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A cappella group Resonance wins ICCA semifinal with music video submission

The International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella might have moved online, but that hasn’t stopped Resonance from performing and practicing with the same vigor as it improves its music video for the ICCA finals. (Courtesy of Christina Perez)

By Tara Oldenburg

April 21, 2021 4:57 p.m.

Resonance is swapping the stage for the screen.

But that hasn’t stopped the co-ed a cappella group from winning the West Semifinals of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, with a music video rather than a stage performance at the April 10 virtual event. Brandon Tai, a sixth-year computer science student, said he has been in Resonance long enough to have sung in both in-person and virtual forms of the ICCA competition, and the differences between performances were notable.

“You don’t get the same rush,” Tai said. “There’s this thrill of performing live on stage for hundreds of people. … There’s butterflies in your stomach. And (with virtual performances,) you don’t get the same feeling. We submitted the video and we just have to wait. … It (doesn’t have) the same impact.”

In the past, he said ICCA has been a robust competition that brings a cappella groups from around the country. But this year, Tai said the competition shifted into an online format and required groups to submit a music video two weeks before the announcement of the winner.

Several weeks before the deadline, Tai said he mixed the song “Good Thing” by Zedd and Kehlani with “Self Care” by Louis The Child and COIN by layering the singers’ individual recordings into a coherent finished product. Despite the difficulties of producing the track without the group singing together physically, Tai said communicating a message of self-care during the pandemic has been just as rewarding as performing live.

“Even if we don’t win, we have this amazing video performance that we’re all proud of and we’re going to have forever,” Tai said. “It becomes more about the product we make and less about the result that we get.”

[Related: AweChords a cappella will perform at exhibit honoring activists living with AIDS]

Regardless of the outcome, Resonance is still making improvements to its performance for the ICCA finals. Tai said he’ll be recording portions of the medley again for finals, and Resonance’s video producer will be refilming portions of the music video.

Anvita Gurung, a second-year communication student and video producer for the group, said she drove from San Diego to Los Angeles to complete a socially distanced music video shoot of the soloists for the quarterfinals, and she’ll be doing it again for finals. For the shoot, Gurung said she intends to portray a character arc for each member that traces their loneliness during the pandemic all the way to their contentedness with themselves, regardless of their surroundings.

Because of the pandemic, Gurung said not every member of the a cappella group could safely attend the shoot. Along with her other group members, Gurung said she sent out weekly filming directions to members who would individually film scenes at home for the final ICCA music video. The asynchronous nature of the shoot only emphasized the overall storyline of the music video, which she said focused on finding solidarity in solitude during the pandemic.

“Even though there are lots of things happening in the world, … you can take a breath for yourself,” Gurung said. “Especially when … you might not always be thinking about your own health and your own happiness. The song (and video) is … a journey of prioritizing yourself and reevaluating who you are … and putting yourself first.”

[Related: A cappella group Bruin Harmony takes top prize at Spring Sing 2019]

Gurung said she worked alongside graduate student Christina Perez, who typically runs rehearsal for Resonance but has now been helping to formulate a storyline for the music video. The two focused on cinematography that reflected a sense of hope and independence by framing only one person in each shot, Perez said. For Resonance members not at the shoot, Perez said she sent out minimal filming instructions so the singers could take creative liberties with what aspects of their lives they filmed. As an alto and vocal soloist for the performance, Perez said performing in front of a camera as opposed to on stage presented its own challenges in terms of portraying emotion.

“I do miss the stage,” Perez said. “(But) I never had such high-quality experience making a music video. … I really had to focus on my camera presence. … I had to hone in on my portraying of the emotions more than making sure I got the notes right because that’s one of the first things an audience will interpret.”

Perez said she is confident and content with the work Resonance has achieved as finalists for the national competition, with the final music video for ICCA being due April 26. Perez said winning the semifinals already surpassed her expectations for the group, and regardless of the future, she is proud of the music video Resonance made.

“(The video) truly represents what resonance is in terms of its work ethic, its creativity and its community,” Perez said. “I feel like we’re winners already. Whatever it’s like at finals, I know that we have the best product that we can make and that’s good enough for me.”

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Tara Oldenburg
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