Choir members of H. J. Cody School in Sylvan Lake practise the chorus of I Want to Know What Love Is for their concert with Foreigner on Friday night. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

They want to know what fame is: A Sylvan Lake choir performs with band Foreigner

H. J. Cody School chorus sings at Friday’s Centrium show

Sylvan Lake choir students will briefly live the rock-star dream after winning the chance to perform on stage with the band Foreigner.

H. J. Cody School beat out Red Deer’s Lindsay Thurber and Hunting Hills high schools in an online vote that decided which local school choir gets to accompany Foreigner on the hit song, I Want to Know What Love Is, at Friday’s concert at Red Deer’s Centrium.

Excited choir director Kerry Heisler, who also teaches band and guitar at H. J. Cody School, said word about the contest was spread through Facebook, and 10,000 votes were ultimately racked up for her students.

Since Sylvan Lake’s recently acclaimed mayor, Sean McIntyre, is a former school choir member, Heisler believes it wasn’t hard igniting the same community spirit that won Sylvan Lake the Kraft Hockeyville title a few years back.

“It was another case of the community coming together in a small town.”

The 25 senior choir students Heisler chose for the Foreigner gig (out of 58 members) are also thrilled with the opportunity to sing for an audience of thousands.

“I screamed at the top of my lungs when I found out,” said Grade 10 student Riley Bastarache.

Payton Williams, also in Grade 10, said she was also very excited, “because I’d spent at least five hours of my life voting.”

Grade-11 student Maliyah Gyori is eager to share the rock-star experience with friends, while her classmate Stephanie Vetter realized, “When I apply to college, I can now say I sang with Foreigner!”

Most of the teenagers didn’t know much about the British/U.S. band formed in New York City 40 years ago until Heisler taught them the group’s history. But Bastarache said he was already a Foreigner fan because “my grandpa used to listen to a lot of older type music, and I enjoyed a lot of it!”

The musicians in Foreigner have been inviting local school choirs up on stage for emotion-filled choruses of I Want to Know What Love Is, the band’s platinum-selling hit, for the past several tours.

Frontman Kelly Hansen said it’s a way of connecting with communities and giving something back — since each school choir gets an honorarium for the performance.

Heisler, a former arts administrator, said the most exciting thing about this opportunity is it demonstrates to students that it’s possible to make a living in the arts.

Groups that achieve global success are just the tip of the iceberg, added Heisler, who noted thousands of less famous people are also able to pay their mortgages and have families by doing what they love.

“I want (the students) to become conscious of how integral the arts is to our world. You think of movies, commercials, even the opening ceremony of the Olympics… If it didn’t have music it would be pretty short and not very entertaining,” she added, with a wry chuckle.

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