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The Totino-Grace "Company of Singers" perform their opening number, "Promise", at the Linn-Mar Supernova, from Fridley, Minnesota, USA

A show choir (originally known as a "swing choir") is a group of people who combine choral singing with dance, sometimes within the context of a specific idea or story.


Show choir is primarily a high school activity based in the United States, beginning to become more popular in Canada as well. It is a continually evolving art form, however, and show choir is regularly expanding to new areas. Many middle schools, junior high schools, and some colleges now have their own show choirs as well.

Technical aspect[edit]

While there is no standard requirement for the number of performers, show choirs typically contain between 30 and 60 singer/dancers.

Show choirs traditionally wear a costume, though the definition of what is considered a costume in show choir is very broad and ranges from jeans and a t-shirt to extravagant period costumes or flashy dance-wear. It can be very conservative (such as tuxedos and ball gowns) or very edgy (such as modern or revealing clothing). Additionally, many larger show choirs include two or more costumes in their show. Participants typically wear stage makeup and shoes conducive to dancing (often "character shoes"). From the costumes to the stage makeup, show choir members often look uniform during most shows.

The choir usually has a backup band (or "combo," if it includes horns) providing instrumental music to complement the voices. The instrumentation varies from song to song, but a common show choir band consists of guitar, bass, drums, trumpets, trombone, alto sax, tenor sax, piano, and synthesizer. Many larger show choirs typically have a larger combo to accompany them. The band is usually out of sight, however some band members have come out on stage to be featured during the show.


This is an example of a show choir competition program from Totino-Grace's Spectacular competition.

Many show choirs participate in competitions, sometimes called "invitationals" (though most are not invitation-only events). These competitions are often held at the high school where the "host group" attends, though some events are held at auditoriums or other facilities that can accommodate larger crowds and provide better acoustic performance.

Competitions can be as small as a showcase of a few groups from the immediate geographic area or they can feature many groups from multiple states. Because of the vast difference in sizes of the competitions, they can last a single afternoon or span an entire weekend. Competitions may separate competing choirs into different divisions. These divisions are often determined by age, skill level, size of the school or choir, and/or gender of the participants. The different divisions may take place at a different time, day, or at a different location or venue, though usually within the same school or close geographic area.

Many competitions include a preliminary round and a finals found. The finals round commences after the preliminary awards are complete, where the top groups perform again in order to compete for the title of Grand Champion of the contest. The number of performing groups in the finals round is up to the hosting school, but typically 5-6 choirs participate. Those groups are sometimes given the opportunity to take suggestions from the judges made during the preliminary round and make adjustments to their finals performance in order to earn a better score.

Characteristics of a performance[edit]

Most show choir "shows" or "sets" consist of a variety of songs, often including several choreographed, fast-paced pieces and one slower piece performed with limited or no choreography. This slower number—usually a ballad—exists primarily to showcase the ensemble's singing ability. In California, it is a requirement that at least one minute of any one set be sung a cappella (it is usually one full song in the set), though this is not a standard in the rest of the country. More often than not, the a cappella selection is also the ballad, as it is much easier to sing unaccompanied while holding relatively still. In the Midwest, it is becoming popular to set one song aside as a "novelty" piece, designed to make the audience laugh. "Concept" or "story" shows that unify all of the songs together in a common theme are becoming more popular across the country, especially in California.

Within a song, vocal lines typically alternate between unison or octave singing, and two-or-more-part polyphonic harmony. Songs are chosen, adapted, and arranged from a variety of sources including popular music, jazz standards, and Broadway musicals, but rarely make use of classical music. Original music has also been performed by a small number of groups. Additionally, there is often at least one solo in each performance by a standout singer in the group.

Competitive performance sets range in length, but are usually timed to total between fifteen and twenty minutes. Shows generally consist of, but are not limited to, approximately five songs.


For many high school students, show choir is a large commitment that takes over the good part of a school year. For some, show choir is part of the school curriculum and is a class taught during the day. For others, it is an extra curricular activity that requires practice to take place before or after school. Practices may begin as early as the summer for some, while other choirs don’t start until much later. The competitive season takes place from January until late April, with competitions held across the country every weekend during that time.


Show choir, while time consuming, can be rich with rewards. Being a part of a show choir promotes teamwork and healthy competition. The choir must work together like a well oiled machine in order to compete against other choirs with similar skill sets. Show choir also promotes staying active and fit. Vigorous dancing and singing simultaneously requires energy and coordination as well as a maintaining a healthy body.

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Show_choir — Please support Wikipedia.
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647 news items

Hillsboro Times Gazette
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:57:24 -0700

The show choir members have traveled to New York City where they marched and performed in the Macy's Day Parade, and at the United Nations. In addition, the group has performed at the Mall of America, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Disney World.
Journal & Topics Newspapers Online
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 05:56:15 -0700

Posted: Friday, April 18, 2014 8:00 am. BGHS Show Choir Hits Stage May 1-3. The Buffalo Grove High School Expressions Show Choir presents “Journey through Musical Theater” starting Thursday, May 1 at the high school, Dundee and Arlington Hts. roads.
Your Daily Globe.com
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 21:52:30 -0700

MEMBERS OF Luther L. Wright High School's show choir Accent! pose together recently in Ironwood. The group departed Wednesday on an educational and performance tour to Branson, Mo. Pictured are, from left, first row: Emma Tervonen, Isabel ...
The Sylva Herald
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 11:00:00 -0700

... at Festival Disney, where the students earned several accolades and awards. The advanced choir, above, received a Superior rating with a score of 96, which is the best score the group has ever received anywhere, Show Choir director Linda Haggard said.

Current in Noblesville

Current in Noblesville
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 08:11:15 -0700

Members of the Noblesville High School New Dimensions Show Choir react after learning they had placed third at the ISSMA Women's Large Division State Show Choir Competition. (Photo by Mary Pat Freeman). By Mary Pat Freeman. The Noblesville High ...
Broadway World
Wed, 09 Apr 2014 20:33:45 -0700

Following in the sequined heels of the highly successful TVO fall 2013 documentary UNSUNG: BEHIND THE GLEE, the 4th annual Show Choir Canada National Championships returns to Toronto, featuring a brand-new competition format and divisions, ...
Wed, 09 Apr 2014 15:22:36 -0700

The 45-student show choir, named Rhythm of the Knight, is slated to compete against about two dozen other ensembles from schools across the country at the FAME Show Choir National Finals, being held at the Arie Crown Theater on April 24-27.
Chicago Tribune
Tue, 08 Apr 2014 00:30:00 -0700

A rite of spring and highlight of the Buffalo Grove High School performance season, the Expressions Show Choir's annual Big Show, will soon take the school's stage. "Journey through Musical Theater" opens on Thursday, May 1, at 7 p.m. and continues its ...

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