Break the chains

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, January 24, 2018
The Comet show choir, Voices Unlimited, is at it again. The 2018 competition season is in full swing at West Liberty High School.

“It is a show that is meant to encourage everyone,” says Director Nathan Shivers. “There is no title, but it demonstrates the struggle that everyone deals with.”

This year’s production includes 35 singers and dancers on stage, 16 students backing it all up in show band and five crew members.

In fact, this is the first year that Ashley Smith, high school band director, has taken charge of the show band. The band is made up entirely of students.

“She has an incredible ear for exactly what needs to happen,” says Shivers.

“Our band is made up entirely of students,” he adds. “Some groups use adults, but we are fortunate to have such a great band program, we don't need to use adults!”

West Liberty performed at West Branch’s Saturday Night Jive show choir competition last Saturday, Jan. 12, their second competition of the season.

Due to a tie breaker the Comets came in fourth for Class 3A during the daytime performance.

However, West Liberty got the call back to perform in the evening where they beat the group that tied them during the daytime finals.

Ultimately, Voices Unlimited finished as the third runner up in finals. Meanwhile they earned a caption award for the Best Special Effects for the song ‘In Chains.’

The main reason: Choreographer Jordan Webster-Moore decided to actually use chains in West Liberty’s show and the judges loved it.

“The kids have really brought a great intensity to the show that has brought it to life over the past couple weeks,” says Director Shivers.

This year’s show is composed of four songs. It begins with ‘Facade’, from Jekyll and Hyde, which talks about the fake images we put forward to convince others that our life is together.

The second, ‘In Chains’ by Shaman's Harvest, is about being caught up in addiction and trying to get free from it all.

This all leads to the ballad, entitled ‘You Will Be Found’ from the popular Broadway show called Dear Evan Hanson. According to Director Shivers its hopeful lyrics discuss being found when you feel alone.

Finally, Voices Unlimited’s 2018 show is closed out by Owl City’s ‘Live It Up,’ which encourages everyone to enjoy life and live it fully.

“I chose these songs because they are a little different than the shows we have done the past couple years,” says Director Shivers.

“I always want our kids to be able to relate to the show,” he adds. “So, if they have a story line they can make into their own, it becomes more personal and they can get into the expressiveness of the show and portray that story to the audience.”

It takes a lot of work to pull off a full production like this year’s show. Auditions began in Spring of last year.

The summer was spent looking through songs, finding choreographers and lining up competitions. Then during the season are rehearsals, costumes, make up and hair.

Show choir is just as involved, if not more, than any other extracurricular activity available at West Liberty High School. Plus, right now it’s really caught on with students.

“I think the students enjoy being a part of something that is bigger than themselves,” says Shivers. “I’m not sure if they know why they enjoy it so much, but I think there is a bond after working so hard for so many hours that can't be duplicated anywhere else.”

What makes show choir special is that every student is in every performance. There’s no sitting on the bench, or top performers receiving more play time.

“That aspect is both challenging and rewarding,” says Director Shivers.

“It's challenging because not everyone shows the same amount of dedication, but it is rewarding because at the end they see their hard work pay off,” he adds.

And with show choir season comes Stars on Stage, West Liberty’s biggest annual fine arts fundraiser and daylong show choir competition.

Slated for Saturday, Feb. 3, this year should be bigger than ever before. There will be 18 performing ensembles coming from all over the state and beyond.

That includes three groups from Wisconsin (Parkview, Colby and Logan La Crosse), a group from Omaha, Neb. while the rest are from Iowa.

If anyone would like to volunteer, go to the West Liberty Fine Arts Boosters Facebook group or contact Nathan Shivers or Ashley Smith at or
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