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STAFF PHOTOS BY SUSAN USHER
DRUMMER RIC HIE DANFORD keeps the beat for Harmony. SHARING MUSIC during rehearsal arc (from left) Kenneth Emanuel, Melissa Robinson and Shane Pitt man.
Harmony, Sweet Harmony!
New West Brunswick Show Choir Makes More Than Music
BY SUSAN USHER
_ Irom 20 talented individuals West Brunswick High
r School chorus teacher Pattie Jordan has molded
"Harmony," a closeknit show choir that wowed
schoolmates in December with a Christmas act showcas
ing a smooth sound and precision moves.
They sing, they dance and they're good, especially for
a team created only this past September.
In an entertaining 20-minute package of solo and en
semble work, they performed approximately seven
songs, from lively interpretations of "Rudolph" and
"Baby, It's Cold Outside" to the sentimental "Merry
Buoyed by the success of their first public perfor
mances, Harmony's already hard at work on a spring
clown show that will find members donning black and
white clown costumes with colorful pom-poms down
They intend to have most if not all the routines pol
ished by early April, to take to their first state show
ciiou competition at Csrowinds.
Before their December performances at Bolivia
Elementary, Shallotte Middle and West Brunswick High
schools, ensemble members were a little nervous about
how they might be received, especially by their peers.
"We were terrified at first they would laugh at us."
said Tina Tripp. "But they were surprised. They were
impressed. What we had wanted to do was make them
smile, and we did it.
"It's a wonderful feeling when your peers come up to
you and say 'that was :? great solo' or 'How did you all
get that dance step down pat?" And Jordan says she's
been having students ask about being in show choir."
Tripp joined the group a little late because of a sched
uling situation and at first found the experience "a little
weird" because she had never been a part of anything
Now, she says, "I love it. We all get along like a fami
ly. We have good days and we have bad days. We kid
around a lot but we give our best to everything we do."
Jordan handpicked the 20 performers who together
make Harmony. They meet for five days a week in an
hour-long class the students say passes entirely too
quickly. They come from all four grades, and include
five seniors, three freshmen and mostly sophomores.
Two members have been Jordan's pick for all-state cho
rus two consecutive years.
"Grades, attitude, musical talent, personality?they
have to be pretty wonderful to make show choir.
'it's just another type of choir for them to be in," she
insists on one hand, while adding in a yes-it's-reallv-true
whisper, "and it's very motivational."
A surprisingly large number?three or four of the
boys?are athletes, like Jamal Stanley, who plays full
back and linebacker on the Trojan varsity football team
and forward on the basketball team, and Kwabena
Green, another Trojan linebacker.
Their strength and agility are added assets in the aero
IT'S A SHOW-STOPPER. On the front from left are partners Tina Tripp and Jamal Stanley and
Tonya Stewart and Jonathan Fisher. On the back from left are Gretchen Sturdivant and Ty Brown,
Heather Hilton and Kwabena Green.
PARTNERS LEAH SLOANE and Sam Chevalier work on a number that will be sung in English and
American Sign Language in the spring clown show.
batic moves that add occasional flash to Harmony's rou
tines. For one number, the close requires Heather Hilton.
Kwabena's partner, to be hoisted astride his shoulders.
But being in Harmony requires more than athleticism.
"Kwabena can sing and dance up a sloini," says
Jordan. s good!"
Playing ball and performing with the choir hasn't
been a problem because of what Jordan describes as
"wonderful cooperation" from coaches. "It ball practice
is scheduled the day the choir has a performance, the
players are excused from practice," she says.
Once chosen for the class students work as partners,
!0 couples matched by height alone They rehearse as an
ensernhle, and also as partners. They're accompanied by
Jordan on piano, Matthew McDonald on bass guitar and
Richie Danford on drums.
During class one day last week, students got to work
quickly. As Jordan listened with a keen ear for diction
and an understanding of the music, they ran through
songs for the ciown show.
The selections cover the gamut of emotions from
laughter to (mock) anger to tears and have dramatic pot
ential: "The Lord Loves A Laughin' Man," "(Anything
You Can Do) I Can Do Better," "Me and My Shadow,"
"Ease On Down The Road," "A Brand New Day," and
one number that students will sign in American Sign
l.anguage for the deaf. And, of course, "It's A New
World Coming," the theme song with which Harmony
closes every performance.
After their group work, Jordans sets the partners to
work on their own dramatic interpretations of "(Any
thing You Can Do) I Can Do Better," with the teasing
caution, "I want to see a minimum of abuse. No hitting
As a visit to class suggests, each show is the result of
a well-thought-out process of preparation and a vision.
Jordan's style isn't demanding so much as that her ex
pectations are consistently high. Students find them
selves working haul?and enjoying it.
"In a show choir the sound is No. 1, then the choreog
raphy," says Jordan.
That means students first memorize all the music
"frontward and backward," while working on facial ex
pression anu understanding. Only then do they locus or.
adding choreography then costumes and the all-impor
tant smiles of the stage performer.
For the team's second show, several students have
volunteered to try choreographing a few of the num
bers?the kind of initiative that Jordan takes quiet pride
While in her fourth year of teaching at Shallotte
Middle, this is only Jordan's second year at West
Brunswick Dividing her time between the two each d.tv.
she has two afternoon classes at the high school?show
choir and a larger, all-girl treble choir.
The veteran music teacher began her first show choir
in ll)72 at the same time she began a stateside teaching
career at the Fort Bragg base high school in Fayetteville.
"Iklore that ! was overseas in places like Ethiopia
where you weren't likely to have a show choir," she
Jordan took that show choir?the first she knew of in
North Carolina?to perform for the N.C. Music Educa
tors Association's annual convention not once, but
twice. It was a smashing success, and soon other show
choirs were popping up across the state.
It student response here is any indication, Jordan may
see that same kind of ripple effect in Brunswick and
nearby coastal counties.
"We get to sing and work together with people we
didn't know at the beginning of the year and we're get
ting closer as friends," says Jamal Stanley, who is
Tripp's partner. "It's fun because we all do it together
and make it sound good,"
Harmony is available to perform for local community
organizations for Christinav programs or other occa
sions. While the choir doesn't charge, Jordan says
"We'll gladly take donations." She can be reached
through the high school, 754-43JN.