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Rocking 'Renewal': Vocalmotive dinner shows return next week

Vocalmotive will be back in full dinner show fashion next week as the group takes the stage by singing storm.

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Pictured from left are Bemidji High School’s Abbie Fettig, Kenzie Steinmetz and Madi Rebischke rehearsing Vocalmotive’s “Renewal” on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, at the BHS Auditorium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Vocalmotive will be back in full dinner show fashion next week as the group takes the stage by singing storm.

Bemidji High Schools’ Vocalmotive show choir kicked off its 27th season at the Onalaska Show Choir Classic Competition in Wisconsin on Jan. 15 and walked away with a grand champion award along with honors for best band, best vocals and best choreography.

With seven other teams in their division, Vocalmotive earned first place in a qualifying round to make it to finals. The competition judges then unanimously ranked Vocalmotive’s final performance as the top-performing group of the day.

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Bemidji High School’s Noah Johnson and Abby Arel sing a duet in rehearsal for Vocalmotive’s “Renewal” on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, at the BHS Auditorium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

Perhaps as a result of only attending one competition last school year compared to its usual four, the group will continue on to compete their “Renewal” show at three competitions after a dinner show fundraiser — also featuring other BHS choral groups like La Voce Ballo — makes its full return Feb. 11-13.

These competitions will take place throughout February and March in Waconia, Hastings and the Twin Cities.

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“They start learning the music in the fall during morning rehearsals and by the end of October, they add in the choreography,” Vocalmotive director Christopher Fettig said. “We put it all together with the band throughout November and December to compete starting in January.”

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Bemidji High School’s Vocalmotive rehearses “Renewal” on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, at the BHS Auditorium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

The last two years

Following their Jan. 15 competition, the dinner show was originally scheduled for Jan. 21-23. Due to the week-long closure of the district resulting from staff shortages and illness starting Jan. 18, it was postponed to its current weekend showing.

A three-week delay seems preferable compared to how the group was affected beginning March 2020.

Though they were able to host their dinner show right before the coronavirus pandemic began, their 2019-2020 season was cut short not long after and hindered the ability to host their March fundraiser concert.

Looking for ways to recoup costs for choreographer fees, costumes, transportation and hotel rooms once operations picked up again, community help was needed.

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Bemidji High School’s Eli Berg sings the opening solo in rehearsal for Vocalmotive’s “Renewal” on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, at the BHS Auditorium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

Christopher’s wife, Tiffany, who serves on the dinner show committee, created a GoFundMe fundraiser in March 2021 that raised $1,690.

This helped make up for lost donations with the 2021 dinner show having a 250 ticket limit for in-person attendees with a Facebook viewing available for virtual guests.

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“We essentially had a dinner show without the dinner,” Christopher said. “A limited number of people could come to the auditorium and we still did pretty well with everyone who was able to donate and help out.”

Costs were kept down with the group using costumes from previous shows, though this wasn’t intended to be a long-term solution.

“It’s been a bit of a drought since the fall-out of fundraising activities,” Christopher added. “It’s really needed this year to get our budget back.”

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Bemidji High School’s Helen Bartlett sings a solo in rehearsal for Vocalmotive’s “Renewal” on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, at the BHS Auditorium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

Back in the full swing of things, Christopher and Tiffany are grateful for the individual donations and business support that have come especially since the pandemic’s onset.

“The community has really stepped up for us,” Tiffany said. “(For this year), we were able to streamline food donations from Lueken’s Village Foods, Minnesota Nice and Raphael’s Bakery. We have six or seven businesses donating this year (for the dinner show).”

A vision of renewal

Realizing the vision of a full return of show choir activities, Christopher discovered that “Renewal” would be an appropriate show theme for this year.

“Coming out of this COVID thing, there are a lot of references in the show that refer to water and the idea of cleansing your spirit, cleansing your mind and moving forward,” Christopher said.

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Bemidji High School’s Mikah Cerven performs a solo in rehearsal for Vocalmotive’s “Renewal” on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, at the BHS Auditorium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

The 43 on-stage performers, 12 band members and six stage crew will facilitate this renewal through such songs as “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” by Coldplay, “Red Desert” by Five Seconds of Summer and “New Day” by Danny Gokey among others.

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Though student participation has decreased a bit from previous years as a result of fewer opportunities and graduated senior members, the students and Fettigs alike are excited for their return to the stage.

“There were a lot of kids on the fence about participating coming out of last year, but they’re so excited and that’s why it was so nice to see them have success at (the Onalaska competition),” Christopher said.

Christopher described himself in a similar way saying, “I didn’t know how we’d come through (last year). I didn’t know what kind of show we would have, but things just kind of came together.”

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Bemidji High School’s Vocalmotive rehearses “Renewal” on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, at the BHS Auditorium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

Traditionally held in the commons, this year’s event will start with the dinner in the commons area then move to the auditorium for the show choir portion of the night, aiming to give attendees a better view of the performers and space attendees further apart.

“Attendees at the premium table in the commons will be excused first to find their seat in the auditorium,” Tiffany said. “It’s our way to mix things up again for a little added twist.”

With smaller groups and solo acts performing while guests tend to their lasagna dinner, Christopher hopes for the best possible turn-out.

“It would be kind of neat to sell out of tickets and get some funds back,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s a really great show.”

Showtimes include 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 11; 1 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12; and 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 13.

Tickets are available by calling (218) 766-3510 .

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Bemidji High School’s Camden Bunker plays the saxophone in rehearsal for Vocalmotive’s “Renewal” on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022, at the BHS Auditorium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

Daltyn Lofstrom is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer focusing on education and community stories.
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