Knightingales prepare for upcoming performances

Published 4:26 pm Thursday, January 3, 2019

MT LAUREL – After a holiday season that included performing at the Old Baker Farm Christmas Tree Lighting, the Mt Laurel Elementary School Knightingales show choir is preparing for a performance season that will include a trip to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, in March.

Music teacher Haley Houston grew up performing in choir and show choir, and started the Knightingales in 2013.

“It was such an important part of my childhood, high school and college, and I wanted to offer my students something they could be involved in and be proud of,” said Houston, a graduate of Chelsea High School and Samford University.

There were about 100 members of the Knightingales show choir the very first year, and now about 120 fourth and fifth graders participate.

“I took some time at the beginning of that first year and let them know what we were doing—that it would be relatable, current songs,” Houston said. “These kids had never had anything like this before, and they were so excited. It’s been huge for six years.”

The Knightingales performed at Old Baker Farm for the first time on Dec. 21, and a return trip to Dollywood is scheduled for March.

The group has also performed at Six Flags over Georgia, twice a year hosts shows at Metropolitan Church in Birmingham in front of standing room-only crowds, and regularly represents its school at local events.

While the MLES students have learned under Houston since kindergarten, the Knightingales group is their first experience with show choir.

“Discipline is No. 1 with my approach, and time management and structure,” Houston said about the task of keeping more than 100 elementary students focused. “We work on vocal technique, stage presence, performance, choreography, and of course, memorizing the lyrics.”

Parent participation and support and encouragement from the MLES administration are also crucial to the group’s success, Houston said.

Parents transport the students to performances and order costumes, among other responsibilities. Some trips, like the one to Dollywood, require the use of charter buses.

Students value being a part of the Knightingales, Houston said, as is evidenced by their willingness to practice Thursday mornings before school and even occasionally on Saturdays.

“They know it’s an honor to be a part of the group,” she said. “They’re awesome.”