In high school – oh, a few years ago – I joined show choir. Some of us might have signed up hoping for an easy A, but Doc Lawson would whip the whole group into shape; by the time we gave our first concert we stood ramrod straight, singing our hearts out.
As I recall, we dug around in the back of the storage closet until we emerged with some gold colored blazers to wear. In truth, I only recall us putting on a show a few times, but then I blacked out a lot of my high school memories; we’d saunter out, arm in arm, stand there and sing, tell a few jokes … and walk out.
Boy, how times have changed.
In no way am I putting down what we did back then; we were an enthusiastic bunch, and had a great director who we respected and loved and, um, feared. We didn’t have a lot of resources at Central Noble, but we did our best with what we had, and were proud of our efforts.
My youngest daughter goes to East Noble, which is large enough to have two show choirs: Premiere Edition, an all girl’s group, and Knight Rhythms, a mixed group. (I’m happy to say Jillian is in with the girls.) Having been in show choir, I thought I knew what to expect, but I was very wrong.
Jillian spent months doing two things: practicing and fund raising. It never occurred to me that the members would be responsible for so many of their own costs, but she’s been selling candy, food, raffle tickets, stereos from the back of unmarked vans … the other day I caught her selling my wardrobe, and to add insult to injury she wasn’t getting much. I drew the line when she went on EBay to see how much kidneys were going for.
Maybe I wouldn’t have reacted so strongly if I hadn’t gotten out of bed one morning to find “cut here” written on my back in permanent marker.
The performers have impressive outfits, and each raises the money to buy his or her own. The red carpet
on Oscar night doesn’t have as much flash. In fact, each costume cost more money than I spent on clothes in the last ten years, which granted, isn’t saying much.
But then, you can’t find fifty matching jumpsuits at a garage sale.
They have to buy shoes, jewelry, makeup, special tights, and, um, bloomers. That is, underwear that goes over their underwear, for those spinning steps and flying through the air. The guys don’t have to get those, by the way. As far as I know. The group as a whole has to raise money for such things as props, and the gasoline that gets them to competitions all over the state.
That was my next surprise. I did my best in concert, but we had nothing on these young people. Show choir has become a sport, and it’s taken every bit as seriously as any sports event. Judges watch over every movement, hear every voice, then hand out trophies as tall as the Empire State Building and just as impressive. There are rivalries with other schools, drama within and between groups, and triumphant parades into town for the winners.
The biggest surprise for me was the parents. I had assumed show choir parents would be more … sedate … than, say, sports parents. No way. As each group starts setting up, the cheering begins, and sometimes the screaming – literally screaming – gets so loud you can’t hear the singing. People wear team colors, wave banners, and one parent even made a flag. Winners get a standing ovation; losers are on the verge of breaking down.
I don’t know why, but I’d expected all the groups would be happy just to be there, doing the song and dance thing, holding hands and singing Kumbaya while asking for world peace. But no – these people want to win. They seek perfection, and come pretty darn close to getting it.
I was awestruck. We’re talking professional grade performances, smooth and polished. The best of them blew my socks off, and my socks are still dancing around in the auditorium even as we speak. (My daughter was best, of course.) The furthest I went for a competition was Marion (East Noble, Grand Champion!), while on my work days my ex-wife and other daughter went even further, to Indianapolis, where the groups performed and competed all day and into the night.
It was like an all day sports event, only better – there was all the competition and entertainment, but nobody got carried off the field with bones sticking out. Premiere Edition went to the state finals, and came within two points of being one of the six groups that medalled. That makes them the seventh best girl’s group in the entire state.
Recently Jillian asked me why nobody has made a movie about show choir competitions. If I hadn’t seen this world for myself I might have laughed … but now I’m thinking about working on a script.
That'sjillyh2009 on the top riser, kind of by herself right in the middle. She claims it's an accident of choreography, I call it a position of honor ...