Archive for Monday, March 22, 2010


Choir education: ‘Encore’ show melds choir, pop music at Free State

Natalie Sabillon and classmates rehearse “Lift You Up.”

Natalie Sabillon and classmates rehearse “Lift You Up.”

March 22, 2010


Wesley Tedlock, guitar, and Connor Klutman rehearse “A Horse with No Name.”

Wesley Tedlock, guitar, and Connor Klutman rehearse “A Horse with No Name.”

Past Event

  • When: Thursday, March 25, 2010, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Free State High School, 4700 Overland Drive, Lawrence
  • Cost: $7
  • More on this event....

You would think that those involved in a high school musical production, especially one devoted to choral arrangements of pop songs, would really like “Glee.” Seeing as how “Glee” is a popular television show about high school students who perform choral arrangements of pop songs, it seems a safe assumption. Nope.

In fact, don’t even mention “Glee” to Hilary Morton. Morton is the director of choirs at Free State High School and in the middle of directing “Encore,” the annual song-and-dance extravaganza of choir-meets-Top 40. She is, ironically, not a “gleek.”

When asked during a recent rehearsal in the Free State auditorium if she is a fan of the Fox hit, Morton turns to the dozens of students in the hall and bellows like a drill sergeant, “Do I like ‘Glee’?” Without missing a beat — they are musicians, after all — they briefly stop studying their music or practicing their steps and all respond in unison, “No.”

This dismissiveness more than likely stems from the fact that “Encore” and its Lawrence High School equivalent, “Showtime,” have been out-gleeing “Glee” for decades. For example, this year’s Encore has a cast of 148, features 35 songs covering everything from The Beatles to “Flight of the Conchords,” and is almost guaranteed to sell out all three nights of its run.

“What’s funny is that, both here and at Lawrence High, there’s no assigned seating. It’s general admission, so people start waiting outside the doors starting at 2,” says Morton of their rabid fanbase. “There are lines of people by the time I show up, and I’m here a couple of hours before the show starts. It’s nuts. We open the doors, and they just run in. It’s quite an ordeal, and I’m like, ‘Wow. For a high school choral production.’”

Mandy Dray rehearses “Bandstand Boogie” with classmates for Free State High School’s upcoming presentation of “Encore.”

Mandy Dray rehearses “Bandstand Boogie” with classmates for Free State High School’s upcoming presentation of “Encore.”

Yet in terms of scope, this year’s show will even give Bollywood a run for its rupees. “I’m performing ‘Jai Ho’ from ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ so that should be nice and different,” says Free State senior Ali Zaidi. “We’ve got an auxiliary percussionist who does all of the cool tabla drums. We’re really trying to make it as authentic as possible and trying to recreate the whole Bollywood setting with having a bunch of dancers.”

All of that opulence comes at a price, however, which is a grueling rehearsal schedule. “Encore” is only open to juniors and seniors in the choir program, most of whom already have a full dance card (no pun).

“It’s a huge time commitment, especially on weekends,” says Clare Frantz, Free State senior who’s performing in, among many other songs, “Black Bird” and “Somebody to Love.” “Social life is usually what goes. Sometimes grades slip that month.”

But those sacrifices transmute into triumph on opening night.

“It is exhausting, and it is tiring, and it is worth it every year,” Morton says. “It’s really worth it that week when we just get to sit and watch the show. You put on the lights and costumes and get the band behind them — they just grin from ear to ear. For a lot of them, it’s their most memorable experience from high school.”

Regardless of how a particular night goes, as they spill out into a throng of well-wishers in the commons area of Free State High after their final performance, the sense of pride and accomplishment these kids feel will remain long after. So “Glee” ain’t got nothing on Encore.

“It’s a sense of elation,” says Zaidi. “The whole community is here, and they’re all congratulating us. It’s just really special to be in the spotlight at this age and having so many people involved with it. I feel really great about it, and I’m sure I’m going to miss it later on.”


Paula Kissinger 8 years, 2 months ago

As an Encore parent the past 2 years I must say that given the short time allowed for group rehearsals the kids do a fabulous job of getting it together and putting on a wonderful, entertaining show. Most all choir members get involved. Sophomores and juniors, after seeing this year's performance, will immediately begin planning what they want to audition with for next year's Encore. It's contagious. Usually when students return from winter break they begin tossing ideas around with each other, select numbers and practice evenings and weekends in preparation for Encore auditions. There is a lot of time, effort and dedication given to this show.

Congratulations to Ms. Morton who is just the best at organizing and directing the performances and to the behind-the-scenes crew who are so essential to the smooth operation. It is no surprise that parents of students no longer in school, former students and the general public return year after year to see the performances. They are that good !

If you are planing to attend any of the 3 performances this week I would encourage you to try to get your tickets today as they are almost always sold out by performance time. It is definitely worth the money to see these kids do something so positive and uplifting. You will come away from the show feeling great.

Maxwell Butterfield 8 years, 2 months ago

People lining up at 2:00 for a 7:30 show? Yikes! I think I might be skipping the proformance this year. With it "gauaranteed to sell out", it doesn't seem they'll miss my $7.

And why exactly does Ms. Morton have a problem Glee? You would think a high-school choir teacher would enjoy an uplifting show about a high-school choir.

Kawatchi 8 years, 2 months ago

I would imagine she doesn't like Glee because it shows kids instantly performing songs at a high level, makes it appear that putting on performances like this is easy, and portrays the kids doing it as outcasts. None of this is true at Free State.

southernmiss 8 years, 2 months ago

I wish they had assigned seats, both at Encore and Showtime. The sight of tape across seats to save for people to show up at their own convenience makes me want to rip it down.

LJWREADERLD 8 years, 2 months ago

I know at Encore, the saved seats are not for people to "show up at their own convenience," but to allow the parents that donate their time to sell tickets and flowers to get seats. Ms. Morton is very kind in allowing them to save their seats ahead of time as they only get to walk in just as the show is starting.

Shawnsnap 8 years, 1 month ago

Oh please. When they reach the level of GLEE put out a press release and then we'll care. Until then we'll watch FOX for real talent.

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