A cappella takes center stage at national festival here this weekend

Duwende will be participating in the Kettering National A Cappella Festival at Fairmont High School on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11 and 12. CONTRIBUTED
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Duwende will be participating in the Kettering National A Cappella Festival at Fairmont High School on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11 and 12. CONTRIBUTED

If you have any doubts about the popularity of a cappella music, look no further than the Kettering National A Cappella Festival. The annual event, at Fairmont High School on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11 and 12, features more than 60 student vocal groups.

“We had 70 groups last year, which is the most we’ve ever had,” Brody McDonald said. “This year we have 62 and you can tell we’re spoiled because I thought we’d get even bigger this year. We’re a little bit smaller but it’s still the largest event of its type in the country.”

The festival is attended by groups from colleges and middle schools but most participants are high school age.

“Our whole weekend is educationally-based,” “McDonald said. “Everyone will receive instruction from the two professional groups coming in, Duwende and m-pact. We’ll have a series of master classes people can take on a variety of topics ranging from the belting voice of a singer and looping pedals to how to put raps into you’re a cappella and how to improvise music.

“We also have 50-plus different performances,” McDonald continued. “We have three different stages where all of these groups get to perform and you can’t get that anywhere else so that’s why a lot of people like to come.”

Student groups perform on Friday and the teaching headliners, Duwende and m-pact, perform on Saturday.

Performers at a past Kettering National High School A Cappella Festival. The annual event, at Fairmont High School on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11 and 12, features more than 60 student vocal groups. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF
Caption
Performers at a past Kettering National High School A Cappella Festival. The annual event, at Fairmont High School on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11 and 12, features more than 60 student vocal groups. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

Credit: Chris Stewart

Credit: Chris Stewart

“When we started this in 2000 I never believed we’d be in an arena for our final show,” McDonald said. “Once we got Pentatonix on board in 2012, we had to. We sold 3,000 tickets that year and we’ve been in the arena ever since.

“What I love is, m-pact and Duwende have developed this longstanding show where they do the songs of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder,” McDonald continued. “They’ll each do some songs separately and then they do some Stevie and M.J. songs together.”

According to McDonald, the rise of a cappella music mirrors the rise of DIY culture that favors an organic approach to art over modern technology.

“We see a lot of the maker culture and the rebirth of local artisans,” he said. “A cappella is the musical extension of that cultural trend. I’m kind of a dork. I’m into fountain pens and there is a whole group of people that like to use analog fountain pens and paper in the days of computers.

“People sell handcrafted leather notebooks stuff like that,” McDonald added. “A cappella is kind of the musical version of that.”


WANT TO GO?

What: Kettering National A Cappella Festival

Where: Fairmont High School, 3301 Shroyer Road, Kettering

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11 and 12

Cost: $15 Friday, $20 Saturday

More info: 937-499-2647 or www.acafest.org