‘Juke Box Hero’ preps for debut

Choir to perform with Foreigner at Fulton County Fair

8/26/2013
BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Wauseon High School student Anthony Howard, 16, right, Pettisville student Kregg York, 17, and Delta student Logan Nafziger, 17, sing along with other Fulton County area students practicing
Wauseon High School student Anthony Howard, 16, right, Pettisville student Kregg York, 17, and Delta student Logan Nafziger, 17, sing along with other Fulton County area students practicing "I Want to Know what Love Is" by the '80s rock band Foreigner.

WAUSEON — Invited to perform with legendary rockers, some Fulton County choir members had a question: “With the who?” No, not The Who. Wrong rock group.

During a spotlight performance at the Fulton County Fair — where bands such as the Smashing Pumpkins, Black Eyed Peas, Red Hot Chili Peppers, or The Roots might be venue-appropriate — local choir members will take the stage with Foreigner, no stranger to headlining at sold-out stadiums.

Forgive some students for asking for band-name clarification. It sounds, shall we say, a tad foreign to teens born just shy of the year 2000. The reality is this: Some of the band’s songs are nearly twice the age of choir members who will take the stage with Foreigner — sans historic frontman Lou Gramm — during its 7:30 p.m. Sunday performance at one of Ohio’s most popular fairs. The Fulton County Fair, which runs Friday to Sept. 5 at the fairgrounds along State Rt. 108 near Wauseon, annually draws about 260,000 visitors.

PHOTO GALLERY: Foreigner Choir

During the first of two rehearsals, the choir members — a soprano, tenor, bass, and alto from each high school in the county (Archbold, Evergreen, Fayette, Pettisville, Pike-Delta-York, Swanton, and Wauseon) — memorized lyrics not from sheet music, but rather a YouTube video.

Matt Rainey, 16, a Swanton High School junior, said he had “heard of the band, but it’s kind of old. But they are famous, and I thought it would be fun to sing on stage with them.” Besides, he said, “My dad is a Foreigner fan. He like, knows all their songs.” Expect father Charles Rainey to be there for the grandstand show, applauding as his son performs with Foreigner.

Pamela Steider, 17, an Archbold High senior, jumped at the once-in-a-lifetime chance to perform at the concert. “My dad is really into classic rock,” she said, noting that “I know most of Foreigner’s songs because of my dad.” But she said when her choir teacher announced the concert opportunity, “half of the class said, ‘Who is Foreigner?’ ”

Pettisville Choral Director Duane Beck encouraged students to sing the lyrics as though they mean them: “I want to know what love is. I want you to show me...” Timid at first — as though clutching an antique and fearing to break it — the singers looked more like statues of rock rather than rock ’n’ roll stars. Pushed by Mr. Beck, the choir members loosened up and heads, hands, hips, etc., soon matched the mood of the music as they sang with more pop in their voices.

Pettisville Choral Director Duane Beck joins 28 Fulton County-area students in practice for Sunday's performance. Foreigner and the Grammy Foundation plan to donate $500 to Fulton County schools for the All-County Musical Festival next year.
Pettisville Choral Director Duane Beck joins 28 Fulton County-area students in practice for Sunday's performance. Foreigner and the Grammy Foundation plan to donate $500 to Fulton County schools for the All-County Musical Festival next year.

he students will join in the chorus as Foreigner performs one of its all-time hits, the chart-topping “I Want to Know What Love Is,” from Agent Provocateur. The powerful ballad not only is considered among the Top 100 songs of the 1980s, it hit No. 1 on numerous charts across the globe, including in the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, Norway, and Sweden. The band’smeanwhile, 4 , is among a list of Top 10 Rock Albums of 1981.

Folks of a certain age know Foreigner songs by heart from listening to hit after hit on the car radio. “Feels Like the First Time,” “Waiting For a Girl Like You,” “Juke Box Hero,” and on and on. (You’re singing these songs in your head now, right?)

Most likely, the Fulton County Fair audience will be “Hot Blooded” with enthusiasm rather than “Cold As Ice” as it welcomes the classic rock band that — we gotta finish the set —- will be “A Long, Long Way From Home.”

Today, Foreigner attracts a multigenerational crowd, said John Lappen, the band’s head of marketing.

High school students across the country have been invited to sing with Foreigner from time to time since the band partnered with the Grammy Foundation about five years ago to help raise funds for school music programs. A number of schools in the country are severely compromised by cuts in funding, Mr. Lappen said, adding that he’s been shocked by the number of schools where art, music, and theater programs have been decimated or are defunct.

Fair choir members will sell a special Foreigner Live CD/​DVD set on concert night with proceeds going to the Grammy Foundation, a nonprofit that offers a range of music education programs. A grant of $500 from the Grammy Foundation and Foreigner will be donated to Fulton County schools to help fund the All-County Music Festival next year. The festival features Fulton County schools' choral and band programs.

So. When during the Sunday Foreigner concert will the local students take the stage? No spoiler alert here. It’s hush-hush. All the better to build “big-time anticipation,” as Mr. Lappen put it.

Rock on.

Contact Janet Romaker at : jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.