2014- The Year in A Cappella

**Yes, this is going up way later than I typically do the annual review. You have my heartfelt apologies and a sincere promise to get the 2015 review up in January, 2016. If you want to help out with these types of posts (or any other types of posts), I could always use some help. Just email me at dave@acatribe.com.

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While it seemed like nothing could top 2013 in terms of the expanding global reach of a cappella music, 2014 found ways to do precisely that. Pentatonix once again led the way with some remarkable achievements in their quest for mainstream pop relevance, Peter Hollens was signed to a Sony record label, and The Sing Off continued to create a variety of new and amazing offshoots.

We begin, of course, with Pentatonix.  A comprehensive list of the performances, appearances, and other relevance would be impossible (for me), but let’s review a few of the most noteworthy items. We begin, of course, with record releases and sales. In May, the group was signed to RCA Records.  As with 2013, they released a new pop music EP (PTX Vol. III) and a Christmas album (That’s Christmas to Me). The first reached number 5 on the Billboard 200 album chart and with 46,000 sales in the first week, but it was the latter that truly exploded. That’s Christmas to Me hit number 2 on the Billboard 200, was one of only 4 albums to go PLATINUM all year (the other 3? Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, and the Frozen soundtrack).  It was the highest-charting Christmas album by a group since 1962.  The global superstars of a cappella have nearly 8 million followers on YouTube and close to 900 million views.

Ok, welcome back. So, PTX sold a lot of records. What kind of opportunities does that bring with it? Just a few things like…

 

They were interviewed on CBS, featured in articles on Huffington Post, called social media superstars by Parade magazine, and so much more.

Their 2015 is off to an amazing start with sold out shows around the country and announcements that they will appear in this year’s Pitch Perfect 2, be opening on tour for Kelly Clarkson, and are rumored to be working on an album of all originals. Their meteoric ascent continues to astound.

Nothing else in 2014 a cappella news compares to the Pentatonix story, but here’s what else was noteworthy.

Noteworthy Recordings and Releases

The House Jacks released an album, “Pollen,” in which each track features a collaboration with a different international a cappella group.

The Swingle Singers released the first of two new albums on the way, “Weather to Fly.”

Peter Hollens was signed to the Sony Masterworks label, and its imprint Portrait Records released his first full-length album in October. The album features collaborations with a variety of artists, the most notable of which is the legendary Beach Boys songwriter/performer/co-founder Brian Wilson.

Gentleman’s Rule released a live album, Live at the Star Plaza.

Ball in the House released the EP “Move.”

Voices Only (*for whom I am an associate producer) released the 10th anniversary edition of the annual compilation, and the first to feature high school groups.  It also released non-scholastic compilation “Forte III.”

The Funx released the EP “Louder.”

Voces8 released an album on Decca Classic called “Eventide” which was recorded at Abbey Road studios.

Canada’s eh440 released their debut album, “Turn Me Up,” and a stylish video

VoicePlay released an 8-song EP called “Collide.”

The Women’s A Cappella Association (WACA) released their first compilation, the Best of Women’s A Cappella.

CASA released the Sing 11 compilation, which was selected from a record 170 artist submissions and over 1200 individual track submissions. The compilation featured eight original songs and seven international selections, which was the most ever.

The Bonner Jazzchoir from Germany celebrated its 10th anniversary by releasing “Bottle This Moment.”

The Vocal Company released a number of tracks from their Summer 2014 series.

This compilation of Italian a cappella was released.

Sing Off season 2 winners Committed released a holiday album, “Home for Christmas.”

Competitions

The ICCA winners were Berklee’s Pitch Slapped, and ICHSA winners were Northern Highlands Regional’s Highlands Voices.

Women of the World won the Harmony Sweepstakes competition.

Bling won the Sweet Adelines competition.

Musical Island Boys won the big prize at the Barbershop Harmony Society international competition.

Television and Movies

The Sing Off returned for a very truncated single episode “season,” won by the Vanderbilt Melodores, which was seen by more than 5 million people.

Straight No Chaser released a new Christmas song, “Text Me Merry Christmas,” and a video featuring actress Kristen Bell, and the group also appeared on NBC’s The Today Show to perform the song.

University of New Hampshire’s Not Too Sharp appeared on NBC’s The Today Show.

Naturally 7 appeared in a Honey Nut Cheerio’s commercial, and on a morning show in Australia.

A cappella documentary “Sounds Good To Me” was released for online rental, which you can check out here.

Jimmy Fallon enjoyed showing off his barbershop group The Ragtime Gals several times, including here, here, and here.

Tours and Performances

The Sing Off tour in 2014, featuring Home Free, VoicePlay, and The Filharmonic, sold out approximately two-thirds of its shows across the country, showing there is still significant interest in the show.

Duwende and m-pact co-developed, produced, and launched a project called “I Wish For All Time.”  The show involves an a cappella tribute to the music of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, and has performed to sold-out audiences around the country.

Vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, who helped Caroline Shaw win a Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for her composition “Partita for 8 Voices,” performed at the pre-show for the Grammy awards and actually won an award for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.

The first annual SheSings festival featured headlining groups Honey Whiskey Trio and The Riveters.

Sing Off competitors The Exchange spent part of 2014 opening for The Backstreet Boys on their European tour.

Colorado-based vocal band Face opened for Bon Jovi.

Musae performed in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

In August, Hyannis Sound held a concert to celebrate the group’s 20th anniversary. CASA reviewed the show here.

Awards

The 2014 CARA awards were once again announced at the Boston Sings festival.  You can find the complete list here.

RARB announced its Picks for 2013, which you can find here.

Misc.

Rockapella received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2014 Boston Sings festival. The group also said farewell to bass George Baldi III and welcomed former Ball in the House bass Ryan Chappelle.

Deltacappella released “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” opera and was on Grammy ballot- opera for voices and performers; the original full length a cappella opera recorded by DeltaCappella and Opera Memphis was picked up by Albany Records and made it onto the Grammy ballot. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. See www.operaacappella.com

In May, Take 6 was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

Fuse TV released this report about viral a cappella.

Loudr, a business which sprang from the a cappella community and remains a top licensing choice for many vocal groups, was featured in this story on CNN.

In October, NYC-based group The Lost Keys held an intimate online performance on Concert Window, at the conclusion of which they announced their Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for their debut EP.

Straight No Chaser has been handed Jim Nabors’ crown and beat out many other marquee performers to sing “Back Home In Indiana” at the Indy 500 this coming May.  Later in the year, they were featured in this touching video welcoming home U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Savali from the Middle East.

Once again, Six13 released a Jewish holiday parody (“Chaunkah- Shake it Off”) which went viral and showed up on multiple media outlets.

Our Danish friends Postyr (formerly Postyr Project) had a busy year, with the exit of tenor Andreas Bech (replaced by Morten Bylofte), the publication of their book “Icebreakers- A Practical Approach to Group Dynamics,” and the introduction of their first international summer camp, which welcomed 50 participants from 11 countries. They also entered a collaboration with the international fashion brand Vero Moda, who has picked the Postyr song Run Run Run for their Spring campaign video.

Home Free was inducted in the Country Music Association (and was praised by Buzzfeed for doing this).

The Penn Shabbatones and Queens College Hillel’s Tizmoret performed at The White House.

Members of ARORA appeared in this Toshiba ad singing “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”

Much to our dismay, The Boxettes broke up. Here’s to hoping for a reunion down the road.

Apparently, a cappella is a big thing in Silicon Valley tech companies.

The Alexandria Harmonizers put on the A Ca Challenge for the DC-area vocal scene.

SING!, The Toronto Vocal Arts Festival, expanded to three cities in Texas: SING! Tyler, SING! San Antonio and SING! Austin. Watch for these festivals to grow in 2015. SING! Toronto moved to its new home in the Distilery Historic District, welcoming more CASA groups in 2014.

A collaboration of commissions from some of the best vocal arrangers in the world (Mark Kibble and Cedric Dent of Take 6, Don Hart and Paul Langford of Glad, Phil Mattson, Michele Weir from every vocal jazz group, Anders Edenroth of The Real Group, Johnathon Rathbone of the Swingle Singers, Matthew Selby and Britt Quentin from m-pact, and Darmon Meader of New York Voices) for an a cappella hymn project sung by SoundStage called One Savior One Voice was released.

Camp Acappella exploded in popularity with 200% of attendance from the year before.

The FSU AcaBelles went viral with this video, which was featured on multiple media outlets and is now at over 8 million hits.

Online virtual group Accent met in person for the first time and performed at the _ festival in Sweden.

Huffington Post was all about the a cappella in 2014 with articles like this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this (sort of), and so much more.

OSA’s Vocal Rush (of Sing Off Season 4 fame) was featured in this ABC affiliate story.

An improvised “radio show jingle” by Club For Five! Suomipop radio station has over 1.5M listeners per week and a coverage of 4.5M of the population in Finland (total 5.5M) making it the most popular radio channel.

This isn’t a cappella, but since Bobby McFerrin is pretty much a pillar of modern a cappella, you might enjoy this Key and Peele sketch.

Tim Hauser, a vocal group pioneer and founder of The Manhattan Transfer, and pop music historian, passed away on October 14, 2014.

Florian Stadtler of The Vocal Blog authored a series of posts for CASA which you can find here.  Stadtler also delved into the SingTrue app with this interview.

A number of small a cappella festivals sprouted up, including this, this, and this, while others continued their annual traditions (such as this, this, and this).

The first A cappella Academy was held last summer, and they released this video afterwards.

The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London will offer a degree in beatboxing.

Speaking of beatboxing, apparently you can get Google Translate to do just that.

Finnish vocal rock quartet Fork began performing their new tenth anniversary show, “X.” Here’s a taste of what that show looks like.

Naturally 7 was featured on the Yahoo Music page for their cover of Coldplay’s Fix You.

California-based group Hookslide put together this cool video featuring shots from audience cellphones.

The Spidey Boys were interviewed in a joint effort with Popappella and the AcaFanBase.

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Obviously, there was plenty more which we just could not cover. PLEASE feel free to leave a comment with your group’s news from 2014 or anything which you know we omitted.

2015 is already off to a great start, so check back next January (I promise) for a full accounting.

7 Comments

  1. Bob McSwain   •  

    “The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London will offer a degree in beatboxing”

    When are you moving? ☺

  2. Eleanor Dennison   •  

    You neglected to mention both of Home Free’s albums Crazy Life released in February and reached #40 on Billboard Hot 200 and their holiday offering Full of Cheer released in October and reaching #65. (They were both on the chart at the same time.)

    • Dave Bernstein   •     Author

      That is a huge and inadvertent omission, thank you so much. I did have it on my list but never transferred it into the post. Thank you for catching it!

      • Eleanor Dennison   •  

        I did wonder … welcome of course.

  3. Aaron from Acaville   •  

    Dave, one note – you mention the Spidey Boys. Note that they changed their name to Apollo Link around the beginning of this year. While the name change didn’t make it in time for 2014, it might be worth a parenthetical next to their name in the post.

  4. annemay seyfried   •  

    HOME FREE’s FULL CD INFO..CRAZY LIFE cd: Itunes #1 Country, #4All genres, BB200 #8 Country, #40 All genres
    Amazon: #1 Country, #3 All genres, Top rated (cust reviews) #1 Country -from 185,000 Country cds!, #3 All gen- res for over a year! Currently rated #3 Country, #10 All genres Since rlsd Feb. 2014, still on & off the Itunes top 1500 All genres charts, currently Amazon #44 Country Rock, #77 Today’s Country and per Roughstock: #29 Top
    Selling Country cd…FULL OF CHEER DLX cd: Itunes #5 Best Selling New Christmas cd of 2014, BB200 #65 Holi- day, Amazon #1 Christmas, #62 All genres, currently #27 Christmas & still going…
    .
    AWESOME ADDICTING VIRAL VIDS, like: RING OF FIRE, ANGELS WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH, hilarious/gorgeous country-fied ALL ABOUT THAT BASS (per Meghan Trainor: Best thing she’d ever seen!), etc…
    .
    INCREDIBLE HARMONIES/BASS/BEATS: HONEY I’M GOOD, WHAT WE AIN’T GOT, BUTTS REMIX (classier than it sounds & awe- some!), FEELIN’ IT, WAKE ME UP, AMERICAN KIDS, CRAZY LIFE (hilarious LEGO-fied), THINK- ING OUT LOUD/ LET’S GET IT ON, HUNTER HAYES MEDLEY, YOUR MAN, 19 YOU + ME, ANY WAY THE WIND BLOWS, MOM, CMA SINGLE OF THE YEAR MASH-UP, OH HOLY NIGHT, DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR, etc….
    .
    AWESOME ORIGINALS:
    EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY, I’VE SEEN, hilarious CHAMPAGNE TASTE ON A BEER BUDGET & FULL OF CHEER, etc…
    .
    AWESOME BASS & BEATS:
    .
    ‘ADAM RUPP VP SOLO VANCOUVER’ – (insane beatboxer, like real drums/EDM/scratch, etc)!
    ‘TIM FOUST VOCAL RANGE UPGRADE G0-G#5’ – (5+ octave deep smooth super-bass, who just hit a low D1 in HONEY I’M GOOD -arr. by Adam)!
    .
    AWESOME LIVE:
    .
    ‘FULL CRAZY LIFE TOUR PERFORMANCE’, ‘DENVER CONCERT 3/28/15’, ‘MANKATO FULL OF CHEER CONCERT’
    ‘MAJESTIC DALLAS CONCERT’………… *** THEY ALWAYS SOUND LIKE A FULL BAND!!! *** ……..
    .
    THESE 5 VERY TALL/6’2″-6’4″, FUNNY, DOWN-TO-EARTH, UBER-TALENTED, G’LOOKING GUYS,(BESIDES VIRAL
    VIDS & TOP CHARTING CDS), HAVE SOLD-OUT CONCERTS (incl. arena, for aca-naysayers), WORLDWIDE FANS:
    EUROPE/AUSTRALIA/ASIA in 2016 & BEYOND & AS THE WORLD’S FIRST COUNTRY ACA-BAND, THEY ARE BLA-
    ZING THEIR OWN AWESOME TRAIL, THEIR WAY…(For those comparing to PTX, who are awesome in their way)..

    LIKE WE SAID, THEIR VIDS/SONGS ARE SUPER-ADDICTING!!! THEY RELEASE APPROX. 2 PER MONTH!! :) :)

    • annemay seyfried   •  

      For super-fans: HOME FREE will be at CMA FEST on JUNE 14th-Bell Park Stage & debut at GRAND OLE OPRY on JULY 17th, Nashville, Tn !!!! :)

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