"Joel Weinshanker [managing partner of Graceland, LLC] was thinking about how a cappella and Pitch Perfect have broken into the mainstream. He thought it would be a fun way to introduce Elvis' music to a younger generation," says Kelsey Kirkpatrick, explaining the genesis of the Elvis A Cappella: A Tribute to the King shows.
And so, Kirkpatrick was charged with making it happen. First things first was finding the best a cappella groups. To that end, she listened to a cappella albums and checked out the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, which she describes as the March Madness of a cappella.
In the end, she went with five groups: Kentucky's Acoustikats, Florida State University's All-Night Yahtzee, James Madison University's BluesTones, the Vanderbilt Melodores, and, from Memphis, OneVoice from Briarcrest.
Each group was given five songs, and each will perform three during two different shows to be held at Graceland's Elvis Week main stage Thursday through Saturday.
"Each song is totally different," Kirkpatrick says. "For some of the songs, the groups are keeping it true to the original. For some of the songs, some of the groups have reinvented it in a way — throwing in styles like blues and reggae. Or, they slow it down in parts in songs that were originally fast-paced."
The groups will come together at the end to perform "Sweet Sweet Spirit." The song was the closer to many Elvis concerts and was performed by his quartet.
"We thought that would be a really nice way to bring everybody together and have this nice moment at the end of the show that would speak to Elvis' biggest fans," Kirkpatrick says.