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The Resurgence of Acapella Music: From Ancient Origins to Modern Phenomenon

Introduction to Acapella Music

Acapella music, the art of singing without musical instruments, has been around for centuries and has experienced a resurgence in recent years. Made popular by movies such as Pitch Perfect, Acapella music has become a mainstream phenomenon, with groups such as Pentatonix and Home Free leading the way.

This article will explore the history and resurgence of Acapella music, as well as highlighting the popularity and diversity of Acapella groups.

History and Resurgence of Acapella

Acapella music predates the use of instruments in music, with evidence of vocal-only performances dating back to ancient civilizations. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that Acapella music became a distinct genre, with groups such as The Swingle Singers and The Real Group pushing the boundaries of what was possible without instruments.

In recent years, Acapella music has seen a resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to the success of movies such as Pitch Perfect and the NBC show The Sing-Off. These mainstream platforms have helped to bring Acapella music to a wider audience and have led to the creation of new groups, such as Pentatonix and Home Free, who are redefining what it means to be an Acapella group.

Popularity and Diversity of Acapella Groups

One of the most popular Acapella groups today is Pentatonix. Known for their intricate harmonies and pop-style arrangements, Pentatonix first gained national attention on the show The Sing-Off and have since gone on to win three Grammy Awards.

Their notable songs include covers of “Mary Did You Know” and “Hallelujah.”

Home Free, another popular Acapella group, is known for their country-style arrangements and dynamic stage presence. They gained recognition on the show The Sing-Off and have since released several albums, including their latest, Timeless.

Other notable Acapella groups include The Swingle Singers, who were one of the first groups to gain mainstream success, and The Real Group, known for their innovative use of vocal percussion.


Acapella music has a rich history, with vocal-only performances dating back centuries. In recent years, Acapella music has experienced a resurgence in popularity, thanks to the success of movies such as Pitch Perfect and the creation of new groups such as Pentatonix and Home Free.

With so much diversity in the genre, there is an Acapella group for everyone to enjoy. Home Free is an American Acapella group that was formed in 2000 in Mankato, Minnesota.

The group started as a hobby for founder Chris Rupp and a few of his friends, but after earning recognition on the NBC show The Sing-Off in 2013, Home Free began to gain worldwide popularity. The group’s lead singer, Austin Brown, joined the group in 2014 and helped to reshape their sound with a country twist.

Brown’s addition to the group brought a new level of musicality and vocal arrangements that would lead the group to a new level of success. In 2014, Home Free released their first album, “Crazy Life,” which reached number eight on the US Country Billboard charts and number 40 on the overall US Billboard 200.

Their second album, “Full of Cheer,” reached number two on the US Country Billboard charts and helped to solidify the group’s place in the country music industry. Home Free continued to release successful albums over the years, including “Country Evolution,” “Dive Bar Saints,” and “Timeless,” each one showing the group’s growth, vocal range, and musical styles.

The Swingle Singers originated in 1962, founded by Ward Swingle in Paris, France. The group is renowned for their innovative take on vocal arrangements, blending folkloric music, jazz, and classical harmonies to create a unique and refreshing sound.

The Swingle Singers were famous for their interpretations of the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, using voice instead of instruments to recreate the classical compositions. In the late 1970s, the group’s style shifted towards more popular music, including jazz and contemporary classics.

The Swingle Singers have undergone several evolutions since their formation, with Ward Swingle passing on the leadership of the group to his daughter, Joanna Swingle, before his death in 2015. The group continues to push the boundaries of Acapella music today, drawing on a diverse range of music to create beautiful new arrangements that showcase their exceptional skill and repertoire.

The Real Group is a Swedish Acapella quintet that was formed in 1984 by Anton Forsberg. The focus of the group is on vocal jazz, pop, and improvisation, with influences from artists such as Bobby McFerrin and Take 6.

In addition to producing studio recordings, The Real Group has also been recognized for their live performances. The group performed at the FIFA World Cup in 1994, and in 2000, The Real Group embarked on a worldwide tour, playing over 150 concerts in 20 different countries.

The tour was a much sought-after event and solidified the groups global reach and reputation as one of the most talented and innovative Acapella groups in the world. The Real Group has since continued to produce new and exciting music.

Their discography includes over 20 albums, including several collaborative works featuring guest artists such as Toots Thielemans and Erik Pilkk. With their unique blend of jazz harmonies and pop sensibilities, The Real Group continues to captivate audiences around the world.

The Manhattan Transfer is another Acapella group that has explored a wide range of musical genres throughout their career. Formed in 1969, the group began with a focus on jazz, but later expanded to include elements of rhythm and blues, Brazilian Jazz, and even Vocalese, a style of jazz that uses voice to imitate instrumental solos.

Over the years, The Manhattan Transfer has been recognized for their groundbreaking work in Acapella music. The group has won ten Grammy Awards, including Best Jazz Fusion Performance in 1981 and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal in 1986.

In addition to their recording work, The Manhattan Transfer has had a starring role in films, including The Mambo Kings and The Glenn Miller Story, and has performed on countless television shows, including The Tonight Show and The Ed Sullivan Show. The Manhattan Transfer was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998, cementing their legacy as one of the most influential and iconic Acapella groups in history.

The Alley Cats are an American Acapella quartet that formed in 1987 while all members were attending Fullerton College in California. Specializing in the music of the 1950s and 60s, The Alley Cats began their career performing at local venues before gaining national notoriety after winning the National Harmony Sweepstakes in 1989.

The group has since gone on to release several albums and win numerous awards, including several Contemporary A Cappella Society awards for Best Song, Best Album, and Best Doo-Wop Group. Their music has been featured in several films and television shows, including Iron Man 2 and The Golden Girls.

Some of The Alley Cats’ notable albums include “Street Corner Symphony,” which showcases the group’s ability to sing a cappella arrangements of classic doo-wop songs, and “Cruisin’,” a collection of classic car songs. The Persuasions, on the other hand, are a pioneering Acapella group known for their soulful harmonies and unique vocal arrangements.

Formed in 1962 in Brooklyn, the group started out singing in subway corridors before being discovered by Frank Zappa in the late 60s. The group’s style is a fusion of soul, jazz, and gospel, with a heavy emphasis on close vocal harmonies and intricate arrangements.

The Persuasions have released over 23 albums since their formation, including several early rock tribute albums showcasing their unique blend of Acapella and classic rock. Some of The Persuasions’ notable recordings include “Street Corner Symphony,” a blend of classic pop and soul hits, and “Frankly A Cappella,” a tribute to the music of Frank Zappa.

Despite lineup changes over the years, The Persuasions have remained true to their original sound and continue to captivate audiences with their exceptional vocal talent and innovative arrangements. Rockapella is an American Acapella group that originated in New York City in 1986.

Focused on original vocal music with R&B influences, the group has released multiple albums over the years. Known for their intricate vocal harmonies and innovative arrangements, Rockapella has been a mainstay in Acapella music for over three decades.

Rockapella’s most notable contribution to popular culture is their iconic theme song for the PBS game show, “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” The show’s success allowed Rockapella to gain a wider audience and bring their distinct sound to households across the country. Their popularity also led to an invitation to perform in Japan, where they have since become a beloved fixture of the Acapella scene.

Street Corner Symphony is another American Acapella group that gained recognition after placing second on the NBC show The Sing-Off in 2010. Founded in Nashville in 2010, Street Corner Symphony has released multiple albums and collaborated with major artists such as Ben Folds and Alison Krauss.

Notable among their works is their album “Southern Autumn Nostalgia,” which showcases their unique blend of bluegrass and soul harmonies. Their talent and unique style helped them to secure a recording contract with record label Masterworks, with whom they have since released over 30 singles.

Aside from their recording work, Street Corner Symphony is also known for their commercials, having provided music for The Sing-Off commercials and performing alongside major brands such as NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series and Coca-Cola. With their blend of soul, rock, and bluegrass, Street Corner Symphony remains one of the most recognizable and talented Acapella groups of the modern age.

Naturally 7 is an American Acapella group that was formed in 1999 by brothers Warren and Roger Thomas. The group’s unique style sets them apart, blending R&B, soul, and vocal play to create a sound that is all their own.

Naturally 7 gained recognition after winning numerous local and national Acapella competitions, and their YouTube channel has helped to grow their audience by providing covers of classic hits and showcasing their exceptional vocal talent. Their covers of songs such as “Fix You” by Coldplay and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by The Beatles have gone viral, showcasing their unique approach to vocal arrangements and establishing them as one of the leading Acapella groups of their generation.

Straight No Chaser is another Acapella group with a unique origin story. Originally formed in 1996 at Indiana University, the group gained viral fame in 2007 with their parody of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” The video, which featured the group singing a mix of the classic holiday tune with other well-known songs, helped the group to secure a recording contract with Atlantic Records.

Since then, Straight No Chaser has released multiple albums, with their holiday album “Holiday Spirits” being certified gold in the United States. Their unique blend of harmony, humor, and pop sensibility has earned the group numerous awards and accolades, including a CARA award for Best Holiday Album for their work on “Holiday Spirits.”

Both Naturally 7 and Straight No Chaser have left an indelible mark on the Acapella music industry, showcasing the versatility and appeal of vocal-only performances and rejuvenating the genre for a new generation of music lovers.

The Filharmonic is a Filipino-American Acapella group that was formed in Los Angeles in 2013. The group is known for their unique and diverse sound, blending elements of pop and seasonal music with their Filipino heritage.

Their unique blend of musical styles has made them one of the most popular Acapella groups in the United States. The Filharmonic first gained recognition after winning the fourth season of NBC’s The Sing-Off in 2013.

Since then, the group has gone on to make appearances in numerous films, including Pitch Perfect 2, and has embarked on several college tours across the United States, showcasing their dynamic range and captivating performances to fans of all ages. VoicePlay is another American Acapella group that is known for their unique style and theatrics.

Originating in Orlando, Florida, the group’s approach to Acapella is focused on mixing different styles and genres with lively theatrics to create an unforgettable experience for their audience. Since their formation, VoicePlay has gone on to perform in over 250 shows around the world and has received numerous awards, including Pop Group of the Year at the 2016 A Cappella Music Awards.

Some of their most popular and well-known songs include their cover of “Daddy Sang Bass,” which has over 10 million views on their YouTube channel, and their medley of Disney songs, which has received worldwide recognition. Both The Filharmonic and VoicePlay continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible with Acapella music, bringing their unique styles and sounds to audiences around the world.

With their captivating performances and innovative approaches to the genre, both groups will continue to leave a lasting impact on the Acapella music scene for years to come.

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