Voices save the world

Ashley Smith · Wednesday, January 18, 2017
West Liberty High School’s show choir, Voices Unlimited, traveled to their second competition of the 2017 season on Saturday, Jan. 14.

Performing at West Branch High School’s Saturday Night Jive, the group placed third-runner up in class 3A, and senior Elizabeth Pearson received the Star Performer award, said director Nathan Shivers.

Voices Unlimited (VU) also competed at Des Moines Christian on Saturday, Jan. 7, where the group placed 3rd in Class 3A and was selected to perform at Finals, a special evening competition for the top six groups ranked from the Daytime competition.

At finals, Voices Unlimited earned 4th runner-up, and senior Belinda Heckman received the Pure Star Performer award.

Shivers explained that the Opener for this year’s show is a combination of “Save the World” and “Don’t You Worry Child,” two songs recorded by the acapella superstars Pentatonix in 2014.

The second song of the show is an arrangement of Frank Sinatra’s swinging “I’ve Got The World on a String,” followed by the dark and somber ballad “Mad World,” originally by Gary Jules.

The show continues with the upbeat, percussion-driven “The World Is Ours,” the official song of the FIFA World Cup 2014. This year’s closer is “Light Up The World,” featured on the television series Glee in 2011.

The theme of this year’s show focuses on the turmoil of our world, said Shivers. “Back in the spring when my wife and I were developing the show, there was chaos in America with primaries and political ads,” he explained. “There has been a very divisive tone in America and across the world.”

“The show starts with the question of who’s going to save the world, but it also states not to worry because there is a plan for each of us,” said Shivers.

“The second song shows the arrogance that we develop with things go well in our lives, and the ballad is about the way people are hurting but continue moving on with life,” he said.

The closer builds to an energetic expression of hope, as the choir sings about throwing doubt away and taking control of the world around them with love and light.

“The show is a story as it moves from song to song,” said Shivers.

“Changing character can be very challenging for students. To start the show with intensity, move immediately to cheesy sophistication, then portray depression, and move finally to a party atmosphere … it’s a lot.”

Voices Unlimited has been hard at work since summer 2016 learning this season’s show, said Shivers. “VU learned choreography for two songs during the summer, and started rehearsals on Monday evenings at the beginning of September,” he said. “They also rehearse Wednesday and Friday mornings from 7:15 to 8 am.”

Their hard work is necessary to keep up with the climbing competition from other schools since West Liberty moved up from Class 2A to 3A in 2015, said Shivers. “The competition has become much more intense over the past few years,” he said.

“Show Choir is one of the biggest teams West Liberty has,” said Shivers. “There are 59 students putting on a production of intense dancing, acting, singing, playing instruments, changing costumes, and making sure all of our props are in the right place.”

“There is no one person who is unimportant, or who can ‘sit the bench,’” he said. “The students realize this after our first competition of each year.”

“There is just something special about the camaraderie, not only with our group, but also with other schools and friends that the kids make and see each year,” said Shivers.

Their hard work isn’t over yet, however. The ensemble will compete at Anamosa High School on Saturday, January 28, and travel to West Branch for IHSMA State Festival the following Monday.

On Saturday, Feb. 4, Voices Unlimited hosts their own festival at West Liberty High School, called Stars on Stage.

“13 groups will come compete for the opportunity to perform at Finals,” said Shivers. “The competition starts at 11 am, and Voices Unlimited will perform at 5:30 pm.”

The entire community is invited to attend Stars on Stage, said Shivers. “The students work very hard and they would love to see you for their show. This is an event they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

The last competition of the season will be at Marion High School on Saturday, February 25, said Shivers.

Students interested in joining Voices Unlimited in the future can look for announcements at West Liberty High School, Middle School and social media beginning in May, said Shivers.

“We typically hold auditions at the end of May,” he said.
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