Leo Boys Choir Kicked Off Bears Halftime Entertainment on January 2

The school that played football in front of 120,000 Chicago fans in 1937 took center stage at historic Soldier Field for live halftime show

By Bill Figel, Community Contributor,

The Leo Boys Choir regaled the Soldier Field halftime crowd Sunday with their rendition of the Blues classic “Sweet Home Chicago” during the Bears and Giants game. “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” was also featured in the Leo Boys Choir’s halftime performance Sunday during the Bears Game. 

Leo High School’s return engagement at Soldier Field speaks volumes as to how much the South Side school has evolved from its days as a gridiron powerhouse to a coveted choir group singing at halftime of the Bears contest against the New York Giants at noon.

Leo represented the Catholic League in the 1937 Prep Bowl against Austin that drew a crowd estimated at 120,000, still regarded as the largest crowd for an American football contest.

A commonplace fundraising engine, the Chicago Mayor’s Charity Game, also known as the Mayor Kelly Bowl, pitted the champion of the Chicago Catholic League against the champion of the Chicago Public League. Reportedly, everyone from politicians to firefighters were buying and selling tickets for the game.

The Chicago Tribune reported the game “raised $100,000 for the City’s Christmas Fund used to clothe needy kids.”

Hitting all the right notes will trump hitting the open receiver Sunday. Soldier Field’s halftime show was the setting for Leo Boys Choir, regarded for its versatility and harmony on and off the field.

“Presenting the arts expression of Leo to a broader audience is landmark for us,” said Leo Principal Shaka Rawls. “While sports has been our calling card for decades, academics, the arts, debate, chess and especially choir has opened doors for Leo and each Leo student heading into the world.”

Pandemic pressures have caused Leo choir to audible, adjusting its schedule to generally accommodate audience schedules. The challenged has not dampened the choir’s enthusiasm and the extensive practice has elevated their collective voice.

“When the young men perform as they did at the Four Seasons earlier in December, their spirits are lifted along with their audience,” said Choir Director Ms. LaDonna Hill. “Our young men have a resiliency that permeates beyond the choir. These life lessons dealing with adversity and still giving their best will serve them well in life.”

Leo was a repeat Prep Bowl champion in 1941-42, beating Tilden both years. In a 1956 Prep Bowl appearance the Lions enjoyed a satisfying 12-0 victory over neighborhood rival Calumet.

Leo’s most recent to visit to Soldier Field garnered a victory over Lane Tech of the Chicago Public on Friday, August 25, 2018 as part of the annual Kickoff Classic tripleheader marking the beginning of the Chicago-area high school football season. At the time it was and the Lions’ first Soldier Field appearance in 43 years, dating back to 1974 season, when a Bob Foster-coached Leo team dropped a 24-8 decision to Brother Rice in a Catholic League playoff semifinal.

The Catholic League joined the Illinois High School Association in 1974 and became eligible for IHSA-sanctioned state playoffs that robbed both the Catholic League playoffs and the Prep Bowl of much of their luster as CCL teams set their eyes on state championships. Mount Carmel, Loyola Academy and Providence Catholic have been particularly successful in that pursuit.

“What a great opportunity for our young men to perform, singing on a field where so much history has been made,” said Leo Coach Michael Holmes, a junior starter for the Lions at tight end and defensive end on the 1974 team. “We’ve been working hard to raise Leo’s profile, and being invited to sing at Soldier Field is an indication that those efforts are paying off.”