In musical terms, the word "forte," means to play a section loudly, with strength.
Around Palatine High School, Forte is the name of its competitive show choir, and increasingly, its 36 members are performing with strength - and confidence.
They are coming off their best showing in their seven years of competition. They took Grand Champion at the recent Manteno High School competition (near Joliet), along with awards for best performer, best vocalist, best combo, best crew and best choral sound.
"We dominated," says Director Steve Sivak. "It was like a moment stopped in time, to hear our name keep getting called."
Palatine is the only school in Palatine Schaumburg High School District 211 to sponsor a competitive show choir. Fremd High School also has a show choir, where students perform in the fall at school events.
Next up for Forte, is the Chicagoland Showcase on March 7, one of the largest show choir competitions in the area, and ironically where Forte first competed, seven years ago.
The annual competition, sponsored by Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, draws some of the area's top show choirs, including Wheeling, Mundelein, Prospect, Wheaton Warrenville South, Rolling Meadows and Hersey's own "On Stage" group.
Forte's recent championship didn't come easily. The students rehearse with Sivak every day, giving up half of their lunch hour to do it, as well as one evening a week. The 10 musicians in their combo also have stepped up rehearsals.
"We're always trying to clean up our vocals and dynamics," says senior Nick Adelberger of Palatine, who won "best performer" at Manteno. Senior Matt Myers was named best male vocalist.
"We're just trying to work on our precision," Adelberger adds, "and look as one."
He and senior Lauren Reynolds help set the tone for the 20-minute show, when they sing a duet during the opening number, "A New World."
But Adelberger says the ballad, the Josh Groban song, "To Where You Are," is when they really shine.
"It's not flashy like some of the others, but it is really moving," Adelberger says. "We feel like we can reach out and can touch people in the audience with it."
Reynolds adds that being up on stage, singing and dancing with her classmates, helps sell their performance. Their closeness, and how hard they have worked to polish their performance, shows.
"Just being up there, with all of your friends, showing what you've got, is so much fun," Reynolds says.
Their competition show features five numbers, all performed with live music and costume changes. But unlike some of their competitors, there are no props or elaborate set design. Instead, they want the emphasis to be on their strength, on the performers.