Ten talented groups falling under the umbrella of the UConn A Cappella Association came together to put on their spring rush concert on Feb. 3. A rush concert is held at the start of every semester, with each group performing one or two songs from their repertoire to give the audience a feel for their style. Afterward, they open up for auditions, eager to welcome new singers into their musical families.
This spring, things looked a little different. Rather than being held at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts, this year’s rush concert was streamed on UCACA’s YouTube page, where it is still available to watch. Each group introduced themselves before their song was played.
“Everyone was required to submit recordings and videos of themselves to a member of another a cappella group here at UConn, Marc Sokolson,” Grace Lawton, an eighth-semester communications major and secretary of The Chordials, said. “It was so awesome to see all of our hard work pay off and showed us we really can produce great music for people to enjoy despite the circumstances.”
Sokolson, a member of Notes Over Storrs, edited, mixed and mastered all of the audio, producing videos for all 10 groups. Despite not being able to sing in person, Sokolson’s production made every performance come to life, as voices came together to create breathtaking melodies.
After the concert was over, auditions could be submitted up until Feb. 6. Although it can be difficult to gauge talent through a screen, auditions were conducted virtually by having interested students send in a video of them singing an a cappella song of their choice. Students were encouraged to audition for multiple groups and instructed to attach their performances to a Google form on UCACA’s website. Questions on the forms varied from group to group, some more eccentric than others, with the Conn-Men asking auditionees for input on the “Air Bud” franchise.
Callbacks were held on Feb. 9 and Feb. 10, still virtually, but in real-time to get a better feel for prospective singers.
UConn is home to five co-ed groups: A Minor, Extreme Measures, Notes Over Storrs, The Rolling Tones and Husky Hungama; two all-male groups: A Completely Different Note and Conn-Men; and three all-female groups: The Chordials, Rubyfruit and Drop the Bass.
During a normal semester, these groups rehearsed in person before performing at local gigs, invitationals with other schools, caroling or even recording EPs. They also collaborate with UConn groups outside the rush concert. The Chordials host Spookappella, a Halloween themed concert where groups get the opportunity to perform wearing fun costumes. Groups, like all-female Drop the Bass, aim to give back to the community outside of their regular performances.
With the COVID-19 pandemic preventing groups from meeting in person, members are forced to rehearse via platforms like Zoom. Holding practices virtually comes along with its own set of challenges.
“We still have rehearsals, but they involve a lot of learning on our own,” Emily Kaufman, an eighth-semester environmental studies and sociology double major and president of Drop the Bass, said. “What I miss the most about in-person rehearsals is the way we move and sing together. So much about a capella is the group dynamic and how you bounce off one another.”
But there are upsides to virtual a cappella, according to Conrad Poole, an eighth-semester allied health sciences major.
“Although it took a learning curve trying to figure out effective methods to rehearse on Zoom, I’d like to think we have a pretty good grasp on it now,” Poole, the president of The Rolling Tones, said. “It has also challenged our members to learn some new things, such as how to edit/mix audio and produce music videos for the group.”
Several groups have been taking advantage of their newly acquired skills, using them to produce music videos or albums. The Rolling Tones and Drop that Bass are working to create an album virtually this year. The Conn-Men recently released their album, “Coffee Run” featuring several songs from their repertoire. Each a cappella group has a repertoire of songs to draw from during the semester. Members typically discuss what pieces to choose based on their interests, desired theme and what works best with a cappella. The Chordials, for instance, have a pop-focused repertoire, promoting songs with an emphasis on empowerment.
“We usually get together at a member’s place and have a (way too long) debate about which songs we want,” Kaufman said. “We usually decide on two to three songs per semester and retire two to three songs.”
Though it is too late to rush this semester, it is never too late to support talent at UConn. Stream their albums and if you’re interested, and consider auditioning next semester! You can learn more about each group and check out their performances at UCACA’s Instagram page: @uconnacappella