No instrument? No problem! A look at UBC A Cappella

If there’s one thing that everybody knows about me, it’s that I just love to sing — in my room, on the bus, in the residence commons — it doesn’t matter. When I start to feel the spirit of music creep up on me like a thief in the night about to steal all my troubles away, there’s nothing I can do but play my favourite tune (Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball (Karaoke Version)") and just let it out.

But I live in student housing, and I try to stay considerate of my neighbours during exams season. So, torn between kind-hearted compassion and my soul-searing need to sing, I reached out to UBC A Cappella in hopes of doing away with the backing track once and for all. Sure, my dorm will still have to put up with my voice all by itself, but art demands sacrifices from us all. That’s what Whiplash was about, I think.

I spoke with UBC A Cappella’s co-presidents Evens Wong and Angela Park over Zoom just a few days after their year-end concert.

“[Our] main goal is to gather people who enjoy singing and a community [for them] within UBC A Cappella,” Wong said. “Even if it’s just for fun or like a hobby.”

Both execs stressed that the club is open to everyone, from seasoned virtuosos (like myself, of course) to complete newbies with no experience in singing at all.

“I had no experience before I joined A Cappella,” said Park. “I actually joined as a joke… Now I’m super involved with the club.”

Wong echoed their point, adding that the club can be a welcoming place for new students to make connections in a fun crowd.

“We do retreats and stuff; small things like that, bonding moments, are really memorable.” One of the club’s five non-competitive groups is explicitly geared towards making friends, and doesn’t require an audition.

But maybe you’re not content with just meeting cool new people. Friendship is just a participation trophy that you have to talk to; that’s what my mom said when she dropped me off at kindergarten. You want to shoot for the big leagues.

“Our [two] competitive groups … prepare from the beginning of the term all the way up to their competitive season in February. Their goal is to travel to the US … and compete in the ICCA competition,” said Wong. “If you’ve ever watched Pitch Perfect, it’s literally the competition that the groups compete at.”

But the non-competitive groups get their own five minutes of fame as well, at the end-of-term concert.

“[It] was an absolute blast, from quietly rooting for other groups from the wings to laughing and crying with group-mates between sets in the green room,” said Colin Law, a first-year singer who joined the club earlier this year. “Everyone put their heart and soul into the performances and we just really hope we gave y’all a good time out of it.”

UBC A Cappella scales down its meetings over the summer to give members some well-earned vocal rest, but auditions will open in September in hopes of swelling the club’s already impressive membership of around 200 singers.

“This year we’ve had the most members since, I think, pre-COVID,” Wong said.

If you just can’t wait that long, the club does organise impromptu gigs over the summer, and the execs say the non-audition group is almost always open to newbies. Information about joining is on their website.

So go for it; let those pipes shine. Whether you wait until September to go through the proper channels, or knock down the door this summer with the sheer force of your voice, you’re sure to find a group of supportive, caring people passionate about their art.