The 65 students in West Branch High School’s show choir have been rehearsing their routine since show choir camp in July, where they learned choreography. On Saturday, they were slated to arrive at school at 4 a.m. to drive to Gretna, Neb., for their first competition of the season.
“You need to sing with 100 percent of your body,” vocal music director Chris Reed exhorted them at rehearsal Thursday. “More, more!”
Eastern Iowa has a thriving show choir culture, with a number of competitions around the Corridor in coming weeks. Small schools like West Branch, a 2A school, can and do enter those competitions. But they’re facing much larger 3 and 4A schools, which can put them at a disadvantage.
That’s why West Branch High School is hosting a show choir competition of its own for the first time this year. The Jan. 18 competition is open to only 2A and 1A schools from Iowa and surrounding states. Fourteen choirs have signed up to compete.
“We thought it would be cool to give the smaller schools a chance to compete against schools of similar size,” Reed said. “A lot of schools never get that chance.”
Reed formed the West Branch show choir, Christopher Jive and the Uptown 45, 14 years ago. The group has about 80 members in grades 8 to 12, including crew and band, with around 65 dancers and singers.
Running a show choir isn’t cheap, which can also be a disadvantage for small schools pitted against bigger programs.
Reed said beyond the costs of costumes and transportation, choirs often hire choreographers and have their music professionally arranged. Both services can cost thousands of dollars per show.
He hopes hosting a competition - which brings in entry fees and ticket and concession sales - can help the West Branch choir raise funds for its yearly budget.
Plus, competing is just fun.
“The environment of a competition - it’s incredibly addictive. It’s such a rush when they do well,” he said. “It’s competitive like sports, but it’s a different feeling.”
The school’s competition will kick off at 9:30 a.m. and last until after 11:30 p.m. But that grueling schedule doesn’t dampen the student’s spirits.
“There’s so much energy here, we kind of feed off each other,” West Branch senior Emmy Shawver said. “I love it.”
Show choir season
The local show choir competition season kicked off Saturday at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids. Here are some other upcoming competitions in the area: