North- During day round, I couldn't hear a single word of your show up until a quarter of the way through the 3rd song, and it was just easier for me to hear that because I know the song. The band was WAY too loud and was completely overpowering the choir during day and that got fixed at night, but the choir also needs to have more power in their singing. The vocals sound nice when they're heard, but the vocals aren't heard often enough. I enjoy hearing the way you sing, so let's hear MORE of it. Northside is a decently sized group this year so it shouldn't be that hard. Clarity also comes to fruition through diction on ending consonants and consonants inside the words, and that was lacking as well. I would also like to say that Danielle is freaking unbelievable. She's the single best soloist I have heard since 2009 and I pray that she is going into Music at a school somewhere because she is a phenomenal talent. The choreography looks good, although I could use a little more pop in everything and I think the song choices this year are good choices.
Okay I lied, I do have a few short comments for each group other than GCS because I've already gushed over their show so much.
CSI- I'm so proud of you! The show has improved so much since I saw you all at the Dinner Theater. Everything improved so much. I do agree with Jay that the smiles from some people look painted on and the expressions don't change at all, which can get a little bit boring. The guy's song needs a power cleaning because the hats are everywhere. I thought the day round performance was better because it exhibited more energy and also more control in movement and vocals than the night performance. Overall I hope you guys improve and place well at LaCrosse Logan!
Bettendorf- This is probably the best show I've seen from you guys since you started competing in 09. The sound is a little bit immature at times, but the visuals are very clean. I have a problem with the dance breaks at times because it seems like there's not enough going on. There is also a tendency for those in the back to not be very active with their faces. Overall a fun show and your program is headed in the right direction!
Muscatine- I LOVE the show. I think the story's great and I think the song selection is great. From a technical aspect, the choreography is clean and full of energy. The problem is vocals. The vocals are a little too unnatural. I also love the band during the later half of the show when they just let go and rip, but the first half of the show isn't as good with instrumentals. Great job!
City High- I'll be honest, I don't like the show. I think it's very boring. I also don't like the way you guys sing. It's very heady and very weak as a tone overall. If you listen to groups like LaCrosse Central and groups like Waubonsie, they are able to produce a full tone and one that can hit both ends of the dynamic spectrum. With you guys, it goes from pianissimo to mezzo forte. Use your breathing more when singing and get your sound off of that. The visuals are very clean, but sort of lack energy. The band ROCKS. I thought you guys might slip to 4th at night.
So firstly, congrats to everyone that competed! I have been looking forward to this competition for months! Firstly because it was a chance to see my high school show choir, my little brother, and all my friends and secondly because my boyfriend decided to go with me and he had never really seen show choir before.
I have to say, Muscatine...I LOVE YOUR SHOW! At first, I was kind of confused, but when it finally clicked I was just fascinated. The show is so eerie and creepy, but done SO well. My only critique is that the band (particularly percussion) was just a bit too loud at times and overpowered the choir. And as for the singer/dancers, I have one suggestion. I'm not sure if it was because of where I was sitting (so I was seeing the stage at a different angle) or if people actually were, but there were times when the singers were doing their "stand still and sing" part and seemed to be very slouched. I know that you are supposed to be making odd lines with your body, but I believe they are all supposed to be sharp lines (I could be wrong.) Try to keep everything as aligned as you possibly can. It will help your sound quality and production, as well as your breath support. And it will make the show look that much more crisp. Of all the shows I saw, yours really stuck with me! Keep up the good work! You guys will definitely go far with such a unique show!
On a more personal note, to GCS:
Wow. Just, wow. I did get to see you guys while I was home for Christmas break (before everything was really put together as far as costumes and what-not), and I've gotta say you guys have REALLY stepped up your game since then. You all looked so comfortable and professional. Everyone had facial expressions that went beyond just smiling. You were really invested in your music and your performance. I know most, if not all, of you love show choir not for competition itself, but for the chance to get your message to people through your music. Well my friends, bravissimo! Your message was crystal clear and incredibly passionate. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face when we were watching, and the finals show was even more spectacular than day.
It was interesting...my boyfriend is an instrumental education major, and between his band knowledge and my vocal knowledge, we picked up on some very different things. However, after your day show when we were walking back from moving equipment he said "I know college level bands that can't do subito that well. And the choir had better dynamic phrasing and diction than most college choirs I've heard." It was just absolutely fantastic all around. I'm so proud of you all! And kudos to Mr. Esser and Doc for doing what they do best!
Finally, for all you seniors, I've gotta say, it was SOOO much fun watching you all in particular. Having been in the group with you when you were freshman, it was fun to see your growth as performers and musicians. You've all come a long way and should be super proud of yourselves. Take all the skills you've learned in this choir and other groups with you, and you will succeed in whatever it is you do.
Love you all! Hope to see the finals show at Logan next weekend! (Assuming I make it back to La Crosse in time!)
Ugh... I just spent 2 or 3 hours typing up detailed, heartfelt comments on each group and in my emotional state I completely forgot to save my words and it all got erased. So... sorry for all you kids who learn from reading these, because you are not going to get the amount of details in my comments as before. And now I'm also going to sound like a d-bag because I'm shortening these up and leaving most of the heart and emotion out of them. First of all, this was a REALLY fun competition. Secondly, I hope Mt. Pleasant gets the sound problems fixed for next year, day round was inexcusably bad. Thirdly, wow I am the 3rd post in a row... Sad haha.
Bettendorf. Fun show. Novelty was done by Kennedy in 2002 correct? At least the 2nd half of it was. Work on a more mature tone quality, that will help vocals a lot. Raise the soft palate, shape vowels more. It's too spread and the sound sometimes "splats" on us. Closer (Free Bird) is a great song, but the level of difficulty in it really needs to go up. It doesn't need to be Clinton level, but it can't be prep group-level. The only movement is with the hits, and while I love the sequence that is on the hits, something else needs to be going on at the same time. Especially since we see that sequence of moves at least 3 times in the song.
North. Everything is clean, and sung pretty well. But the show is boring. There is no facial energy either. I guess that is, up until the closer. Then everything comes to life, and you can thank Danielle for that. She gets us all EXCITED! She is just amazing, too talented. Work on bringing that same energy into ALL parts of the show. Faces also don't just mean smiling, you also need intensity in the eyes. I think especially in the 1st two songs connection with the eyes will GREATLY help with the faces. I really LOVE the closer. Choreography is harder and more visual, singing is better. What are you doing in the closer than you can apply to the rest of your show? Can't wait to see you and Danielle at Fort Atkinson next week!
Muscatine. I know everyone says it, but it's true. The show is very California. That's because it's very edgy with a story behind it. It's like an edgy Sauk Prairie (should I really be surprised? lol). It's a very cool idea. Has GREAT energy and GREAT facial expression. The opener is fresh and youthful. My suggestion for that song would be to add some layers into it. It was a good amount of unison dancing, and the difficulty could be bumped up, without taking away the child-like feel that works well. The end where the girl gets thrown in the toy box and then comes out a doll is creepy and REALLY cool. Totally reminds me of "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" (even though probably none of you remember that show or were even born when it was on lol). In the ballad your body positioning and facial expression is so effective. My only comment is make sure you guys unify that. Some people never moved, others changed head position a LOT. I would prefer something slow and deliberate, like a creepy doll! Some movement is great, but too much is really distracting. Also make sure the weird positions in the ballad don't affect the breath support, tone and pitch. I noticed that in that song there were individual people and notes that didn't fit in the chords, and I attribute that to the weird position they were in. Vocally I really have only one comment, though it affects a lot of your singing. There is a lot of lip tension in your face. All the vowels are brought so far down that it is unnatural and creates this tension in both the upper and lower lips and dven spreads to the jaw. Put your fingers to your mouth and notice how relaxed the lips are when you talk naturally. Move the lips around with your fingers- they should move freely. Now sing your show and feel your lips. You'll notice how unrelaxed they are when you sing; we can even see it from the audience. This distorts the tone and the pitch and makes it unnatural. It takes the sound and pushes it down your throat which in turn flattens the pitch. Not to mention it is just unhealthy to have any tension at all, let alone in the lips and jaw which are a major part of the vocal instrument. It would be like using a hammer on drums instead of a drumstick- might get the sound you want, but will end up ruining the drum. The dark tone that is required in your show should instead be found by raising the soft palate. There should be an area of space in the back half of the mouth between the molars. That is the healthy way to get the darker tone, instead of using your lips to manipulate the sound. Also, make sure that the sound does not come from your throat, but rather stays in the mouth. We don't want your tone to be swallowed either. Natural is the way to go. Manufactured and forced is not. Ok, now that I'm done with the voice lesson, let me just reiterate how much I enjoyed the show. It is not my style AT ALL, but it was very creative and done well. That is a tribute to the genuine way in which you each individually perform. Good job.
Iowa City High. Good show. I love that every song has variety to it, and is different than every other song in your show. As always, your band rocks it and you dance really well. It's pretty clean and there is energy in each movement. I definitely like the 2nd half of your show better than the first. The ballad is really lovely and the Evita song and the closer are a lot of fun. The weak link of your show is women's sound. It is quite breathy and unsupported. There needs to be a connection to the chest voice instead of being completely head voice. A mixing of the registers is what's needed. This will make the tone better, keep the pitch from sharping (which was a problem). It will also help the band not overpower you. It would be nice not to have the band pull back because we can't hear the ladies. Projection was probably the worst of all groups in finals even though the sound itself was not that bad. Again, this would all be fixed by incorporating the chest voice into the head voice to create a well-balanced mixed voice. You have very good diction and a pretty good blend. The show was fun, and again the band killed it. GCS still completely deserved band because they were more balanced with the choir and within the band itself, but your band has nothing to be ashamed of. Good luck in the rest of the season!
Davenport Central. It was hard for me to get into the show because I felt like you guys didn't get into the show. That starts with facial expression. You guys all have big smiles on your face the whole show, and it looks nice. The problem is it gets old and looks fake after you've been doing it for 5 songs. There needs to be expression coming through the eyes, with what Tyra Banks calls "smizing" (smiling with your eyes). Also, since you guys are giving such big smiles the vowels are all spread. The mouth also doesn't open up very much, which means the soft palate does not get raised. All this leads to a thin and spread sound. There were also some blend issues because of vowel shape. There was vitality to the sound, and the projection was very good. A more mature tone quality is what is needed. It was best in the ballad when you guys weren't smiling as much. That to me is a clear cut sign the vowels were just too spread. There was also a costume malfunction. THIS IS A NOTE FOR ANYBODY READING. If your dress breaks, calmly walk off the stage while smiling. Please don't stay on for 3 songs and keep dancing. In this instance, the black part of the dress was flying around. She had to keep pulling up her dress. The audience all thought we would see naughty parts. It was just entirely distracting. Walk offstage and the judges will understand that was not your fault and you had no control of it. When you keep dancing and trying to fix it and dance some more, it becomes your problem. Even if you can't come back onstage until the costume change, that is better than being a distraction to the show. I literally cannot remember the 2nd song at all because of it. Couldn't even tell you what the song was. All The Wasted Time was sung well. The only problem with the song is the rhythms. You guys are feeling it in 6 instead of feeling it in 2. That leads to a choppy sound instead of a flowing connected phrase. My suggestion would be to listen to the original song on the soundtrack of Parade and hear how the characters use syncopation. It would really improve the musicality of the song. Burning Love was really cute and fun. It was danced well and sung well and was a good closer. Costumes were nice too. Good job and congrats on getting 2nd. That was basically like winning this competition.
GCS. I just really really love your show. I have to apologize now because there will be so much less heart in this critique than when I first wrote it. I was literally crying as I was typing it up before and now I am drained of emotion lol. Ok here goes: The opener was SO much improved from Viterbo. You found the intensity and energy in each move that was lacking there. The solo was really great in finals. I don't know whether it was a different girl or she was just more comfortable in finals, but it was improved over day. Jet Set is super cute and fun. The dialect choices you make REALLY add to the song. "WisCANsin" "whur they treat thur wimin rAHght" lol Love it. The auxiliary percussion is the perfect touch to the song, and the riff after the "Rio" line was perfect in finals. Ok and then we get to the ballad. The duet was very solid in finals, an improvement over day round. In day round there were too many arm movements by the choir members, even more than I saw at Viterbo, but you guys relaxed in finals and pulled back a bit and it was much more effective. The sound in your ballad is just breathtaking. Musical, lyrical, mature, resonant, beautiful, balanced and most of all 100% healthy. I wish every choir got to hear your performance of this song because THIS is how you are supposed to sing. Great technique. The last chorus of the song is MARVELOUS. "There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination." NO. You are wrong. There is no life without experiencing this ballad (ok I just started crying again). I cannot express how amazing this ballad is. You just have to see it to understand. Your facial expressions are so genuine and beautiful. If you were not winning before the ballad, this song sealed the win. The most beautiful and musical singing I have heard this year. SO well done; I have cried every time I have heard it live. It just touches my soul and teaches me a beautiful lesson. I started SOBBING during finals to the point where I had to cover my mouth because I was making noise (just like I am now). <3 And then we get the joy of experiencing Spark of Creation. EXQUISITE. The ladies start off and it is perfect. Joyous, playful, feminine, womanly, gorgeous, musical, expressive. You remind me of wood nymphs coming out of hiding to tell us this wonderful story. The BEST women's sound of the year. I mean you sound like WOMEN not girls. Wow. Perfect diction. We more than understood every single word. Sometimes choirs use so many consonants it takes away from the tone, but not you guys. You ladies could give a clinic on correct vocal diction. I mean wow, you captivate us and pull us in to this magical world. The dance break fits perfect with the style and is just lush and gorgeous- Mike really gave you guys great stuff this year. And then the last vocal line- "THE SPARK OF CREaaaAATIOOON". Everyone who was there knows what I'm talking about. I mean wow. It's so soft and high, and it grows, and is just... wow. Mr. Esser ruined my night when he told me it was not an overtone Well it might as well have been, it was truly remarkable. This is a lot of people's new favorite song of the year. It was just done so well. SUNG SO AMAZINGLY!!!! I've never had a non-ballad make me cry and I just melt every time I see it. And then we get to the closer which is just this lustful, tribal, organic song. The costuming totally fits with the song, and connects the last 3 songs into this story which transcends words. The dance break is CRAZY!!!! The use of capes is really a cool effect. The dancing is amazing, crisp, interesting and stylistic. I heard someone say "Why can't we get choreography like that?" The facial expression the whole show was perfect. I never saw a face that was off. The band absolutely kills it! The drums especially made the finals performance to die for. Literally, I collapsed on the ground after the show. It was just amazing. Judges scored vocals, choreography, and band and there were 5 judges, making 15 categories. You received perfect scores in 6 of them, including one judge who did not take off a single point in your show. There were 11 categories where judges took off 2 points or less. And you guys performed 2nd at night. That is INSANE!!!!!!! Every judge placed you first in EVERY category. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
I love your show so much, and all of you in it because you guys have stirred my soul with your show. There will forever be a piece of my heart set aside for this show and you; it means that much to me. I have been crying every time I reminisce. I have NEVER had a show touch me like this, nor have I ever heard of a show touching anyone this way. This show is me and you guys are now a part of me because of it. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me experience such a beautiful piece of art. <3
All I will say is that GCS' finals performance might have just been the greatest performance I have ever seen. Everything about it was perfect, and we all knew that they were going to completely rock the scores