MHS Pops Choir marks 50 years of gleeful performing

By Bethany Knipp

Manhattan High Schools Pops Choir turned 50 years old this year, and one of its original members — now a play and screen writer in California — was back in town.

Richard Broadhurst of Sacramento, Calif., was a senior in high school when the Pops Choir was created in the 1963-1964 academic year by director Larry Boye. 

“We weren’t much of a big deal. We were kind of an afterthought that first year,” Broadhurst said. The writer was in Manhattan last week helping high school thespians with their fundraising performance of his play “Barnyard” and a reading of another play of his, “’Til Death.”

“I don’t even remember that we auditioned,” Broadhurst said about the first Pops Choir. “It wasn’t as fancy as things are now.”

Chad Pape, the current Pops director, was a member himself in the 1990s. 

“It has evolved into a pretty hefty deal,” Pape said. “It’s fun to have a group that there is so much community investment in.”

Pape said when the group was created in 1963, show choir was a new concept.

“Just the idea that they didn’t wear tuxedos and did popular music is revolutionary,” Pape said.

Pape said his choir puts on the majority of Manhattan High School choir program’s 60 to 70 performances each year.

He said 16 students are selected every year after a rigorous audition process with between 150 and 200 competitors.

The students sing measures of music received ahead of time in front of a video camera, without any panel of judges in the room, Pape said.

The judges then listen to the audition videos with their backs turned away from the TV to base the audition solely on the quality of the student’s musicianship.

Once that process is through, the candidates go through a music-reading audition, and once picked, the choir works on songs, choreography and performances with one-hour practices every day after school.

They also have a week-long show choir camp in the summer, where the basics of the music are expected to be learned before attending the summer session. The music is mailed to group members during the summer.

“They’re expected to do everything if they make it into that group,” Pape said.

The new group of Pops Choir members, selected in April, will perform at Arts in the Park on Aug. 15, Pape said.

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