February 26, 2024 // Diocese

Bishop Luers to Host 50th Annual Show Choir Invitational

On February 22, 1975, the first show choir invitational in the United States was hosted by Bishop Luers High School. This year, the school of 528 students on the south side of Fort Wayne, will host the 50th edition of the annual competition as 25 choirs will perform in the Bishop Luers gymnasium on Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2.

The invitational was the idea of Father Fred Link, show choir director at Bishop Luers High Shool.

Franciscan Father Fred Link formed and directed the Bishop Luers swing choir in 1974, originally called the Minstrels of the Knight, which was shortened to simply “the Minstrels.” The following year, Father Link decided to plan and host a swing choir competition, inviting schools from the surrounding area. The premise of beginning a swing choir invitational was that the experience would allow choirs to improve by receiving feedback from judges. Less than two months later, judges had been contacted, rules were established, trophies procured, and invitations extended. The first Bishop Luers Swing Choir Invitational consisted of seven choirs invited to perform in the tarp-covered gymnasium, and the 26th Street Singers from Marion High School were named the first ever grand champions! At the second Invitational in 1976, more choirs attended, a stage was built, and WBGU-TV from Bowling Green, Ohio, taped the show for later broadcasts. The 26th Street Singers took home the grand champion title for the second time. Father Link acted as the Contest Director and continued in this role until 1984.

Photos provided by Bishop Luers High School
The original, hand-painted sign for the First Annual Bishop Luers Swing Choir Invitational still hangs in the building.

Here are some notable milestones during the past 50 years. In 1979, the concept of Olympic scoring (the highest and lowest scores disregarded) was introduced. PBS News broadcast WBGU-TV’s tape of the show choir invitational in 1980 to all 50 states. In 1994, a raging snowstorm didn’t stop the 20th Annual Invitational! Bishop Luers High School was the first school in Indiana to add the Outstanding Performer Award in 2001. In 2003, a record number (at the time) of show choirs performed, 18 in total. Findlay “First Edition” won grand champion for the eighth time at the Luers Invitational in 2010 – a feat that is still the record. The invitational expanded in 2011 to include a “Friday Knight” Middle School Competition.

WBGU-TV from Bowling Green, Ohio, taped the program for later broadcasts.

This is the seventh year current Bishop Luers Show Choir Director Kris Andorfer will be leading the invitational. Andorfer is a Bishop Luers alum from the Class of 2010. When asked his thoughts on this being the 50th invitational, Andorfer said, “It’s crazy. It’s hard to explain how unique that is. When I was in school, there were only about 100 (show choir) competitions, now 15 years later, there are around 400 competitions. It’s an honor to be at the helm. I’m glad I’m here as an alum to guide it, but there are a lot of other alumni helping as well. … This event has come a long way. It couldn’t be what it is now, of course, without the hard work and setting the stages, literally, 50 years ago. A lot of things have changed.”

Judges now use iPads as tools for collecting scores instead of pencil and paper scoring. They will use Carmen Scoring, a web-based scoring system that is used by the judges to input scores and to tabulate the results from the ballots. The orientation of the stage has changed. Tony Schaab (Bishop Luers Class of 1996) is the current Master of Ceremonies, following Larry Bowers, who served as Master of Ceremonies for 39 years.

Bishop Luers Minstrels in 2024.

“I think people that come, that have been in the past, I think they will be shocked how grand it is, how really classy we make our gymnasium look,” Andorfer said.

Current Bishop Luers Performing Arts Department Chair Karlene Krouse served as Show Choir Director for 19 years prior to Andorfer. Krouse appreciates the learning experience provided by the invitational. “Even though this is a competitive competition, the concept that was established is that it is an educational opportunity for students to learn, and improve, and perform with professional judges,” she said.

As this event is a big milestone, Andorfer said “I would like to invite all alumni to come back and join us for the show!” Alumni are also invited to volunteer. Organizers encouraged those who would like to attend to visit the school’s website, bishopluers.org, for ticket information. Contact Kris Andorfer with any questions at 260-456-1261 ext. 3122 or [email protected]. To donate, visit bishopluers.org/page/show-choir.

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