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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, concentrated in the Midwest, but also beginning to become popular in Canada as well. It is a continually evolving art form, 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.

Shepherd Hill Regional High School's Show Choir "Fantasy" performing with Grecian costumes in 2014

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. There are three main divisions: Varsity, Unisex, and Prep.

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. Hosting schools do not compete in the competition for ethical purposes. 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 in order to compete against other choirs with similar skill sets. Show choir also promotes staying active and fit, as vigorous dancing and singing simultaneously requires energy and coordination as well as a maintaining a healthy body.

See also[edit]

A fine resource for current Show Choir events

The official website for FAME Show Choir events

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Show_choir — Please support Wikipedia.
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The State Journal-Register
Fri, 27 Feb 2015 20:41:15 -0800

The school's group of 48 dancing singers and 17 musicians is hosting its third annual show choir competition. The event kicked off Friday evening with performances from seven junior high schools and continues all day Saturday with choirs from 12 high ...


Fri, 27 Feb 2015 22:56:15 -0800

Johnston's Innovation show choir is certainly living up to its name this season. The varsity group is ranked first in the state and 16th nationally. Heading into last weekend's performance at the Southeast Polk RAM Showcase the Johnston squad had ...

Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune
Fri, 27 Feb 2015 09:26:15 -0800

Members of the Carmel Catholic High School show choir will perform in a sold-out event with the famed British-American rock band Foreigner at Waukegan's Genesee Theater on Friday, March 20, 2015. As part of Foreigner's ongoing charity partnership with ...

News Dispatch

News Dispatch
Thu, 26 Feb 2015 15:25:15 -0800

Snoopy, played by Angel Hodge in this scene from the La Porte High School Show Choir's performance of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," goes for a kiss but is left hanging by Sally, played by Brianna Hill. Members Advantage In Story Top Story.
Mason City Globe Gazette
Thu, 26 Feb 2015 04:07:45 -0800

MASON CITY | Nearly 800 high school students in 14 show choirs will be participating in NIACC's first Border Bash show choir invitational on Saturday, Feb. 28. Performances start at 9 a.m. at North Iowa Area Community College and run throughout the day.

SW News Media

SW News Media
Fri, 27 Feb 2015 10:00:00 -0800

The International School of Minnesota's Show Choir will be performing its concert, "Don't Stop Me Now!," at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27 at the school's Performing Arts Center. Tickets cost $5. ISM is located at 6385 Beach Road in Eden Prairie. For more ...
Daily Republic
Mon, 23 Feb 2015 06:37:30 -0800

Friend de Coup, the Mitchell High School show choir, took home top honors as grand champions at the Aberdeen Central Center Stage Invitational over the weekend. Advertisement. Print. Midwest Tax Solutions. Call or stop in to Midwest Tax today for all ...

Lincoln Journal Star

Lincoln Journal Star
Sat, 07 Feb 2015 20:52:30 -0800

Crowded into a Lincoln Southwest High School classroom, members of the Lincoln East Express get some last-minute reminders from director Brett Epperson before heading off to the warmup room during the 2015 Lincoln Southwest Showdown Saturday.

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