A cappella music, which seems like a new fad right now, actually started in the 15th century as a type of church music sung without accompaniment. Recently, it has grown in popularity at high schools and colleges where a cappella groups arrange pop songs. Using only their voices, the group creates a background of music, mimicking the sounds made by drums, guitar, piano, etc., while one person sings the lead.

NBC’s show The Sing-Off has moved a cappella a little bit higher into the mainstream by hosting a competition where the winning group takes home $200,000 and scores a recording contract with Sony. On Monday night The Pentatonix took home the season three championship title, and I have to admit they were my favorite from the beginning.

Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles was a judge on the show, and she shared some insight on a cappella music with New York Magazine. When asked why people are either obsessed with a cappella music or hate it and she replied, “I don’t know why it’s such a hot bed of dispute; it’s interesting. My sister did it when I was growing up, so it was always something I sort of revered and couldn’t wait to be a part of. I love that in the a cappella community, we’re all sort of self-professed nerds and we wear that badge with pride. Like, ‘Yeah, we’re music nerds, get over it!’”

After a quick trip through the blogosphere it seems like New York Magazine is right when they say people either love it or hate it. Here’s what others say.

Lisa Notes loves a cappella music: “You take ownership. There are no instruments filling in the gaps for you. You’re on your own, sink or swim. That means sometimes it can sound fairly rough, but other times, it can send chills down your spine when you hear nothing except a beautiful blend of human voices.”

Vocal Blog writes about the love/hate relationship promoters have with a cappella groups: “Promoters hate a cappella groups, because they are eccentric niche artists on the music market. Promoters love a cappella groups, because it’s easy for them to do radio interviews and mini-showcases including live singing and beatboxing.”

The Contemporary A Cappella Society has one blogger who hates female a cappella groups: “No one wants to hear 15 girls sing high F’s. Could you please just pack it low? Sopranos come a dime a dozen and I know that they’re pretty much who auditions for you, but you don’t need to make them all sing in the stratosphere all of the time….actually, you don’t need anyone singing in the stratosphere any of the time.”

A cappella is certainly more loved than hated at my college. Out of our three a cappella groups, the all-male group, Ithacappella, is the most popular. People wait in line an hour before the doors open to secure the closest seats and the largest assembly room in the Campus Center fills to standing room only with people lingering outside in the hallway.

Perhaps the most well-known a cappella group is Rockappella who have produced more than 20 albums. They have performed with the Boston Pops Orchestra, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and even made an appearance at Strings Music Festival in 1999.

So are you with the love crowd or the hate crowd? Should we bring another a cappella group to the Strings stage?

Posted on November 30, 2011
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Comments [1]

  • 3 Dec, 2011 Anonymous says:

    There's always the exception to the rule. I definitely like a cappella, but can't go as far as love. For me, it's the expansive variety of different genres that makes music so special.

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