AllCappella 2018 highlights talent and community of NU a cappella scene

AllCappella 2018 highlights talent and community of NU a cappella scene
Tana Domingos, third year Psychology major, performs with her team, the Downbeats. / Photo by Albert Tamura.

By Patrick Burgard, deputy campus editor

It was hard to find a seat for the 2018 edition of AllCappella Friday night, where five of Northeastern’s six a cappella groups came together to showcase their talents in front of a sold-out crowd in Blackman Auditorium.

On the program were The Downbeats, Treble on Huntington, Distilled Harmony, The Unisons and The Nor’easters. A positive, anxious energy filled the room in the minutes before the show began; friends and families of performers joked about the prospect of receiving a shoutout from someone they knew. They gazed at the stage where their progeny would soon capture the focus of some 900 attendees.

Community was the theme of the night — something that was made immediately clear as the first group, The Downbeats, made its way onstage to hoots and hollers of encouragement from the crowd.

“I loved the camaraderie between all of the groups on campus,” Dharani Rao, a Distilled Harmony soprano, said. “This was a great night for really showing the Northeastern community what that looks like and what the Northeastern a cappella family looks like.”

For Rao, a fourth-year biology major, the performance carried extra significance. This would be her fourth and final AllCappella show. 

Dharani Rao, four year biology major, sings a solo with the rest of her team, Distilled Harmony, in the background. / Photo by Albert Tamura.

“It’s been my family throughout my entire college experience — and not just people in my own group, but people in the other groups as well,” Rao said. “It’s this giant family comprised of six groups, and it’s really amazing to put that all together into one night and show the rest of Northeastern what this musical love looks like.”

At the blow of the first pitch pipe, the crowd was hushed and attentive, as if audience members were trying to pick out the individual voices of singers they knew from the harmonies.

The first song performed by The Downbeats was a light and fun rendition of Christina Aguilera’s 2000 hit, “Come On Over Baby,” which relaxed the audience. They contrasted this song with an emotionally charged version of Zac Brown Band’s “Colder Weather,” which fused the traditional country sound of the original with high harmonies reminiscent of gospel music.

Treble on Huntington singers perform. / Photo by Albert Tamura.

Next up was Treble On Huntington, who received a raucous welcome from the crowd. The group, Northeastern’s first all-female a cappella troupe, captivated the audience with an impassioned rendition of Kelly Clarkson’s “Because Of You.” 

Distilled Harmony, the next group to perform, employed complex harmonies and brought ample energy and feeling to their songs. They were occasionally interrupted by cheers from the crowd, who responded positively throughout the set.

The Unisons, Northeastern’s all-male group and event hosts, followed up that performance with a set that pulled the audience in to a new level of engagement. During the second song, a version of Lauv’s “I Like Me Better,” many members of the audience were nodding their heads along, seemingly out of reflex. But by the third song — their arrangement of “Safe Inside” by James Arthur — the audience became still, apparently entranced by the vocal range and passion of Tristan Smith’s voice.

The Unisons, hosts of the event, perform. / Photo by Albert Tamura.

“I always feel that I could have done better,” Smith, a fourth-year junior business administration and marketing major, said after the show. “I’m very hypercritical of myself.”

Finally, the show was capped off with a performance by The Nor’easters, probably the best-known of Northeastern’s six a cappella groups. While the audience responded extremely well to all The Nor’easters’ songs, their second to last song in particular, a version of Rihanna’s “Sledgehammer,” captivated the audience in a way no other song that evening managed to do. All intermittent whispering came to a stop as the crowd was fully consumed with the harmonies in the background paired with the smooth lead vocals.

Clad in all black, the Nor’easters perform as the last group of the night. / Photo by Albert Tamura.

After the show, fourth-year junior psychology major and Nor’easters tenor Anthony Rodriguez summed up his experience both performing and watching the other groups perform.

“This is one of my favorite parts of being in the Nor’easters, being able to perform for the Boston community and for our school community,” Rodriguez said. “I was so impressed with the talent that Northeastern a cappella has. I was sitting in on most of their soundchecks, and I watched them in the balcony when they were actually performing and it just blew me away.”

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