Villanova Supernovas ICCA ambitions cut short

Maura Gownley

The money-making, box office-breaking movie of 2013, “Pitch Perfect,” took viewers through the journey of a collegiate a cappella group competing for a national title. The incredibly complicated arrangements, harmonies and choreography featured in the film seem to inauthentically portray college a Cappella groups. However, “Pitch Perfect” features an actual competition which showcases over 300 a cappella groups across the nation: The International Championship of Collegiate a Cappella (ICCA). To be considered for the tournament, each group must submit an audition video and one of Villanova’s own, The Villanova Supernovas, were deemed worthy for this year’s Mid-Atlantic ICCA quarterfinals at Temple University on Feb. 13. 

As soon as the spring semester began, the Supernovas began solo auditions for the songs they would be performing at ICCAs.The set list included “If I Go” by Ella Eyre, “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift, “Runnin’” by Beyonce and Naughty Boy and “Alive” by Sia. The Supernovas invited all of the members to audition for the songs. After each auditionee had a chance to sing through the first verse and chorus, The Supernovas voted on their favorite version. 

Because each member is so talented, solo selection was very difficult. Supernovas senior, Eric Stoll admits, “song selection is very scary because everyone is so good! We always say it’s the most nerveracking experience auditioning in front of the group. I personally love solo auditions because it’s a chance to hear many different people in the group solo the same song, but put their own spin on it.” 

After much deliberation, the Supernovas decided on the soloists. “If I Go” would be performed by Maura Gownley. “Bad Blood” would be slayed by Michael Lee. “Runnin’” would feature a duet between Chayla Sherrod and Eric Stoll. And to close the show, freshman Claire Gautier would sing “Alive.”

After finalizing the soloists, the Supernovas began learning the setlist. Each song was arranged by Supernova alumnis, Vincent Ventura and Tommy Monks. The Supernovas reached out to the recent graduates because of their incomparable arranging skills. Charlotte McLam, a sophomore Supernova said, “You can always expect some crazy arrangements from Tommy and Vincent. They are amazing at arranging, unique songs that adopt the Supernovas aesthetic. We are so thankful that they took the time to arrange our ICCAs set.” The Supernovas classic sound includes bells, harmonies and a strong baseline. It is important to the Supernovas that they are consistent with the sound they produce and perform. When asked why he arranged for the Supernovas, Ventura a 2015 graduate, said, “The Supernovas were a huge part of my time at Villanova. When I found out the group was competing this year, I wanted to help out in any way possible. I wanted to create something that would give the Supernovas an edge in the competition.” 

Besides interesting arrangements, one of the biggest components for an ICCA performance is captivating choreography. The choreography a group includes during a performance should complement the arrangement of a song. Slow, fluid motions typically accompany a ballad whereas sharp hand movements go well with an upbeat rock song. The Supernovas were lucky to have two members, Tatum Murray and Kalvary Hawkins, who both have dance backgrounds. This team of two worked diligently to create and teach the rest of the Supernovas the choreography. The dancing was sharp, innovative and fun. The killer setlist and dancing Supernovas prepared was sure to give them an excellent chance to move on in the competition.

The day of the competition finally arrived and reality set in that the Supernovas would finally perform what they had been working towards for months. Ten other groups would perform their best songs with amazing choreography but the Supernovas were confident in their set. To begin the day, the ICCA Mid-Atlantic manager welcomed all of the groups and gave information on the general rules. However, the most interesting information the Supernovas received was that the competition would be recorded for PopTV’s Sing It On, a show that follows college a cappella groups’ journeys to the ICCA’s. The group being followed for the TV show was the University of Pennsylvania’s Off the Beat. Though this was intimidating information, the Supernovas knew they would be able to perform well. They rehearsed all day to ensure that every member knew their part and their choreography. 

After a long day of rehearsing, getting ready and waiting, the competition finally began. The Supernovas chose to close the competition. Tensions and expectations were high after every group had performed for the night. When their name was called, the Supernovas strutted on stage, took their place and calmly put their heads down. 11 minutes and 53 seconds later, the Supernovas completed their performance and the entire ICCA competition. Feelings of relief and excitement overcame the group members after the performance and Kalvary Hawkins said, “We did it, guys. That’s it. Congratulations!” 

After some deliberation, the judges finally decided which groups would continue on in the ICCA tournament. All of the groups took the stage and waited for the results. Unfortunately, the Supernovas did not place in the ICCA Mid-Atlantic quarterfinals, but music director Michael Lee said, “In preparing for the ICCA’s I was surprised again and again by the amazing talent in this group. I’m incredibly proud of everything we accomplished and I feel so lucky to have been a part of this experience.” Lee’s words rang true for the rest of the Supernovas. They were so thankful for the experience and would absolutely love to perform in the competition again. They congratulated first place winner Lehigh University’s Melismatics and the second place winner University of Pennsylvania’s Off the Beat. Though the Supernovas will not be continuing on in the ICCA competition, they met incredible people, learned more about one another, received great feedback on their performance, and most importantly had fun. So in the end, the Supernovas still won.