The audience at Nuance’s Holiday Concert in December could do nothing but laugh when the group’s members ran onstage dressed as their favorite cartoon characters from their childhood. While Spongebob and a Mutant Ninja Turtle were beat boxing, various cartoon characters such as Steve from “Blue’s Clues”, The Powerpuff Girls, Buzz Lightyear, and Fred Flintstone harmonized to top hits like “Some Nights.” The night could not have done any better in relieving the stress of upcoming finals.
Akron is lucky enough to be entertained by a handful of a cappella groups that perform on and around campus: three of these groups are Kanga-Blue, Nuance, and [gruv]. Although each group has its own style and personality, similar elements lead to each group’s success. The combination of committed rehearsals, thorough repertoire, and passionate members of the three ensembles, allow the groups to achieve their level of performance.
Kanga-Blue, the all-female a cappella group, is led by student director Merissa Coleman.
“We usually practice for about 1.5-2 hours per rehearsal, two rehearsals a week. We spend a lot of time on vocal exercises that will improve our sound and help to find the right vocal tone and blend: Especially in the beginning stages of the semester,” Coleman said about the Kanga-Blue rehearsal schedule.
UA Nuance, the all-male a cappella group, rehearses for two hours, three days a week.
Zach Toom, UA Nuance’s artistic director, described preparing for performances.
“Often, we need the extra time to actually focus instead of joking around. One key to being successful at show time is to consistently put in the work throughout the rehearsals,” Toom said. “When nearing a performance, rehearsals tend to become more focused as we set our eyes on the prize.”
Rehearsing is a bit trickier for [gruv] because its members consist of recent (and not so recent) graduates. Formed in 2010 by two UA chorus-conducting graduate assistants, the male/female mixed group includes a number of music teachers, chorus music graduate teaching assistants, a math teacher, a pharmaceutical technician, and two casino game dealers.
“It’s not as easy to get everyone together on a regular basis as it is with a college group,” said Sam Kitzler, a member of [gruv]. “We have a pool of about 12 to 15 members. However, since most of us are graduated and have day jobs and busy lives, we generally only perform with around 10 on any given performance.”
While having dedicated rehearsal time is important, picking the appropriate songs is crucial to connect with their audiences.
To find the songs that will hit the right note, Kanga-Blue brainstorms in rehearsal. The lighthearted members of Nuance pick their songs by considering how it will sound and by considering its entertainment value.
“The group exists to have fun and entertain audiences, and it is crucial to select songs that assist in that,” Toom said. “We are always open to ideas and encourage fans to send us their suggestions.”
For [gruv], Kitzler acknowledged that picking songs not only involved how the arrangement will sound, but also on the gig. “Sometimes songs just don’t work out and we have to drop them, or they work fine but there’s no good place in our set list for them and they have to be put aside,” Kitzler said.
One of the most prominent elements that is seen in these groups is their passion for singing and performing.
“I think one of the most crucial elements is zeal,” Coleman said. “In order for a group to be good, all of the members have to be extremely excited about and dedicated to the task at hand. They have to be willing to do the work necessary to succeed and have fun doing it. If we have fun as a group, then the audience will too.”
“First off, build a group with a sense of brotherhood. This camaraderie manifests itself in a better sound and better performances. Secondly, be different. To really create a lasting group, you need to push the envelope, switch things up, do the unexpected sometimes,” Toom said. “Don’t just choose songs that you like to sing, choose songs that turn heads and get people talking.”
“The bottom line is that you have to put on a performance that people want to hear and see,” Kitzler said. “You have to have music that works well for your group, that makes the most of everyone’s abilities, is interesting to listen to, and that can be performed well.”
This semester, we can expect many exciting things from each ensemble. While [gruv] will be recording and doing gigs, Kanga-Blue will be working towards building up its repertoire to have their first full Kanga-Blue concert.
Toom was excited to share that Nuance was trying something new this semester.
“We will be having a Valentine’s Day concert for all of the lovebirds and hopeless romantics out there,” said Toom. The tentative date for the concert is planned for Friday, Feb. 15.
Nuance will be having open auditions for anyone interesting in joining their group; those wishing to audition for Nuance, or wanting them to perform at an event, can contact email@example.com. If you’d like to learn more about any of these groups, you can find them on Facebook and YouTube.