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Second in the nation: Riverside Company is first runner-up at nationals

Last year, Hastings High School's top show choir, Riverside Company, made its first appearance at the Show Choir Nationals and placed third. Last weekend, the choir returned to nationals, held at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tenn., and did even better. Judges ranked them the second best high school show choir in the nation.

Riverside Company qualified for nationals by earning grand champion awards at regional competitions. Grand champions from qualifying events were considered.

The HHS choir has been preparing for this performance for months, said director Lin Warren.

"We went into the season knowing we would be doing this, and consequently, developed a show we've been using as our competition show all year," he said.

Going into nationals, Warren's first goal was just to make it into the finals. After the preliminary round, the six teams with the best scores advance to finals. In the finals, judges throw out the point system and rank the choirs first through sixth.

Hastings competed in the preliminary round April 4. In the finals on April 6, Hastings' performance couldn't have gone any better.

"The finals performance was as flawless as they've ever done it," Warren said. "It was an amazing performance top to bottom."

Normally, he said, he watches the choir perform and comes away with a list of things they could have done better. This time, there was nothing.

"They put it all out on stage," he said.

Each of the five judges voted for the place they thought the choir should get. Hastings earned two first-place votes, two second-place votes and one third-place vote. The winning choir from Loveland, Ohio, earned three first-place votes and two second-place votes. The judge that placed Hastings third said that Riverside Company's sound was "too trained."

"To me, it's a compliment," Warren said.

There's a definite difference of sound between Midwest choirs and southern choirs, Warren said, and judging in the finals essentially comes down to the judge's personal stylistic preferences.

"And there's nothing wrong with that. The group that won was amazing," Warren said.

The students performed on one of the most famous stages in the nation: the Grand Ole Opry. It was overwhelming to think of how many stars have performed there, Warren said. The students were in awe, too, so Warren took them on stage early just so they could get used to performing there. It was a great opportunity for the students.

"The competition was an unbelievable experience, every moment of it," Warren said.