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The GW Hatchet

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GW a capella groups belt out tunes in competition

Lexi Critchett | Staff Photographer
The GW Pitches harmonize during their set at an international a capella competition.

Bit by bit, the Sons of Pitch trickled into the University Student Center Grand Ballroom on a Thursday evening, the final practice before The Varsity Vocals International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella Mid-Atlantic Quarterfinals. Standing in the corner of the empty ballroom, the singers began warming up by going through vocal exercises.

The group first sang through their set with only vocals. As they were running through the 10-minuteslong set, a member walked through the circle, waving their arms and saying, “Come on, come on,” a reminder to keep up their vocal endurance.

Once the vocals were set, they added the choreography. First running through the entire number, then fixing certain moves that not everybody had perfected. A member reminded the rest that stepping on beat automatically gives them purpose, helping everyone to get in sync. That weekend, they would be one of three GW a capella groups to perform on the international stage — the same set as the one seen in “Pitch Perfect.”

“I think Saturday is going to be a great moment to show off what we’ve been really trying to get the last couple of weeks,” said Sam Schwartz, a member of the group.

On Saturday in Oakton, Virginia, it was time to see if the great moment Schwartz wanted would materialize. The audience brimmed with anxious a capella singers, parents, friends and fans of the art. It was even difficult to find a seat, with some forced to stand at the back of the auditorium.

They were in store for an afternoon of beatboxing, vocal belts and dancing. 10 teams went on stage in random order — one after another — in a face-off where they’d be judged on their vocal and visual performances.

The audience grew quiet as the lights began to flicker.

The first of the GW groups to perform was the all-male Sons of Pitch. Fresh off an all-member trip to IHOP to let off steam before the competition, Sons of Pitch President Max Wiener said tensions stirred among the group as members tried to hype each other up before going on stage. Dressed in a variety of simple black and white pants and shirts, the group made their way under the lights. As they got in formation, staggered across four lines, the singers started shaking their microphones and were counted in to begin.

The number began with “Zombie” by The Cranberries, with identical twins Sam and Luke Schwartz singing to each other, creating a mirror-like effect on stage. The group mimed out the motions of hooking objects and calling to each other as the crowd went crazy for their next song “Buzzcut Season” by Lorde, as the all-male group sang their hearts out to the feminist anthem. They closed the set with the fittingly titled “I Know the End” by Phoebe Bridgers, another hit with the audience.

Weiner said the group had not competed at the ICCAs in eight years, causing some nerves and disrupting the final product.

“It wasn’t our best run,” Wiener said. “I think a lot of guys right after the performance kind of wish we could do it again right after, you know, with the crowd that big.”

“Are you DTF?” asked the emcee. “Down to Funk?”

As the crowd roared and the lights rose, the Mother Funkers stepped onto the stage. The most emblematic of what one might imagine a college a capella group to look like, some of the performers wore slick black button-ups along with ties so colorful and flashy they threatened to distract from the choreography.

The energy was high on stage, as the singers flew via a group airplane formation while singing about cross-Atlantic travel in Estelle and Kanye West’s “American Boy.” When they began a Lady Gaga medley, the Funkers lifted a soloist into the air — but the acrobatics didn’t excite the crowd as much as when the performers started singing Gaga’s “Born This Way,” and the audience erupted into cheers.

“I think we chose songs that most people know, which is something that’s unique about our group,” said Megan Godshalk, the Funkers’ music director. “And to have the audience cheering and interacting with us really gave us a rush.”

The Pitches, GW’s all-female a capella group, started their Saturday by getting coffee from Peet’s at 10 a.m. before making their way to Oakton. Trinity Estelle, the president of the group, said leading up to the performance, members were doing breathing exercises and encouraging each other.

Member Audrey Huff said the group rehearsed every night in February to bring together the singing and dancing, having to work extra hard since they are not a “dancing group.” Huff said The Pitches had not rehearsed with microphones before, so the sound check was crucial to ensuring the members’ voices blended. But thankfully for them, the only high notes were from solos, not microphone feedback.

The group’s set included “Control Freak” by Flo, “In the Kitchen” by Reneé Rapp and “Dead to Me” by Kali Uchis. The group’s vocals and dance moves were bold. At one point, during “Dead to Me,” they drew their arms across their necks like they were using a knife to cut someone’s throat vengefully. But as Huff said, the group’s focus was more on the singing, as much of their choreography involved dramatically walking across the stage. But as they belted out “You’re dead to me,” the chorus of Uchis’ song, The Pitches’ vocal range let them confidently make the stage their own during the set.

Unfortunately, none of the GW groups received special awards or placed in the top three and will not advance to the Mid-Atlantic Semifinals. But that didn’t stop them from living out their aca-fantasies.

“The entirety of the experience, from beginning to end, was so unforgettable and SO pitch perfect,” Estelle said in a text.

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