An a cappella evening

Annual concert brings back crowds to see choral talent


Photo by Rachel Streich

The all-male a capella group Innocent Men sang and danced to pop, rock and barber shop tunes at the A Capella Extravaganza.

As students and community members began to fill the seats in Schofield Auditorium Friday night, the sounds of singing, finger-snapping and beat boxing traveled through the basement hallways below. During the nearly two-hour event, eight groups stepped on stage with their songs and dance moves prepared.

The A Cappella Extravaganza, part of the annual Clearwater Choral Festival, featured UW-Eau Claire ensembles as well as Memorial High School Vocal Jazz. Throughout the evening each group sang and grooved to a variety of classic and contemporary tunes from “O Little Town of Bethlehem” to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off.”

For Abby Polipnick, a sophomore and member of Audacious, it was a new experience to perform for the extravaganza with so many other a cappella singers.

“It’s a fun opportunity for me to see all the other a cappella groups and get to hear them because we don’t always sing at the same (events),” she said.

One after another the groups got the audience clapping, arm-waving and toe-tapping to the music. Student emcees Stephanie Tyink and Zach Moore kept the crowd content and laughing between songs as they told jokes and announced upcoming acts.

Community member Angela Van Loon said it was her third time attending the A Cappella Extravaganza, and it is always a highlight.

“I enjoy the creativity of the ensembles and seeing what they come up with each year,” Van Loon said.

The singers performed genres of pop, rock, jazz and others, moving around the stage and even striding down the side stairs to sing directly to people in the audience. While the screen behind them changed colors and designs, the groups sang in their best dresses and suits, as well as group T-shirts and trademark red Converse sneakers.

Jerot Ritter, a sophomore and member of Innocent Men, said a cappella is a musical form that is not just about the notes.

“A cappella is 50 percent about music and 50 percent about fun and entertainment,” he said.

Ritter, who is new to the Innocent Men, said he has gained experience with the group at previous events in the semester, and a cappella has allowed him to form bonds with the other five members.

“I think what stands out to me about the Innocent Men is the really close degree of friendship,” Ritter said.

The event allowed students to show encouragement to fellow Blugolds as well.

Elsa Olson, junior, said she thinks the A Cappella Extravaganza is a positive way to support the vast amount of musical talent at Eau Claire.

Throughout the weekend, the Clearwater Choral Festival brought more than 200 high school students from schools in both Wisconsin and Minnesota for recruiting and featured three more concerts from five university choirs.

Gary Schwartzhoff, director of choral activities, said all the concerts in the festival give prospective students an idea of what the university’s music atmosphere is like.

“We’re trying to showcase the program here as much as we can through each of these performances,” he said.

At the end of the evening, the groups joined each other on stage as the audience gave a standing ovation for a community of musicians displaying Wisconsin’s Singing University.