When Provo High choral director Kenny Wiser received a call from the Covey Center for the Arts asking if he would be interested in having his singers perform with legendary rock band Foreigner on Halloween night, he immediately knew this was a huge opportunity.
That said, many of this students had never heard of Foreigner.
"Not many students were familiar with the band's music when I announced the opportunity, but their parents got very excited for the kids to have the chance to perform with Foreigner. In fact, several have asked if they could sing with their kids, too."
The choir will sing Foreigner's 1984 power ballad hit "I Want to Know What Love Is" at the concert.
Wiser has been playing the band's music to prepare the choir for the concert. It turns out that many of the students recognized Foreigner songs, but didn't know they had been performed by the group that formed in 1976, recorded 16 top-30 hits and sold 75 million records.
"As far as I know, there will be no rehearsal with the band, so we'll have to make sure we are solid with the CD before the show on the 31st," said Wiser.
Foreigner will donate $500 to the choir for its appearance. Choir members will also be selling Foreigner CDs at the concert to raise money for the band's charity partner, The Grammy Foundation.
That foundation's goal is to keep music education available to students as part of the core curriculum in high schools throughout North America. The entire proceeds of the choir's CD sales from the show are contributed to this initiative.
According to Foreigner rhythm guitar, keyboard, sax and flute player Tom Gimbel, the band tries to mix things up in its concerts. Fans will hear the hits, but some will have a bit of improvisation or sound a little different.
"We are sprinkling some extra ingredients into the mix," said Gimbel in a phone interview from his home in Southern California. "We do an acoustic version of 'Say You Will' with some flute. … You will hear the sax in 'Urgent' and 'Long, Long Way from Home.' It's nice to change it up and add some different elements. It keeps me on my toes."
He said the live version of a song such as "Juke Box Hero" can be interesting.
"Within the basic framework, we stretch out and let the guitar players go crazy," he said. "Our drummer gets to do a drum solo."
Gimbel, who played two world tours with Aerosmith as a keyboard and sax player, is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, a Boston school known for producing great jazz performers.
In college, he learned how to do arrangements for a Big Band sound. Gimbel especially liked the last few years of college when he said instructors taught him to start feeling the music again, instead of doing things by the numbers.
"The most beautiful lessons I learned were to play with as much feeling as possible," he said. "I was blessed to go to Berklee."
As for Utah, Gimbel said he can remember playing an arena show in the early '90s with Aerosmith. The band was having a great time until someone from the crowd threw a belt onstage and it hit him in on the side of the head.
"That woke me up," he said. "Thank you, Utah. Now I'm wide awake. Perhaps it's like Europe where when you do heavy metal, kids spit on you. Maybe in Utah, they throw boots and belts to tell you they like you."
When he is not touring or playing music, Gimbel is an avid golfer; he even went to golf school to be certified as a teacher.
"I had questions and I wanted to answer my own questions," he said. "When you are out there and something is going wrong, I want to figure it out myself. I went to some great golf schools. They diagram the golf swing and make it scientific and mathematical."
When • Thursday, Oct. 31, at 8:30 p.m.
Where • Covey Center for the Arts, Provo
Tickets • $45 to $100 at www.coveycenter.org or by calling 801-852-7007