4 Teams Head Into Finals Of Collegiate A Cappella Championship Described as Pitch Perfect meets March Madness, the competition received performance videos from hundreds of groups. Groups can win cash prizes for charities.
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4 Teams Head Into Finals Of Collegiate A Cappella Championship

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4 Teams Head Into Finals Of Collegiate A Cappella Championship

4 Teams Head Into Finals Of Collegiate A Cappella Championship

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Just imagine this - the movie "Pitch Perfect" meets March Madness. I bring this up because a new national a cappella competition is attracting hundreds of groups from colleges and universities across the country, and today organizers will announce the final four teams headed to the championship round. Here's NPR's Elizabeth Blair.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: The competition is called UpStaged. Hundreds of videos were submitted, and here are the final four. The Vanderbilt Melodores with an Ariana Grande medley.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

THE VANDERBILT MELODORES: (Singing) Right now I'm in a state of mind I want to be in, like, all the time.

BLAIR: The Harvard Opportunes with an arrangement of Labrinth's "All For Us."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL FOR US")

THE HARVARD OPPORTUNES: (Singing) Ey, ey, ey (ph). Taking it all for us. I'm taking it all. I'm taking it all.

BLAIR: From Brigham Young University, Vocal Point did "Circle Of Life" from "The Lion King."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CIRCLE OF LIFE")

BYU VOCAL POINT: (Singing) Circle of life. And it moves us all.

BLAIR: And from the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Masala did a mashup of Ed Sheeran's "Castle On The Hill" and the Bollywood song "Ilahi."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ILAHI/CASTLE ON THE HILL")

PENN MASALA: (Singing) I'm on my way to see. I still remember these old country lanes.

ANNETTE PHILIP: I was, frankly, overwhelmed and really just feeling so much joy.

BLAIR: Annette Philip was one of the judges. She's on the Berklee College of Music faculty and a longtime a cappella singer.

PHILIP: The four final entries really spoke to the amazing diversity and the richness of a cappella music there is today.

BLAIR: Some of the videos were made pre-pandemic. Judge Christopher Diaz says he was thrilled to see other groups take on the challenge of making videos during lockdown. Even though it didn't reach the final four, one of his favorites was the Yale Doox arrangement of the Nick Jonas song "Levels" made on a Zoom call.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LEVELS")

DOOX OF YALE: (Singing, vocalizing).

CHRISTOPHER DIAZ: They have these - all these flashing boxes with really kind of creative things happening in each of the boxes. And it made me feel like, wow, this is on Zoom, but this is the kind of Zoom call I'd like to be on (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LEVELS")

DOOX OF YALE: (Singing) All the ones trying to get through the door. I'mma (ph) go where they all couldn't go - up a floor, up a floor, up a floor - ooh-a (ph). I know...

BLAIR: This competition was as much about video producing and editing skills as it was about singing. Brigham Young's video was shot last spring on the Salt Flats in Utah, surrounded by gorgeous mountains.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CIRCLE OF LIFE")

BYU VOCAL POINT: (Singing in non-English language).

BLAIR: BYU senior Carson Trautman says they've tried to find ways to rehearse during the pandemic. For a while, they did it in the school's football stadium.

CARSON TRAUTMAN: So we were, like, 20 feet apart. We were practicing with in-ear monitors, and so it was easy for us to hear each other. But then it started getting really cold.

BLAIR: Now he says they're practicing indoors, wearing masks and staying socially distant. The Harvard Opportunes are not singing together at all right now.

BEN DREIER: It's really sad. I really - I miss it so much.

BLAIR: Singer Ben Dreier, a junior at Harvard, says he also misses competing in person. He says they're very proud to be in the final four of the UpStaged competition, but...

DREIER: We've never gotten, like, the same, like, butterflies. But you can't really have that right now. It's a pandemic. So I think we've been really grateful to have any amount of competition.

BLAIR: A cappella groups that made it to the final rounds win cash prizes for charities of their choosing.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL FOR US")

THE HARVARD OPPORTUNES: (Singing) Taking it all, taking it all...

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