A new sound at MHS
During a performance at a Christmas party last year, Marietta High School’s Premiere show choir didn’t have enough room to perform its trademark choreography.
As the students stood in place and sang, co-directors Liz Thacker and J.D. Benson came to a realization almost simultaneously.
“We were thinking, ‘Wow, why are we hiding this sound?'” Thacker recalled this week. “Because when they did that choreography, the sound got lost.”
After talking it over with students, the decision was made prior to the May auditions for this year’s group to take things in a new direction. Thus, Premiere gave way to Vocal Point, an a cappella ensemble in which the dancing takes a backseat to singing and all the sound comes only from the 19 members of the group.
Sophomore Sadie Cavitt admits she wasn’t immediately on board.
“I was nervous about it, but then I stopped and I was like, ‘This is going to be an awesome change for our group,'” she said.
Junior Landon Urban was in Premiere his freshman year and in Vocal Point this year. While he enjoyed the experience, he said the choreography wasn’t his favorite part.
“I like that it’s going toward more of a vocal standpoint than a dance standpoint,” he said. “I think that I like that we’re not relying on the (pre-recorded) music so much.”
That does create some challenges, Cavitt said.
“Not singing with music, that was very hard,” she said. “We would lose our place a lot.”
That doesn’t mean everybody’s singing the words to the song in harmony. All the sounds from the percussion to the steadying rhythm that usually comes from a bass guitar are now provided by the students’ voices.
“The strength has to be in the vocal,” Thacker said.
Sophomore Mac Burton was another who was hesitant about the change, but he found he likes it, especially how all the different vocals fit together.
“I like that it sounds very organic,” he said.
Senior Kirsten Goddard said the change can benefit students even after graduation.
“A lot of colleges, you only see a cappella groups,” she said. “You don’t really see show choirs anymore.”
Goddard said the change was “much needed,” but she still looks back on Premiere fondly.
“I think that even for us it was really hard saying goodbye to Premiere,” she said.
To help with the transition, the group went to a camp in Dayton over the summer conducted by Brody McDonald, director of choirs at Kettering Fairmont High School. Under his leadership, that school’s group, Eleventh Hour, became the first high school ensemble to make NBC’s a cappella competition show “The Sing-Off.”
They’re returning to Dayton in November for a clinic with “Sing-Off” season three winners Pentatonix. They’ve submitted a video to be one of eight groups to perform for Pentatonix on the first night and get feedback from the group.