Members of the Lehigh Melismatcis pose for a photo during their competition on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. Melismatics will compete in the semifinals on March 26. (Courtesy of John Larson)

Melismatics win a cappella quarterfinals


In front of camera crews, a room filled with people and several other competitors from Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Melismatics took first place in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella quarterfinals on Feb. 13, securing itself a spot in the semifinals on March 26.

“We are so excited for what this means both for the Melismatics and Lehigh as a whole,” said Lexi Zargar, ’17, vice president of the group. “We hope this is just the beginning.”

Two Lehigh a cappella groups, The Melismatics and Off the Record, participated in the ICCA quarterfinals, which took place at Temple University.

The ICCAs and the International Championships of High School A Cappella are the only global tournaments that showcase student a cappella, according to The Varsity Vocals website.

The ICCAs take place from January through April and is a bracket system, where groups compete in quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. The tournament has grown to include 450 groups competing in nine regions.

Quarterfinals have three to five judges, and there will be five judges at semifinals when The Melismatics perform in March. The groups are judged on vocal performance, visual performance and subjective rank.

Special awards also include outstanding soloist, outstanding arrangement, outstanding vocal percussion and outstanding choreography.

The ICCAs are not the same as a typical showcase at Lehigh. The competing groups have 12-minute time limits for their performances. If groups exceed this limit they may be penalized by one place. Likewise, groups are expected to include full choreography.

A cappella consists solely of vocals and can cover many genres. The Melismatics have recently gravitated toward alternative and pop music.

Oscar and Grammy award-winning artist John Legend took advantage of popularity of the film “Pitch Perfect” and began to highlight the art of a cappella and the importance of the ICCAs to collegiate a cappella performers by producing the television show “Sing it On.”

Legend’s show follows the lives of a cappella teams who are battling to win ICCA finals. “Sing it On,” which will be returning for a second season, filmed at the quarterfinal competition Saturday.

The Melismatics and Off the Record can be seen at various events on and off campus, including concerts. They plan to have more performances in the spring.

The Melismatics also produced an album of their music, which can be found on iTunes, along with videos of past performances and a recent music video.

“I can be listening to this album until the day I die,” business manager John Larson, ’17, said.

Larson said that he loves that the group was able to produce something so permanent.

ICCA judges look for professionalism, stage presence, musicality and expressionism. In order to prepare for this, the two groups have held rehearsals almost every day this semester.

“It’s seeing what we can do and what we are capable of,” Zargar said.

The Melismatics have participated in the ICCAs for the past five years, but have not made it to semifinals since the winter of 2013.

“This is a chance for us to show our repertoire — our music — to other incredible music groups in the area,” Larson said.

During his first year, the Melismatics placed fourth out of the 10 quarterfinal groups.

This was also Off the Record’s third year participating in the ICCAs. The group was founded in 2009, and originally did not plan on competing. As the group grew, it developed into a competing group and has improved each year.

“It’s not all about winning, it’s about the experience and spending that time with each other,” said Christopher Palmer, ’17, music director of Off the Record.

The Melismatics and Off the Record maintain good sportsmanship with one another, despite facing off in competitions.

“Some of the people in (the Melismatics) are some of my best friends,” Palmer said. “Even if we don’t win, there’s still a sense of Lehigh.”

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