By Jess Scanlon
A small a cappella group forms in October, and by April it is competing on the international stage. No, this is not a Glee spin-off; it’s the story of Rider’s own a cappella group, Vocalmotion.
A cappella groups are not new to Rider, with the already well established Rider Vibes and Westminster’s Deaftones. Vocalmotion has been generating attention since it won second place at the Mid-Atlantic semifinals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) competition, a regional a cappella competition held at Rutgers University in March. A wildcard round determined if it would advance to the ICCA finals at Lincoln Center in New York this Saturday.
“We sent in a recording [of Vocalmotion performing],” said Matt Barron, a Vocalmotion member.
Barron said the recording was compared against those of other second-place finishers in other regional ICCA semifinals to determine who would advance. Unfortunately for Vocalmotion, the competition was cut short. But the wildcard round is an achievement for a musical group that has existed for only a short a time.
Vocalmotion’s Facebook page discusses its origins as coming together “After a windy October night, when three of its members harmonized to Beyoncé’s ‘If I Were a Boy’ by the ducks sitting on the lake.” The group was founded by Richard Crandle, who was featured on NBC’s The Sing Off and played the role of Seaweed in the 2009 tour of Broadway’s musical Hairspray.
Since then its membership has grown to 10 members, a small number for an a cappella group, which usually averages around 15 to 20 members.
“Everyone has to pull their own weight,” Barron said. That puts extra responsibility on the members to learn the music and rehearse so they can contribute equally to the group.
Vocalmotion’s attention to vocal quality earned an Outstanding Arrangement prize for the group’s director, Richard Crandle, in the ICCA Mid-Atlantic Semifinals. The A Cappella Blog (ACB) wrote a review of the competition that praised the group for coming so far in so short a time.
“My hat’s off to the group for not resting on its laurels, really stepping it up in response to a higher level of competition,” said Mike Chin, content manager for ACB, in his review of the event.
Vocalmotion is done competing for the year, but the 10 members share a passion for this form of music, which involves singing without instrumental accompaniment. However, not all of them are studying performing arts.
Barron is studying political science and history at Rider. Two other members are studying math and education, subjects that are outside the School of Fine and Performing Arts. Others are focusing on musical careers, including Crandle, who is a musical theater major.
Each member of Vocalmotion had to audition to gain his or her spot. A certain level of dedication also is expected. The current roster is composed of six male singers, including its founder Crandle, and four female students.
Vocalmotion is smaller than the Rider University Choir, the Rider Vibes and the Rider University Bronc Band, other musical groups on the Lawrenceville campus.
However, if the group can garner this much attention in less than six months, Barron’s optimism for the future is understandable.
“Hopefully next year we’ll make it further,” he said.