Holmen High School’s show choir program has had a competition season to remember this year, and to put an exclamation point on it, Holmen will host its annual Gathering of the Stars competition on Saturday.

After two solid months of competitions, people who go to Gathering of the Stars will see show choirs hitting their peaks, their shows honed and fine-tuned after lots of input from judges. While Holmen’s Midwest Express won’t be part of the competition, it will perform in exhibition, coming off last weekend’s grand championship performance in Marion, Iowa.

In addition to taking home the grand championship trophy, Midwest Express also won awards for best vocals and choreography. And for the first time in 15 years, Holmen made the finals in every competition it entered this year (there were six in all).

Holmen’s win at Marion is being talked about as the biggest upset of the show choir season, according to Holmen’s choral director Troy Larson.

“It was the biggest shock of my life,” he said.

After the preliminary performances, Midwest Express was ranked third, behind favored Cedar Rapids Washington. But between the first performance and evening finals, Holmen put in a lot of work.

“Our choreographer was our critique guy,” Larson said. “He gave us a list of about 10 things to change.

I’ll be darned if the kids didn’t pull them all off, including adding an a capella section to our ballad. It was remarkable.”

The 10 mixed-division show choirs to compete Saturday at Holmen include Onalaska High School’s Hilltoppers, which also has been having a stellar season. Last weekend, the Hilltoppers placed second in a competition at Brodhead, winning honors for best vocals and band. And Abby Saner won the award for best female soloist.

In addition to the Hilltoppers, the mixed division field includes choirs from La Crosse Logan, Sauk Prairie, Altoona, Eau Claire North and Memorial, Monona Grove and De Pere in Wisconsin, South St. Paul in Minnesota and Valley High in Iowa.

Eight more choirs will compete, four each in the women’s and prep divisions. Onalaska High School’s Express and the eighth-grade show choir from Onalaska Middle School, Top o’ the Middle, will both compete in the prep division.

Performances get started at 8:30 a.m., with prep and women’s division choirs hitting the stage in the morning and mixed division choirs starting at 12:30 p.m. The top six choirs will move on to the finals, with performances starting at 7 p.m.

In addition to Midwest Express, the day also will feature exhibition performances by the all-female HHS show choir, Midwest Magic, and a Holmen Middle School show choir called Midwest Connection.

Admission to Gathering of the Stars is $10 for the day or evening session or $15 for both.

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Entertainment and county government reporter

Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or randy.erickson@lee.net.

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