Grace Whitman ’22
On Thursday, Sept. 30, Providence College’s three A Cappella groups, Special Guest, Strictly Speaking, and Anaclastic, competed head-to-head in their annual Riff Off. Hundreds of students packed into McPhail’s, with standing-room only starting 30 minutes before the Riff Off began. Hosted by Board of Programmers’ Olivia Lescinskas ’22, the event started off with a spin of a wheel containing three song categories, one for each of three rounds: “TV Show Theme Songs,” “Love Songs,” and “Throwbacks.” The winner of each round was to be determined by which group earned the loudest cheer from the audience in McPhail’s.
The contest was not quite held exactly how it was in the Pitch Perfect movies, which provided the inspiration for the event. In the films, different groups interrupt one another with different songs, joining the last word of one song with the first word of a new song. At the McPhail’s event, in contrast, PC’s A Cappella groups were given each round’s category and asked to perform a song in that category.
Special Guest hit the stage first, belting out the theme song from Phineas and Ferb. It was a funny way to start off the night, with the crowd singing lyrics like “Come on, Perry!” back at the group. The next song came from Anaclastic with their rendition of “Leave it All to Shine,” a mashup of the iCarly and Victorious theme songs. Although the audience certainly enjoyed both renditions, the clear winner of the first round was Strictly Speaking with their performance of The Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There for You,” more commonly known as the Friends theme song, led by Sorieba Fofanah ’22.
After a quick break, during which the audience snagged some Insomnia Cookies, the show was back for the second round, which was dedicated to love songs. It opened with Anaclastic performing “Love Story” by Taylor Swift. Next, Strictly Speaking sang “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder.
While both groups finished to raucous applause, it was the all-male group, Special Guest, that slammed the door shut on the competition with their rendition of Silk Sonic’s “Leave the Door Open.” Christian Willett ’24 and Nolan Donato ’22 brought Bruno Mars’ suave to the stage and the rhythm and beat created by the rest of the group had the audience enthusiastically voting for them to win that round.
The final round was dedicated to “throwback” songs. In a clever homage to Pitch Perfect, Strictly Speaking sang Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone”—much more eloquently, however, than the auditioners in the movie performed it. Special Guest’s final song, “Mambo No. 5,” was led by Dougie Schettino ’23. “Mambo No. 5” was the perfect song for Special Guest to showcase their vocal abilities and pull the audience into the performance. Indeed, what sets Special Guest apart is their ability to get a crowd excited about their performances and about A Capella in general.
Anaclastic closed the Riff Off with a throwback to 1996. Their performance of “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls, led by Maddie Rich ’24 and Caleigh Lynch ’23, earned the loudest applause of the final round, resulting in a revote for the entire event.
Although there were certainly loud cheers for all the groups and it was hard to truly measure how much applause each received without a decibel meter, Strictly Speaking was crowned the winner of the 2021 A Capella Riff Off.
Be on the lookout for more events hosted by the A Capella Club this semester, including their fall concert.