2013. The first full year with a cappella submersed in the mainstream.
There were a lot of terrific stories about a cappella in 2013, but I suspect the two biggest have to be related to Pentatonix and Season 4 of The Sing Off.
Pentatonix continued their whirlwind rise through pop music with appearances on dozens of mainstream media outlets including The Tonight Show, ABC World News, Sesame Street, Ellen, Conan O’Brien, and many other networks and programs. More importantly, the group actually hit number 10 on the prestigious Billboard Top 200 album chart. At various points, they were also on the top of Billboard’s Independent Artists chart, hit number 2 on Billboard’s Digital Albums chart, and appeared on Billboard’s Holiday 100 songs chart, the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the Billboard Social 50 chart, the Adult Contemporary chart, and the top of the iTunes albums chart (with their deluxe holiday release PTXMAS). Oh, and their YouTube channel has more than 4 million subscribers and has racked up more than 300 million views. Also, they’re still good! PTX Vol 2 is a terrific step forward from their debut EP.
The Sing Off Season 4 debuted strong with 8.4 million viewers before slipping to 5.2 million for the finale. Though the season was strong substantively, with a lot of talented groups and a fun new battle elimination, I do think NBC did the show a disservice by cramming all 7 episodes into 14 days, inconsistently airing at 8, 9, and even 10 pm EST. Home Free were crowned the champions on December 23, and their new album (Crazy Life) was released on iTunes this week and will be in stores February 18.
The A Cappella Education Association was created by J.D. Frizzell, Brody McDonald, and Ben Spalding, who have successfully directed high school groups Briarcrest Christian High School’s OneVoice, Kettering Fairmont’s Eleventh Hour, and Centerville High School’s Forte, respectively. The organization is devoted to supporting and developing high school a cappella programs, including curricula, resources, and networking opportunities for all members. Membership is free, so check it out!
RARB, the best resource for reviews of a cappella recordings, celebrated its 20th anniversary with a long-overdue (and particularly snazzy) overhaul. The organization also began new segments including DVD reviews, interviews, single reviews, and an ongoing fundraising campaign (please donate here).
Straight No Chaser released an album, Under the Influence, which featured collaborations with Phil Collins, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Jason Mraz, Seal, and more and which hit number 28 on Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart, number 19 on the Digital Albums chart, and appeared on numerous other Billboard album and singles charts. They also appeared on The Today Show and many other national and local television programs.
Pitch Perfect 2 is confirmed for a 2015 release; also, Anna Kendrick’s Cups from the original Pitch Perfect hit 100 million views, blew up on Billboard, and there was talk of a Pitch Perfect holiday album. Also, the soundtrack from the movie won an American Music Award for Best Soundtrack.
Dreamworks has optioned a movie about Straight No Chaser, which you can learn more about here.
In early 2013, Sled Dog Studios joined forces with The Vocal Company, but that’s just the beginning of their prolific 2013. The new combined organization has become a repository for many of the best and brightest in a cappella music today. Better still, they are doing more for a cappella music than anyone since Deke Sharon in the early nineties with new projects such as acappellaEd, the a cappella survey, expansion of Next Level workshops to arranging, songwriting, and high school groups, and much more. Keep watching them- I suspect they’re going to lead us all into a new age for a cappella music.
CASA’s A Cappella Community Awards (ACAs) returned- and we were nominated!
Clear Harmonies Productions started a concert series which included U.S. booking for international acts such as Cluster and MICappella, and their own education program called The A Cappella School.
Pentatonix, Peter Hollens, and Sam Tsui recorded songs for the Disney Channel movie “Teen Beach Movie.”
Acappella Academy was formed by Ben Bram, Avi Kaplan, and Rob Deitz. Learn more here.
Deke Sharon appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” which you can find here.
Deke was also involved with the formation of Camp A cappella, which premiered for teenagers in 2013 and will return in 2014 with sessions for teenagers and high school directors, and a separate session for pros/adults.
The Women’s A Cappella Association held its first “SheSings” festival in Eugene, Oregon, and accepted submissions for a future Best of Women’s A cappella compilation album.
Voices Only released its second Forte non-scholastic compilation and its ninth collegiate edition.
Caroline Shaw won a Pulitzer Prize for her a cappella composition Partita for 8 Voices, performed by Roomful of Teeth, about which she was interviewed here.
The FSU AcaBelles made a huge splash with their cover of Lorde’s Royals, which passed 7 million views in a few short months and featured on CNN, Huffington Post, Elle, local news affiliates, and many other media outlets. The Vocal Company was involved in the prep and publicity for the video.
SingStrong introduced a new, second annual festival in Chicago. This edition featured performances from Swingle Singers, Nota, Traces, Blue Jupiter, Ball in the House, and others.
Bobby McFerrin participated in a “Talks at Google” session in which he performed music from his new “SpiritYouAll” album and answered questions, made sounds, and generally entertained. He also invited SLIXS, formerly known as the Stouxingers, to perform with him on tour.
CASA offered its first southwest festival with the Texas A Cappella Celebration, which will return in March, 2014.
The Festival of Voices in Australia received a lot of local press and included Americans Deke Sharon (workshops) and Take 6 (performing), among many other talented folks (like beatboxer Tom Thum).
Here’s a quick list of competition winners from 2013-
LAAF– OSA Vocal Rush
BOSS– UCD Mix
Harmony Sweepstakes– Honey Whiskey Trio
Barbershop Harmony Society– Masterpiece Quartet
ICCAs– NU Nor’easters
ICHSA– OSA’s Vocal Rush
SoJam– UCD Mix
The Exchange spent a significant amount of time in Australia, Asia, and Europe.
Blue Jupiter showed up in Oreo’s Wonderfilled campaign and on College Humor.
Postyr toured Europe and Asia, including a performance in front of 20,000 at the Taichung Jazz Festival in Taiwan.
Australian group The Idea of North won an ARIA (the Australian Grammy) for Best Jazz Album.
MICappella won the Best Local Artist at the Singapore Hit Awards.
Northeastern’s Nor’easters got a chance to perform at the White House for the President and Mrs. Obama, and even got to pet Bo the First Dog!
Take 6 celebrated its 25 anniversary with appearances on Good Day NY and numerous other local shows, as well as a weeklong stint at the famous Blue Note in New York City and a recording session with Stevie Wonder, and later livestreamed a concert from Japan.
The Tufts Beelzebubs and The Swingle Singers each celebrated their silver (50th!) anniversary.
MO5AIC began a 12-month residency at the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton) which involves a 70-minute show in the 350-seat Shimmer Auditorium.
Duwende appeared on NBC’s “The Winner Is…”, hosted by a cappella familiar face Nick Lachey.
This year brought us the Inside A cappella weekly news(ish) program, produced by Deke Sharon and Dave Longo, and hosted by Rachel Chaloub. You can watch them all on the YouTube channel here.
Jimmy Fallon and the Roots got into the a cappella game right here.
Face made some national news when they decided to serenade their fellow stranded travelers at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport: http://youtu.be/7Nq-zoOIyfg
New to the Web
The A Cappella Sound Tech Facebook page
This is a partial list, in no particular order, of noteworthy non-scholastic album releases in 2013- it’s the best I could pull together and I’m sure I left more than a few out- if you want to add a non-scholastic release, leave it in the comments or email me at email@example.com.
Pentatonix– PTX Vol. II
MICappella– Here We Go
Street Corner Symphony– Southern Autumn Nostalgia
Breath of Soul– 4 The Record
Boxettes (who also appeared on District MTV)- No Strings
Swingle Singers– Weather to Fly
The Magnets– All This Time
Six Appeal– Plan A
The Ex-Boyfriends– Happy Ending
Maybebop– Winger sind Mehr
The Exchange– Get Ready
Sweet Honey in the Rock– Live! Jazz at Lincoln Center
Five O’Clock Shadow– Six
Rockapella– Motown & More
The Bobs– Biographies
Groove for Thought– Songs of Good Cheer
Vox Pop– Mandate
Fork– ElectroVocal Circus
Idea of North– Smile
Postyr Project– My Future Self
Hyannis Sound– Over the Bridge
The Capital Hearings– Opening Statement
Vocal Line– Precious Things
Not sure exactly what to do with this, but…enjoy-http://www.collegehumor.com/post/6822314/college-a-capella-beating-the-system
So, what did I miss? Lots, I’m sure. Feel free to add other notable a cappella moments from 2013 in the comments below!