You’d be forgiven for assuming that the top British universities these days offer a BA (Hons) course in A Cappella Singing and you’d also be forgiven for assuming that that means I don’t like a cappella groups. I do. They’re great. They combine singing with beatboxing and a rather odd conception that singing without accompaniment equals sexy. It does. Sometimes.
The Alleycats, a group from the University of St Andrews, take a cappella and add white sneakers, moving very quickly into heavily choreographed routines and making their performance visually as well as aurally stimulating. The result is impressive in that it doesn’t affect their singing at all: they succeed in belting out lines as if they were born to dance. It’s unimpressive in that it’s often messy. The mistakes are basic things - kicks aren’t in line with each other, movements don’t quite happen fully in-time - but at least the claps don’t become a canon of echoes.
Dancing aside, the music is performed competently and has some shining moments, like the performance of ‘Respect' that forms a finale, or some of the medleys in the middle. Audience interaction at any kind of musical event is guaranteed to cause problems; expecting a room full of amateurs who aren’t experienced a cappella stars to clap and stamp in time did lead to a rather messy penultimate number, which was a shame. Vocally, however, there is very little to wow the audience. They could afford to take more risks, but they could also afford to watch their voices.
British universities do not offer a BA in A Cappella, but they probably should, and this lot should consider taking that course... at least for a term or two.