By Sophie Cannon, deputy A&E editor
** This article can be found here **
Three competitions, two train rides and one huge trophy later, the Northeastern University Nor’easters a cappella group took home first place at the 2017 International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) final competition Saturday night.
It was a tough competition between the Nor’easters and nine other groups at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. Second and third place went to Voices in Your Head from the University of Chicago and the ScatterTones from the University of California, Los Angeles, respectively. With four of the six Northeastern University groups competing in the quarterfinal competition and three NU groups in the semifinal competition, it was a huge accomplishment for Northeastern a cappella to be well represented throughout the ICCA.
In addition to the monumental win, Anthony Rodriguez, third-year psychology major and current president of the Nor’easters, took home the award for Outstanding Soloist with his breathtakingperformance of “Writing’s On The Wall” by Sam Smith. The already heavily-decorated group won the ICCA back in 2013 and advanced to finals in 2015, but Saturday marked the first win for this iteration of the group.
“It feels so surreal that we are the international champions,” Rodriguez said. “I can’t believe it. Ever since high school, I have wanted to be in the Nor’easters and ever since getting into the group I have wanted to compete. This is my first time competing and we ended up winning all four rounds, so I just feel so accomplished in every way and I’m so proud and honored to be a part of this group.”
While the group members are no stranger to high-stakes performances, facing the judges for the final competition carried a bit more weight than usual. The lights on the huge Beacon Theatre stage shone just a bit brighter this time around, but group member Carly Manfrini, a third-year psychology major, said it did not worry the Northeastern performers too much, as they simply were just happy to be part of it all.
“The stakes this time were both higher and lower in a very weird way,” Manfrini said. “With quarters and semis you are really competing to continue on in the competition, but with finals you are just so honored to be there. Of course you want to take home the prize, but at that point it’s more about showcasing what you’ve been working on for the past year and just giving the audience a really great show.”
Rodriguez added that in addition to the pressure of finals, their once home-field advantage—performing at Berklee College of Music and at the Boston Symphony Hall in prior rounds—vanished as they now had to compete in unfamiliar territory.
“Semis and quarters were on our home turf, so we were on a completely different stage, a professional stage that people like Bruce Springsteen and Tori Kelly have performed on,” Rodriguez said.
It should come as no surprise that the members of the Nor’easters had been working non-stop to deliver the best performance possible to the judges. While the set did not change much, including hits like “Creeps” by Bon Iver and “Who’s that Girl” by Rosie Lowe, the group’s work ethic was sent into overdrive, making sure everything was polished and perfect.
“At the point after semis, we knew our music and we were confident in it but it’s just polishing and getting to that final point,” said Rupal Jain, a group member and senior nursing major. “We have put in a lot of hard work to get to where we are and I think it’s just awesome to share something so beautiful with everyone and I’m glad the judges saw that too.”
Now that the ICCA season is officially over, the group has one more performance called “Encore” on April 26 in Blackman Auditorium. Not only will the 2016-17 Nor’easters say goodbye to NU for another long summer, they will also send off senior members Jain and Meghan Bliss, a nursing major and a soprano in the group.
As for plans for next year, group members said they need the coming summer vacation to rest up, as ICCA season is not for the faint of heart.
“I don’t know about the entire group, but I have been lucky enough to have been to finals twice now and that is way too many times for me,” Manfrini said.
While the Nor’easters may be taking a break from the fierce competition, the ICCA is for everyone, and the group encourages all other groups from Northeastern and beyond to find their niche and go for it.
“Find out what makes your group unique and capitalize on that,” Manfrini said. “So many groups go into this competition thinking that there is this certain formula that you have to follow to win and I think that the scoring is so subjective and what really shines through the most is your heart, soul and the character of the group.”
With a large trophy and even larger smiles, the Nor’easters will return to campus tired but immensely proud of what they have accomplished.
“The Nor’easters, when they started competing, they didn’t just go and win finals,” Rodriguez said. “We had to build ourselves up and continue to set goals for ourselves. It’s really a competition of ourselves, for ourselves. Always setting goals to make ourselves better and not so much comparing ourselves to other people.”
photo by Lauren Scornavacca