Long be­fore Pitch Per­fect made the genre trendy, a cap­pella groups were com­pet­ing madly for per­for­mance per­fec­tion

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TV - SHAN­NON MOL­LOY

Be­fore a ma­jor com­pe­ti­tion, mem­bers of the Nor Easters a cap­pella singing group spend up to 40 hours per week in in­tense, gru­elling re­hearsals.

Their univer­sity stud­ies, part-time jobs and so­cial lives all take a back seat to their re­lent­less pur­suit of per­for­mance per­fec­tion.

With just their voices – no in­stru­ments or back­ing mu­sic – they smash out in­cred­i­ble ren­di­tions of pop­u­lar tracks to crowds of fren­zied spec­ta­tors.

Sing It On is a doco-style re­al­ity se­ries, pro­duced by Grammy Award-win­ning singer John Leg­end, that fol­lows five of the top a cap­pella groups from across Amer­ica as they fight for a spot at the cov­eted In­ter­na­tional Cham­pi­onships.

“If it sounds like we take this re­ally se­ri­ously, it’s be­cause we to­tally do,” Nor Easters di­rec­tor Isaac Will­now says. His ensem­ble is one of six at North Eastern Univer­sity in Bos­ton, Mas­sachusetts. With that sort of com­pe­ti­tion to con­tend with, Will­now man­ages them like an elite sport­ing team.

“It’s like a full-time job,” the 21-year-old ex­plains.

“Be­fore a ma­jor com­pe­ti­tion round, like a semi­fi­nal, we’ll re­hearse for eight hours a day go­ing over ar­range­ments, chore­og­ra­phy ... plan­ning ev­ery sin­gle el­e­ment.”

While groups like his have been part of many Amer­i­can col­leges for a while now, the re­cent Pitch Per­fect movies have seen a “aca revo­lu­tion”, he says.

“We’ve had an a cap­pella boom and all of a sud­den peo­ple are like, oh my God, and we’re like, hello, we’ve been here all along.”

There are plenty of in­evitable com­par­isons to the pop­u­lar flicks, star­ring Anna Ken­drick and Aus­tralia’s own Rebel Wil­son, he says.

“It’s funny be­cause all of the el­e­ments of Pitch Per­fect are ba­si­cally 100 per cent true,” he laughs. Will­now de­scribes singing as “a mu­si­cal in­stru­ment at­tached to your soul” and with that comes an in­tense “emo­tional in­vest­ment” – and drama.

He’s been singing for as long as he can re­mem­ber and dis­cov­ered the a cap­pella style by ac­ci­dent when he was 12.

Inspired, he started his own group at school. By recre­at­ing pop songs the other kids knew and loved, they avoided the awk­ward pre-teen re­cep­tion they might’ve oth­er­wise had.

“Ev­ery­body came to our con­certs. We kind of be­come cool in a sense.”

When he left high school, Will­now spent a year at a uni in Amer­ica’s deep south where both a cap­pella and his per­sonal brand of “loud and proud flam­boy­ancy” weren’t as en­thu­si­as­ti­cally ac­cepted.

He was mis­er­able un­til one day stum­bling across the Nor Easters’ per­for­mances on YouTube. He im­me­di­ately ap­plied for a trans­fer and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now, be­tween the na­tional tours, a daily op­por­tu­nity to do what he loves most and im­mi­nent global TV fame, Will­now ad­mits he’s re­luc­tant to grad­u­ate in a year’s time.

“This is so much fun. I don’t even want to think about the real world!”

The Nor Easters a cap­pella singing group fea­tures in a doco-style re­al­ity se­ries.

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