Kettering hosts return of national festival of a cappella singers

In many ways, the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic are behind us. However, the specter still looms large as the Kettering National A Cappella Festival returns this weekend for the first time since autumn 2019. High school and college a cappella groups will once again visit Fairmont High School for classes and public performances alongside national act Six Appeal in the school’s auditorium on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 11 and 12.

“It’s a little odd because you get in a groove when you do it every year and it’s humming and buzzing,” said Brody McDonald, director of choirs at Fairmont High School. “Then, COVID happens and you have to take a couple of years off and it’s tough coming back.”

Streamlined approach

The number of participating schools is down about a third from the pre-pandemic numbers. According to McDonald, they’re expecting more than 700 students this year.

“That’s not horrible considering everything,” he said. “I’m thankful it is what it is. (Instead of) presenting our shows in Trent Arena, (we’ll be presenting) in our brand new $11 million auditorium. That’s going to be great for everybody. I love the arena. It’s fantastic when you have lightning in a bottle and Pentatnix comes to town and you need to sell 3,000 tickets. There are many years where we sell less and the arena is halfway full. Whereas there are 911 seats in this auditorium. It’s cooler, mentally, to sing to a packed house no matter what the house is.”

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Public concerts

The year’s headliner, Six Appeal, will perform each night. Music begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday with performances from student a cappella groups.

“Six Appeal is a fantastic group,” McDonald said. “They’ve done a lot of high end corporate (engagements). They actually have a video online where they performed for the Vanity Fair Oscar Party. They’re an awesome group and they’re going to be on both of the shows this year. They’re doing a half-hour on Friday and we’re going to have eight school groups do a couple songs a piece for the first half of the show. On Saturday, (we’ll) have Fusion and Eleventh Hour and Six Appeal will do an hour with no repeated material.”

Together in song

Being the first year back since the fall of 2019, the schedule of student activities has been streamlined.

“We wanted to make sure to simplify it a little bit coming back,” McDonald said. “None of these groups have students that have been here so we scaled down the offerings we have. We used to have four different rooms with classes going on all day (as well as) two different stages. This year, we put a focus on performing because all of these groups have missed performing and they’ve missed performing to a live audience. By offering fewer extra classes, we’re trying to drive these kids into the auditorium and recital hall to watch each other, sing for each other and rebuild that network community of cheering for each other.”

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Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at donthrasher100@gmail.com.

HOW TO GO

What: Kettering National A Cappella Festival with Six Appeal and student vocal groups

Where: Fairmont High School Auditorium, 3301 Shroyer Road, Kettering

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11 and 12

Cost: $15 Friday; $25 Saturday

More info: 937-499-2647 or www.ketteringmusic.org

Artist info: www.sixappealvocalband.com

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