ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT GAZETTE

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Pentatonix performance a celebration
JENNIFER CHRISTMAN ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

Pentatonix has performed “Telephone” by Lady Gaga and Beyonce countless times in the past few years. It was even the group’s audition song for Season 3 of The Sing Off, NBC’s acapella competition that it won in 2011.

But performing the song before a sold-out crowd at Little Rock’s Robinson Center Music Hall Thursday night felt different, vocalist Scott Hoying told the audience.

“We’re, like, extra nervous,” he said.

That’s because the music teacher who mentored him and fellow vocalists Mitch Grassi and Kirstie Maldonado at Martin High School in Arlington, Texas, back before the 20-somethings became YouTube and television sensations, was in the audience. The show was presented by the American Choral Directors Association in town for a three-day conference with mostly educators and students in attendance.

There was no reason to fear. Hoying, Grassi, Maldonado — along with beatboxer Kevin Olusola and bass singer Avi Kaplan completing the “penta” — were in fine form, with the acapella fivesome sounding like a full band without a single instrument on stage. (OK, there was one instrument; beatboxer Olusola also did some cello-boxing on two numbers, most notably the group’s cover of A Great Big World’s “Say Something.”) The evening was a sincere celebration of singing.

While Pentatonix offered a few original songs (including a minimalist and moving microphone-free “Run To You”), the group stuck to what it does best — refreshing radio hits from Lorde’s “Royals” and Daft Punk’s “One More Time” and “Get Lucky” to Katy Perry’s “E.T.” and Calvin Harris’ “I Need Your Love.” Other notable numbers included a bold mashup of some 20 Beyonce hits, as well as “The Evolution of Music,” a whirlwind lyrical journey in time from 11th-century chanting to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”