By Neha Dheen

Once the clock hit 7:30, excited murmurs began to permeate through the audience. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends shuffled in their seats out of excitement. The lights dimmed and Faux Paz and DaCadence began their jaw-dropping, show-stopping concert. 

University of Maryland a cappella groups Faux Paz and DaCadence performed onstage Friday night at the Hoff Theater in the Stamp Student Union to an excited crowd. The concert also featured acts from the University of Delaware’s Vocal Point and Johns Hopkins University’s the Octopodes.

The singers that night exhibited a contagious energy. The ensemble complimented the soloists perfectly and each singer played a crucial role in each song, accurately capturing the collaborative essence of a cappella.

Although these groups are well-established and their performances on Friday seemed effortless, even they had to rehearse for months and overcome challenges.

Faux Paz and DaCadence are entirely run by UMD students. They do everything on their own, from selecting songs to making their own arrangements and choreography. This year’s fall show setlist certainly did not disappoint. Faux Paz had a light-hearted yet dynamic set list that seemed to satisfy both younger and older audiences. A few of their songs included “Human Nature” by Michael Jackson, “Don’t Talk Me Down” by Jojo and “Chunky” by Bruno Mars. 

DaCadence, on the other hand, oozed confidence and angst as they strutted onstage with their stunning purple and black themed attire. Their songs included “Dancing with the Devil” by Demi Lovato, “All for Us” by Labrinth, “Fall in Line” by Christina Aguilera and others. 

“All of our songs are big and powerful, each with a unique message that encompasses female empowerment,” DaCadence’s Music Director Tania Ghandour said. “Desire and resistance, passion and independence to name a few.”

As mentioned before, these groups create their own arrangements. According to Dylan Nguyen, Music Director and Vice President of Faux Paz, the a cappella group uses a sheet notation program called MuseScore to arrange their songs with around six voice types: bass, baritone, tenor, alto, mezzo and soprano.

“When it comes to the arranging process, the best part is being able to customize the song and truly make it our own,” Ghandour said. “The music being arranged is definitely a higher level of difficulty when it comes to tempo, dynamics and overall musicality, but that’s what helps create a connection to the piece.”

Auditions for Faux Paz and DaCadence were held in September, so the groups had only a little over two months to prepare their dense set list. According to Nguyen, he and Faux Paz’s president hardly had enough time to finish arranging.

“I think the hardest part in rehearsing for this week was honestly the time crunch,” Nguyen said. “The group had to learn, workshop and memorize four decently difficult arrangements in six days.” 

The UMD a cappella groups also have a tradition that is equally beloved and despised: Hell Week. This is the week leading up to the show in which they have rehearsal every night lasting several hours. Hell weeks can consist of anything from learning last-minute choreography to drilling new parts.

“Although it can be stressful, it’s fun working and collaborating as a group to finish fine-tuning our set,” President of DaCadence Nicholas Orrelana said. “It’s part of the experience.” 

This year, Hell Week has been more intense than ever, with last-minute changes and additions to their setlist. Nguyen said  hell weeks in the past usually involved about three to four hours of practice per day leading up to a fall show. This time they had to rehearse for about six hours every day for this concert. 

These long, arduous hours of rehearsing seemed to have paid off. Faux Paz and DaCadence left much of the audience speechless with their beautiful harmonies and seamless blend.

“They have confidence,” said Julia Baumel, president of UMD’s all-female a cappella group the Treblemakers. “It is just very fun to watch.”

Though all the soloists shined, Kasey Donaldson from DaCadence and Sammie Johnson from Faux Paz were the North Stars of this concert. Donaldson’s “Dancing with the Devil” was the powerhouse the audience craved, hitting notes so unbelievably high dogs probably couldn’t hear them. Johnson’s rendition of “Don’t Talk Me Down” was audience member Samantha Heald’s Faux Favorite.

It’s likely no one could tell that Johnson was actually sick all of last week with an upper respiratory infection. “I was just thinking ‘please don’t mess up!’ But during ‘Crazy,’ I just let loose and had the time of my life,” Johnson said.

This wasn’t your typical a cappella concert. Not only did they perform breathtaking music, but they featured a beatbox battle between Linyi Wei of Faux Paz and Josh Qiu of DaCadence. The beatboxing led to audience members begging for an encore. It’s safe to say that these vocal percussionists stole the show. 

The 2000s babies appeared beyond thrilled to hear the Faux Paz and DaCadence boys come together to perform “Boyfriend” by Big Time Rush. Channeling their inner boy band, they evoked the sweet childhood memories of the college students in the audience. These little snippets into the groups’ personalities immediately engaged the audience. 

As with all a cappella groups, Faux Paz and DaCadence are a close-knit community. Despite it being a new year and a fresh new group, the members feel like they’ve known each other for a lifetime. According to new member of Faux Paz Alisha Philip, the leaders of the group don’t just arrange and teach the music but also check on members and lead weekly “tea-spills” before practice.

“It’s a close-knit “chaotic good” type of family,” she said. “Each person in the group cares so much about the others.”

Faux Paz and DaCadence put on a show that couldn’t be differentiated from one in the Capital One Arena. Audience members expressed their love for the performances that night.

“I thought it was great,” Kaitlyn Burnett said. “Everyone was outstanding, they all showcased their talents really well and I would definitely come again.”

Neha Dheen is a freshman journalism major looking to also double major in business. She hopes to pursue a career in fashion and entertainment journalism in the future. But, when she is not writing, she loves to sing, act and bake as her therapeutic release. You can reach her at

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