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Pentatonix headlines at A Cappella Night

By Bri Hand

Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012

When word spread at the end of the summer that the a cappella group Pentatonix would be headlining at UNH’s annual A Cappella Night, it shook the UNH a cappella community as members began to buzz with excitement over their upcoming appearance and performance.

However, members of UNH’s six a cappella groups got a little more than they bargained for when Pentatonix invited them to appear alongside them in a music video to Taylor Swift’s “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together” during their visit to the school.

“We knew we wanted to do it soon, but we didn’t know where,” said Scott Hoying, one of Pentatonix’s five members. “Then we realized, oh my gosh, there are like a million a cappella groups in New Hampshire so we should definitely do it with them.”

Pentatonix, named after the pentatonic musical scale, is best known for winning season three of “The Sing-Off,” an NBC reality show that showcased a cappella groups competing for $200,000 and a recording contract. Since then, Pentatonix has gained Internet fame with their a cappella interpretations of popular songs on YouTube. Their renditions of “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra and “We are Young” by Fun. went viral, with the former netting over 8 million views.

Pentatonix has achieved fame in both a cappella circles and beyond, charting at No. 14 in the U.S. Billboard 200 when their album, PTX Vol. 1 was released. The group comprises five members: Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, Avi Kaplan, Kirstie Maldonado and Kevin Olusola.

“I’ve been excited for this for, you know, ever,” said Greg Daigle, of the mixed a cappella group Alabaster Blue. “I was excited before I even knew they were coming.”

Other a cappella members shared this sentiment, referring to Pentatonix as celebrities in the a cappella world.

“Seeing them for the first time was really cool because they’re so famous to people who are interested in that kind of stuff,” said Abby Lehman, the general manager of Alabaster Blue. “It was really surreal.”

“When I first saw them, it was kind of a numbing experience. I was like, ‘This isn’t real. This can’t be happening,’” said Will Ford, business manager of Off The Clef.

According to Ford, the process of learning their parts and actually shooting the video went by very quickly. Pentatonix went over each sound part with all the groups in the lobby outside of the Granite State Room after the groups’ sound check, then moved to the Strafford Room to begin filming.

The six groups were split in half around members of Pentatonix. After a few practice runs, they did two takes of the video.

“I had no idea we were doing it,” said Sloane Schuchman, member of Maiden Harmony. “So I showed up and was instructed to dance and just got really excited and realized I’m going to be on YouTube. But basically it was the coolest thing ever.”

Though the excitement of the UNH a cappella group members was evident, the Pentatonix singers shared the same exhilaration.

“We really liked them,” Olusola, Pentatonix’s beatboxer, said. “They were just so enthusiastic and energetic. During the video they were just all chanting and going in with everything. I’m really thankful that we got to do stuff with them.”

Though the group has garnered quite a bit of fame since its formation in 2011, UNH a cappella members were quick to laud the group’s “down-to-earth” personalities.

“They were very laid back,” said Travis Nason, a new member of The New Hampshire Gentlemen. “It was cool to have a group that, being on NBC and being on ‘The Sing-Off’ and having such fame to be so relaxed around everyone. … They’re very modest, very humble, and I was surprised.”

“They knew what they wanted and they didn’t take long to get across what they wanted,” Daigle said. “They were very focused. Very patient.”

During A Cappella Night, Pentatonix performed a mix of songs from “The Sing-Off” and their YouTube covers. Crowd favorites included “Video Killed The Radio Star,” “Somebody That I Used To Know” and “Dog Days Are Over.”

The group mixed up the night with a performance of “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye, in which they invited one audience member, Amy Flaherty, onstage to sit on a stool and be serenaded.

“It was incredible. It was unbelievable. It was unreal,” Flaherty said. She and her friends had been waiting in line for four hours to snag front-row seats. “It was worth it. It was so worth it to be in the front row and to witness that. … I feel like a crazy fangirl.”

In reviews from The Huffington Post, it has been said that Pentatonix “are making a cappella cool again,” and “will likely change the influence of a cappella music forever.”

To this, the group only laughed, but said that moving forward, they are trying to make singing a cappella their living.

“I think one of our main goals is to bring a cappella to the mainstream,” Olusola said. “We’re just so excited that people are catching on to the kind of idea that we’re trying to create and we want to continue making strides.”

“It’s a beautiful art form,” Hoying said. “It’s organic, it’s really true. And so I’m glad that we’re bringing more attention to it. That’s our goal.”

The music video with UNH a capella members has not yet been released, but should be posted soon, as Pentatonix tweeted “Putting up a new cover VERY soon. Be on the lookout!” on Sept. 18.