Before last summer, recently formed Collide Vocals was developing its sound and singing at small local gigs in Northern Colorado. Then came Acappellooza 2018, where the group of five performed before a packed house of almost a 1,000 at University of Denver’s prestigious Newman Center for the Performing Arts, wowing the audience, a panel of celebrity judges and going on to win the competition.
“We were a little hesitant because Acappellooza was our first competition as a group,” said Jonathan San Augustin, who had participated in the event with his high school group two years earlier. “It ended up being a really exciting experience for us and a lot of fun,” Jonathan said.
The win gave Collide, which features tight harmonies, unique pop covers and youthful energy, an opportunity to perform alongside other up-and-coming groups and to make a name for itself with area a cappella fans. “To this day, almost everywhere we perform people will come up to us and tell us they saw us at Acappellooza,” Jonathan said.
The winnings of $1,000 in prize money and invites for paid appearances at Sound of the Rockies’ three holiday shows, helped pave the way for Collide to travel and compete nationally and begin recording its first album. It also introduced the group to entirely new and larger audiences.
While the competition is friendly, Acappellooza is real! The groups bring their A game, and the audience is invested in the outcome.
How it’s done:
- Four of the best a cappella groups in the Denver area are chosen to compete after an intense vetting process.
- Each group gets to show off its chops by performing two songs for up to 10 minutes.
- The panel of celebrity judges gives some feedback and the judges cast their votes.
- As round one concludes, members of the audience vote electronically.
- The votes from the judges and the audience are tallied, and the finalists are chosen.
- The top two groups return to the stage to perform one more song.
- The panel of judges selects the winner.
Now in its fourth year, Acappellooza offers something for everyone. For up-and-coming a cappella groups like Collide Vocals, it’s an opportunity to immerse themselves in Denver’s vibrant a cappella community, raise their profile and win some money. For the audience, it’s a chance to enjoy some of the region’s best a cappella and have a say in who comes out on top in the lively competition. The groups come in all sizes – from two members to 18 – and perform everything from contemporary pop to jazz and soul.
A cappella meets Barbershop
At the same time, Acappellooza introduces a cappella followers to Sound of the Rockies and the power of Barbershop’s four-part harmony. As event hosts, SOR typically performs a set of fan favorites and previews songs the chorus is working on for international competition later in the summer.
To SOR member TJ Donahue, who helped launch Acappellooza, this is the part of the evening he most looks forward to.
“The people in the audience who come to our shows know what we’re all about, but most of the collegiate a cappella crowd doesn’t,” TJ explained. “When we begin to sing you can see people’s jaws drop. The audience just goes wild. They love it. Their image of Barbershop, and the stereotype of straw hats and old-timey music, completely falls away.”
The outcome, is a win-win: SOR is able to support the work of up-and-coming singing groups while at the same time spreading the Barbershop bug to a new generation of fans as well as potential future chorus members.
Acappelloza 2019 takes place Saturday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m. The event usually sells out. So, buy your tickets today!
Feature image: 2017 Acappellooza winners Crimson and Slate performing at the event.