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Sophisticated a cappella quintet drives whirlwind success

By Dana Gee, The ProvinceMay 6, 2013

In today’s entertainment world, the term overnight success is often used and often used incorrectly.

Every once in a while, however, as is the case with the a cappella group Pentatonix, the cliché fits.

In 2011, the U.S. singing group, which performs at the Vogue on Thursday, literally came together the night before auditions for the third season of the TV talent show The Sing Off. Flash forward a few months, and the group was crowned the show’s winner.

“Yeah it’s been a whirlwind. It’s been amazing,” said Kirstie Maldonado who is joined in the group by Mitch Grassi, Scott Hoying, Kevin Olusola, and Avi Kaplan. “Just this last year has gone so fast. I can’t believe all these things have happened.”

The group, which ranges in age from 20 to 24, began in an Arlington, Texas, high school with pals Maldonado, Grassi and Hoying. It expanded when Hoying, while at the University of Southern California, got wind of the TV show auditions and recruited Kaplan and Olusola.

“I really just think that we are all really driven and we have the same love for music and what we’re doing,” said Maldonado about the group’s connection. “We are just really passionate about what we do. I think that’s what first clicked us all together. It just worked. That kind of united our group and then, once we got to know each other, we became a family.”

And a family that sings together, well, sings really well together. Pentatonix’s first record, the 2012 PTX Vol. 1, hit No. 14 on the Billboard Top 200 album. The group was also picked by as the featured artist of the year in 2012 and, all the while, pulling in more than 60 million YouTube views for their covers of such pop hits as Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know, We Are Young by fun, and even a little Gangnam Style.

With a successful Christmas album under their belt as well, Pentatonix — along with such acts as Michael Bublé’s favourite boys Naturally 7 (check out recent viral video of them singing a cappella with Bublé in the New York subway) — is showing people that today’s a cappella is a sophisticated, hip sound that is a long ways from guys in straw boaters and striped vests singing Let Me Call You Sweetheart.

Recently the a cappella movement was even given the Hollywood treatment with the hit musical/comedy Pitch Perfect, a film Maldonado said helped to explain what she does for a living.

“I just feel people didn’t know much about a cappella and it, Pitch Perfect, The Sing Off and Glee, early on, opened up people’s eyes to it and showed them that it could be really fun and helped to get rid of the stereotypes they have in their heads,” said Maldonado who added that her singing group makes a very conscious effort to avoid being “cheesy.”

With a career taking off so quickly, there are plenty of new things artists like Maldonado and her group experience every day. One of those new experiences has been touring.

“It’s actually not that bad, I don’t know why,” said Maldonado. “It’s actually really fun. It was a change at first — I have never done anything like this before, obviously.

“I never travelled much previously to being in this group so I love to see all the different places” added Maldonado. “That’s my favourite part seeing what every city is like.”