The show choirs must go online: Wheaton Warrenville South's Choral Classic goes virtual
Pandemic or not, Chris Miller decided the show must go on.
Show choir, that is.
When the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the end of Wheaton Warrenville South High School's show choir season, the school's prestigious Choral Classic slated for March 14 was called off. Disappointed but not deterred, Miller, the longtime choir director, shifted his thinking and took the event online to create what's being billed as the nation's first virtual show choir competition this weekend.
"There's no manual on how to do this because nothing like this has been done before," Miller said. "Everyone's working so hard because they want something positive, not just for the seniors but for everyone."
The Choral Classic was canceled just two days before it was scheduled to take place. Losing the highlight of the season wasn't easy for team members, but the virtual experience will provide some closure.
"It's going to be nice to experience show choir one more time," said senior Kyra De Castro. "It's nice to finish it off this way. I'm very excited about it."
Kyra's sister Camryn is a freshman in the program. While disappointed about missing her first Choral Classic, she's looking forward to this weekend.
"I was devastated when it was canceled because it was going to be my first year," Camryn said. "But it'll be interesting to see it all come together."
The virtual event will start at 10 a.m. Saturday through the Wheaton Warrenville South show choir YouTube page as Miller unveils performance videos submitted by the 16 participating schools. The performances will continue until about 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Choral Classic is regarded as one of the premier events of its kind in the nation. Traditionally attracting thousands of spectators, it also serves as the Wheaton Warrenville South show choir program's top fundraiser.
This weekend's virtual event will help plug the financial hole created by the cancellation. Viewers will vote for their favorite performances through a donation, creating two champions that will be announced at 7 p.m. Sunday. One champion will be the school with the most votes, and the other will be the school that raises the most money.
"We draw spectators from all over the country," Miller said. "We're looking at this as a way to bring the community together, but we also thought this would be a good way to fundraise."
Eleven high schools -- including schools from California, Ohio, Mississippi and Wisconsin -- and five middle schools will participate. Local competitors include Batavia, Naperville Central, Naperville North, Rolling Meadows and Wheaton North high schools.
"It's a great way for everyone to stay connected," said Rolling Meadows show choir Director Caitlyn Walsh.
"Our kids and our families now have a way to wrap up the season. We want to spread the hype about it."
Many of the participants have competed for years at the Choral Classic. It's a highlight of the season not only for Wheaton Warrenville South but also for the visiting programs.
"It's a high-level event," said Batavia show choir Director Melissa O'Neill. "We really love it there. The kids were disappointed it was canceled, but we're super excited to participate this weekend."