A spectacular win

Neshaminy High School’s Select Choir performs alongside The Philly Pops as the winner of 101.1 MoreFM’s Christmas Choir Competition

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Exciting evening: As the grand prize winners of 101.1 MoreFM’s annual Christmas Choir Competition, the students of Neshaminy High School’s Select Choir performed “Text Me Merry Christmas” alongside The Philly Pops at the Kimmel Center. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

Last Wednesday evening, more than 2,000 people erupted in applause during A Philly Pops Christmas: Spectacular Sounds of the Season at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. Though the massive orchestra was certainly deserving of this praise, the standing ovation wasn’t for them. Rather, it was directed at the beaming group of students gathered onstage — Neshaminy High School’s Select Choir.

This talented group of students was the grand prize winner of local station 101.1 MoreFM’s annual Christmas Choir Competition. Though they were up against some tough rivals in the 9–12 grade division, including Council Rock High School South and Council Rock High School North, their catchy, relatable rendition of Straight No Chaser and Kristen Bell’s “Text Me Merry Christmas” earned them the most online votes.

As the top school, the Select Choir had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform its winning song alongside The Philly Pops at the Kimmel Center as part of the orchestra’s annual Christmas show. Dressed to the nines in sequin gowns and tuxedos, the students, who range from grades 10 through 12, were in perfect voice as they belted out lyrics that most millenials can relate to — “Just a word or two of a text from you will remind me you’re still there.”

After the performance, Jenn Ryan and Bill Tafrow, hosts of 101.1 MoreFM’s morning show, as well as the station’s mascot, Morey the Monkey, presented a trophy and check of $5,000 to choir director, Kristin Nichols. In addition to the cash prize and chance to perform onstage, the choir’s version of “Text Me Merry Christmas” will be played regularly on the station throughout the rest of the holiday season.

Well deserved: 101.1 MoreFM morning show hosts Jenn Ryan and Bill Tafrow, as well as mascot Morey the Monkey, presented director of Neshaminy High School’s Select Choir, Kristin Nichols, with a trophy and check for $5,000. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

Before the choir’s big performance, family, friends and early arrivers enjoyed its vocal stylings during a pre show held in the lobby. The students performed everything from the powerful Leonard Cohen track, “Hallelujah,” to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

They gave every song their all, singing in perfect harmony with proud smiles on their faces. Though it had been almost a week since the choir learned it was the winner of the competition, it was clear the shock and excitement hadn’t worn off in the slightest.

The news came early Friday morning on Dec. 8. At 7 a.m., Nichols and the entire choir were huddled in a classroom, 101.1 MoreFM blasting from a singular phone, as Ryan and Tafrow got ready to announce the winning school. A nanosecond after learning it was them, the students jumped up and screamed in unison. Some broke out in creative dance moves while others hugged and high-fived each other.

Soon after, radio host Jessie Jordan visited the school to chat with Nichols about the time, preparation and dedication it took to win the competition. Nichols said the decision to enter the contest was made in the beginning of September. Together, she and the students scoured through songs, trying to find one that would appeal to all generations of listeners. After hearing “Text Me Merry Christmas,” they knew it was the perfect choice. It was upbeat, funny and completely in line with 2017.

The Select Choir practiced every afternoon during fourth period, which each member agreed was their favorite part of the school day. When they weren’t rehearsing, the students were actively spreading the word to get people to vote for them.

“Once you make it in, if you’re that top nine, you need your community to be behind you,” Nichols said.

Not only did the Select Choir have the support of its Langhorne community, but listeners hailing as far as the Philippines voted as well.

101.1 MoreFM has been hosting its Christmas Choir Competition for more than a decade (when it was still B101), and each year, it continues to grow as local choirs raise the bar. For host Jordan, who had the pleasure of experiencing the student’s excitement firsthand that morning, the contest is all about highlighting talent, watching hard work pay off and, of course, spreading some holiday cheer.

“The morning I spent with Mrs. Nichols was electrifying,” she said. “I fell in love with each of those kids because of their passion for their group as a whole. They were all extra supportive of each other and very humble with their big win. I didn’t want to leave after our time there was done.”

Check out the choir’s reaction to its big win at www.morefmphilly.com/2017/12/08/neshaminy-high-school-select-choir-reacts-to-their-big-win/.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com