So I watched Glee for the first time the other night. Afterwards I was informed by people who'd know that it wasn't the best episode and probably not a good one to start with. I imagine they're right. But still - and with all apologies to my "Gleek" friends out there - I'm just not feeling it. That's okay, though, because you thought I was nuts for getting into Battlestar Galactica, didn't you? So we're even.
I imagine that a big part of my ambivalence has to do with the fact that I was actually in our school's Glee club. And in the same way that football players couldn't get into Friday Night Lights or I never found much reason to read the At Home in Mitford series (about a small-town pastor), it's hard to get excited about a fictional situation that bears a striking resemblance to your real life. You're already "living it," you see, so what's the point?
We actually called ours a "show choir," which I think sounds better than "glee club." Think of it as a solid choral ensemble meeting Dancing With The Stars. We worked equally hard to perfect our four-part vocal arrangements as we did the dancing/choreography. Trust me, it's a lot harder than it sounds. And it was a big deal in our school, with around 200 kids in three or four ensembles. "Carolina Spirit" was the top group and involved a significant time commitment. It was also a pretty well-traveled group. I'm not talking about the annual appearance at the local mall, either. Every year we participated in a regional event in Harrisonburg, VA. There was also a trip to Pasadena, CA my junior year (including a performance at Disneyland), and another one to Chicago my senior year - both national competitions, both in which we placed in the top three.
All of which looked nothing like what folks see Wednesday nights on Fox. There was weight training involved - important when the guys were lifting girls in the air and swinging them around (they tend to prefer that you not drop them). I already mentioned the hours and hours of rehearsals - not just with vocals but with choreography, down to standing in front of a huge mirror to make sure that thirty-some people have their movements perfectly synched. And unlike the current TV show (at least the little I've seen of it), there was actually harmony with the jocks, and we had some members of the gridiron in our fold. So there were no purple slushies.
Here, see for yourself - a video of Carolina Spirit doing their thing a few years after my time (okay, more than a few :)
(note: if you're subscribing to this blog via email the video may not show up - so check it out here).
I realize open talk about this sort of thing typically invites some level of ridicule, especially toward the guys. Go ahead if you must - it's nothing I haven't heard before. Chuckle at the sequins and stage makeup, at the dancing and the white shoes. To which I say a heartfelt, "Whatever." The fact is that I wouldn't trade this time in my life for anything. I made some of the best friends in my life, many of whom I keep in touch with to this day. Thanks to this experience the stage is a second home to me rather than a source of anxiety - something that comes in handy doing the music thing these days. I'm quite at ease in front of groups, which means I'm pretty comfortable behind the pulpit on Sunday mornings (but sorry FPCMA folks - no jazz hands). And the vocal techniques I acquired in all those years of training have proved invaluable in keeping my singing voice going strong.
So watch "Glee" if that's your thing - I may tune in from time to time. But forgive me if I don't jump on the bandwagon. The real thing is a whole lot better.
PS - I know there are a lot of show choir folks out there, including some "Carolina Spirit alum," and I'd love for you to share your stories in the blog comments below. What are some of your memories? How has your show choir experience translated to things you do in your adult life? Let's hear 'em!