Fans celebrate as Eleventh Hour advances on ‘Sing-Off’

Eleventh Hour, Fairmont’s top a capella group, made its primetime debut on NBC’s “The Sing Off” Monday, Dec. 6. The seven Fairmont students and alumni matched voices against nine of America’s best vocal groups for several million viewers, but they got to watch the action among friends and family in the comfort of the school’s auditorium, where the school hosted a viewing party.

The Dec. 6 “Sing-Off” premier broke  six months of anticipation. The crowd in the auditorium bristled with excitement, growing fidgety watching the blank big-screen mounted between two sparkling wreathes. Here was the moment they had all been waiting for since Eleventh Hour announced its acceptance to the show last summer.

The now-seasoned performers filed out one by one: Anna Townsend taking the lead, Emily Gatlin (who had just finished a concert with the University of Dayton), Claire Keathley with a “rock-on” bull horn gesture in the air, Bobby Symes, Colton Jones, and Kurt Zimmerman, all wearing smiles and their favorite styles. Only one was missing: lead alto Kendall Young. But not for long. Fittingly larger than life, Young suddenly popped up on the big-screen via Skype to extend a “thank you” and “Merry Christmas” to the cheering crowd.

The teary-eyed mothers and antsy teenagers were more than ready to see the big moment. “It’s like the feeling you get at the top of a rollercoaster,” said Choral Director Brody McDonald. “Tonight’s the big plunge.”

The crowd raised a deafening roar when the show began and Eleventh Hour took the stage. All 10 groups came together to belt out Kiki Dee’s “I’ve Got the Music in Me” with Young front and center.  Then Eleventh Hour got down to business. They opened the competition portion of the show with Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” on which their survival in the first round rode. The judges’ comments were largely positive, with judge Nicole Scherzinger calling the kids “a real life Glee” and Ben Folds commending their rhythm, lead and supporting vocals.  

For junior tenor Colton Jones, seeing himself performing on television was a surreal experience. “It didn’t even look like me,” he said.

After the first five groups presented their talent to the judges, it was time to decide who would be the first to leave the show. The multitude of singers fidgeted and crossed their fingers as host Nick Lachey read off the ones who would stay for another round. “The first [group] with a guaranteed spot on our next show [is],” Lachey paused tortuously. “Eleventh Hour!”

Kettering Fairmont High School’s young stars have proven their mettle thus far, edging out Berklee College of Music’s singers, but how far they go on “The Sing-Off” is yet to be announced. The competition is tough: one of the oldest running a capella groups, vocal veterans from the sixties, and five other highly talented collegiate groups. Fans can tune in today at 8 p.m. and again on Dec. 13, 15 and 20 to follow Eleventh Hour’s adventure on “The Sing-Off.”