University of Bristol group sweep nominations at the ‘Grammys of a cappella’


By Flora Pick, Deputy Music Editor

University of Bristol a cappella group Academy have been nominated for five awards at the prestigious CARA awards ceremony for their 2020 album Exhibit A.

Each year the American Contemporary A Capella Society hosts the Contemporary A Capella Recording Awards (CARAs), an event that seeks to reward the best of recorded a cappella globally.

While success at the ceremony has long been a stronghold of long-established American outfits, members of the University of Bristol’s own 12-strong group Academy were left ‘shocked', following five nominations, including best scholastic debut album.

Academy is one of eight groups run by the University’s A Capella Society, which, in addition to its high-flying units, also includes more casual, non-auditioned groups. Despite being just five years in operation as of 2020, Academy have ascended the ranks to compete alongside some of the leading names in a cappella.

Seb Waddington, the group’s manager, commented: ‘Usually we’d be honoured just to be mentioned in the same sentence as some of these groups, so to get these nominations is a monumental achievement.’

Since 1992, the CARA awards, sometimes dubbed the ‘Grammy’s of Acapella’, have been awarding the best recorded works in the genre, in categories spanning best debut album to the best arrangement. Surveying the nominations, there is a clear trend of American universities dominating the scholastic categories, evidencing the transatlantic success of the Bristol students.

A fundraising campaign allowed Bristol University's Academy to record in a professional recording studio | Image Courtesy of Academy A Capella

The journey to the group’s debut album has been anything but linear - the initial recording for Exhibit A was done on a shoestring budget, with a DIY studio in a student house becoming a temporary recording space. A GoFundMe campaign which raised the group over £2000 allowed them to transition into a professional studio, with the aid of a producer. The group then worked on the album throughout the latter part of 2020, for a December release.

Exhibit A consists of a cappella reworkings of an array of popular songs, including Bond theme ‘No Time to Die’ and ‘Big Girls (You are Beautiful)’ by MIKA. It has received nominations in the categories: Best Lower Voices Collegiate Album, Best Lower Voices Collegiate, Best Scholastic Debut Album, Best European Album and Best Lower Voices Collegiate Arrangement.

Winners of the CARAs will be announced on the 30th April.

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Featured Image: Academy A Capella

Have you listened to Exhibit A yet?