A young girl sits pensively on a rocky beach in Salem, Mass., haunted by lost love. She sings a mournful “Winter Song,” captured richly in a black-and-white YouTube video worthy of MTV. Soon, a dozen other young people chime in, echoing perfect chords.
They are the teen voices of WitchPitch? in their first music video of a cover song on their debut CD, “Here,” which was released in 2012. Their leader is Alexander Grover ’09. He created the group in 2009, and in a short time he and his young singers have won more than just applause.
While at Wheaton, Grover, 25, did everything musically possible on stage, including accidentally falling off one once. Since graduating he has achieved a perfect blend of life harmonies by combining musical avocation with professional vocation. WitchPitch? (a play on “which” and the Salem High mascot, a witch) is part of the successful combo.
The former music director of Wheaton’s a cappella group Gentlemen Callers, Grover is bewitching the cliffs of his hometown by now directing a group of teens from his high school alma mater. And he is doing it so well that they have twice reached the Varsity Vocals International Championship of High School A Cappella during the past two years, most recently beating out nine other groups to get there.
Living his dream, Grover attributes his success to his undergraduate days. “Wheaton was the best four years of my life,” he said. “The personal relationships with peers and professors, the classes, and the extracurricular activities all opened doors for learning the life skills and practical skills I needed to succeed. I love making music. I love making it myself, and I love seeing others make it with some of my influence and some of their own.”
At Wheaton, he combined his two loves by majoring in music and minoring in theatre. He was a member of the Gentlemen Callers all four years and he directed them for three. He also acted and sang in productions with local community groups.
Grover’s past and present continue to be syncopated synchronicity.
“I ran an a cappella group at Wheaton and now I run an a cappella group at a high school. I took voice lessons at Wheaton, and I continue to take voice lessons in Boston. I was an actor at Wheaton, and now I perform in the community as an actor and almost at a professional level. It feels great,” said Grover, who just finished a master’s degree in music education at Boston University.
It is a far cry from his audible nervousness at age 10 when he sang his first solo at his church’s Christmas Eve service at his minister’s request.
“Every three measures I tripped up and had to swallow in order to continue,” he said. “I’ve always said if I ever win a Tony Award, I will thank her in my speech for pushing me to do that.”
For now, he credits Lianne Goodwin’s choral program at Salem High for the impetus to form the group. WitchPitch? won the New England semifinals and performed twice at the national finals in New York. Four of his teens also won individual awards.
“It was all very unexpected, and a very exciting moment for us. It was exhilarating,” said Grover. “Watching the group each time they won the semifinal and each performance in New York was better than any other performance I’ve ever been a part of or attended.”
This year will be Grover’s last directing the group. Now the full-time choral director at nearby Danvers High, he has already formed a new group there called Falconize.
“I will miss Salem, and will always hold a special place for WitchPitch? in my heart,” he said. “I truly am doing what makes me happy, continuing to do exactly what I discovered and did at Wheaton, outside of Wheaton.”