An Irish A Cappella Revolution

A cappella music in its modern form is one of the most innovative and unique developments of the use of the voice, in recent years!

While being an incredibly accessible form of music, as proven by its recent popularity across the world, it also requires definite skill and technique. Indeed, a cappella singing displays all four forms of vocal skill from the use of percussive elements, instrumental mimicry, close harmony and virtuosic singing.

In 2009, contemporary a cappella began its rise in popularity with American reality competition “The Sing Off”. In 2011, the competition went on to introduce probably the world’s best known a cappella group Pentatonix, whose YouTube video of their Daft Punk melody reached millions online.

The musical TV show “Glee” brought all male a cappella group The Warblers to our TV screens and in 2012, the movie Pitch Perfect, depicting the struggles of a university female a cappella group led by Anna Kendrick became an instant hit! The movie earned over $115 million worldwide. It has since become the second highest­ grossing music comedy film of all time, behind School of Rock.

The film was very influential even with Irish audiences. A cover of the “Cups Song (When I’m Gone)”, as performed in Pitch Perfect, featured on the 2013 RTÉ Late Late Toy Show and an Irish translation by TG Lurgan reached over 3 million on YouTube.

We know that a cappella music was popular before 2009 with groups like The King’s Singers and The Flying Pickets entertaining huge audiences since the 1960s. However, modern technology, film and television have made this genre known and loved by an even wider audience than before.

Now is a very exciting time for the genre of modern a cappella so what are Irish artists doing for a cappella in Ireland?

Modern A Cappella Music In Ireland

Ireland boasts a thriving culture of amateur and professional choral singing with over 30,000 singers across the country. Our choral festivals like Sligo International Choral Festival, The City of Derry International Choral Festival and Cork International Choral Festival attract thousands of participants every year. These events have even brought international headline a cappella acts like The Real Group and The Swingles to the Irish stage.

Irish choral group Anúna have probably made the most contribution to the genre of modern a cappella singing in Ireland. Their arrangements of pieces like Dúlamán, Fionnghuala and August are regular concert favourites for choral and a cappella ensembles alike.

Inspiring the Next Generation of Modern A Cappella

Along with Anúna, our choral ensembles like Chamber Choir Ireland and New Dublin Voices continue to make huge contributions to the development of choral singing and contemporary Irish music but there’s still a gap in the market for a premier Irish a cappella group.

Organisations The Association of Irish Choirs and The Association of Irish Barbershop Singing are keen advocates of the genre. Younger groups like The Trinitones, Ardú Vocal Ensemble, 4 in a Bar, The Key Notes and many more have laid solid foundations for a thriving a cappella culture in Ireland but still more can be done.

Last year, Ardú founded Ireland's A Cappella Competition which gave a platform to over 60 a cappella singers to perform to a sold-out audience! Following on from this success, the Irish International A Cappella Festival aims to be bring Irish a cappella to an international stage while also creating more opportunities for vocal harmony groups in Ireland, outside of the usual choral festival scene. Another, but equally important goal of IIACF, is to provide an incentive for more Irish groups to form.

It’s obvious that Ireland has a multitude of talented singers along with brilliant composers and arrangers. The audience for modern a cappella is primed, ready and waiting and events like these and the Irish International A Cappella Festival could be the beginnings of a national platform for modern a cappella singing in the future!