This year, over 400 people from near and far gathered in Roberts Theater on the evening of Saturday, Feb. 1, to cheer on the choirs in the Wyvern Invitational A cappella Festival (also known as WIAF).
New England’s largest a capella festival for independent schools, WIAF has proven to be a time of great joy and accomplishment each year for the past 12 years. This time around, ten choir groups participated. In no particular order, they are as follows: Crimson 7 and Oxfordians from Kingswood Oxford, Pitchpipes and Onomatopoeia from Lexington High School in Mass., Strawberry Fields from Bristol Eastern High School, Be S#arp from Conard High School, A Cafella from Hall High School, Ethel Walker School’s The Grapes, Fairfield Ludlowe High School’s Close Harmony, and Miss Porter’s School’s The Perilhettes.
In order to sign up for the festival, invitations are sent out to surrounding schools in New England in September. These schools are required to verbally commit by October and officially send in papers by December. Once registration is over, the musical groups double down on practicing and preparing for the big night. All groups were said to have done particularly well.
According to Creative Arts Department Chair Todd Millen, the competition was extremely tight. “In the end, the top six or seven groups were very closely bunched. The placement could have gone in any direction, but I’m proud of everyone that came out and did their best,” he said. Mr. Millen elaborated that the top two, however, were clear from the start. “Close Harmony and Be S#harp had strong performances and were winners from the beginning,” he said. “In my opinion, the song of the night was definitely Crimson 7’s rendition of ‘Midnight Train to Georgia,’ though.”
It was for this second-act performance that senior Matthew Marottolo received the award for Outstanding Male Vocalist. “I think it was cool that his brother [David Marottolo] arranged it, and [Matthew] was able to win an award with it,” Mr. Millen said. David, who graduated from KO with the class of 2018, had actually come to WIAF and performed with his choral group from Trinity College in Hartford.
According to Mr. Millen, the performance was meant to act as a form of entertainment for the audience as the judges calculated final scores and placements. As for the results, Close Harmony came in first, Be S#arp was in second, Onomatopoeia in third, and Crimson 7 in fourth. Oxfordians came seven points behind C7. Along with Matt’s award, KO was represented by junior Henry Mandell for Viewer’s Choice Beatbox Battle Winner.
The other awards of the night were as follows: Outstanding Female Soloist went to Hannah Kim of Onomatopoeia, Outstanding Student Direction to Be S#arp, Outstanding Vocal Percussion to Dan Winter of Onomatopoeia, Oustanding Student Arrangement to Marcus Priede of Close Harmony for “End of Love,” and Outstanding Student Choreography to Strawberry Fields for “Uptown Funk.”
The performers all seemed to feel accomplished with their efforts in singing. For example, Oxfordians seniors Sophia Kaufman, Remy McCoy, and Alex D’addabbo said they believed their performance went extremely well. “We sang ‘Cheap Thrills’ by Sia and a mashup of ‘Just the Way You Are’ with Just A Dream,” Alex said. “I definitely liked the second performance better.”
Sophia elaborated that this was due to the fact that Oxfordians also had choreography to go along with the song. “We got to dance and move around, so it just made it all the more fun,” she said. Sophia also said she enjoyed that both songs came from the popular 2012 movie “Pitch Perfect.” According to Sophia, WIAF is the most exciting time of the year for singing. “We work all year for this one event, so it’s really cool to see everyone come together and connect for one big performance in the end,” she said.
Remy said she agreed with Sophia. “I’m super proud of all of us and the work we did for WIAF!” she said. As well, Oxfordian Samhita Kashyap said she not only enjoyed performing, but getting to experience other groups’ styles as well.
Based on reactions from the crowd, the hard work put into performing really became obvious on stage and audience members were delighted by the phenomenal singing. Senior Alma Clark, junior Cici Chagnon, and junior Chris Morris were all in attendance and said they loved the whole WIAF experience. The beatboxing portion was a fan-favorite for most. Alma said she would definitely recommend that those who have never been to WIAF before definitely go next year. Cici said she agreed. “There’s so many cool performances with not only singing, but they do a lot of choreography, too,” she said.
The whole event is mainly organized by five KO faculty members on the WIAF committee: Mr. Millen along with Crimson 7 Director David Baker, Oxfordians Director Steve Mitchell, Spanish teacher Ronald Garcia, and Spanish teacher Juan Martinez.
You may be wondering why two Spanish teachers are involved with a singing competition. Mr. Martinez is a skilled tech genius and takes care of the festival’s technical aspects, while Mr. Garcia is involved because he organizes the annual service trip to Paraguay called Team Tobatí, which WIAF benefits. This year, tickets cost $15 each and over $7,800 was raised toward Team Tobatí.
Although Mr. Millen is not a choir teacher himself either, he is chairman of the committee. He uses every opportunity he can to remind the KO community about WIAF months in advance, and encourages everyone to buy tickets and come out to support their peers. As the choir directors, Mr. Baker and Mr. Mitchell both take WIAF very seriously and use the night as an opportunity for their students to improve as much as possible.
Overall, WIAF 2020 turned out to be a fun, successful, and enjoyable night for all those involved! Special congrats to Crimson 7 and Oxfordians for their impressive placements, as well!