Show choir is riding high these days. And it may be helped at least in some small part by the emergence of TV shows like “Glee,” which glamorize elements of the choral arts and assist in building enthusiasm for choir among segments of the student population that might not typically gravitate towards vocal ensembles.
An article on www.gazette.net, from the Maryland Community Newspapers Online, spotlighted a new show choir being formed due to student demand at Catoctin High School in Thurmont, Maryland. Berna LaForce, who also directs a show choir at an area middle school, will start up the ensemble this coming school year. “I have a lot of kids enrolled for next year and I’m very pleased with that,” she states in the article, adding that, “‘Glee’ is definitely getting [show choir] more attention.” The headline of that story, “Television show fuels show choirs’ popularity,” may be overstating the “Glee” effect, but similar accounts seem to be cropping up all over the country. Another story, this one examining the increasing popularity of show choir in Massachusetts and appearing on the front page (!) of the April 24th issue of The Boston Globe, is entitled, “‘Glee’ sparks interest in show choirs.” The Daytona Daily News ran an article on June 4th called, “TV’s ‘Glee’ makes choirs cool.” An article titled “Oak Harbor’s Glee: New show choir inspired by TV show” appeared this past February in the The Whidbey News-Times, which covers Whidbey Island in Northwest Washington.
While “Glee” gears up for its second season of adolescent drama, poppy choral tunes, and countless mid-performance wardrobe changes along with increased mainstream exposure of the choral arts the cover of this issue of Choral Director features Brendan Jennings, former-student-turned-director of the vocal music program at Burbank, California’s John Burroughs High School, which boasts several nationally acclaimed show choirs and has been cited as one of the inspirations behind the hit TV series. (Scenes from the pilot episode of “Glee” were even filmed there.) Although the school undoubtedly benefits from its Hollywood location, the performances by these high schoolers are simply incredible. See for yourself by visiting the program’s Web site, www.jbhsvma.com.
For choristers who are put off by the slick, not-so-true-to-reality presentation of “Glee,” another viewing option is currently airing on BBC America called, “The Choir.” A reality show set in England, “The Choir” follows the exploits of a real person, choral director Gareth Malone, as he attempts to build real choirs in schools and areas that didn’t previously have them. This summer’s presentation of “The Choir” is actually a compilation of three previously aired series: the first follows Gareth working with high school students; in the second, he builds a choir at a sports-oriented school; and in the third, he founds a choral group in a working-class community.
With all of the negative news permeating the arts in public education these days, it’s refreshing to see the popularity of television programming based on vocal music.