For such a small seaside town and university, St Andrews has an unusually large number of student a cappella groups, each with a slightly different style. While we St Andreans are all familiar with the faces of our own, last night St Andrews was introduced to two visiting groups in the first annual Scottish A Cappella Championship. Situated in a packed Younger Hall, the event began with a crowd-energizing introduction from the comedians of The St Andrews Revue, who visually demonstrated the judging factors on which groups would be assessed. Laughter from the crowd and a general feel-good vibe marked the start to a great night.
The tartan-clad Choral Stimulation from the University of Glasgow began the competition, kicking off their performance with a well-choreographed ‘Use Somebody’ and bringing in other popular tunes such as ‘Mr. Brightside.’ Following them were The Accidentals, an all-girl St Andrews group who have recently competed in the Voice Festival UK in London. With uniform printed trousers highlighting their signature colours of black and neon pink, they made a strong visual impact that was further enhanced by excellent choreography. They hit home with a classic mash-up of Black Eyed Peas songs, which later won Ellie Mason an award for outstanding arrangement. Following the Accidentals, we saw two more all-female St Andrews groups before the intermission. The Belles, a newer group, performed an impressive rendition of a challenging song – Same Love, by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, complete with flawless rap lyrics. Finally we saw The Hummingbirds, who showcased a range of popular mainstream songs including Katy Pary’s ‘Roar’ and some old-school Justin Timberlake. The first half of the show left the audience feeling good and anticipating what was in store from the remaining groups. However, being situated in Younger Hall meant the intermission left the audience with little to do but sit in their seats, filling the time by chatting to friends and wandering aimlessly about.
Following the break, the crowd was awed with a captivating performance of ‘Put Your Records On’ from The Alleycats, a co-ed St Andrews group. The soloist Ayanna Coleman swept the audience into a dazed hush that was further enhanced by flawless choreography by Jessica Browne, both of whom won awards (for outstanding soloist and outstanding choreography, respectively). The Alleycats performed a 12-minute set full of contagious energy. Immediately following were Aberdeen’s co-ed group, Aberpella. Among their set was ‘I Need a Doller’ by Aloe Blacc and the crowd-pleasing Macklemore hit ‘Thrift Shop’ complete with the signature fur coat as a costume prop. Special mention also must go to the soloists performing Ed Sheeran’s ‘I See Fire’ combined with the soundtrack hit from Frozen ‘Let It Go,’ who completely captivated the audience. Finally, The Other Guys brought the evening to a close. Though their first number was slow and subdued, they quickly picked up the energy and culminated their performance with a rendition of ‘Remix to Ignition’ that left the crowd laughing and cheering wildly and, frankly, wanting to join in.
After all of the groups had performed, the three guest judges set out to deliberate. Unfortunately, this left the audience hanging for an extended period of time with nothing to do. Though the decision time was supposed to be 15 minutes, nearly half an hour passed before everyone reconvened. Finally they came to a decision, and after the standard introductions and thank-you’s, they began to announce the results. Individual awards went to Jessica Browne of The Alleycats for outstanding choreography, Ayanna Coleman of The Alleycats for outstanding soloist, Richard Phillips of The Other Guys for outstanding vocal percussion, and Ellie Mason of The Accidentals for outstanding arrangement. The main results were based on a sum of the total scores for each sub-category, minus points for any time a group stayed on stage longer than their allocated 12 minutes. It was a close call, with The Accidentals coming in third place with 323 points, The Alleycats in second with 387, and The Other Guys taking first prize with 405 points. The evening was brought to a close with one final performance from The Other Guys, who repeated their rendition of ‘Remix to Ignition,’ and left the crowd euphorically humming along as they left Younger Hall.
All in all it was a great evening that could have only been improved by smoothing out the intermission and deliberation period. I would highly recommend attending next year for the Second Annual Scottish A Cappella Championship!
Image Credits: Henry Legg Photography