This past weekend, Fermata Town participated in the BOSS [Boston Sings] A Cappella Festival sponsored by the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America (CASA). This was not my first go-round at BOSS or a CASA festival but for some members in the group, this weekend was really their first chance to see that there is a world of a cappella beyond our Tuesday/Sunday night rehearsals. When talking about the a cappella world, I often speak in acronyms and this weekend everyone got to see exactly what I’m always talking about and then some.
To make the rest of this post easier to follow, here is a key to some of the acronyms I’ll be using:
CASA – Contemporary A Cappella Society of America (They organize and run these awesome festivals)
CAL – Contemporary A Cappella League (The league we are a part of set up for post-collegiate groups)
CARA – Contemporary A Cappella Recording Award (The Grammy’s of contemporary a cappella sponsored by CASA in which we were nominated for four awards)
The festival kicked off on Friday afternoon with a Pre-CARA banquet at Church. I bet CASA didn’t even know that Fermata Town used Church as the location for our CD Release Party back in February but for anyone that made it out that night, you know what a perfect, intimate venue this is for a concert. It was also a great choice for the Pre-CARA banquet in which they announced the winner to several of the CARA’s.
I had signed up through CASA to volunteer during the weekend. My first assignment was security/door duty at the banquet. Talk about a SWEET job! No seriously, I was so excited when I found out that I’d be at the door because I was going to be able to put faces to all of the names of people who I “know” in the a cappella community and then actually get a chance to say hi!
As I checked people in including the likes of The House Jacks, Musae and Postyr Project, inside they began to announce the CARA awards. I kept my ears peeled to listen for a few of the categories that Fermata Town had been nominated for. Several members of the group were inside enjoying the festivities when they announced the first award we were up for: Best CAL Song. Our rendition of Stereo Hearts was up for the award.
And the CARA goes to: Capital Blend – Because.
Runner Up: Stereo Hearts – Fermata Town
What a great start to the weekend! We were so excited to learn about the Runner Up honor via Twitter.
And then minutes later, our weekend REALLY started when they announced the winner for the Best Pop Rock Song which our version of Circus was up for.
And the CARA goes to: Pentatonix – Starships
Runner up: Circus – Fermata Town
Ummmm, what?!?! Our song was named the runner up to PTX… aka… WINNING. We couldn’t believe it and still don’t. What a great start to the night… and it would just keep getting better.
Following the banquet, the next stop would be the lobby of Blackman Auditorium for the Red Carpet ceremony. Everyone in the group was sporting their formal wear with some of our men in tuxedos and women dressed in full length gowns. This was serious business people. I wasn’t kidding when I said the Grammy’s of A Cappella!
As we entered the auditorium we were able to say hello to friends and family that made it out to cheer us on and enjoy the show before we had our picture taken on the Red Carpet.
We sat together in the reserved seating section for nominees and had our good friend and sound engineer of Hold That Thought, Tim Bongiovanni, join us for the evening.
Along with the presentation of the six major CARA’s, Friday evening also consisted of the collegiate competition in which six groups from all over the country were competing in. Volta (Syracuse), Pitch, Please! (NEU), The Cat’s Meow (UVM), Mix (UC Denver), Divisi (CCSU) and Voices in Your Head (U Chicago) made up the list of the group’s competing. Voices in Your Head won the inaugural BOSS competition last year while Mix was coming off a runner up performance at SoJAM X.
They began announcing the final six CARA awards in between collegiate performances. Fermata Town was nominated for the final two CARA’s of the night. Best CAL album and Best Pop/Rock album.
CASA President Tom Anderson presented the award for Best CAL album. And the CARA for Best CAL Album goes to: Fermata Town – Hold That Thought!
Wow. Being recognized for this award is honestly one of most exciting things I’ve ever been a part of in my life. The amount of time, energy and love that went into producing Hold That Thought was all worth it. But going one step further, the amount of time, energy and love that we put into Fermata Town is what I truly cherish because winning an award with your best friends in the entire world, while doing something you love is probably the greatest feeling and something I’ll “Hold” onto forever. (Had to throw in a cheesy a cappella pun eventually, right?)
If you were wondering, we did not win the final CARA of the night, the Best Rock/Pop Album went to Pentatonix (well, duh) with a well-deserved runner up finish to the ladies of Musae. We were incredibly honored to simply be nominated in this category and were very excited to get some recognition for CAL.
Meanwhile, UC Denver’s Mix took home the title in the collegiate competition with a moving performance that included killer solos, tight arrangements, some spoken word and an all-around epic set.
After the CARA’s, some of us headed over to the Boston Beer Works for the official after party event. It was surreal for me to take in and hear the praise from so many people in the a cappella community about the CARA. So many talented people came up praising our album and congratulating us on the award. I can’t do justice of how special this was for me but basically think of it like a parent being proud of their child. Fermata Town is admittedly my baby. Members even call me “Dad” sometimes so to hear people speak so highly of our work made everything worth it.
I went to bed feeling like I was on top of the a cappella world.
The heart of the BOSS festival, in my opinion, takes place on Saturday during its workshops. From 8-5, the greatest minds in the a cappella community come together and share their knowledge and wisdom in hour-long workshops for all participants. These workshops are amazing and are worth so much more than the all-access pass price tag for the weekend, and I can’t stress that enough. Last year after of few of us attended BOSS, with the help of all of the workshops, we were able to formulate and execute a plan to put out an album. And as they say, the rest is history.
To give you a better idea of what I’m talking about you should just check out the types of things offered over the course of the weekend. Here is a complete list of these workshops.
We had the opportunity early in the morning to perform an ACA-Bomb at 10:00 AM. This was an open performance for anyone at the festival to come and check us out. We sang an upbeat five song set, showcasing a few songs from Hold That Thought as well as our first every original song (more about that below).
One of the benefits of attending a CASA festival as a group is the ability to sign up for a Master Class with some of the industry’s best. We were super fortunate to have Dave Sperandio of Vocal Mastering and Michael Marcus of RARB run our session. I’d had the pleasure of meeting both prior to BOSS so knew we were in great hands. I first met Dave last year at the Pre-CARA banquet. He came up to me and introduced himself and said I looked familiar. That was because he’d probably seen the ridiculous rap video I made to win the free upgrade to attend all the VIP events during the weekend! I met Michael last summer singing with The Pick Ups at the VoCAL Nation Festival in Washington, DC. VCN is another CASA sponsored festival specifically for CAL groups and Fermata Town has already decided that we’ll be attending the festival this year in July as a group in Philadelphia!
Back to the master class. We got some great feedback from these guys and even re-worked one of our newer songs, Lonely Boy. It was pretty amazing to see a song transform right in front of us but we loved their feedback so much that we decided to keep it!
Later in the afternoon we were very lucky to have the chance to sing in front Deke Sharon and Sam Weisman, producers of NBC’s The Sing Off. We had been contemplating with the idea of auditioning this year and decided that it couldn’t hurt to get some more feedback from the guys who work on the show.
Though only 10 minutes, this was one of the coolest parts of the festival for me. We performed the opening of Circus for them and you could tell in their eyes while we performed that they were listening. Like really listening. We had their attention! They asked us some questions about what we do professionally and you could see they were trying to find a big picture story to put the package all together. Luckily for us, we already have that. We’re just a bunch of recent college grads that love to sing, made it a priority to keep music in our lives, and happen to all be really good friends both inside and outside the group. They asked for another song so we pulled out Stereo Hearts and again they were a captivated audience.
To be in front of two of the minds behind The Sing Off was epic.
Saturday night the group took a timeout from the festival and headed down the street to sing at Katya’s Master’s Recital at NEC. Katya is one of our co-musical directors and co-arranged our first-ever original song to be performed on this night. We closed out the first half of her show and I think she’d agree that we certainly did the song justice. Luckily for us, we’ll be able t keep the song in our musical repertoire and showcase it wherever we go! See the song performed here from earlier in the day.
After the performance, I made it back in time the last five songs of Postyr Project’s set.
Their use of the looping system was amazing, not to mention their high level of musicality. I was so impressed and moved by the songs I heard. I’m so glad that I got to catch them live.
Following the show I quickly stopped by at the After Party before heading back to the Party After After Party with Fermata Town where we had a chance to finally celebrate the CARA honors from the night before. (On Friday night I kind of went into “Dad” mode and told people to go to bed and not drink since we were performing at 10AM the next morning. Hopefully the viewers of our Aca-Bomb appreciated this.) It was a great night and I was so happy to spend it with my second family, Fermata Town.
The final day of the festival offers a few morning workshops before wrapping up. I made sure to get out and represent the Townies for the last few sessions before heading over to the WERS All A Cappella Live Competition in which I had been asked to be a guest judge.
The WERS show was great and our friends Ball in the House were guest performers. Going into it, I was under the impression that I would be scoring the groups but turns out they do more of an American Idol format in which the groups perform and the judges give feedback. This was really cool and as a regular viewer of American Idol (it’s my guilty pleasure), I know that nobody likes a Debbie-downer judge aka Simon Cowell so right from the start I decided that my feedback was going to be all positive. I think it was well received by the fans inside the Culter Majestic Theater. Some of the Townies tuned in on the 88.9 FM frequency as they ate brunch (at 2PM – that basically sums up a Fermata Town Party After After Party, and I’ll leave it at that).
Following the show, I headed back to NEU for our sound check at the Nor’Easters spring show. The reigning ICCA New England Semifinal Champions had invited us to join them for a few songs which was an unexpected treat to end our already amazing weekend. We had great sound run by Sled Dog Studios very own Dave Longo and were excited to sing a few tunes in front of some of the spill-over crowd from BOSS.
After our sound check, I had to run over to Emmanuel College to get Austin Willacy of The House Jacks set up for an acoustic café performance with EC’s mixed group, Acapocalypse, at an event I helped organized and after hanging out and watching a few tunes, jutted back to NEU for our performance.
Talk about an Aca-Awesome weekend.
On behalf of the group, there are several people who we would like to thank that helped make everything that you just read about possible.
First off, a HUGE thank you to Tim Bongiovanni for all of his hard work and late nights editing, mixing and mastering Hold That Thought. Tim is one of the hardest workers in this industry and we’re thrilled that he finally has some of the recognition he deserves. If you’re in an a cappella group that is looking for an engineer that is passionate about what he does, is easy to work with, and will give you an amazing end product – look up Tim at Northgate Productions. You can thank us later!
A big thank you to all of our Kickstarter backers who helped fund the album. We literally we able to fund everything that went into making the CD so you all played a part in helping us take home the CARA!
Thank you to Vocal Mastering, specifically Dave Sperandio for mastering the album and Alex Green for his quality control check.
Thank you to Chris Crawford at A Cappella Records for his work on licensing the album and getting the tracks on iTunes.
Thank you to CASA for bringing a festival to our city in 2012! Without BOSS last year, we may never have realized our full potential and embarked on the journey to make a CD. And a big shout out to our friends from Redline who won the CARA last year for Best CAL Album. You guys really inspired us to join CAL and get more involved in the a cappella community.
And finally, thank you to all of our families, friends and fans. Your support means the world and we couldn’t have done any of this without you.
Congratulations to all of the other CARA winners! We are humbled to be in such an elite class of artists.
Until next year, BOSS!