Singing In The Key Of Victory

Courtesy of Absolut A Capella.
Courtesy of Absolut A Capella.
Courtesy of Absolut A Capella.

New Paltz’s co-ed a cappella group Absolut-ely dominated this year’s International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) Northeast Quarterfinal round.

Held at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, N.Y. on Saturday, Jan. 25, the competition featured a cappella groups from SUNY Potsdam, SUNY Albany and RPI. Each group performed sets of three songs, complete with choreography and microphones, and the top two were chosen to move onto the Northeast Semifinal round at Berklee College of Music in Boston on Saturday, March 29.

While other collegiate a cappella groups solely work toward ICCA, entering the contest was an afterthought for Absolut A Cappella, according to Emily Holub.

“We saw that the competition was open the day before submissions were due and we submitted a video of our first performance ever which wasn’t even that good and we got in,” Holub, a third-year organizational communications major and president of Absolut A Cappella, said. “We’ve never done this before. We put this all together in a week and we didn’t think we were gonna win.”

While the group normally rehearses only three days a week, they bumped it up to five before the competition, choosing to sing the three arrangements they were most confident with, Holub said. After narrowing down the choices of performance pieces through a vote, Absolut decided on “Parachute” by Ingrid Michaelson, “Waiting for You” by Seal and “Cosmic Love” by Florence and the Machine. They also incorporated choreography into their performance, which was new to them.

“We just sing. We don’t perform with mics and do choreography for a million people, that’s not what we’re about,” Holub said. “The choreography wasn’t technically hard, but it was really aesthetically pleasing.”

Absolut made sure not to get pitchslapped by the competition, as they pride themselves on entering for the sake of having fun.

According to Stephen Kalogeras, a fourth-year sociology and theater performance double-major and vice-president of Absolut, in the end, it was all about doing what they love.

“It feels great because we didn’t go in to win,” Kalogeras said. “To know that our hard work paid off and that other people saw that was great. Even if we didn’t win, we got to share our talent for other people.”

According to Kalogeras, a component of Absolut that makes them stand out from the competition is their ability to mimic instrument in their arrangements. While other groups incorporate stacked harmonies and suspended vowel sounds, Absolut approaches songs by mirroring the instruments’ sounds in the original song and building the song behind their soloist, Kalogeras said.

According to Anthony Amitrano, a Resident Director and graduate student with a major in higher education administration and a former member of Absolut, who attended the competition at RPI, he knew Absolut was going to win as soon as they finished performing.

“The other groups were good, but I was getting bored,” Amitrano said. “Once Absolut went on, there was a clear distinction between the quality of the performances. The choreography and arrangements gave me chills.”

According to Kalogeras, when it was Absolut’s turn to perform, they walked onstage, sang, did a heartbeat movement with their hands and put their heads down when the performance was over.

“When our performance was over, the crowd went silent, and then a girl in the audience screamed ‘oh my God,’ and you just heard applause,” Kalogeras said. “We walked offstage and I started hysterically crying because I was just so proud of everyone.”

Special awards were announced before overall winners, and Absolut won two awards for outstanding arrangement and outstanding choreography. It was only then, Kalogeras said, did it click with him that Absolut could be placed in the top three, two of which would move on to the Northeast Semifinal round in Boston.

Kalogeras said when Absolut’s name was called as the Northeast Quarterfinals first place winners, the entire group was sent into a wave of hugs, screams and tears.

“When we go to Boston, we can’t let the competition throw us off,” Kalogeras said. “We have to think about what the group means to us. We were amazing before we had a title and we’re gonna be amazing after. If we’re Absolut and we’re the Quarterfinal champions, that’s great, if we’re not the Semifinal champions, that’s great. We’re still a family and we still love each other, and we’re not going to win, we’re going to have fun.”