A Cappella Fest, the 11-year annual tradition hosted by Starving Artists that brings together all of Brandeis' a cappella groups for a charity benefit concert, has always been an ambitious project, given that the campus scene comprises 12 vocal ensembles and over 100 students. This year's event, on the first night of the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts, took place in front of an enthusiastic audience in the Sherman Function Hall. Each a cappella group performed a pair of songs representing its unique repertoire, with Starving Artists closing out the night with three songs of their own. The night started off on a powerful note with a pair of sultry tunes from Voices of Soul, showcasing the butter-smooth vocals of Romy James '13 and Lexi Kriss' '11 virtuosic beat-boxing on "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" before transitioning to Bill Withers' "Just the Two of Us," sung by two graduating seniors, Lisa Fitzgerald '10 and Jeremy Sherer '10.

Other groups bidding farewell to soloist seniors throughout the night included Manginah, whose rendition of "Ein Ani" combined a breathtaking, birdlike solo by Becky Fisher '10 with Adam Ross' '10 deep baritone vocals; and Proscenium, which continued its reputation for fun musical theater covers with "Raining on Prom Night" from Grease, with Lizzie Abbate '10 as soloist.

Even as groups honored departing members, the debuts performed on Wednesday promised continued excellence in campus a cappella. Sophie Golomb '13 of Rather Be Giraffes soloed on the group's strong and defiant premiere of "Scar" by Missy Higgins, while Starving Artists introduced its arrangement of Jessie James' "Wanted" with a seductive solo by Sarit Friedman '12.

The all-female group Ba'Note also made its A Cappella Fest debut, and its members set a fun-loving tone as they broke into Rupert Holmes' "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" in the middle of their arrangement of "Hinei BaShalom" and later played air guitar during Journey's "Don't Stop Believing."

The audience expressed delight at such familiar favorites, cheering a range of material from golden oldies like Up the Octave's soulful "Son of a Preacher Man" and Company B's playful "The Shoop Shoop Song" to Jewish Fella Acapella's gender-bending "Matchmaker" from the musical Fiddler on the Roof (featuring Gideon Klionsky '11 as a blushing bride).

More recent hits also garnered wild applause, especially middle-school favorite "Never Had a Dream Come True" by S Club 7, tenderly sung by RBG, and Lady Gaga's "Poker Face," as interpreted with music video-quality choreography and a clear sense of humor by VoiceMale.

Still, the groups performing pushed beyond audience expectations to deliver less familiar numbers as well. Too Cheap for Instruments' outlandishly threatening "Revenge Song" and JFA's satirical "The Bar Mitzvah Song" were two novelty tunes that got listeners giggling at the goofy lyrics. Voices of Praise, with its rousing gospel harmonies, had spectators clapping along eagerly to hymns they'd probably never heard before. And VoiceMale presented its original composition "Don't Go," demonstrating along with its counterparts a passion for musical experimentation.

If sorting out the logistics of a typical A Cappella Fest wasn't enough, this year, organizers Ellyn Getz '13 and Jordan Brown '12 set their sights even higher, bringing all of the groups together for a powerful rendition of "We Are the World" (as arranged by Andrew Litwin '11).

The collaborative effort, which served as a very grand finale to the 2 1/2-hour-long concert, was apparently inspired by a desire to pay tribute to the struggles of the Haitian people in the wake of January's earthquake. All proceeds from the concert went to benefit the Brandeis Haiti Relief Effort, raising $657.05 toward the fund.

The final number was billed as "the first time in history that all the a cappella groups come together to sing as one," and based on the talent displayed Wednesday night, it hopefully won't be the last.

A Cappella Fest was a great way to kick off this year's Festival of the Arts. The vibrant a cappella scene produced a show that fulfilled its enormous creative and collaborative potential, managing at once to showcase polished vocal talent and look toward future enterprises.

Editor's note: Justice staff writer Shelly Shore '12 is a member of Proscenium, and Justice editorial assistant Eitan Cooper '13 is a member of JFA.