FORT WORTH - For the first time in over 30 years the Glen Rose High School Choir swept the sweepstakes at the Region 7 UIL Concert and Sight Reading Contest. The contest was held at Southwest High School in Fort Worth on April 13.
“It’s quite amazing. For me, I still feel kind of in shock about the whole thing,” said Samuel Teal, GRHS choir director, after his group snagged the school’s first sweepstakes title since 1984. “The kids, they’re just beyond ecstatic about the whole thing because they worked so hard. This is something that some of them have wanted for three or four years. It’s just great to know that they worked hard and they had the talent. Everybody is so talented in here, each individual.”
The contest is split into two parts- concert and sight-reading. For the concert portion the choir learned three songs to perform on stage for a panel of three judges.
In sight reading, different judges provide a piece of music the students have never seen or read before. They have six minutes of instruction time and then two chances to perform the piece.
“They look for blending between the sections, voices, vocal tone, vocal quality, note and rhythm accurate, musicianship, interpretation of the piece, there’s just a giant list of things that they go by,” Teal said. “Each judge for the concert portion gave us a 1 - which is the best you can do. Then we got a 1 from each judge in sight-reading. So this is like a true sweepstakes, straight ones across the board from all six judges. It’s a tremendous feat, this contest is just beyond difficult.”
Obviously, in the four years that Teal has been with GRHS the sweepstake title is a first - though they were close last year.
“In my four years this is the first time that we’ve made a sweepstakes,” an ecstatic Teal said. “We got close last year, we made 2’s on stage, which is great and that’s a good rating, but this year the kids really put it together. We had a lot of repeating choir members who are experienced and they came back and committed and they helped the new people get along too. The kids responded well to me as a teacher - which is a great feeling.
“This is the first one since 1984 that I know of,” Teal said. “There was like a 25-year gap where I don’t believe [GRHS] choir has gone to this contest because it is a very difficult contest. I started taking them my first year […] and each year we have gotten better.”
Having only 19 singers made Glen Rose one of the smallest schools that competed in the sweepstakes.
“We did it with only 19 singers, which is just phenomenal because we’re probably the the smallest choir that went there. Most of the choirs that go to this contest have a varsity choir - which is select members, a junior varsity and other choirs,” Teal said. “We’ve got one choir, no select or anything and it’s amazing that even our new students this year were able to catch on - that speaks to their talent.”
The victory may have seemed to come easily to the outstanding local group, but talent can only take so far and not without hard work.
“They worked hard and spent a lot of after-time practice in sectionals with me. Of course, [they had] lots of in-class practice and lots of sight-reading,” Teal said. “They’re smart, they’re sensitive to the poetry of music and reflecting that emotion during their performance.”
Adding to the occasion, the choir went to the competition and competed as varsity - as apposed to non-varsity like the previous years.
“In the years past we’ve always gone as non-varsity because we hadn’t been to contest in so long we could enter as non-varsity, Teal said. “This year I told them we’re going as varsity, we’re not leaving anything on the table. They busted through it and they rose above and beyond, and straight 1’s - every judge agreed there that they were a superior choir that day.
“The comment sheets [from the judges] are usually just filled up with comments and you can tell that some judges just kind of sat back and just enjoyed our performance,” Teal continued. “One of their comments was - because we had to go first, so there was nobody there to watch us - one of the judge’s comments was, ‘sorry that nobody was here to hear your fine performance today, this was truly amazing.’ That’s just awesome,”
“I did cry,” said 10th grader Karli Nobles. “I’ve been in choir for five years and it was just unbelievable.”
“It was pretty exciting and a lot of fun,” said 9th grader Ariel Easter.
“It was strange because I didn’t think it would actually happen,” 11th grader Freedom Hulsey said.
“It was an exhilarating and a great honor,” Joel Sims, an 11th grader, said.
“It was a really cool experience,” Hunter Smith, a 9th grader said. “It was really awesome to have this choir come so far.”
“The most memorable part was when we found out we got 1’s, everyone was so excited,” Dayne Grubb, a 12th grader, said.
Ashely Mena, a 9th grader, said the most memorable part of the experience for her was, “Whenever Mr. Teal made us sing at Steak ’N Shake after we found out we won.”
The choir isn’t done for this year quite yet. During the upcoming GRISD school board meeting Tuesday, April 26, the choir will be recognized and will sing a special piece for the community and board. On May 17, the choir’s annual Spring Concert will be held at GRHS where they will perform modern day pieces. Then finally, May 19-22 the choir will head to South Padre Island to compete at the University of Texas at Brownsville and will also find a little leisure time, as well.