They’re going to know what rock stars feel like

Shaftesbury vocal jazz choir to join Foreigner on stage


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It's Friday afternoon, and the seven members of Shaftesbury High School's vocal jazz choir are fresh off a successful performance at Westminster United Church as part of the Winnipeg Music Festival.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/03/2019 (1373 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s Friday afternoon, and the seven members of Shaftesbury High School’s vocal jazz choir are fresh off a successful performance at Westminster United Church as part of the Winnipeg Music Festival.

In a little over 24 hours, they’ll be playing another, albeit slightly bigger room.

The students will perform with Foreigner in front of thousands of fans at Bell MTS Place Saturday night. They’ll be lending their pipes to the quintessential 1984 power ballad I Want to Know What Love Is, which is not only a massive, enduring hit but also generally regarded to be the centrepiece of any Foreigner show.

Shaftesbury High School's vocal jazz choir will be performing with Foreigner Saturday. Left to right, front: Harley Friesen, Emily Rogers, Aaron Delaronde and Jared Fetter-Malott. Left to right, rear: Mason Forster, Kayla Babiuk and Emily Penner. (Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press)

So, you know. No pressure.

“I’m feeling a little nervous, honestly,” acknowledges Aaron Delaronde, 17, who got back into singing in high school after what he characterizes as a bit of a puberty-related hiatus. “I’d be surprised if I don’t have an anxiety attack.”

Delaronde says didn’t believe his choirmate, Jared Fetter-Malott, when he delivered the news they’d be backing Foreigner. “I thought he was lying. I was like, ‘What are you talking about? No, that’s impossible. You better not be messing with me.'”

Fetter-Malott, 16, also cops to some nerves about Saturday night’s show, although his calm, cool, collected exterior says otherwise. “I’m absolutely nervous,” he says. “But I believe we are all ready.”

Adding to the stress is the fact they found out they’d be performing on the biggest stage of their young singing careers only two weeks ago. They’ve also been juggling Winnipeg Music Festival prep as well as their regular class workload.

“For me, personally, it’s been pretty crazy,” says Mason Forster, 16, who sang in choirs as a child and decided to fill his previously boring lunch hours with music. “I think we’re all going to make it through, we’re going to be great, and we’re going to be shining bright like the stars.”

That comment elicits a very sweet chorus of “aww” from his choirmates; it’s obvious they are a tight-knit group.

I Want to Know What Love Is came out almost a full 20 years before most of these singers were born, but every one of them knew the song.

“They were very familiar, actually,” says their choir leader Andrea Wicha, who also teaches musical theatre, vocal jazz, drama and French at Shaftesbury.

“They’re into older music. They know all of Queen, and a lot of other older bands.”

The Shaftesbury students will lend their voices to Foreigner's 1984 power ballad I Want to Know What Love Is. (Robert E. Klein / Invision files)

Harley Friesen, 17, actually grew up listening to Foreigner. Her mom is a fan.

“I think she’ll enjoy seeing us up there with them,” she says.

The students’ families aren’t the only ones who will thrill at the opportunity to see them shining bright like stars, to borrow Forster’s phrase.

“It’s going to be wild,” Wicha says. “They’ve worked so hard. This is just the second year of the vocal jazz program, and just the third year of the choir program, really. They have worked their butt off, going from singing last year just in unison and maybe a bit of two-part (harmonies). This year, they’re hitting three-part (harmonies) and they are sounding amazing.”

Foreigner has been inviting local choirs on stage in cities all over the world as a way to raise awareness about the importance — as well as the chronic underfunding — of musical programming in schools. In addition to the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to share the stage with classic rock royalty, Shaftesbury’s nascent vocal jazz program will receive a $500 donation from the band.

Twitter: @JenZoratti

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Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and author of the newsletter, NEXT, a weekly look towards a post-pandemic future.


Updated on Saturday, March 2, 2019 10:05 AM CST: Spelling of name fixed.

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