NEW YORK--Yesterday, on the stage of Avery Fisher Hall at New York City's Lincoln Center, the Harvard Callbacks won third place in the final round of the National Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (NCCA).
"It was an amazing experience," said Callbacks President James Y. Ko '00.
The 17-member co-ed a cappella group earned a berth in the national finals of the NCCA by claiming the northeastern regional championship at Smith College back in March.
Yesterday's concert, hosted by professional a cappella quintet Five O' Clock Shadow, featured the nation's six regional champions performing for no more than fifteen minutes each. By the determination of a random draw, the Callbacks sang last.
Their set included Guster's "Two Points for Honesty," with soloist Royd Chung '01, Mariah Carey's "The Roof," with soloist Emily H. Chang '02 and Madonna's "Like a Prayer," with soloist Megan L. Gaffney '02.
Closing the competition with the award-winning arrangement and precise choreography of "Like a Prayer," the Callbacks drew a standing ovation from the Harvard fans in the crowd.
After an interlude during which Five O' Clock Shadow entertained the audience, the six competing groups convened on stage for the awards announcements. Upon hearing of their third-place finish, the Callbacks grinned and hugged one another.
They were mostly pleased with their placing. "At this level, the judging is so subjective that we just have to take comfort in knowing how great our performance was," Gaffney said.
Music Director Derek D. Smith '00 agreed. "We didn't really get to hear the other groups, but it was definitely the best performance this group's ever given," he said.
Second place in the competition went to the University of Illinois' Other Guys, an all-male octet. The Men's Octet from the University of California at Berkeley snagged first place, along with a trophy and $1,000. They also won the last time the competition was held, in 1998, making for the first-ever repeat victory in the NCCA.
The crowd of several hundred in Avery Fisher Hall, the home of the New York Philharmonic, consisted of mostly family members and friends of the singers from all over the country. Support for the Callbacks came from a busload of Harvard students who trekked down to New York City for the day.
The National Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, the world's largest a cappella competition, is sponsored by Mainely A Cappella and the Contemporary A Cappella Society.
This year, 1,500 singers performed in the tournament's 25 shows. Almost 200 groups applied to participate, 108 were selected and six arrived in the finals by winning their respective regional quarterfinals and semifinals.
Having appeared in two jams and the two preliminary stages of the NCCA, the Callbacks had an intense semester. Yesterday's concert "was the culmination of so much hard work," said Megan C. Guy '03.
It was also the culmination of a whirlwind weekend away from Cambridge. The Callbacks traveled to New York on Thursday night and are returning to Harvard this morning.
While away, they fit in some last-minute refining of their routines at the Empire State Building, a dinner party and plenty of private practices.
But to the members of the group, the trip was worth the toil. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and to place was just icing on the cake," said Ana I.Torres '00.
"That was just the most fun I've had in my life," Guy added.