The greatest thing about University a cappella is that, other than terrific music, you really never know what to expect. The Academical Village People are no exception and, if anything, they always seem to exceed the limitations and expectations of most University a cappella shows.
The Academical Village People’s 22nd Spring Concert “Man Fest Destiny” highlighted the drop of their new CD, “Another Round,” and featured over-the-top comedy and incredible vocal variety to give the audience two engaging hours of nonstop entertainment.
Hitting the ground running, the group opened with “The Lion King’s” iconic song “The Circle of Life” led by fourth-year College student Jacob Irby. Irby had strong vocals, a powerful background harmony and he threw in some playful stage acting to nicely round out the first number.
Ed Sheeran’s “Kiss Me” immediately followed. It featured a captivating, slow, deep toned and masterful harmony mixed with a little sexual flavor which led well into King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight,” an old school 70s jam — no doubt a hometown favorite. AVP would not be AVP, though, had they not added a twist by slowing down the beat and ending the song with a soulful vibe.
Singing is just one of the acts AVP performs to keep the audience engaged.
AVP President Will Cochrane, a third-year College student, said he thinks the group’s relaxed mentality enhances their stage presence.
“I think that our general motto is that we don’t try to take ourselves too seriously — there’s a lot of personality in the group and comedic camaraderie, and [performing] a cool way to show it,” Cochrane said. “For us, it’s a lot of fun and we laugh harder sometimes than even the audience does.”
The brief comedic skit centered around an adventurer on his way to California to dig for gold — and men. The skit had an underlying, universal message of coming together as a community and respecting one another in addition to promoting a fix for cultural stereotypes.
Then, the music turned back up with “Love You Long Time” by Jazmine Sullivan, but popularized by Pentatonix, which highlighted lowest bass vocalists Kevin Zeithaml and Austin Chang in the songs intro, but moreover gave each vocalist a moment to shine. This interchanging method allowed each member to add his own harmony and voice to the song, in turn increasing AVP’s personality and unity.
Changing direction from club and pop styles, AVP sang “It Goes Like This,” from Thomas Rhett’s single album released in October 2013. To wrap up Act 1, the set brought the crowd to their feet with “Love Runs Out” from their new album, performed by Tal Benatar. Benatar crushed the refrain, showing technique through strong support, precise runs, bold tone and a killer ending.
During the intermission, AVP showed their support for other performing arts groups by featuring a comedy improv group who facilitated games such as “Oscar Winning Moments,” in which actors take suggestions from the audience and create their own movie with star quality.
Act 2 came in with much the same zing, starting with “Jealous” by Nick Jonas and “Irresistible” by Fall Out Boy. After these two songs, AVP gave the crowd a self-made and utterly hilarious commercial break, starring members in a man-hunt for the best man-party. AVP then nailed their best song of the night, “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by the late and great Whitney Houston, which left the audience amazed and stunned by the arrangement, vocals and impressive key change mid-way through.
AVP wrapped the show up with their shirts off, strewn across the stage. Howls from the crowd called for an encore featuring “With or Without You” by U2, “Sex On Fire” by Kings of Leon, and finally, the Backstreet Brothers’ “Everybody.” AVP delivered an impressive, while diverse array of top songs.
AVP’s new album, “Another Round” features many of the songs heard at the concert, along with new arrangements from top-40 tracks to old-time favorites.
“In many ways, this CD is our best one yet. All the solos and ensembles are very strong… and the CD fits very well together,” said AVP music director Frank Song Jr., third-year College student. [While] sometimes there were imbalances with the genres of the songs, here [they] were very complimentary,” Song said.
In addition to the soundtrack, AVP is kick-starting a campaign through the website to help raise money through donations to fund the CD and their projects.
Arts & Entertainment got the chance to sit down after the show to talk more with AVP President Will Cochrane and Music Director Frank Song.
Arts & Entertainment: Why do you think incorporating skits and “commercials” are so important to the shows that you put on? How important is keeping the audience engaged?
Will Cochrane: I think that our general motto is that we don’t try to take ourselves too seriously and that there’s a lot of personality in the group and comedic camaraderie and a cool way to show it. For us, it’s a lot of fun and we laugh harder sometimes than the audience does.
Frank Song: You can only communicate so much about what our group is about through music, but through skits and videos, we can showcase our humor and mix in important messages and we can joke about certain things and also keep the seriousness. It lets us show the audience we are about more than music.
A&E: What themes and overall message did you want the audience to take away from the concert, relating to “Man Fest Destiny?”
WC: We pick goofy concert themes and the whole thing to be funny, but there wasn’t really a specific message we wanted to take away from it.
A&E: How is your new CD different than the other ones released in the past? What new techniques or arrangements did you add on?
WC: A cappella is evolving in the produced world and people are doing new things that have changed in the past year. The CD focuses much more on how the art form has changed. It’s the best CD we have put out and we have objectively the best quality music whether you actively listen to a cappella music or not.
FS: All the solos are very strong and the ensembles are very strong. The CD fits very well together. Sometime there were imbalances with the genres of the song and here the songs were very complementary.
A&E: What are you the most proud of referring to the overall concert and the group’s performance specifically?
WC: Everyone’s attitude (it’s a lot of work to put on this concert) and we are proud that we put on music that [is] of high caliber and that each member had a genuinely great time. Each member could escape their own problems and just separate themselves from that and be a part of the concert. It’s a testament [to] hard work.
FS: AVP doesn’t try to take a capella too seriously. There is a certain idea or hierarchy, and if you take it too seriously, you lose the art and the music. We are a kind, and more passionate group, and if the passion is there, the music is going to be an amazing quality. A part of the being in the group is the camaraderie of being a brotherhood and servicing the community without compromising what we're about.