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2023 Mens Choirs: Part Three

Mens choirs may get the most mileage out of any category of groups in show choir. They are often one of the ‘must-see’ shows of a competition, despite rarely making finals or being in serious contention to have one of the best shows of the day. They aren’t quite rare enough to be unicorns but are much less numerous than womens groups. This is the final of a three-part series that chronicles all mens choirs that competed in 2023. California has a particularly robust mens scene, and all choirs featured in this article are from the Golden State. Nearly every competition has a mens division, so all placements noted here are from specific mens divisions.

Cypress “Voltage Unlimited” – Cypress debuted a mens group in 2022 under the name Decanus, competing three times. Former Katella director Hollie Jones came in for 2023 and reverted all Cypress choir names back to its original electricity theme, with the mens choir christened as Voltage Unlimited. In 2023, the group scaled back to only one competition. Hart Encore had one of the deepest mens fields in the country this year, featuring four groups. Voltage Unlimited finished in last of those groups, losing to Diamond Bar, Los Alamitos and John Burroughs.

Diamond Bar “Radiant” – Diamond Bar has sporadic records of mens show choir groups going back to the mid-2000s, but nothing consistent in the 2010s. They joined the growing ranks of mens choirs who emerged after the pandemic, debuting Radiant at the John Burroughs Music Showcase in April 2022. Radiant expanded its schedule to two competitions this year and scored a pair of third-place finishes. The group placed behind Burroughs and Los Al at Hart and behind Hart and Helix at Burroughs.

Hart “Unleashed” – Hart was one of the stalwarts of the mens choir scene in the pre-pandemic years. Unleashed was on a roll, as it won two of its three appearances in 2019 and grabbed a split-caption victory in its only 2020 appearance before the world shut down. The group remained strong, winning at Anaheim Kennedy in 2022 and pairing that with a pair of second-place finishes. 2023 marked the fifth year of Sarah Anders directing the group, and it was a mixed year. Scaling back to two competitions, Unleashed started off a little shaky, registering a third at Burbank to start off the season. It then returned to its winning ways, sweeping the mens division at John Burroughs.

Helix “TBH” – Michelle Tolvo-Chan had been at Helix since 2016, directing the mixed choir HLX and the womens choir HD. While a few mens groups debuted immediately after the pandemic in 2022, Helix jumped in for the 2023 season. TBH debuted at Bonita Vista in February, easing into competition with no other groups in the mens division. From there, the group was second at Burroughs and third at Oceanside to cap off a very encouraging debut season.

John Burroughs “Men@Work” – Men@Work is the largest titan of the mens choir scene in California. Brendan Jennings took over the group in 2002 and he is still at the helm over 20 years later, although Dan Scoville has also served as head and/or assistant director of M@W for over a decade. Dominic Matas also got his start as a creative here. The group enjoyed a string of success before the pandemic, with its last loss coming in early 2017. In its one matchup with Los Al last season, Men@Work was second, but it rebounded true to form for the 2023 season. Competing at Burbank, Hart and Oceanside, Burroughs won all three, all over Xtreme.

Los Alamitos “Xtreme” – Right there with Burroughs, Los Al is another one of the long-tenured mens groups in California. Records of Xtreme date back to 2003, when they were competing against mens groups from Burroughs, Diamond Bar and El Rancho. Much like the big battle in the mixed division, Xtreme mixed it up with Men@Work and Burbank’s Sound Dogs for a number of years before the pandemic. Xtreme, now under the direction of David Moellenkamp, came out of the pandemic exceptionally well, winning all three of its competition appearances in 2022. Running the same competition schedule as Burroughs in 2023, Xtreme came away with a trio of second-place finishes.

McAuliffe Middle “Soul Men” – Soul Men came into existence for the 2015 season, and it did not lose any divisions during that season. Despite a pandemic that brought numbers down across show choir, this Los Alamitos feeder middle school maintained a mens group. In three competition appearances post-pandemic, it has finished second in each.

Oak Middle “ShowMen” – What would one middle school mens group be without another to compliment it? Perhaps the secret to Los Al’s success lies in the fact that two of its middle schools have mens groups. Oak was the original middle school mens choir, with records dating back to 2011. It competed in middle school mixed divisions until 2015, when McAuliffe joined the middle school mens ranks. In three mens division appearances in the past two years, Oak has gone undefeated.

That wraps up the series for this year – make sure to check the recommended articles for parts one and two!

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