Acatonics prepare for ICHSA Quarterfinals


Photo courtesy Gurnoor Kaur

The Acatonics practice their final song, Sledgehammer, in full costume. The group met after school on Feb. 17 to run through their set. “Even though it’s sometimes stressful, it’s honestly such a fun experience being able to bond with your teammates,” senior Roshni Arun said.

Editor’s Note: This article was written prior to the competition on Feb. 26.

After two consecutive victories at the ICHSA (International Championship of High School a capella) Mid-Atlantic Quarterfinals, the Acatonics are back, working hard on their competition set for 2022. Led by chorus teacher Keith Schwartz, this coed a cappella group has been working hard to polish their three competition songs: “Diamonds” by Sam Smith, a mashup of “Dreaming with a Broken Heart” by John Mayer and “Enough for You” by Olivia Rodrigo and “Sledgehammer” by Rihanna. 

Though their songs are distinct in musicality and style, they are all connected by one common thread: emerging triumphant after a heartbreak. 

 For their first song, Diamonds, the group added a creative element to their performance by creating a three-part harmony with three soloists: senior Helen Sarikulaya, junior Gabby Wright and junior Reign Nzang. “The three of us have been coming in for lunch and working really hard on how to blend our voices and lean on each other to create harmonies and passion,” Wright said. 

I love how every member of the group brings something different to the song. The music itself brought us closer together as a family.”

— Divya Philipose

With their intensive work on Diamonds complete, the group moved onto their ballad: Dreaming with a Broken Heart and Enough for You. Along with the entire group, the soloists,  junior Yael Alvarez and senior Divya Philipose, both bring their different emotional perspectives to enhance their performances. “I love how every member of the group brings something different to the song. The music itself brought us closer together as a family,” Philipose said.

The Acatonics will close their competition set with one final, powerhouse song: Sledgehammer by Rihanna with senior and Acatonics co-captain Elizabeth Ipe as the soloist. This song was arranged by Northeastern University’s Nor’easters, and the Acatonics’ source of inspiration. “After we chose our first two songs, we were in dire need of a third. I stumbled on this song that captured the essence of breaking free from heartbreak and I knew it was the song for us,” Ipe said.

A capella not only consists of singing, but choreography as well. Or, as the group likes to call it: “movement.” The Acatonics met on Feb. 2, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Feb. 11, from 3:15 to 5 p.m. to work on polishing their moves, choreographed by Schwartz himself. 

After one and a half years of a cappella online, the Acatonics lost valuable time to form a community. Though in-person learning returned, a wall remained between each member. “Initially, it was difficult for the group to realize that we were not just plainly singing notes, but were responsible for telling a story to the audience,” Philipose said. 

Overtime, the Acatonics grew closer and their musical skills improved simultaneously. “During choreography, I see someone stare right back at me with the same focused energy. That shows just how connected we all are,” Ipe said. 

The Acatonics have a lot riding on this competition. On Feb. 26, the group will find out whether they will continue their win streak or leave empty-handed. Stay tuned to find out if the Acatonics bring the trophy home for the third year in a row.