This past Friday crowds filled McConomy Auditorium for the annual AcaPittsburgh benefit concert. The charity event was started in 2008 by Counterpoint, one of Carnegie Mellon University's all-female a cappella groups, and this year the proceeds from AcaPittsburgh ticket and merchandise sales went to People to People, an organization that helps provide music education to those in developing countries.
With all eight CMU a cappella groups in attendance, the auditorium quickly reached maximum capacity as everyone eagerly awaited the start of the concert. Even from the beginning, the crowd was hyped for the show, cheering loudly and calling out their friends’ names as Counterpoint took the stage for their first song.
After Counterpoint welcomed everyone to their show, the MC introduced Joyful Noise, Carnegie Mellon’s Christian a cappella group. The lead male and female vocalist for the first song performed a heart-wrenching mash-up of A Great Big World’s “Say Something” and Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up.” I would never have thought to pair the two songs, but the contrast between the lyrics made the already poignant songs even more emotional. Although the songs really complemented each other, the leads’ voices did not. Though they were both clearly talented singers, their harmonizing fell a bit short for me. Despite this, the group continued strong with a stunningly beautiful and powerful rendition of Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” and closed with Amanda Cook’s “You Don’t Miss a Thing.”
Next, Saans, Carnegie Mellon's all-female South Asian a cappella group, took the stage. Right from the start, Saans brought high energy and a fantastic fusion of Western and South Asian music styles, opening with Charlie Puth’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore.” Their second performance was Justin Bieber’s “As Long As You Love Me,” which included incredible beatboxing and rapping throughout. After the first two fantastic performances, I didn’t think the group could do any better than it already was, but their arrangement of Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” was definitely thrilling. “Cheap Thrills” and "Kamli," a Hindi song from the 2013 movie Dhoom 3, surprisingly blended perfectly together, and it was one of my favorite performances of AcaPitt.
After Saans came Soundbytes, and if the crowd wasn’t excited enough before, Soundbytes’ fans deafened with their continuous cheers. These cheers did not go unwarranted. Although I was not familiar with the first two songs they performed, Emily King’s “Down” and Allen Stone’s “Bed I Made,” the group’s sheer talent shined through and I enjoyed every moment of their time on stage. Soundbytes saved the best for last as well, as my favorite of their set had to be their final, masterful performance of Bishop Briggs’ “Like a River.”
The last a cappella group of the first half of the show was The Originals. Performing the second Puth song of the night, the all-male a cappella group captured the audience with “Attention.” After that, they took a risk that paid off with Lorde’s “Sober,” expertly executing the arrangement and making the song their own. The Originals only continued to gain momentum throughout their set, awing me even more with each new performance. Their last song, Chance the Rapper’s “Same Drugs,” was an especially soulful and sincere performance that blew me away.
Kicking off the second half of AcaPittsburgh, the Treblemakers started off with a skillful execution of Ella Eyre’s “If I Go.” After, the group performed one of my favorite songs, James Bay’s “Hold Back the River.” I may be biased, but the Treblemakers’ rendition of the song was an incredible arrangement and the vocals were just as fantastic. The Treblemakers finished with MisterWives’ “Machine,” continuing to exhibit their musical prowess with not only a phenomenal lead, but also formidable backup and vocal percussion performances.
Then C# took the stage with a fun mash-up of Maroon 5’s “Sugar” and Katy Perry’s “Birthday.” Although a bit too bubbly and sweet for my taste, the group was clearly having a good time and also managed to display talents in the vocal percussion department. After a performance of a song I couldn’t recognize, they closed with a great mashup of Ariana Grande songs, including “Dangerous Woman” and “Leave Me Lonely.”
Second to last was Deewane, Carnegie Mellon's male South Asian a cappella group. Despite only performing two songs, Deewane did not fail to impress with their incredible fusion arrangements of South Asian music, delivering passionate performances of Sam Smith’s “Lay Me Down” and Jon Bellion’s “All Time Low.”
Last, the show returned to its host, Counterpoint. Their performance of Ariana Grande’s “Side to Side” was well done, but a bit low-energy, with the group doing not much else other than singing and swaying in place for most of the song. However, they cranked up the energy with their final song, “Everytime We Touch” by Cascada. The upbeat nature of the song did the best at showing the group’s talent, especially when the beat dropped and the amazing percussion and beatbox took center stage.
Overall, AcaPittsburgh was a success. The audience reacted positively and excitedly to each performance, and every group displayed incredible talents in the a cappella realm while also remaining true to their unique roots and styles.