Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Sing it On: Episode 2: Midwest Quarterfinals

In Illinois, No Comment aka NoCo reminds us that two years ago they made it to the ICCA finals, but last year they did not make it past quarterfinals.  So, as they ramp up for quarterfinals, Jessica their music director tells them no drinking and no fun.  Jessica and Micah both tell us they are seniors so this might be their last chance to sing on an ICCA stage. 
A soloist needs to be determined for their final song "Surrender".  Morgan, Micah, and Jessica each sing it with the group, then they go outside while the group picks.  This is an interesting way of doing things, considering Jessica is their music director.  (Not suggesting it's wrong, or even necessarily uncommon, just noting this.)  Micah, who has told the camera she won't get it because it has a high F and she's sure Morgan would get it, is awarded the solo.  This is also when Jessie breaks out her use of "aca-bullshit" in her discussions with the camera.

In Boston, Nor'Easters and the all female group Pitch Please have arrived at some sort of generic place of fun for the evening where, as they attempt to imply always happens when two a cappella groups show up in the same place, an "aca-battle" breaks out. Pitch Please describes themselves as "bitch belters" who are not your stereotypical girl group.  (Whatever that means.) Isaac takes the time to tell us that Pitch Please was formed by people who didn't get into Nor'easters.  There is a reference to "aca-drama". 
Shams, their now graduated music director, is here again.  I don't know if this is all very close to the day of auditions, or if Shams has a job in Boston or at the university, but I'm just going to mention that here is Shams again. 
The battle is determined to be a sing off of Britney Spears' "Toxic". The Nor'Easters imply that they are inventing an edgy new arrangement on the fly.  (Again, I shall use the benefit of four episodes to mention that what a cappella people claim is edgy and unusual, often, seems, um not.)  Pitch Please does a quick run through of the song and gets working on choreography. Callie from Pitch Please, by the way, is roomies with Sam from the Nor'Easters. Pitch Please goes and they are loud and proud, and they employ several sexy moves which gets some judgey comments from the Nor'Easters to the camera.
The Nor'Easters do their arrangement, which includes "new harmonies". Callie makes bowing motions, so it seems, even before the official call for approval from the audience that there is agreement that Nor'Easters won that. 

In Florida, All Night Yahtzee (ANY) and the Acabelles (Belles) have arranged a scavenger hunt, which is basically a hunt for large paper puzzle pieces in a courtyard of sorts, with the pieces color coded by group.  ANY finds their pieces pretty quickly, possibly because most of theirs, Amanda notes, are barely hidden out on the ground, while the Belles' pieces seem to be up high in trees and on poles and, when they get back, Amanda counts and notes that the Belles had 15 pieces to find and ANY had 14.  So, Michael feels bad and awards the prize money to the Belles.  But he seems to think this group bonding was successful. 

NoCo is rehearsing.  Each group gets twelve minutes, so most groups go for three songs, they tell us, but NoCo is cramming in four, but given there's a time penalty they are very concerned.  (Trust me, this will come up again.  A lot.) They are using water bottles as their mikes.  After they run through "Surrender" Jessica is thrilled.  Micah asks to check the pitch because she says she is a "human pitch pipe" and can tell.  (Given the high F in her solo, I'm guessing she can tell, even if I disagree with her metaphor.) Jessica checks the pitch pipe and they are in line.  Micah notes that Max was having trouble with their pitch too, and that if they are matching the pipe the pipe is clearly wrong.  They appear to be having this discussion in a room with a piano, so it's hard to tell if Jessica doesn't want to have her directorship questioned, or if the piano is out of tune, or the concern is that the piano won't be with them at quarterfinals.  When Jessica notes that this is the pitch pipe they have for now, Micah offers to buy her a new pitch pipe.  Max notes that Micah is not right about everything (again, implying that Micah might have control issues that come up a lot, I may be over-interpreting here) but she is right about this. 
And...at their last rehearsal, Jessica notes that the pitch pipe is now in tune. 
They warn the newbies that there will be big cards at 3 minutes left, 2, 1, and not to stress and don't try to force the tempo.  (Foreshadowing.) They are at 11 minutes, 42 seconds in rehearsal, so not a lot of room for error. 
The party bus they are taking to quarter finals arrives, and Max is the last to get on and tells them that Jessica is driving separately.  There is some discussion about how as music director, Jessica is the leader, and it would be useful for her to be on the bus, and also they are ignoring her instructions about quiet, because there's a pole on this bus.  Jessica notes that she prefers quiet before the performance.  (I'd be curious to know if Jessica, and/or the group had done this previously.  And why she didn't tell the group herself. This doesn't get addressed in this episode, so I shall remain curious.)
NoCo arrives and races inside worried that they are late, and Jessica sneaks it looks like as introductions and instructions for the groups are happening.
There are 10 groups here, the top two advance. 
Lizzie explains that a cappella group names come in four categories: bad puns, sexual innuendos, silly music references, and then one's like No Comment which...she trails off and then declares she has no idea why they're called No Comment.
There are clips of other groups.  Maddie and Lizzie sneak up to watch Sedoctave, and then come back to tell the others that Sedoctave is 5000 times better than anyone.  Now, let me interject that part of what I find fascinating is all the different ways different members process pre- and post-performance jitters.  So, Maddie and Lizzie have taken their jitters and decided to share them.
Jessica gives a pep talk mentioning that she will have them ask for no applause between songs, but she suggests that no matter what they have a great performance out there doing what they love. 
We see clips of each of the four songs.  (As a note, the clips we are being shown are short enough that it's really hard to get a sense of the performance, except for a particular moment, that we will get too. I am working on the theory, that the performance clips will get longer for groups that continue on, but if you cannot wait, You Tube is probably your friend.) 
Micah tells the camera she is (also) a "human metronome" and can tell they are dragging and she's freaking out about time and trying to push it forward.  (I assume she means in her mind, if she, as the soloist, tried to sing faster than everyone else, that would be messy.) Well, we near that high F near the end, and there's a crack as she tries to hit it.  The music of the show bongs to tells us of doom, but it is, as Morgan tells Micah once they are backstage and Micah is in full freak out mode, a small crack and she continued on like a professional.  Scott explains to the camera that Micah is a perfectionist.  And Max tells them that they can't fix Micah's crack, they can't fix if they went over time.  There are hugs with the family members there.  Jessica, who had been putting on a good face with the group, cries that she's so worried about the time. 
And the results are in, Sedoctave took third, the Husky Hunks took second, and in first, NoCo! They do get their score sheets, it's not entirely clear to me if they actually didn't go over time, but they do mention that there was some stray clapping so they think the judges might have been gracious that the clapping impacted their time.  Jessica notes that people were worried about her as music director, but she just got them a quarter final win. And that's it for episode 2.
Edited to fix names.