February 24, 2024

I admit it: I’m a former show choir kid. And Theatre kid.

In school I put aside my drums and started singing. Less stuff to schlep around. Singing in church choir had led to singing in school, which led to singing and dancing in high-school musicals, which led to a position in the select vocal music ensemble. I was one of about a dozen for two years, singing and dancing. We’d go do various sets all over the place. It was great fun and contributed to me having a very holistic and unfocused life in college: singing in the TU University Chorale for 5 years, plus a couple of stints in the Tulsa Opera chorus, TU opera, and lots of other roles and classes in theatre. On top of a B.Sci in Business Administration I graduated just short of a Minor in Technical Theatre, which led to volunteer scene design work for the Muskogee Little Theatre in the late 80s.

I regret nothing. It’s made me the well-rounded person that I (hopefully) am now.

It is with those bona-fides that I feel I’m qualified to comment on developments in show choir that I’ve witnessed the past 3 years with Miss P at Jenks High School.

The times they are a changin’

For one thing, the show choirs of my youth were all about girls and guys in beautiful dresses and suits, doing choreography that worked with wearing stuff like that. Sparkly, with lots of “arm-ography.” We did some medleys, but mostly it was complete song sets. There may have been a theme to it.

Ain’t no choir like a West Coast Choir…

Like many schools, Jenks High School has adopted the “West Coast Style” of show choir, which involves telling a deeper story. Choreographers and musical arrangers come together to mash-up several musical pieces to create something bigger than any single piece of music.

Miss P has been in the Jenks Trojanaires for 2 years now, and I’ve seen 2 complete competition set shows come together, with sets, costumes (and costume changes), and lots of amazing competition performances by schools in TX, OK, MO, KS, and FL.

It’s been interesting, but it’s been even more interesting how choral judges here in the Central Southwest/Midwest have been slow to recognize that change is coming to show choir land.

Granted, it’s a large environmental change. For schools it’ll mean more resources for costumes and sets that will have to change every year with the show. Plus, music directors, like all of us, hate change in the short term. Making art is embracing that change and uncertainty each year.

Add to that if you’re picked to be a judge of a vocal music competition — you have the added responsibility to further the art and craft for the next generation.

As the old saying goes, Writing about music is like dancing about architecture, so I’ll let this year’s show stand for itself. Choreographed by Dominic Matas, “Olympia” is based on Act 1 of the opera “The Tales of Hoffman.” Beginning with a musical mashup from “Phantom of the Opera” and Khachaturian’s “Masquerade Waltz,” the set includes a bit of one of opera’s most famous and difficult arias: “Les oiseaux dans la charmille.” Other big inclusions are Cody Fry’s “I Hear a Symphony,” Stromae’s “Papaoutai,” and The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.”

Like any opera, it tells a familiar heart-rending story of love overcoming all. You can recognize familiar modern themes:

Blade Runner: Falling in love with a robot

The Velveteen Rabbit: Loves makes you real

Sit back for 17 minutes and enjoy!

Olympia: Jenks Trojanaires 2024 Competition Set (youtube.com)

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