A group of students at Etobicoke School of the Arts are filled with glee these days.
For starters, the 28-member show choir has built a 20-minute performance entirely of material from Glee, the hit show about a group of high school choral singers. And, it’s the first time in 30 years the group will be showcased in a competition.
“This is the first time that we’ll be able to showcase in Canada,” says Paul Aikins, show choir director and music theatre teacher at Etobicoke School of the Arts.
The school has often competed in the past, but the festivals rarely have a category for show choir. However, April will prove to be a big month for them.
“We’re also going to be doing the show choir competition in Chicago the next week after Show Choir Canada,” Aikins said of the inaugural Canadian championship. “Usually we try to tie a theme into it, so this year and last year we were riding the Glee wave and we had made all of the material from Glee.”
They aren’t the only ones riding that wave. The show, currently in its second season, has sparked a enormous interest in show choirs. It’s not unfamiliar territory for Etobicoke School for the Arts. Each year the school performs in musical tours, mostly corporate events, with the money earned going to funding new costumes and bringing in professionals to help with their productions.
“We were fortunate with the connections we have at the school to be able to get some guest choreographers in to work with the material,” he said. “This year we had the young woman who was in We Will Rock You choreograph one of the pieces.”
The overwhelming popularity of Glee has certainly had a profound impact. It was a key component that led to the creation of Show Choir Canada, which will host the first-ever Canadian glee club championships at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto, April 8–9.
George Randolph, co-founder of Show Choir Canada and founder of Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts, says the competition is a long time coming.
“The concept of launching this in Canada is brand new, however it’s been going on in the States for many years,” he said. “This is not a new concept at all.”
Initial planning for the competition began about a year ago, said Randolph, who credited a high demand from the school level leading to the competition’s creation.
“This is something that the students and teachers said they have to have implemented in their programs,” he said.
“Approximately 400 students will be competing at the event and next year we’re anticipating a lot more participation from across the country.”
Ashkaan Mohtashami, a grade 12 student at York Mills Collegiate Institute and show choir member, said he’s only seen a couple episodes and isn’t really a fan. He just had other motivations for wanting to join the show choir.
“I like performing in all its ways, so I thought I might as well sing and dance too,” he said.
Mohtashami said the group started last May, and is going all out for their performance.
“Last year I was performing in a musical,” he said of his role in the school’s version of Little Shop of Horrors. “Before this I had no training at all.”
Gaining more experience as a triple-threat — being able to act, sing and dance — is something Randolph says was one of the goals in creating the show choir competition.
“It’s not just about competing for an award,” he said. “There are also workshops throughout the weekend to focus in on the process of developing your artistry, rather than just the product.
“There’s more involved in getting from Point A to Point B that a lot of people don’t realize, so it’s quite the educational experience as well.”
Compeition judges include awards winners, a choreographer and Toronto singer Shawn Desman.
Randolph said he’s happy to see the sudden surge in interest that students — both male and female — are taking in the arts.
“I can’t get over how this is attracting a lot of guys into the arts,” Randolph said of the surge in popularity since Glee hit the airwaves.
“There was a time where to be cool in high school you had to be on sports teams.
“Now, you can make it into a show choir and be the big man on campus.”
For the results of the Canadian Glee Club Championships click here.
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