Recently, A Cappella Syndicate, an a cappella chorus, earned top honors as the Arizona Champion in the Barbershop Harmony Society’s Chorus Competition. The competition took place at the Mesa High School Performing Arts Center.
Of the eight competing choruses, A Cappella Syndicate was one of the four Arizona-based choruses that qualified to compete in a competition in Sacramento called the Far Western District Fall Contest. The District includes choruses from Hawaii, California, Nevada, Arizona and southwest Utah’s Washington County.
The three choruses that have qualified to advance with A Cappella Syndicate are The Phoenicians, East Valley Barbershop Harmonizers and Tucson Barbershop Experience.
The Far Western District is one of 17 districts in the U.S. and Canada within the Barbershop Harmony Society, and the district is subdivided into five divisions. Each of the five subdivisions hold conventions in the spring, where the quartets and choruses with enough scoring points qualify to compete in the fall. The upcoming contest will host anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 attendees, with approximately 20 quartets and at least 12 choruses.
Eric Bjornsen, a member of the chorus A Cappella Syndicate, shared the excitement of competitive group singing:
“Competition makes for a long day, especially when you sing in both the quartet and chorus contests. That said, when you go on stage it’s the fastest six minutes of your life,” Bjornsen recalled.
In addition to A Cappella Syndicate, Bjornsen is also a member of a second singing quartet called Vocalocity that also performed and won in its respective contest.
Competitions between quartets and choruses are two separate events. Quartets consist of four singers, where choruses can have anywhere from 15 to 150 a cappella singers.
At the competition, A Cappella Syndicate sang the song Maybe This Time from the 1966 musical Cabaret and the song Steppin’ Out with My Baby from Easter Parade, a 1948 musical.
“Reaching the audience is always a challenge, but it’s very rewarding when you do. We always try to give them an unforgettable experience. The standing ovation the quartet received at the end of our songs was icing on the cake, and a real thrill,” Bjornsen shared.
The group practiced for the competition by preparing songs and developing choreography plans.
“Locking and ringing chords is a bit addicting. Both groups are focused on delivering a great sound in an entertaining package. There’s a camaraderie and fellowship that we enjoy as we strive for that common goal,” Bjornsen said.
Bjornsen was part of the founding group for A Cappella Syndicate when it began in 2015. The chorus was created when several members wanted to form a high-quality singing ensemble. The chorus started with 11 or 12 guys, which soon grew to about 20.
“We sing a variety of a cappella music, including Barbershop, which is a uniquely American art form. Barbershop harmony consists of four parts [four-part harmony], but as mentioned, we sing other types of music which have fewer, or more parts,” Bjornsen shared.
A Cappella Syndicate performs for local art and community groups, businesses and charities when not performing in contests. The group also produces its own holiday and spring shows each year.
The chorus’s next big adventure is producing an a cappella festival in Phoenix called A Cappella Del Sol to be held in February 2020. The festival will host an a cappella competition for groups around the Southwest and the winning group will perform an evening showcase.