Think “High School Musical” meets “Pitch Perfect.”
Evolve, Chesapeake High School’s a cappella group, is heading to the International Championship for High School A Cappella (ICHSA) semifinals on March 23.
The ICHSA, made popular by “Pitch Perfect,” includes groups from the United States and the United Kingdom. After placing first in the quarterfinals, Evolve will compete against seven other groups in the semifinals.
“I’ve never had a group of kids that works as hard as these 15 kids do,” said Michael Brisentine, the choral director at CHS. “They want to succeed.”
Now in its third year as a program, this is Evolve’s first year competing.
“These kids are musically talented, and they really, really care about each other and what they do,” Brisentine said. “It felt like this year that it was time because I knew they could handle it, and I knew they wanted to handle it.”
Evolve will perform three songs at the semifinals: “What About Us” by P!nk, “Grown” by Little Mix and “Remember” by Seinabo Sey.
Brisentine arranged the songs himself. When choosing what to perform, he sought input from the Evolve members to make sure they were onboard and in a majority.
“[The music] has to be fun and in your face and people have to be able to dance to it,” Brisentine said.
In addition to coming in first place, Evolve also won Best Choreography at quarterfinals.
“It has to be clean,” Brisentine said. “Most of the time, everyone in the back is acting like one entity, and then the soloist is in front of them doing their own thing.”
Students are challenged through Evolve, which is a draw for many.
“I wanted to try something harder,” said junior Chris Shappell, who joined Evolve in August. “I have people I can enjoy myself with and have fun and be able to do harder music.”
Senior Valerie Casey, who joined Evolve in its inaugural year, echoed Shappell’s desire to become a better musician.
“Everybody in this group works really hard,” Casey said. “Everybody is really kind. Everybody is willing to put in effort.”
The students are “very aware that this is an aggregate” effort, Brisentine said. Their hard work through Evolve transcends out of rehearsal: they hang out “all the time,” Casey said, and support one another in many aspects.
“We’re always there for each other. We all have each other’s backs,” Shappell said. “If there’s a problem, if someone has something else going on, we make sure they’re OK and that everybody gets what they need so they can perform better.”
Evolve will perform in the International Championship for High School A Cappella semifinals on March 23 in Allendale, New Jersey. If the group places first, the singers will move on to the finals in New York.