It seems to be a routine function of the generations to disparage the young. I don’t share this inclination, or at least I try to resist it.
One reason? Show choir.
Not just show choir. Soccer, too. And speech contest and cross-country, These are the agents of my personal observations of youth, the particular gifts of my three sons, extending to the passions of their acquaintances and friends — gymnastics, diving, football, marching band, robotics, science olympiad, water polo, volleyball and more. You cannot watch the determination, drive, sacrifice and joy inherent in such activities and not feel awe for the young men and women who embrace them. But it is show choir that occupies my thoughts today.
This is because of the news that Buffalo Grove High School has decided to disband its show choir, The Expressions, in order to concentrate on other musical formats. School officials no doubt have their reasons. I’m not here to criticize or analyze them. I just want to extol the virtues of show choir — and in the process perhaps also remind you of the virtues of so many other activities that touch our young to the core, getting but passing public acknowledgment.
Prospect High School’s “Mixed Company” was my introduction. Over the course of three years, our family saw dozens of performances that inspired us with their emotional depth and spiritual intensity, not to mention the unconstrained exhilaration of youth. And all this not just from Prospect students, but from those of Hersey, Wheeling, Fremd, Mundelein, Batavia, Naperville North and scores of other local high schools as well as those throughout Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin and beyond.
We marveled at complex choreography and at voices, male and female, that could stand out among the best professionals. I saw a young man at a competition in Indiana perform a version of “Gethsemane,” from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” so rich with angst, anger, defiance, suffering, fear and penance that I’m sure I’ll remember it as long as any professional portrayal I’ve ever seen. Performances of similar quality weren’t occasional highlights; they were routine delights.
That kind of energy, that kind of sincerity, doesn’t come from laziness or bad manners or any of the other failings “mature” adults have complained about in their descendants from the beginning of time. It comes from a purity that flows through all generations.
Alas, a daily newspaper can rarely depict this vividly and often must be satisfied with reasonable hints. A picture or two on an occasional inside page. A gallery of pictures online. Sometimes a brief recap of a competition. But the hints can be telling. Look carefully at the intensity and excitement on the faces of the young people you see in these pictures. They’re not published just to make their parents happy. They also remind us that amid all the frustrating ways new generations find to confound and challenge their elders, the most desirable and admirable impulses of humankind still run through the veins of the young.
The parents and students at BGHS have much to mourn with the loss of The Expressions. But at a school with a fine musical tradition, it is not unreasonable to expect that new directions will offer new opportunities for these impulses to entertain and inspire the community.
And you can be assured of this: If you want to see these talents and passions on display, you will not find a more moving display than at The Expressions’ final concert series May 11-13 at BGHS. You should go — or take the opportunity to see your own local high school’s spring musical, jazz concert or other performance before the summer break.
I’m sure it will disrupt your routine of questioning the values and commitments of the next generation.
Jim Slusher, [email protected], is a deputy managing editor at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jim.slusher1 and on Twitter at @JimSlusher.