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Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory Paperback – April 7, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
According to GQ senior editor Rapkin, today's lively collegiate a cappella groups boast hip-hop repertory, professional vocal arrangements, competitions at Lincoln Center and a world shrunk by the Internet. During the 2006–2007 college season, Rapkin, an alum of a Cornell all-male singing club, followed three a cappella powerhouses: Divisi, an all-girl group from the University of Oregon, the testosterone-driven Hullabahoos of the University of Virginia, and Beelzebubs, from Tufts. Each is a collective with a score to settle, a tradition to honor. Robbed of a championship in 2005, Divisi wants payback; the Hullabahoos want respect without forfeiting their frat-boy charm; and the controversial Bubs want to hone their edge. Throughout, Rapkin engages with celebrity trivia (Heroes' Masi Oka sang a cappella at Brown) and music criticism. He profiles the cottage recording industry built from college a cappella. Most notably, he riffs through signature events and crisis moments with a snarky humor (onstage Divisi looks like the women in that Robert Palmer video) that turns each chapter into a picaresque progression toward graduation. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Designating unaccompanied singing, a cappella literally means “like the chapel,” appropriately since the form, Rapkin says, began with Gregorian chant. In the prologue, Rapkin cheerfully clambers through a cappella’s roots and varied branches, from shape-note singing and call-and-response singing to barbershop and the folk-pop hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and gospel classics by the Soul Stirrers with Sam Cooke. Yet a cappella has come fully to life on college campuses. While the phenomenon’s “gold standard” remains the Whiffenpoofs, founded in 1909 at Yale, there are now more than 1,200 collegiate a cappella groups in the U.S. A cappella is the opposite of cool, Rapkin concedes, yet such now-famous folk as Diane Sawyer, Art Garfunkel, and Osama bin Laden (!) once sang in a cappella groups. The bulk of the book examines three current groups—the University of Oregon’s all-female Divisi, the Tufts Beelzebubs of Tufts University, and the University of Virginia’s Hullabahoos—as they compete against one another in a scenario that makes American Idol look rather tame. A fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at an underappreciated musical subculture. --June Sawyers --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I'm a retired high school band director, and my son-in-law is a high school choir director, so I have a passing acquaintance with the a cappella movement, but never to the extent of really getting into the collegiate competitiveness of it. Knowing the extreme care I took with preparing my instrumental groups for competitions, seeing how groups of college students did this with sometimes limited musical training and no "adult supervision" was very interesting.
What was really impressive to me is that some of these groups really have alumni support going back decades. In their way a cappella groups were as big a part of collegiate life for the participants as any fraternity or athletic team, and I was impressed by the strength the ties alumni had to their groups.
I've enjoyed watching "The Sing-Off," and I've noticed that in most cases the collegiate groups don't do very well in that competition - which is interesting, since the judges (except for Jewel this year) all had a background either performing in or supporting collegiate groups. Pentatonix, the season 3 winners, had members who were involved in the collegiate world, but they set out to do something very new, and in a way the collegiate groups almost never could. The same traditions and alumni ties that strengthen those groups also to a degree make it difficult for them to depart from tradition. This was clearly shown in Rapkin's book, as the Beelzebubs segments in particular showed.
Overall, I recommend the book even to those who have just seen a couple of these groups on TV or somewhere and said, "what's this a cappella thing all about?" I think the book does a fine job of showing what a cappella *is* all about.
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For non-readers, this is a documentary of a cappella college groups.
The movie was based on this book.Read more