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.”
Continue reading…

Compilations FTW

For years, a cappella compilations have provided one of the best and most cost-effective ways to discover high school and collegiate, national and international groups. When I was in college, I was hungry for new a cappella music, and this was before iTunes was a thing. The most exciting time of the year for me was when the new BOCA (Best of College A Cappella) CD was released, because it was always a chance to discover 5, or 10, or 15 new groups doing new things I’d never heard before. If I loved what a group was doing, I’d often send them a check (no PayPal either) to purchase their new CD. It was a wondrous way to discover new music (also before YouTube! You get it. I’m old). It was also the ONLY way to discover college groups in other parts of the country other than RARB.

Compilations are not just a great way to discover new music, they are also a great way for your group to build your following among people who love a cappella music.

Yes, we now have iTunes. And YouTube. But each year I continue to discover new groups through some of the compilations which will follow. I highly recommend you check them all out and consider purchasing a few (if not all of them!)

[FULL DISCLOSURE- I am an associate producer for Voices Only, which produces compilations of scholastic and non-scholastic vocal recordings]

Best of Collegiate  A Cappella and Best of High School A Cappella– http://varsityvocals.com/albums/

Apply by November 1 here– http://varsityvocals.com/albums/boca-bohsa-application/

Voices Only (scholastic)– http://www.voicesonlyacappella.com/VO/

Voices Only Forte (non-scholastic)– http://www.voicesonlyacappella.com/Forte/

Apply by December 14 here- http://www.voicesonlyacappella.com/Forte/submissionsforte4.php

SING– http://www.casa.org/sing_cd

Apply by October 31http://carawards.herokuapp.com/

Women’s A Cappella Association- WACA Vol. 1– http://www.womensacappella.org/#!wacavol1/c1jjl

Apply by Dec. 1 here– http://www.womensacappella.org/#!wacacomp-submission-form/c225s

Come Together– the A Cappella Education Association has a new compilation in the works for collaborative tracks- http://acappellaeducators.com/come-together/

Apply by Dec. 31

Best of Jewish A cappellahttp://www.bojac.org/

If you know of some other a cappella compilations we missed, feel free to share them in the comments!

 

Our First CD Giveaway Contest

Acatribe team member Tara Ahn has graciously offered to donate a signed copy of Ball in the House‘s new CD “Move” to one lucky reader, and we thought this would be an excellent chance to get our first CD giveaway going.

A few weeks ago, we took a look at the new format for The Sing Off, which now allows groups to compete using backing tracks and/or instruments. You can read that post right here.  We got a terrific response from Aaron at Acaville Radio, and we’re looking for more of the same, so here goes.

Either comment on the original post page (here) or email us (here) your thoughts for or against this format change for the show.  Submissions can be as short as a few sentences or as long as a few paragraphs, and feel free to use any examples or links to make your point. Entries are due October 21 28, and the results will be announced on the blog later that week.

Technical note: You can submit a comment on the original page without creating any special accounts by simply using your Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ account.

Email any questions here, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts on the new format of the show!

Vocaldoings: March, 2013

It’s been a busy few months since we talked about all of the exciting things coming in 2013.  It’s time for a few updates and some news we couldn’t have predicted back in January.

NEWS

On February 1, Inside A Cappella began offering weekly, 5-6 minute shows on its YouTube channel. The show, produced by Deke Sharon and Dave Longo, is hosted by Rachel Chaloub and offers some quick news, editorial/analysis, a few video clips, and more. In the 5th episode, released on March 12, the show broke the news that The Sing Off will be returning for a 4th season. When I say it “broke the news,” I mean it really broke the news. This renewal had not been reported yet on any other entertainment website, though some followed a week later.  You can find out more about the audition dates for the abbreviated Season 4 of the show here. Also, the producers of the upcoming Boston Sings festival announced that groups can mock audition for Deke Sharon and Sing Off executive producer Sam Weisman at this year’s festival.

In other mainstream entertainment news, DreamWorks has apparently picked up the rights for a movie about Straight No Chaser. You can read more about this from the Hollywood Reporter (!) here.

Sled Dog Studios and The Vocal Company announced in early January that they will be joining forces to create a new business offering all of their separate services and more. You can find out more about the merger and the new services in my recent interview with Chief Executive Officer of the new entity, Dave Longo, which is available here.

Speaking of a cappella production companies, Clear Harmonies Productions revamped their website, showed off a new logo, and released info about a new concert series they are producing in Arlington, VA, which will feature remaining performances by groups such as Breath of Soul, Musae, Blue Jupiter, The Executive Board, and Six Appeal.

Craig Martek, founder of The Pow Arrangers, is working on two great new websites, one tracking a cappella groups by location (here), the other tracking upcoming a cappella events (here). The latter was also related to a lengthy discussion on CASA’s Facebook page about how much we would all enjoy a website tracking concerts of part-time and full-time a cappella groups here in the U.S. by location. The discussion has turned to maintenance, and the group is currently seeking volunteers (I already signed up) to track 10 groups per year and update the administrator each month with all upcoming gigs for those groups. If you’re interested, send an email to: brian@casa.org.

The Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award nominees have been announced. You can find the list here, and don’t forget the winners will be announced at BOSS in 2 weeks, so get your tickets here (also, if you go to the festival, you’ll get to see The House Jacks, Postyr Project, Five O’Clock Shadow, and a number of collegiate groups perform, get a chance to mock audition for producers of The Sing Off, and get to see a whole lot of terrific workshops). Also, if you want some insight and analysis regarding the nominees, check out Rob Dietz’s blog for his “Call the CARAs” take on some of the major categories.

ICCA results are coming in, with all of the quarterfinals completed and three semifinals completed as well. Congratulations to all of the groups, and especially to the NU Nor’easters, Michigan G-Men, and FSU Reverb for punching their tickets to the Finals in NYC on April 20 at 8 pm.

Liquid 5th Productions has, as usual, been busy. First, engineers Carl Taylor and Chris Juengel have been alternating running live sound for some group called “Pentatonix”? If you missed it, my review of just how amazing the new PTX tour sounds/looks can be found here.  Liquid 5th has also joined forces with the UK University A Cappella Blog as they increase their reach across the pond (as they say). Here’s more info.

RARB (Recorded A Cappella Review Board) has been reviewing a cappella albums for twenty years. As tends to happen over time, much has changed in what is required and expected of the organization, and RARB has decided that it would be in its best interests to (finally) register as a non-profit organization. The organization is looking for opinions on the best way to raise money to achieve this goal, and we would very much appreciate it if you could take the time to complete our survey, which you can access here.

LIVE MUSIC

As I mentioned previously, Pentatonix has been on tour for much of the past 2 months. If you are able to catch them on any of the remaining dates, I highly recommend you do so.

The Exchange have been quite busy touring Australia and Hong Kong for much of the past 2 months. They have reportedly been working on some new recorded tracks with Tat Tong while on the road, so here’s hoping there’s a new EP coming later this year.

Overboard has been busy touring as well, with their recent “#monkeyponytour” taking them all over the map, including stops in Texas and the United Kingdom. You can find out more about upcoming gigs here.

Sing Strong Chicago just wrapped up this past weekend, with performances from Nota, the Swingle Singers, Traces, Blue Jupiter, Ball in the House, and others. Stay tuned for some videos on this week’s AcaVids coming tomorrow.

RECORDINGS

Since we last updated you all, the Exchange released their full-length debut album, “Get Ready.” You can check it out here (and I highly recommend you do).

Sweet Honey in the Rock have been around for nearly forty years with their very unique blend of folk, blues, jazz, gospel, and ethnic music.  They recently released a new album, a live 2-CD set from Lincoln Center, which is available now on CD and on Amazon, iTunes, etc. The press release for the album is available here.

Five O’Clock Shadow are getting ready to release their first recorded music in almost 13 years! Rumor has it the 5-song EP will be released before or during the upcoming BOSS festival, so stay tuned to the group on Twitter or Facebook for the breaking news.

MO5AIC are getting ready to release their new EP, RE5ET. You can preview it on their website right here.

Rockapella’s “Motown and More” album is now available on iTunes and Amazon.

VIDEOS 

Pentatonix has a powerful new collaboration with Lindsey Stirling which is now up on YouTube here.

Straight No Chaser released a new video collaboration with Sara Bareilles which stirred up some controversy among the die-hard “Chasers.” That video is available here.

Jewish a cappella groups Six13 and the Maccabeats each produced a new, hilarious, and terrific-sounding video for the upcoming Passover holiday. Here is Six13 with Pesach Shop and The Maccabeats with Les Miserables- Passover.

FUNDRAISING

Finally, we all know there is always some good old a cappella fundraising going on at Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Here are a few noteworthy campaigns.

The lovely and talented Boxettes have an ongoing campaign on Pledgemusic for their new EP, “No Strings.” Check it out right here.

North Carolina State University’s Wolfgang has a campaign to fund their new album right here.

The Vocaholics from NYU have an Indiegogo campaign to complete their new album here. (another group from NYU, my own Mass Transit, completed a successful campaign on that same site in just 9 days- go MT!)

New Hampshire’s Not Too Sharp also has a current Indiegogo campaign for their new album, to be recorded with Sled Dog Studios, right here.

The Eldred Key Elements, a high school group run by Justin Glodich, reached their goal but are still hoping for a little extra money to help raise the level of their upcoming album.

Sadly, both Committed and Traces of Blue (aka Afro Blue) recently failed in their efforts to fund new albums, though Traces of Blue is able to use the funds actually raised towards that effort. Here’s to hoping Committed gives it another shot with more success in the near future.

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That’s all the vocaldoings I have time to catalog for now. If you know of some noteworthy a cappella news, don’t hesitate to share it with others by commenting below or email me at dave@acatribe.com

2013- Get Excited

After last week’s recap of all things a cappella in 2012, I started getting excited about things to come in the a cappella world for 2013. I’ve done a little research, some secret conversations, and yes, a little speculating, to put together your very early guide to 2013.

To begin with, let’s talk about albums. For many/most of us, the vast majority of our a cappella consumerism occurs through purchasing and listening to recorded music, with occasional attendance at a live concert or festival (see below).  2013 is going to be chock full of new music for us to get our grubby little hands on.  Check out some of the artists who plan to release EPs or albums this year:

Straight No Chaser– If you didn’t know this already, SNC fans (“Chasers”) are rabid, excitable, and supportive (see the comments for my 2012 recap post). They are also incredibly helpful and generous of spirit. They have informed me that SNC has a new album, called “Under the Influence,” which is due to be released on May 7. Oh, and the group worked with Mervyn Warren and Mark Kibble (Take 6) on it. No big deal. #WHATISHAPPENING

Street Corner Symphony– The runners-up from Season 2 of The Sing Off are getting ready to release their second album, one which features all (or mostly) original songs written by group members, and which featured heavy involvement from Deke Sharon and Bill Hare. This was the first video released from this album. Count me in. Announcement on a release date coming soon.

The House Jacks– Since they released “Level” in 2010, the group has replaced everyone other than Deke Sharon and Austin Willacy. New album with the new lineup coming this year. I have been told there will be an EP released in China this spring (hopefully) followed by a full album for release everywhere else.

Sonos– The a cappella world has been anxiously awaiting a new Sonos album for more than 2 years. That wait is about to end. The new album, currently untitled (or at least title unknown) is going to feature all original music from the group, possibly as many as 15 songs. They will preview/premier tracks from this album at the Essential Listening workshop at Los Angeles A Cappella Festival in a few weeks, so if you are in the same time zone (give or take a time zone), you know where to be on Saturday, Feb. 2.

Transit– Back in 2007, Transit released a 7-song album which won a few awards (Best Pop/Rock Album CARA, for example) and which is still one of the best contemporary albums released in the past 10 years. Well, they’ve been working long and hard on a new album, and it’s coming in 2013. The album is in post-production now, and we’ll likely be hearing a lot more about it soon. The group has some other exciting plans for 2013 as well.

Blue Jupiter– Last year, Blue Jupiter released this promo video. This year, they’re a bit more ambitious. In fact, they will be releasing “something” which could range anywhere from a single album, double album, two separate albums, or even an all-digital collection of 20-30 songs. Wow.

The Exchange– Remember this? Yeah, these guys have been hard at work on their debut album, which is scheduled as of now to be released at The London A Cappella Festival on January 24-26. For now, you can listen to a few of the tracks here.

Rockapella– One of the longest-standing contemporary a cappella groups, Rockapella changed it up recently with their “Motown and More” show. The new album is coming in early 2013- will it follow the format of the new show? We’ll find out soon enough.

MICappella– The runners up to The Sing Off China are in the studio working on a new full-length album to follow their EP released in 2011. They have been working with Tom Anderson on arrangements, and Bill Hare, Tat Tong, Dave Sperandio, Freddie Feldman as well as Plaid Productions. It is tentatively scheduled to be released in March.

The Swingle Singers– Rumor has it the Swingles are getting close to releasing a brand new album. Perhaps they worked with Bill Hare last summer?

The Boxettes– Though it is still a work in progress, The Boxettes have been in the studio to work on a new EP. They’re raising money here (go ahead, kick in a few bucks…you know you want to) and we can all hope they get a release out in 2013.

The Edge Effect– These guys “neither refuse, nor require instruments” according to the video on their successfully-funded Kickstarter video.  Basically, they are a vocal band but are including some instruments on their new album, which should be released this year. The project will include a contribution from Marc Broussard. You know, like you do when you release a new album…

Voices Only Forte II– Last year, Voices Only released the first compilation of all non-scholastic, global a cappella music that I’ve seen, and it was good. I served as a nominator for this sequel, which is due to be announced and released very soon, and I can tell you- there’s some music on here that will blow your mind, and a lot of it comes from groups/performers you’ve probably never heard of.

I’m sure there are more releases planned, but this was the best I could come up with after a few days of research and communications. If you know of another exciting album coming out, drop it in the comments section or send me an email at dave@acatribe.com.

Festivals: There are a few new festivals and changes to existing festivals worth mentioning-

Texas A Cappella Celebration– In case you hadn’t heard, CASA is expanding its festival range to the Lone Star State. Not much info on this yet other than that it’s happening on March 9, 2013, in San Antonio.

SingStrong– This annual festival, the proceeds of which largely benefit Alzheimer’s research and local choral programs, has reproduced! In 2013, there will be 2 festivals, including the regular one in Reston, VA (near D.C.) on March 1-3 and the new one in Chicago, IL on March 22-24. No other details yet.

Camp A Cappella– What do you think about spending a week with The House Jacks, learning about a cappella music, singing, performing, recording, all on a college campus in OH? Hold on, it’s not for everybody. This new camp, put together by Deke Sharon and Brody McDonald is only for teens this year, but if it goes well, who knows what the future could hold.

Festival of Voices-this longstanding choral festival in Tasmania (!) is introducing a new contemporary a cappella track headed by Mr. Deke Sharon. The festival will be July 7-14.

Mile High Vocal Jam– This Rocky mountain festival returns after a 2012 hiatus on Feb. 15-16 with Urban Method and Musae performing, and members of Take 6 judging and running clinics.

* I have been involved in the very early stages of planning with Marc Silverberg for a possible a cappella festival devoted to vocal music in schools in Long Island, New York. We are looking for help with planning and logistics, as well as talent and volunteers, so please email us at liacappellafestival@gmail.com.

And for updated info on all the regular festivals, check back at the global Festival List very soon.

Other:

***Mouth Off– Ok, this is arguably BREAKING NEWS, so I could probably have placed it a lot higher in the post. I have confirmed with Christopher Diaz that Mouth Off will be returning in 2013! We can all look for some public announcements in the next month or so, and then a gradual build-up towards a full return sometime this spring. There may be some changes, and we’ll all have to wait and see what those are, but still- Mouth Off will be back!

Vocal Blog– Florian Städtler has started a very interesting new series of “Big Questions” about a cappella music. The first two posts are here and here.  He hopes/plans to get a lot of the questions answered by spring 2013. He also hopes/plans to make Acappellazone the primary resource for all things a cappella in the EU.

RARB– I can’t tell you much, but I think Mr. Dietz teased some suggestions about changes coming to  the Recorded A Cappella Review Board here.

Ben Spalding is working on a new book about Varsity Vocals which will be released late in the year. There will be chapters about all aspects of the competition process, from application videos to what to wear in performance and how to use sound reinforcement equipment, and a few chapters will be written by some very well known people in the a cappella community.

The Tufts Beelzebubs are celebrating 50 years of existence with a concert February 7 featuring alums including Guster, Peter Gallagher, and The House Jacks.

This is not strictly a cappella, but Claude McKnight (again from Take 6) has a new Kickstarter campaign to create a DVD or show dealing with how groups handle working together over time, and the pilot episode will feature Take 6 as the subjects.

Rumors:

Did you hear that they are making another season of The Sing Off in the U.S.? Another one somewhere outside the U.S.? Did you hear that they’re working on Pitch Perfect 2? Yeah, I heard all of these rumors as well. None is confirmed, and that’s coming from someone who would be connected to all such projects (if you can’t guess who, your contemporary a cappella card is hereby revoked).

Pentatonix is working on a new EP/album! Or not. This has been suggested all over social media, but is not confirmed by anyone. Considering they put out TWO last year, it would not be surprising. Also, they seem to be constantly working on touring, YouTube vids, etc., so they clearly have a lot of energy and desire to continually make music. We can certainly keep our fingers crossed.

So…looks to me like 2013 is gonna be another leap forward for a cappella. What else is coming our way? If you have some news, drop it in the comments or send me an email. I’ll be doing an update next week on some changes coming to the blog in 2013, but for now- get back to work so you can save some money for these new albums!

—-UPDATES (1/13/13)

Traces are close to releasing their debut album, which includes collaborations with Tom Anderson, Marty Gasper, Alex Green, and James Cannon.

Postyr Project will be releasing a new single next week, and a “reloaded album with 5 new songs” hopefully in March.

Texas A Cappella Celebration has launched a new website and announced headliners Delilah and Overboard.

Rockapella’s new album will feature music from their Motown and More show, as well as related music such as the Jackson 5 and others.