Ramageddon returns

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Posted: Friday, January 24, 2014 12:00 am

Saturday, dump the reality shows and sitcoms about singing and catch the real deal at Ralston High School's second installment of its show choir extravaganza.

Ramageddon is back. And despite a name connoting a one-time only, more or less apocalyptic affair, Saturday, Ralston High School will resurrect its show choir competition after a one-year hiatus. And from there, hopes are the competition will have many happy returns to the main stage at the Ralston Performing Arts Centre.

“The plan is to host it regularly and to do it for many years to come,” said Joanna McAleer, who is chairing the Ramageddon committee organizing the event. “A lot of people on the committee have younger kids who will be coming up, so there's a driving force to keep it going.”

This year's competition, running from 8:30 a.m. to 9:15 p.m., with all-day tickets running $10 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, will feature 18 groups and more than 700 performers from schools representing Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota.

Ryan Pivonka, director of vocal music at RHS, said creating the Ramageddon tradition is something that has been in process since the school underwent a major renovation in 2005 that brought about the 600-seat theater and larger space for the arts.

“We hosted the district music festival a few years ago and there were a number of directors who asked, 'When are you going to host a show choir event? Because your school is perfect,'” Pivonka said. “It was basically, 'If you host it, we will come.'”

And so, RHS began drawing up plans to host a major event to attract top show choirs from the local vicinity and throughout the region.

As to the end-times overtones of the competition's title, Pivonka said the moniker started as a placeholder for what planners hoped would be the size and scope of the event.

“I think I just said it as a joke when we first brought up the issue of a name,” he said. “It was 2012, the world was supposed to be ending soon. But the more I said it, the more it really started to stick and add a little fun to it. And so it became Ramageddon.”

At the 2012 event, RHS hosted 13 schools. The addition of five schools in this year's edition, Pivonka said, is encouraging and about optimal for the size of the competition.

“We really can't grow it too much more from what we'll have this year,” he said. “I think we said that 22 would be the absolute limit and that might be pushing it.”

The show is largely the responsibility of the members of Ralston's two show choir ensembles, the varsity group Rush and the all-female group Runway. The high schoolers run logistics, help in the concession stands, keep the competing teams on schedule and, perhaps most importantly, make the visitors feel welcome.

A long-standing show choir tradition is for the hosting choir to decorate rooms around their school for the visitors. In what becomes a long day for the visiting choirs, these rooms are meant to be a home base of operations where the singers stow gear, get into costume and relax before and after performances.

Those RHS singers who are given hosting duties are assigned a visiting school, given the director's contact information and are responsible for reaching out to gather any information on what the visitors might require.

“It's a way of giving the kids some ownership with the event,” McAleer said. “It's a pretty awesome thing to see the students doing a lot to make it a success. They get a great feeling out of the end of the day because they can say, 'Hey, this is our show. We did this.'”

After each group performs at Ramageddon, a final six will be chosen for the finals, with the crowning of a grand champion and five runners-up to be awarded, along with individual recognitions for best male and female performer and best choreography.

Westside High School won the first Ramageddon title in 2012 and will return this year to defend its crown. Other groups in the mix include choirs from Lincoln Southeast, Grand Island, Papillion-La Vista, Gretna and Omaha North.

In addition to the groups in competition, Rush and Runway will also perform in an exhibition capacity as the preliminary round results are tallied and the six choirs making the finals are determined.

McAleer said she hopes there's a full theater most of the day and that there's a rousing crowd ready for the last six performances.

“It's going to be a fun final,” she said. “With the groups involved, the competition will be fierce. Again, at night, with the last six, you're going to get a great show.”

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