A Cappella Group Aims for the Big Stage

An a cappella group from The University of Manchester are turning to crowdfunding to help them attend a prestigious a cappella competition

Share Students use crowdfunding to compete in international a cappella championship Click To Tweet University a cappella group are aiming to compete in the ICCAs thanks to crowdfunding Click To Tweet Crowdfunding helps students from the A Cappella Society unite in music and pursue their ambitions Click To Tweet

For university a cappella groups, it doesn’t get much bigger than the ICCAs. An annual competition, the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella is a prestigious competition between the best-performing university a cappella groups from the USA, Canada and the UK, with finals taking place on Broadway.

Alvarium, the competition group of the A Cappella Society at Manchester, were able to take part in the quarter finals last year thanks to crowdfunding. This was a major opportunity to reach a wider audience and showcase their musical talent. The competition also offers a $25,000 cash prize for the winners, allowing students to jumpstart their professional career.

For Alvarium, representing The University of Manchester at the ICCAs was a great honour. They began preparing their set the year before, with the Musical Director Maurits Bekkers writing music for it over the summer. In his words, “It’s a dream come true – I’ve always wanted to be in the ICCAs, and now we actually are doing these things.”

Practice Makes Perfect

Making this dream a reality didn’t come easy, though. The group had intense rehearsals twice a week. The Assistant Performance Director, Carla Florian, reflected on how intense the process is. “It’s a lot of work because you need to watch the groups and see what makes them look good on stage, and stage presence is a big thing. You need to be able to send emotions across.”

Performing alongside other well-established groups around the UK, The University of Manchester’s team stressed what a fantastic experience the ICCAs were. Competing against ten other collectives, the pressure was on. “It is such a massive competition and it’s becoming more popular in the UK, but the US is just crazy about it.” When the group are finally on stage, the hard work pays off as the audience cheer and share their passion for a cappella.

Raising the funds needed to attend the quarter finals allowed them to gain invaluable feedback. The group review the feedback as a committee, making sure they incorporate it into their new set and learn from their mistakes to strive for the best. One thing that is really important to the performance is their friendship: “The audience and the judges can see that we’re friends on stage and that we are enjoying ourselves. We thought that was the nicest thing a judge could say to us – we want to keep that.”

Crowdfunding Makes Goals Attainable

The reality of a cappella is that funds are limited. Alvarium try to make as much money as they can themselves through busking and bake sales, but there are many costs involved for competitions. Without crowdfunding, they would not have been able to take part in the quarter finals, as they simply did not have the resources to send 16 people to the two day event. They reached out through social media to friends, family and members of the public who had an interest in music, and after only a few weeks, they had met their target.

The group said crowdfunding was a straightforward and appealing way to get everyone interested in their project, and seeing people’s support meant a lot to them. “I think it motivated us more to go, because we could actually see that people cared about what we do. It’s really amazing.”

They also really enjoyed crowdfunding because of the relationship it allowed them to establish with their supporters. “We had the option to give something back to them as well in the form of rewards, as a nice way of saying thank you and that we appreciate it. Even one donation makes a massive difference in what we can do, so it is really important to us.”

Reaching for the Heights

This year Alvarium are aiming for the ICCAs once more, looking to get one step further in the game. The quarter finals are in London this time, so the group took to crowdfunding again to reach for the stars! It’s a lot of competition, and the costs to get to London are quite high – they needed £1,420 to be able to participate. But the group is not put off by the challenge: “You never know, we’re putting in all the work and we’re trying to  make it happen.”

Community is Everything

Alvarium are really passionate about coming together to sing. Their favourite song to perform is Cry Me a River, which they want to learn formally soon. The group is becoming increasingly popular and have even performed for the University’s supporters at the Celebration of Philanthropy event in April 2019, where they entertained guests with an impressive score. “We’re always very selective with our songs, and we knew who was coming to the event, so we made sure to pick songs that the donors would like. Afterwards it was really sweet when people came up to us and told us they enjoyed it.” As supporters of the University have previously funded the group, they wanted to thank them and have now become an even bigger hit with the donor community.

Alvarium have really shown how music can unite people, and that is what they try to do year by year: “We’re so supportive of one another, and previous members who have graduated still come to our rehearsals and help us get through. Even members we haven’t met before. We want to stay in touch and keep building a bigger and bigger group!”

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