I have little knowledge of the television series Glee. During a flight, I caught part of the episode featuring the music of Madonna, but I never actually watched the show. I can hear my friend, Tracey as she just read that: “Are you KIDDING me? I LOVE that show!”
I was recently introduced to the Show Choir world when my favorite 15-year old was selected for the girls’ show choir at her high school. I knew this was a big deal, but I had no idea.
Tryouts were in the Spring of 2014. Practice began in the fall, for the season opener in January 2015. The choir members commit to several months of practice for a competition season which lasts less than 8 weeks. Invitationals are held on Saturdays from the end of January through March.
The advanced planning didn’t just involve learning the songs and choreography.
At home, preparation for the 1st invitational Saturday began early in the week. Hair and makeup is key, as every girl must have the same, uniform hairstyle and makeup.
In anxious preparation, there were two online instructional videos to watch. The first one detailed how to style the tresses to achieve the proper “holy hair”: an elaborate combination of long ringlets crowned with a top poof reaching heavenward.
The second video was a step-by-step tutorial on the elaborate make-up technique. Thankfully, there was a Mary Kay lady connected to the choir, to outfit these girls with a complete palette, and turn them into make-up artists.
By the time Friday evening rolled around, she was ready! For 90 minutes, our performer’s hair was sprayed, wrapped around a curling wand, coiled into small pin curls, and secured to her head with bobby pins. This was done just in time for her early bedtime.
She awoke the next morning at 4:00, applied her make-up and false eyelashes, styled the top of her hair, put the finishing touches on her ringlets, and was out the door by 5:00 a.m. On a Saturday. She is 15. A show choir miracle.
At 7:30 a.m., the young ladies took the stage, dressed in black flapper-style dresses that glittered and sparkled under the lights. As they found their places on the risers, we scanned the stage for our song and dance girl. Wait…which one is she? Is that her? No, maybe that’s her. How was it possible that we couldn’t spot our girl? Except for hair color, the girls looked identical. They moved alike. Darn it -no one thought to bring binoculars?
Literally backed by their Show Choir Band which was tucked behind the risers, They burst into their first song. Finally, we spotted her, and then couldn’t take our eyes off her!
The varied set consisted of five space-themed songs: Quite a bit of time was traveled from The fairly current, Killers’ Spaceman, back to the vintage ’79 theme from Xanadu. While a soloist (who reminded me of a young Bette Midler) blew us away with campy, vampy rendition of Monty Python’s Galaxy Song, the rest of the choir did a Clark Kent-to-Superman-fast costume change! The set was over in less than 30 minutes.
I was smitten! I was eager to hit the road the next Saturday as a show choir groupie. It was wholesome, hip, glamorous, cool, classic and edgy all at once, and it was fun.
Fun, except for the one Saturday morning when things almost got ugly. A middle-aged, follicle-ly and height challenged guy, dressed in his best Mom jeans and sneakers, exited the auditorium and loudly editorialized, “Yah….those last two groups were pretty weak.” What a big man, criticizing 15 and 16 year-old girls! Shame on him. I wanted to kick him so hard that he’d have to join the soprano section.
In order to avoid an embarrassing confrontation, I reined in my inner Beverly Goldberg.
That poor guy just didn’t get it. This is more than singing and dancing. An invitational is the culmination of months of perseverance, teamwork, growth and improvement, confidence gained, and the pure guts of these kids to get out there and go for it. He didn’t appreciate that an invitational is 15 hours of positivity. The singing, dancing, live bands, sequins, sparkles, sets, and props, fill the venue with a festive atmosphere. It is electric, even between performances as the audience dances.
The crowd is respectful, supportive and appreciative of each performer. After all, every fellow audience member loves at least one of the performers!
Each time a soloist took the microphone, I nervously held my breath. Would they hit all their notes? Would we hear a sweet, angelic voice? A girl channeling Tina Turner? As they sang, I found myself in exhaling in relief, and smiling in amazement. It didn’t matter if it was a soloist from our choir or another group. It is easy to root for, and be amazed by all these kids. I’m pretty sure most audience members felt the same.
I’m still in awe at the commitment of these kids. In addition to months of practice, Invitational days are typically 16 hours long- but they can stretch to 20 or even 22 on a travel day in bad weather. Instead of watching game films, these glittery, glam athletes review video of their performance immediately after exiting the stage. The commitment to perfecting each choreography movement is constant.
The parents make a huge commitment as well – from volunteering when their school is the invitational host – to traveling almost 4 hours to a competition.
The 2015 Show Choir season has ended, and now I learn…so has Glee! The series finale aired on March 20th.
Last week, my favorite 15-year old auditioned for the 2016 Show Choir Season.
Two days ago, she learned she had made the mixed choir, and also chose to remain a member of the girls’ choir, and……TODAY SHE BECAME MY FAVORITE 16-YEAR OLD!
Two choirs means double the dancing, singing, sparkles and glamour.
I can’t wait.
Until then, I’ll get my fix by curling up on the couch with Netflix, catching up on 6 seasons of Glee!, or as I’m calling it: basking in the afterGlee!