re doing what we love and we want to share our passion with you.’

“We also want to enjoy and support the other groups because all of the a cappella groups perform in many varied facets, so it’s rare that we all get to perform together.”

The Echoes previously performed at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) at Ball State University and their spring concert will take place April 28.

“The competition we did earlier in the year, the ICCAs, was a lot of fun and great experience, but all the groups, pardon one, weren’t from Notre Dame,” Clark said in an email. “It was incredible to interact with groups from different campuses, but there’s something special about singing with and celebrating your peers that makes us particularly excited about the Aca–Off.”

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