Last Friday night, during Foreigner's hit-laden performance at the Verizon Theatre, 26 members of the Arlington Heights High School Treble Choir joined the band for a version of the soft rock staple, "I Want to Know What Love Is."
Foreigner has done this song with local choirs for years, and this year for the band's 2017 tour, radio station KLUV held a contest with local schools. Without much time to prepare, Arlington Heights' choir quickly recorded and submitted a video.
Hans Grim, choir director at the Fort Worth school, heard about the contest via email on Thursday, Jan. 19. After checking out videos that had been submitted in other cities, he quickly wrote a three-part arrangement. The choir rehearsed and filmed their video submission the following day, which Grim edited over the weekend so they could make the Sunday, Jan. 22., deadline.
"It's been kind of a whirlwind," Grim says enthusiastically on the Monday after the show. "It's been basically two weeks, start to finish."
With a new semester starting, 13 new students to the program and a University Interscholastic League (UIL) contest in April to prepare for, it was good fortune that the contest came at a time the choir was able to work on it. "It was good timing," Grim says. "It worked out."
However, UIL solo and ensemble pieces did have to take a back seat temporarily. "It did take over," Grim says. "That's about all we've done for about two weeks."
The 33-year-old song was familiar to the students, even if they didn't know much about the band that also wrote "Cold as Ice" and "Say You Will." Grim was happy to see how quickly his students responded to it. "I was kind of surprised by that," he says. "They didn't have the band name recognition, but they listen to a whole bunch of different genres these days. And I think that's really, really great."
KLUV was a key factor in familiarizing the students with the song. The former "Oldies Radio" format, now Classic Hits format, inherited what KVIL used to play a number of years ago. "The kids are kind of a slave to what their parents are listening to," Grim says. "KLUV turns out to be pretty popular with the parents of my students."
Coincidentally, on Friday night another Fort Worth ISD choir, Carter Riverside, also got some time in the spotlight during Eric Church's show at American Airlines Center. The other finalists for Foreigner's local competition were from Grand Prairie Fine Arts Academy and Poteet High School, and Grim says he was amazed by their submissions.
"We gathered optimistically and really spread the word throughout the district and social media to get out and vote," Grim says. "I guess it worked. That morning, when we were listening for the results, they said 'Arlington Heights' at the end of that dramatic drumroll and there was solid screaming, so I have no idea what they said after that. The girls lost their minds for a good hour."
When the night of the show rolled around, there was not much time to spend with the band. There are a total of 45 students in the choir, but there was only enough room for 26 on the stage. The band's stage manager was very gracious to the reduced-sized choir, showing where they would stand and come into the song.
Without their director conducting them, the group had to follow the cues of the band. It helped that the alto section stood only a couple of feet away from the drum riser. Even though they only stepped in for one song, to replicate the sonorous sounds of a gospel choir on the original recording, this was certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for this group of teenagers.
Grim stood off-stage taking video of the experience. "The girls almost looked like they were flying off the stage with amazing smiles on their faces," Grim says. "I saw a few this morning and they're still flying pretty high."
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