(Media release from the Rome City Schools):

Already holding trophies for best vocals and best choreography, the students in Rome High’s Grand Finale show choir could hardly contain their enthusiasm as the MC at the Music City Show Choir Invitational announced the final two placings in the competition.

After a brief pause, the announcer read out the words the students and the program had been waiting to hear since the group’s inception five years ago.

“Your champion, from Rome, Georgia – Grand Finale.”

The words were met with an explosion of screams, clapping and jubilation as the students, director and parents realized the first place finish. A moment later, the MC also announced Grand Finale had won best show effect as well. The choir also won the People’s Choice award making a clean sweep of the three main categories to go along with the big championship trophy.

Grand Finale’s director LeAnna Iddings had an inkling the big trophy was about to come home to Rome after hearing her troupe grab the first two categories.

“Generally, if you win vocals you have a really good chance of winning first place. When they called out the second category (best choreography) I knew for sure that we had it,” a tired but elated Iddings said after Grand Finale returned to Rome in the early hours of Sunday morning. “I think the students around me knew that as well. They had that moment of the anticipation building up. They were going ‘Oh my gosh oh my gosh did we just win.’ That was super fun to be able to sit with them and experience that with them.”

To show observers, the possible win seemed inevitable as the group performed their show Light Up The World with verve and zeal to a large audience at Donelson Christian Academy, the host school for the event in Nashville, Tennessee.

But Iddings doesn’t usually get a good feel for how the performances go as she is behind the risers and the performers directing the band, with her back to the performers on stage.

“It’s always hard for me to tell because I’m directing the band so I’m back behind the risers and I never know what it looks like,” she said. “I could tell for most of the show that it felt really good back there for us, but it’s always impossible to tell.”

Grand Finale had spent the previous two weeks working hard to make adjustments and tweaks to the show after the group grabbed a fourth-place finish in their division out of 10 teams at the tough Albertville Diamond Classic Competition and not placing at the Jasper Foothills Classic competition two weeks ago.

“We worked on just a lot of things that the judges gave us specifically. We worked on continuing to clean and tighten things up and getting the vocals sounding better. We were working on blocking and really just the whole picture,” Iddings said. “We were told that we needed to work on our facial expressions and just overall the kids performing full out. We got in front of the mirrors this last week to make it all come together.”

And come together it did. The show earned high praise from the audience and the judges, and as the troupe gathered for pictures with a slew of trophies, former members of the group reached out to offer congratulations.

“I’m super proud of them. It has been a long time coming working on this show and having this organization on its fifth year and this being the very first time they won first place. So, it’s a really big deal for all of them and for all of the kids who were previously here the years before them,” Iddings said. “We’ve already seen on social media the interaction with the older kids and how happy and proud they are for us to get to this point.”

But just like after previous competitions, Iddings is already focused on the group’s next performances and finding ways to improve.

“I’ve already watched the video. Even though we’ve worked so hard on the show, every time I watch it there are always little things that happen that need to be fixed,” she said. “We will also listen to the judges’ tapes and work on those little things between now and Monday, March 7.”

March 7 marks a key date for both Grand Finale, the Rome High show choir, and Grand Illusion, the Rome Middle show choir, as they will both perform their shows at the Rome City Auditorium at 7 p.m.

The show allows people in Rome a chance to see both show choirs at the height of competition season.

Grand Illusion has already performed well at both the Albertville Diamond Classic and the Auburn Show Choir Showdown and heads to Tift County for the Peach State Invitational this weekend.

Grand Finale has a weekend off before traveling to Mississippi to perform in the Biloxi Gulf Classic on Saturday, March 12.

“We hope we have a great crowd to come out to the city auditorium. That will be our last show in Rome,” Iddings said. “We hope to have a big crowd there and then we go to our last competition in Biloxi. We’ll continue working on the feedback and choreography and overall performing the show better every time.”