It's country time at Pisgah

By Stina Sieg | Mar 25, 2012
Photo by: Stina Sieg

CANTON — Hold onto your hats, folks. A stampede of singing cowboys (and girls) is coming your way.


It’s the tail end of March, which means the grass is green, the weather is mild, and Pisgah High School’s country music show is right around the corner. Dubbed “Backroads and Fishin’ Holes” this time around, the program of Western song and dance will be full of group numbers and a few twangy, solo tunes. Running at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and featuring all 104 Pisgah chorus students, it promises to be a big, countrified deal. It always is.


And always has been, according to chorus teacher Kendra Medford. Ever since it began about a quarter century ago, the show has been a hit, and Medford’s not surprised. She explained that locals love these songs, pure and simple.


“I think country music, it relates more to real life than rock ‘n’ roll and pop and stuff, especially life around here,” she said.


Her students enjoy four wheeling and horseback riding and hunting, all championed in country ditties. By speaking their language, this music has a way of bringing these teens together, which is a big part of the show. As much as it’s a vehicle for country music, this production is a time for teambuilding and cooperation. It forces her students to forget their high school cliques and castes, as they create something bigger than themselves.


“They feel like it’s something they did as a group,” she said. “They have worked and planned and collaborated to make that happen, so that’s important to them.”


Medford helps this sense cooperation along every year by focusing the heart of the show on big group numbers. Though solos are always included, most are wrapped into the group tunes, which means throngs of students are almost always on stage. Medford likes to see that — and knows proud parents and grandparents do, too.


This sense of togetherness isn’t lost on the teens, many of whom made it clear that performing in a big group is just better than doing it alone. In the words of Makayla Tipton, a junior getting ready for her first country show, songs are “always a lot more fun with a lot of people on stage dancing.”


Emily Hall, a senior heading into her second county show, agreed, explaining that these upbeat group numbers are part of what makes the show so popular.


“It’s just a good mixture of fun and singing and dancing — and country,” she said. “And around here, that’s what people look for.”


This down-home combination even gets to Terence Coleman, a senior who admits he doesn’t really understand the country music scene, even though he’s been around it all his life. For him, a country show first-timer, the genre of the thing has nothing to do with his excitement. He’s ready to dance and he’s ready to sing, and he’s ready to do it all in front of a big crowd. He sees the show’s cowboy flavor as just a small part of the big picture.


“It’s really country out here,” he said, explaining he can get into it when needed.


For most of the students (and probably the audience), the Western thing comes a little more naturally. To Noah Henson, a senior who was also in last year’s show, these performances aren’t a stretch at all, as he already knows all the songs “real good,” he said. He bets most in his upcoming audiences will, as well. Though the chorus does other performances throughout the year, he knows this one is special.


“Just about everybody listens to country music or has some roots in country music, so they can relate to this show the best of them,” he said.


Though it might seem the show’s popularity and big crowds would make Henson nervous, he stressed that it actually has the reverse effect. With all those years of tradition egging him on, he’s able to simply have a good time once he steps on stage.


“My favorite thing is just letting go and having fun and just making it enjoyable for the audience,” he said.


Those kind of words would make any director proud. Medford’s clearly impressed by her students’ ability to not only work hard on this show, but to make it light, funny and memorable. Though she admits she’s always a bit tense and nervous for the young singers in the days leading up to the show, once they finally take the stage, she’s always able to relax. She gives over to the moment, knowing she can trust them to do their very best, just as they have for decades.


So, what’s her favorite part of the show?


“When they’re out there, and they’re having a really good time and having fun at it,” she replied, as she got a little chocked up. “And I don’t know why that’s making me teary eyed, but that is.”


This week, as Pisgah’s auditorium swells with generations of family and friends, Medford surely won’t be the only one searching for a tissue.


“Backroads and Fishin’ Holes,” which will include a slideshow of senior chorus members every night, will be at Pisgah’s auditorium, 1 Black Bear Dr., in Canton. Saturday will be “seniors night,” with those upperclassmen given special recognition. Each night will also feature a band made up of Pisgah alumni — Ryan Ammons, Shannon Clark, Stephen Nanney and Cody Clark. For more information and tickets, call 646-3440.