FIRST PERFORMANCE — Superior A Cappella made its debut Wednesday night with arrangements of songs such as Some Night by FUN and What Was I Made For by Billie Eilish. Photo courtesy of Sophie Laskaris.
FIRST PERFORMANCE — Superior A Cappella made its debut Wednesday night with arrangements of songs such as “Some Night” by FUN and “What Was I Made For” by Billie Eilish. Photo courtesy of Sophie Laskaris.

Upper Peninsula’s only a cappella group makes its debut

On Wednesday, Dec. 6, Superior A Cappella made its debut performance on stage in Reynolds Recital Hall at Northern Michigan University. The student led group meets weekly to rehearse and is currently the only collegiate a cappella group in the Upper Peninsula, according to founding member Caleb Sobolewski.

“The enthusiasm [Superior A Cappella] had on stage was great, it was so enjoyable to watch,” said Oliva Klumpp, a speech, language and hearing pathology student at Northern.

The new group was well received by audience members with lots of cheering between songs and an immediate standing ovation.

President of Superior A Cappella, computer science major Harrison Bouche, helped form the group with the goal of getting people together every week to sing. NMU has not had an a cappella group since 2019 and this lack of an a cappella outlet for students led a group of students to start Superior A Cappella. Bouche, Sobolewski, Michael Buhler, Emily Hilbelink (vice president) and Abby Kerr got together over the summer to learn what it takes to start an a cappella group and held auditions this fall.

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A cappella is a musical genre that is completely sung through without any instrumental accompaniment. While humans have always known how to sing without instruments, a cappella music as its own genre arose in the 15th century. Gregorian chant is an example of early a cappella music sung in churches where communities often gathered. A cappella has helped shape other genres of unaccompanied music such as madrigal singing, barbershop quartets and doo-wop.

The group has brought together singers from all backgrounds. During the concert, Hilbelink recognized the diverse array of majors in the group. The 14 members of the group are studying outdoor recreation, theater technology and design, vocal and instrumental music, psychology, social media management and biology.

Part of Bouche’s excitement about starting Superior A Cappella was in researching and finding a repertoire to fit the group. They sang top hits like “Some Nights” originally performed by FUN, and “What Was I Made For” originally performed by Billie Eilish. Kerr enjoyed “being silly and being able to play musically” during the English Madrigal Arrangement of Smash Mouth’s “All Star.”

Member Emily Melville loved learning “White Winter Hymnal” because of the added body percussion made famous by a well-known a cappella group, Pentatonix.

“It was difficult to learn, but once we got it, it’s really, really fun,” Melville said.

“Hymn of Acxiom” was Sophia Balzarini’s favorite song to perform at the collegiate level as it brings to light the “dangers of the internet and how much you put about yourself online” through storytelling and dissonant chords. The group closed with “Irish Blessing (Until We Meet Again)”, arranged by Michael John Trotta.

The concert was enjoyable for attendees as well. Anna Tryan, an instrumental music education student at Northern had never been to an a cappella concert before and was impressed by the performance.

“I am so surprised at how incredible the concert was,” Tryan said. “It was very professional, something I would pay to go see.”

The voicing arrangement in a cappella is divided into four parts from high to low (soprano, alto, tenor and bass). Some songs were sung all together while others featured soloists and other voices used as accompaniment. It is important to note that vocal placing in groups is not gender exclusive and vocal placing is assigned based on where the singer can produce the healthiest and strongest sound. This group welcomes and supports all singers.

Superior A Cappella will enjoy winter break with the rest of the study body. Anyone interested in joining the group can look at their Instagram @superioracappella where they will post audition information early next semester. Any questions can be sent to [email protected].

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