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York a cappella group vies for international title

If your understanding of collegiate a cappella comes from the movie “Pitch Perfect,” then you probably think it’s all fun and games and riff-off battles.

But according to the members of York College’s a cappella group YCP Rhapsody, riff-offs just don’t happen in real life.

“‘Pitch Perfect’ makes (a cappella) sound crazier than it is,” YCP Rhapsody Chris Betzler said.

“It just shows the fun parts,” assistant music director Bryan Loy added.

What it doesn’t show is the two-hour rehearsals three times a week, sometimes more, when preparing for a competition.

“I’ve never seen a piece of sheet music in those movies,” Loy said. “You don’t see the process of them learning the songs. It’ll take a week to two weeks of rehearsal before we even see the whole song.”

And on top of those long rehearsals, you can’t forget about classes – something Beca Mitchell never seems to worry about in the movie.

“They just dance and sing and that’s it,” Betzler said.

But there is one thing from the movie that’s true.  The International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella does exist, and for the second year in a row, York College’s a cappella group YCP Rhapsody has made it to quarterfinals for the mid-Atlantic region.

“This is the one you want to be at,” YCP Rhapsody secretary Courtney Bollinger said. “The end of it determines the best a cappella group in the nation.”

Wearing all black with Kelly green ties and neckerchiefs, the 17-member group will travel to the University of Maryland Jan. 30 to compete against nine other groups for a spot in the semi-finals. Only two teams from each region will make the cut.

Though YCP Rhapsody has been around for about 15 years, the group only started competing four years ago. Last year was the first time they auditioned for the ICCAs, but they didn’t make it past the quarterfinals round.

This year, they’re hoping their 10-12 minute set – including “Resistance” by Muse, “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon and a “Radioactive” remix by Imagine Dragons, featuring Kendrick Lamar – has what it takes to make it to the next round.

“Every year you go into it, you have to go in wanting to win,” Betzler said.

And after listening to the judges’ comments last year, Betzler said he thinks they have a better chance to do so.

In the last few months, the team of four sopranos, three altos, four tenors, five basses and a beat boxer worked on their choreography, adjusting it to better represent the style and meaning of each song.

But choreography isn’t everything. The group will also be judged on intonation, interpretation, presentation and beat boxing, among other categories.

Loy said YCP Rhapsody does much less dancing than what you see on “Pitch Perfect.” While some schools go all out with flips, spins and breakdancing, Rhapsody focuses more on formations, line work and vocals.

“(The judges) are going to remember a good vocal performance over a flashy stage show,” Loy said.

Betzler said he expects to hear the results after the Jan. 30 competition, which will be filmed for Pop’s “Sing It On.”

“I want a 'W' one time,” Betzler said. “If we just make it to the next round, it would be my dream come true.”

Following the competition, YCP Rhapsody will continue performing in the York area at campus open houses and other events to be announced at a later date. Their spring concert is scheduled for 8 p.m. April 16 at DeMeester Recital Hall at York College.