After competing against eight other groups in the International Competition of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) Northeast Quarterfinals last Saturday, Feb. 11, UNH’s original all-female a cappella group, the New Hampshire Notables, came in second place with 343 points, about 40 points behind Northeastern University’s first place co-ed group, Distilled Harmony. The Notables beat the third place group, the University of Massachusetts’ all-female group, S#arp Attitude, by 30 points. This unexpected placing means that the UNH group will now move on to compete at the semifinal competition, which will be held at the Boston Symphony Hall on March 26 at 2 p.m.
“The Notables came into this competition with the motivation to learn from the experience and to have fun,” the NH Notables’ public relations officer Susan Dudka said. “While we have put weeks of hard work into our performance, none of us have ever competed in the ICCA before and I don’t know that any of us ever expected to get this far. But now that we have this chance, we are more determined than ever to show the world what we’ve got.”
Five quarterfinals will be held for the northeast region, with two having already been completed. The first and second-place groups at each quarterfinal round get to move on to the semifinal round. From there, the first place winner will go on to compete at the ICCA final at the Beacon Theatre in New York City on April 22.
“For the Notables, the semifinal round will definitely be unlike anything we saw this past weekend at the quarterfinals. The stakes are raised,” NH Notables member Rachel Dallaire said.
The competition began with a meeting between the group and the ICCA Northeast producer in order to go over the schedule for the day. Each of the groups then participated in a random drawing to determine the order of performance.
“The Notables drew the number nine, which meant we would perform last. And, as newcomers to the ICCA, this made us a little nervous,” Dallaire said. “It was slightly ironic, because nearly every competitive a cappella group that arrives at the ICCA wants to draw the magic number that would put them last in the lineup so that they could draw off the built-up energy of the crowd and be the freshest performance in the judges’ minds.”
Each group then got 15 minutes to sound check before taking their turns to perform. After all of the performances were over, the judges discussed their picks. All of the nine competing groups were then called on to the stage for the awards and the announcement of the winners. One of the NH Notables’ members, senior psychology major Asa Gomberg, received an award for “Best Soloist” for her performance of the song “Rise Up” by Andra Day.
“When they announced that we had taken second place, we went crazy, crying and hugging each other,” Dallaire said. “It was so surreal, and it’s still so surreal, thinking about how a group of 11 ICCA amateurs had collectively scored higher than larger co-ed groups that competed year after year. I’ve always loved a good underdog story, but it’s a whole different feeling to actually be a character in one.”
After the quarterfinals, the NH Notables were given score sheets from the judges, on which comments were left about what worked and what didn’t in terms of their performance. The group, who normally rehearse three days a week for a total of six hours, will be adding more time to that schedule as they prepare for the next section of the competition.
“Moving forward, we definitely have a lot of work to do,” Dallaire said. “While we don’t have quite enough time to learn and choreograph an entirely new set, we do have a lot of time to perfect (and add to) the one we already have.”
“It was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had because I was able to share such an empowering moment with the best girls I know,” co-music director of the NH Notables, Danielle Lewis, added. “We have worked so hard to get to where we are and I can confidently say we left it all on the stage that night.”