On the weekend of July 19 – 21 we visited ‘The City of Brotherly Love’ for the 2013 VoCALnation A Cappella Festival. We were all pretty excited because we had been chosen based on our submission to a video contest to be one of two opening acts for the Saturday Night Professional Showcase featuring Groove For Thought.

On Friday night a showcase of groups from the Contemporary A cappella League (CAL) put on display the many facets of adult post-collegiate a cappella. One thing was clear and that is that Washington, DC is a hotbed for a cappella. Over half of the groups were from DC and they complimented the other groups who all performed well.  All of our friends in Keystone VocalsCapital Hearings,  The District, Euphonism, Restated, Sunday Afternoon, and Vox Pop, and  came ready to go and really did a great job of showing off how talented CAL is.

After the CAL Showcase we Cogs made a beeline for the hotel. We were all tired from the trip and after seeing the high level of performance from the other groups we wanted to be fresh for the following night.

On Saturday a variety of workshops provided opportunities for us to learn and share. Groove For Thought put on an entertaining exhibit of how they arrange and perform in the jazz genre. It was inspiring to see a group that has been around for 14 years as semi-pro entertainers and producing such a quality sound.

After that Rene Ruiz, formerly of Toxic Audio, put on a class that was seemingly written just for me. (As a side-note, I’m probably one of the most movement/emotive-challenged members of CogRes. I came from a choir background where the only thing we had to focus on was the music.) Rene explained that engaging the audience is mandatory and that if you ignore them or don’t give them a way to follow what is going on then you will lose them. A lesson I won’t soon forget.

That lunch we Cogs got together for a last-minute rehearsal to put the finishing touches on the choreography. I almost forgot to include that previously in the week on Thursday our master of vocal percussion, Brian Watts, had sustained an avulsion fracture in an ankle during a basketball game. Thursday night we had reworked all of our choreography to accommodate the injury, so this Saturday rehearsal was our last chance to reinforce the muscle memory around the changes. We also got the opportunity to have the arranger of our opener, Shams Ahmed, in the room to give us some tips.

Which brings us to the actual concert.  Fermata Town started the show off with a bang.

After a stressful week of intensive rehearsal and choreography, we were all surprisingly relaxed and ready to take the stage. We felt really great about our performance and were all proud of the standing ovation we received at the end of our set.

After that, we got to relax a bit and enjoy the stellar performance by Groove For Thought.

Sunday morning included an excellent master class with Rene Ruiz. He broke down two of our newest songs and provided invaluable insight into how we could engage the audience. Thanks Rene!  Lastly, no trip to Philadelphia is complete without sampling an authentic cheesesteak.

We all had lunch at the Reading Terminal Market before piling into the van for the trip home. Good time, good friends, good information, good experience.


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