CARTHAGE, Mo. — This year is the 20th anniversary of Carthage High School hosting SoundFest – a show choir competition featuring junior and high school performers from across the four-state area.
CHS Choir Director Katie Crigger anticipates 28 high schools will be represented at the event slated Feb. 24-25 at the Carthage High School gymnasium. The first evening is designated for junior high show choirs, starting at 6 p.m., with Carthage’s exhibition at 7:40 p.m. On Saturday, Feb. 25, performances will begin at 8 a.m. and won’t stop till 11:30 p.m. Carthage’s all-female show choir, Suite Sounds, will perform at 1:15 p.m., and the co-ed group Soundwave will perform at 7:45 p.m.
“We typically will have upwards of 2,000 people in and out if the building over those two days,” Crigger said. “We expanded to the two-day event a few years ago with the increase of junior high groups in our area. This is our program’s largest fundraiser, and the community can help in numerous ways – One is, come watch!”
For $10, the community is invited to come enjoy hours of entertainment. Another way to support the CHS show choirs is to volunteer.
“It takes well over 200 volunteers to make this thing work,” Crigger said. “Or, we accept donations of food or funds for our kids. Any items we can get covered allows us to do more for our program.”
SoundFest showcases a lot of heart on the stage – but also behind the scenes. In her 13th year overseeing the program, Crigger is a CHS alumna who never stopped seeing the benefits of the performing arts. One of her former students, 2015 CHS All-State Honor Choir graduate Joshua Pruss, expressed the impact the program has had on his life.
“It was through CHS choir that I discovered a voice I didn’t know I had at the time,” Pruss said. “I can never be more grateful for that. It’s helped me embrace more about what makes me, as an artist, expressive. Music as a whole is a form of expression that transcends generations, and I learned that it was more than just looking pretty and sounding good. It’s an expression of the heart.”
Years of testimonies like Pruss’s – and shelves of awards to prove the hard work – continued to build a successful program for CHS. In 2015, SoundFest had to relocate from the Carthage R-9 Auditorium to the current high school gymnasium for seating and fire code regulations. But this gym setting has its setbacks.
“Right now, we host the event in the main gym, requiring upwards of $10,000 of equipment every year,” Crigger said. “We start setup two days before, which displaces the basketball teams for a few days as they go into districts, but we are thankful that they let us use the space.”
Carthage voters will decide in April to begin construction of a new Performing Arts Center, and Crigger says it’s definitely needed.
“No matter how much sound reinforcement you bring in, it’s still singing in a gym, which is really hard,” Crigger said. “A performing arts center would allow us to have this event in a space designed for it. We wouldn’t be relying on outside equipment every year and would not have to displace the basketball teams every year … We are incredibly thankful we can, but are looking forward to having an actual ‘home’ hopefully sooner than later. By early afternoon the gym is packed, and stays that way through the preliminary round. With the way we have to set up, we can only utilize about half the seats, but it’s overflowing. With a center, seating would be more accessible, the performances would be all-around better because you are in a space built for performing. SoundFest is one of the largest indoor events hosted by CHS. If you have never been, I encourage you to come and see for yourself what it’s about. You will see why a performing arts center is so needed by this community.”