St. Peter’s Show Choir wins national bronze medal
St. Peter's High School Show Choir captured the bronze medal in the Show Choir Canada Competition at the Sony Centre in Toronto. The team was also awarded a $3,000 prize to put towards the purchase of a piano. Hallelujah was added to You Can’t Hurry Love, Big City Swing and After the War after the judges said that the ’40s-themed performance ended on a dark note. “It was beautiful,” said teacher Bernie Leger, of the new ending with Hallelujah. “When we were done, the performers were crying, the judges were crying.” The 35-person strong show choir is part of a strong performing arts department at the school, led by Leger, who is a certified vocal music teacher.
Hallelujah was added to You Can’t Hurry Love, Big City Swing and After the War after the judges said that the ’40s-themed performance ended on a dark note. “It was beautiful,” said teacher Bernie Leger, of the new ending with Hallelujah. “When we were done, the performers were crying, the judges were crying.” The 35-person strong show choir is part of a strong performing arts department at the school, led by Leger, who is a certified vocal music teacher. It was the night before the finals for the Show Choir Canada competition, and the St. Peter’s group had to come up with one more song. They’d been awake since at least 5 a.m. when they left Orleans for Toronto, and teacher Bernie Leger set off with four students to scour downtown Toronto for a piano. They returned to the hotel 9:30 p.m. to teach the rest of the students the song that they’d perform the next day, Hallelujah. “We can spend months on one song,” said student Alex Panneton. “It’s not like on Glee where they do a song a day.”
Last year was the first year the show choir, then in their ninth year, entered the Show Choir Canada competition. It was also the first year the school ran a theatre and development course, created by Leger. The Grade 12 course was open to both Grade 11 and 12 students; next year Grade 11 and 12 students will also be able to take a musical theatre course. St. Peter’s has applied to run a high skills major in musical theatre, and both students and Leger said they are hopeful the program will be approved for the 2012-13 school year. The other two schools in the top three of the competition have even more than a high skills major already; both are audition-based performing arts schools from Toronto, the Etobicoke School of the Arts and Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts.
But St. Peter’s produces more musical numbers in a year, producing musicals through both the specialty arts courses, and the school’s musicals. Both Etobicoke and Wexford performed numbers they had learned this year for their school musicals. And it didn’t stop St. Peter’s from snapping up two top titles either – Grade 9 student Lindsay White won best female vocalist and Grade 12 student Jeremy Morganty won best male dancer. He’s been accepted to the musical theatre program at St. Lawrence College for September.
The strong performing arts program has lead many of the St. Peter’s students in the group to consider studying musical theatre and arts at a post-secondary level – “obsessively so,” Leger said. Moving up from last year’s fifth place finish was an accomplishment, and the $3,000 prize they won towards a piano definitely won’t hurt the group moving forward. It was a unique experience, performing on the stage at the Sony Centre, with no dress rehearsal prior to the first day of competition. Some would see travelling for hours as a disadvantage compared to the GTA-based schools, but St. Peter’s students saw the trip working in their favour. “We got to experience it all together,” said Grade 11 student Drew Plummer. “It gave us that sense of unity.
Photo: From left, Grade 11 students Tori Mitchell, Vanessa Campbell, Drew Plummer, Alex Panneton and Alex Bondesen recreate a scene from their performance of You Can’t Hurry Love. The St. Peter Catholic High School students, along with 30 of their classmates, placed third at the Show Choir Canada championship.