From the moment it debuted in 2009, Fox’s hit TV show, “Glee,” ushered in a show choir renaissance in America. Members of McKinley High School’s “New Directions” mystified audiences as they belted out medleys of all-time classics and today’s top hits in swirling performances, flanked by occasional enticing drama, of course. As Glee’s songs rushed to the top of iTunes charts, similar high school and college groups scurried to the music room in hopes of recreating the small screen spectacle.
What followed, dubbed “the Glee effect” by the American Association of Music Education, was a revival of all things a cappella, showcased by glittery costumes and catchy choreography, and performance groups began to dot campuses throughout the country.
Enter the University of Alabama’s show choir “Resonance,” one year after Glee’s premier. Throughout the six years since the student-produced and student-led show choir’s birth, director Gavin Dover said the group has definitely seen its mountains and valleys. Dover leads Resonance alongside President Morgan Mullen, building a show of nine songs each semester complete with choreography to perform both on campus and throughout the community.
“It’s like Glee on steroids,” Dover said.
Each September, Resonance selects 20 men and 20 women from every corner of campus. The eclectic mix of students studies everything from musical education to engineering, and it is this variety that sets Resonance apart from other collegiate show choirs. Armed with only a single advisor, students run the entire production process from start to finish, even supplying music from their own live band that performs alongside the group.
“Choreography is student-done, music is student-taught, bookkeeping; all of the things that come from running an organization are done by students,” Mullen said. “And we don’t get anything for doing it except for the joy of the job.”
Adding to Resonance’s already extensive repertoire, FAME National Show Choir Championship Series reached out to the group last fall in search of hosts for their Orlando competition. Email correspondence quickly escalated into a reality and after months of preparation and fundraising, Resonance travels to Orlando in April to guide visiting teams for the weekend, emcee the event, and perform a showcase at the end of the competition day.
“The fact that we’re completely student-led is what makes us unique, and going to FAME makes it extra impressive because it’s been completely done by students,” Mullen said.
For many of the group’s seniors, the Orlando trip stands as the closing number after a college career of dedication. Since they began, Resonance has multiplied its performances over the past three years, going from two shows a year to several appearances each semester. They sing the national anthem at sporting events, perform at local events like Druid City Arts Fest, and start collaborations with area high schools. They will perform with Tuscaloosa County and Central high schools on March 20, following their own spring cabaret show on March 14.
These performances fuel the group’s rush year after year, building from the process of picking the show to the moment the group takes the stage. Countless practices and long hours pouring over the choreography and arrangement escalate when the curtains swing back and their adrenaline overrides their senses.
“I love it when we finally get to perform. It’s always really stressful, but when that curtain opens, we just go,” Mullen said. “Typically something will mess up, but it doesn’t matter because were all having fun and everybody gets a chance to enjoy themselves. That makes it all worth it for me; that’s what brought me back every semester.”
Resonance’s Spring Revue will be held Friday, March 14 at 7:30 p.m. in Moody Music Building’s Recital Hall.