No one could have guessed that a music style that has its roots in barbershop quartets would have a crowd of college kids on their feet yelling and screaming for an encore. A Cappella performers and vocal bands have been on the rise in popularity with their outrageous human beat-boxes and deep, bass vocals that shake the foundation of the musical world.
“I like the challenge of putting together a song like ‘Circle of Life’ without any instrumentation, and I think that maybe people who don’t sing or just listen don’t realize how much practice it takes to cover all the aspects from the bass to the soprano to the drums,” founder of UAA’s A Capella group AK Chill, Kyle Pan said.
Recently, UAA held it’s 15th annual festival of A Cappella music in the Wendy Williamson Auditorium. People laughed, they cheered; they sang along to “Hotel California” and didn’t care who heard.
But there is something about classic rock hits performed without physical instrument backup that drives people wild. When the bass vocals hum into a microphone, people roar with excitement. When the beat box takes a solo, everyone cheers and claps along in rhythm.
This year, the Concert Board brought in university groups from the lower 48 like Reverse Osmosis from the University of California, whose mix of college talent brought regular pop culture songs to life with a new breath of fresh air. The community college group Fermata Nowhere featured all male singers form Mt. San Antonio College who had the audience rolling with laughter.
But the biggest feature of the night was InPulse, a vocal band starring four members: Gabe Koxlien as tenor, Andy Miller as vocal percussion, Matt McDonald as baritone, and Marcus Hanson as bass. They performed a wide variety of songs from some of Johnny Cash’s hits to Queen’s “Fat-bottomed Girls”.
Even UAA had local talent participate in the night’s event and had the university’s own A Cappella group open the show with moving songs of love and friendship. The students certainly seemed eager to be on stage, and it reflected in their high-energy performance that warmed up the crowd.
A Cappella is not all about the rocking show that’s put on, however. Before the performance, high school students and others were invited to a singing workshop to improve their skills. InPulse and other musical gurus taught them the ways of a cappella, offering insight to students.
A Cappella is an experience open to all who wish to try it. UAA’s own group, AK Chill, is looking for raw talent so anyone with a love for singing is welcome to audition. Pan started up the group in February 2007. It’s AK Chill’s fourth semester and currently consists of a mixed group of five female vocalists and six male singers. The group has seen over 30 students pass through as members since they started.
“We haven’t done workshops yet or any teaching really, but our mission is just to, you know, entertain the student community and bring a fresh, creative approach to music,” Pan said. “[We want to give] more on campus than just the classical artists. You know, on Valentine’s Day, we’ll go around and serenade people.”
AK Chill is the first and still only a cappella group at UAA. As it’s popularity grows, maybe UAA’s following will too.