Last weekend, I traveled to California with my husband and his two high school show choirs, to attend a show choir competition. I am the groups’ choreographer, so I’ve been working with them throughout the school year, teaching them dances.
There are a lot of show choirs and competitions in southern California, and that’s where we have to travel in order to compete, so early Friday morning we boarded a charter bus (hey, we’ve done it in a school bus in the past) and rode about 6 hours out to the San Diego area.
That afternoon, we did a choir exchange with Eastlake High School, who would be competing with us the next day (in a different division). We performed our shows for them, and they performed for us, and then the kids had some time to meet and chat with one another. It was a really great, positive experience, and several of the kids expressed that they were unsure going into it, but that they had a great time.
From there, we went to our hotel (the very nice Hilton Garden, thank you choir boosters!) where we figured out our room arrangements and had a catered dinner of pizza (really good pizza). During dinner, Daniel facilitated a discussion about the other choir, their choices of songs and dances, and the exchange as a whole. The kids could have talked all night; it’s SO nice to be around kids that are so passionate about what they are doing, as these kids are about music and dance. After that, the kids had a little downtime, but they were given an early bedtime, since we had to get up early for the competition.
The next morning we had breakfast at the hotel, and they all got ready in their costumes and makeup and hair for the girls. Then we gathered in the parking garage (the only big enough area nearby) to do a warm-up and run-through.
From there it was off to the competition. We got there in time to see all the high school groups. There was a morning and an afternoon session, and both of our groups’ divisions were in the afternoon, so we watched show choirs all morning, got lunch at their snack bar, and then it was time for our groups to perform.
The mixed group went first, going up against three other schools, and then our girls group went, up against two other schools. After the performances, Daniel and I were pretty sure we had taken at least second place, if not first, in both categories, but we thought it would be a close call between the top two (which was the same school competing against us in both categories). This is also the same school we’ve competed against in the past, at the last high school that Daniel taught at, and we have both won and lost against each other at different times.
Now, there is a lot to be said just for taking students to an event like this, where they get to experience seeing other choirs perform, and to perform for others. If we took nothing home, it would still be a valuable experience. But having both won and lost in the past, we knew that there is a world of difference between taking home first or second (or lower). And this being Daniel’s first year at this new school, along with the fact that we had traveled so far to attend just one competition (whereas the California schools have competitions every weekend, this time of year, and only have to go a town or two over), we really needed this win.
We got it. BOTH groups took first place in their divisions. I can’t explain how excited and thrilled the kids (and we) were! Daniel was nervous and stood in the back, away from the groups when they announced the places, but I was sitting right with the students. They announced the girls category first, and when they announced another school for second place, I think I just started smacking the girl next to me on her leg. We were just so excited! I was filming, and you can see the camera start shaking like crazy as soon as they announced second place. It was also at that moment that I figured our mixed group had won, too, but I was still on the edge of my seat when they announced second place for the mixed category, and over-the-moon when it wasn’t us!
It’s hard to know what the judges will prefer. Our shows were complex in music and dance but simple in theatrics. The kids simply sang and danced, very well, to challenging pieces. The school that we were up against had easier music and choreography, but they had very flashy costume changes and special effects. We were so pleased to see the judges reward skill over flash in this case, and our scores were actually outstanding, and we took both first places by quite a few points.
On the bus ride home, Daniel and I listened to the recordings of the judges comments, and they had so many nice things to say- things that I need to quote on my resume!
Here are some of the comments:
- “I like the way you move, folks, very nice, very disciplined choreography, good energy about it.”
- “This looks beautiful, very nice. Nice visuals. And nice contrast from some of the other songs. Again, the entertainment continues.”
- “Yeah, I like this. Really nice visuals. Well conceived choreography. Really like what you guys have done with your set, choreographically.”
- “Got a really nice sharpness in your choreography.”
- “It’s building a lot of energy, it’s got a really good feel to it. So these moves you’re doing, throughout this song, they look great.”
The announcement of our mixed group’s first place win was the very end of the competition, so we just gathered outside as a group and celebrated. We got two shiny new trophies to bring home to the school, too!
That night we had another catered dinner at the hotel (spaghetti and meatballs), and then most of us celebrated in the pool! The next morning we went to the beach for a few hours, where Daniel and I lay in the sun, ate at a fish and chips restaurant, and bought presents for our kids. Then we rode the bus home, and we had a whole week of spring break to look forward to!
I spent all of that Monday putting together a video of the weekend, including some of the onstage performances, rehearsals, fooling around offstage, beach, etc. Here it is…it’s 14 minutes long, but feel free to skip around, or watch the whole thing if you’d like! We showed it to the kids during their class today, and they loved it.
So that’s the story of our show choir trip to California, and how we: