Pitch Perfect vs. Real Life: A Sneak Peak Into The Life of the A Capella Elite
As a newly-initiated (indoctrinated?) member of St Andrews’ vibrant a cappella scene, it was only natural for me to make an appearance at the A Cappella Society’s eagerly-awaited social this Saturday, taking place at the Union’s Beacon Bar. But were there seemingly endless aca-ttractive and musically talented singles awaiting this BTEC Beca? Would we segue flawlessly between totally unrelated songs which every member of the group knew without fail during a riff off? It was time to investigate whether the world of university a cappella was really as aca-awesome as Pitch Perfect made it out to be.
The format of the night, a ‘Karaoke Roulette’, was a great choice from the organisers, playing to the singing attendees’ strength and avoiding the usual risk of incoherent, drunken shout-singing. As in the famous riff offs in Pitch Perfect, participants were faced with a spinning wheel of songs from a particular category, but this time with no threat of being ‘cut off’ and cast out from the challenge. This format, which led to commendable inter-group collaborations, was a great example of A Cappella Society President Eilidh Fern’s aim to mix groups: “Subconsciously, we want it to be like Pitch Perfect, but fun. With no Pitch Perfect drama”, she explained. As to whether actual riff offs do exist in the a cappella world, Emma Koonce, from the Alleycats, can confirm that they do. “We did one after our group’s social. I made my flatmate join in.”
As the night wore on, with the Union growing ever-busier, it was only natural to wonder if sparks could fly between members. However, I was surprised to hear that this was not the case.
According to Sereena Pallana of the Hummingbirds, many a cappella members have already been snatched up, most likely due to their dulcet tones. “Maybe it’s a prerequisite for joining a cappella to be in a relationship!” she remarked. Sereena also debunked the myth of extreme rivalry between groups depicted in Pitch Perfect, explaining that “other people put the expectation on us that we have to be in competition with other groups, even though we want to be friends.”
With the members arranging themselves in a semicircle before the karaoke screen, planning their next collaborations and engaging in playful a cappella quips, this event simply seemed to be a great way to celebrate a united love of singing. “I love these socials. Every night with the a cappella people is incredible”, one attendee commented enthusiastically.
Despite the cheap Union drinks flowing freely, the quality of singing was relatively unimpacted, a testament to the impressive vocal skills of those in attendance. The audience was entertained with a variety of performances, from a falsetto-embellished rendition of Let It Go to a lively Call Me Maybe. Before I call this event aca-mazing, I was warned that Pitch Perfect lingo is, to my disappointment, not common in a cappella parlance. “We’re too cool for that”, said one society member, dismissing my misconception. It was in keeping with the movie, however, that much of the discussion revolved around a cappella, be it upcoming arrangements, drama, or the hotly-anticipated SACC (Scottish A Cappella Championships), held later in the academic year.
While this event was solely for group members, a cappella is certainly not a closed off society: if you’re not up for an audition and want to sing casually, unauditioned group the Vocal Bandits provides a fun and friendly entry into the a cappella world. Who wouldn’t want to give ‘zm-zm-zm’-ing a try? So while Beca, Bumper, and Jesse may just be characters in a fictitious a cappella idyll, the singing community’s togetherness and passion for singing shown in Pitch Perfect certainly are aca-accurate.
Photo: Alex Barnard