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A tapestry of voices

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Chatfield grad part of award winning a cappella group

By Ramsey Scott

Some music fans might think that voices singing alone on stage amount to nothing more than a choir.

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But when Mix, an award-winning a capella group at the University of Colorado Denver, performs an Adele cover song, all preconceptions about vocal music go out the window.

Choir music this ain’t. 

In the middle of it all is singer-songwriter Vanessa Spear, a 2008 graduate of Chatfield High School.

“There’s a difference from being in a pop-rock band,” Spear said. “You can hide easily behind your guitar and keyboard. With vocals, you can’t really hide.” 

Spear has no reason to hide, though. As part of the eight-member vocal group, she has plenty of opportunity to let her voice shine. 

It’s unusual for a pop song to be interpreted by vocals only. But it’s even more unusual when an impromptu rap is thrown in by a singer while the other vocalists do what can only be described as a combination of beat boxing and jazz scat singing.

The result is a multi-layered piece in which eight performers sing their own songs. It should devolve into dissonance, yet instead it is a full tapestry.

“The song is broken down into a pretty simple arrangement,” Spear said. “And really, from there, we see what’s right and go crazy with it.”

The results have been promising. 

Mix recently competed in the SoJam A Cappella Festival’s collegiate competition in Raleigh, N.C. More than 100 groups entered video performances to vie for one of the six spots in the competition.

“The competition is fierce,” Spear said. “We compete in rounds. There was a chance we might only be able to perform one of them. It was like being in a reality-TV show, it was so fast and so crazy.

“All within two hours of getting off the plane.”

Mix made it all the way to the final round, where the group took second place. And it walked away with the Most Original Group award.

“It was pretty surreal. Everybody in the audience were part of a cappella groups that were there for the workshops,” Spear said. “I just remember walking out of the competition and people being like, ‘You’re in Mix! We love you!’ ”

While the group members are trying to land a spot in another national competition in Boston next year, they’ve been recording some of their work, including the song “Water,” which was written by Spear.

“It’s pretty amazing to hear a song you wrote with voice and piano done with eight amazing voices,” Spear said. “I feel blessed to be part of the group and to perform with them.”

If you’d like to listen to Spear’s song performed by Mix, it’s available for download at www.ucdmix.com.

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.