We start at UPenn with Off the Beat (OTB). Rohan says that since semi finals are soon, they are having a pizza party to discuss things. Jasmine says she was music director last year when they got first at quarterfinals, and this year they got second so she takes some of the responsibility for that. She tells the group that "Ain't No Sunshine" got raves from the judges and the only complaint was that it was short, while the judges felt "Simple and Sweet" was flat and had soloist issues. She says they all agree they need to change the set for semifinals, and that she has decided they will swap out "Simple and Sweet" for "End of an Era".
My armchair analysis here, is that I don't disagree with any of the choices that Jasmine is making, but I also want to note that sometimes when judges say things like I wish song A had been longer, and Song B shorter, what they really mean is, I liked Song A, and Song B not so much. But that doesn't sound professional critique-like, so they wrap it up in specifics about the song. I mean we all know our faves are problematic, but issues in performances you overall enjoyed don't bug you as much as those in ones that hadn't grabbed you.
Rohan feels he has overcome his solo issues and should have been consulted before his song was cut, while also acknowledging that no one likes having their song cut.
At UMass, S#harp Attitude (S#arps) are excited to have a party bus for quarterfinals. Archie tells the camera she kind of never got around to telling them about how it's a shared bus. She in fact waits until the bus gets on the road, and then starts to re-enter campus and the women start wondering if the driver is lost to mention that they had to make some compromises. And yeah, Brandon apparently also didn't tell the Hexachords so they note it's a big bus and then get on to see it's got people on it.
They get right down to the, as Sam calls it, "elephant on the bus". Sam says the song dedication hurt. Linnea explains she meant it to acknowledge the tension, not increase it, because she loves them. Linnea is in tears as she explains that freshman year as a voice major was so hard, and she spent much of the year incredibly sad and had to figure out how to make some changes that would make her sophomore year happier. The S#arps are really touched, and there are hugs and Melinda says she's really glad that Linnea is happier now and that that's important. Brandon wants both groups to move forward at quarterfinals. Melinda is hoping for a UMass sweep.
The quarterfinals are being held at MIT. It looks like the Hexachords and S#harps might have been the last groups to arrive. They select their performance orders. Craig is hoping for 6th or 10th since that closes out either half. Sam draws 9th to much excitement. Linnea draws 10th to more excitement. Linnea says the Hexachords won the last time they went last, so that seems good. Sam is hoping the S#arps will be so good the judges don't even notice the Hexachords.
Back at UPenn, Jasmine and Rohan from OTB are having their chat about the set change. Jasmine is nervous because she dislikes talking about feelings. Rohan tells her that he thinks she should have alerted him. She says that she hears that but as music director, music choices are her job. Rohan says he doesn't even disagree with the choice she made, he just wishes she had run it by him first. So, if she could consider that in the future.
Back at the Northeast quarterfinals, Taryn the music director for the S#arps is in charge of sound check. They have ten minutes to walk through a twelve minute set, so you can't do everything, but you want to get a lot, so there's no issues during performance. Sam mentions that she's very worried about her belt note (ie, the high note that Shams told her to stop sliding up to) and wants to get to it, but knows it's near the end. There are a couple of places where they stop to communicate with the sound person, so it's not like they are just doing shorter bits of the songs. They are also working through the choreography, so when they skip ahead people have to re-set. So, all of this to say, the sound person calls time and they have not gotten to Sam's belt note. Sam is in full freak out as they exit the stage and tells Taryn that she should know how important it was to her to practice that since that's the part that stresses her out the most. Taryn says she knows, she had it on her list, it was the next thing they were going to do, and she's sorry they didn't get to it, but she's also hurt that this somehow means she didn't plan right when they got to almost everything on the list. Archie says that they all know that Sam can do this and now they need to get ready. Sam says she knows it wasn't intentional.
At UPenn, OTB has one week until semifinals. Jasmine says that she is focusing on blend and dynamics. Since "End of an Era" is a newer song, they are working on that in particular. Rohan, Alex, and Aaron have a featured trio in the song, which means they are out their singing together with the rest of the group acting as backup. Jasmine feels singing as a trio allows them to be a little more confident, and also may cover up any small misses on the part of any one singer. Rohan appears to be having some struggles in rehearsal today and Brian asks him if his voice is okay. Rohan says he just didn't warm up, and after a few more run throughs, they are happy.
At the northeast quarterfinals Craig from the Hexachords tells us that the northeast region has the best groups and the quarterfinal winner often wins the whole thing. Okay, I ran the numbers on this. The west region has actually won, at this point, about half of the titles. However, the northeast has provided three out of the last five winners, and given that this is Craig's fourth year competing in the ICCAs, so I can see why he feels this way.
Brandon is stressing about having a solo. Craig suggests they do a bleep-through. (I don't know what word got bleeped, so we will just go with that.) A bleep-through is a run through where they intentionally do the songs in a silly and goofy manner and seems to get them all in a happy silly mood.
Isaac from the Nor'easters pops into the S#arps dressing room to much excitement. Sam tells him she's nervous about her notes. He reassures her and they all do some ass bends together. They chant "Bitches get money!" Sam is ready. Melinda thinks they sound so great. We see Isaac and Shams are in the audience.
Before we get to their performance, two notes. Both of the performances tonight are shown in snippets of two songs with talking heads, much the way OTB's quarterfinals performance was. we see even tinier snippets of the following other groups:
The MIT Ohms, perform Hozier's "Take Me to Church".
The College of St. Rose's Golden Notes perform Dexy's Midnight Runners "Come on Eileen".
Northeastern University's Distilled Harmony performs Jojo's "Say Love".
They start of with V Bozeman's "What is Love?" with Archie as soloist. Archie thinks the energy is there. They move to Littlemix's "DNA". Sam tells the camera she is worried about the note, and remembering that there a voiceovers interrupting the flow of this song, Sam seems to be singing softer than we've seen. On TV it's hard to judge if that's nerves or an intentional dynamic choice. But she gets to the "belt note" and nails it, so they are very happy as they move offstage and wave to the Hexachords. Brandon says the S#arps sounded great.
Craig says Hexachords are the smallest group in the ICCA's so they stand out, but that could be a negative or a positive. They sing Whitney Houston's "So Emotional' and it's super dancey-making good use of the two girls and four guys. They move to the Bleachers "Rollercoaster" where Brandon has a solo. Brandon is a very high tenor with amazing range that this song makes great use of. As they move offstage they feel confident.
And we pop in to UMD with the Faux Paz. David wants to get into shape and has gotten Josh and Mitul to join him jogging in the parking lot. I am going to note as a localish resident that there is a ton of snow in this parking lot, which suggests to me that this was filmed after the blizzard which was in January and the northeast quarterfinals were held in April. Just saying. Anyway, Mitul does not know why he has to run and whines and ends up collapsing in a pile of snow. (As a non-runner person, I am Team Mitul on this.)
Back at the northeast quarterfinals, the groups are onstage for results. First we have special awards. Outstanding Arrangement goes to Craig of the Hexachords. Outstanding Choreography goes to Sam of S#arp Attitude.
And now the top three, which this particular emcee calls runner up and second runner up causing some confusion since only two groups go forward to the semifinals.
3. S#arp Attitude
2. Distilled Harmony
Sam smiles and goes to grab the certificate for the S#arps, Archie is already in tears. Craig of the Hexachords is so proud. Backstage Archie is moving from heartbroken to pissed as she says she doesn't know how they could have sounded better than they did. I think this is one of those things where arts can be super hard. Athletes get more psychological training that sometimes your best day is someone else's even better day. But in sports there are clearer markers. While there is an element of subjectivity to this, it is also just life that sometimes your best performance is still not as great as someone else's. Sam reminds them that they are an all female group, and as such this was still a really great result.
So, now they have to get back on the party bus. Archie has apparently found another way home. Melinda congratulates the Hexachords on their win. The Hexachords congratulate Sam on her award and Brandon says that they were awesome. Sam graciously offers to help the Hexachords with their choreography.