GRAHAM — From the roar of the crowd to the blazing stage lights, Graham High School’s choir could tell you exactly what it’s like to be an ’80s rock star.
“We had this, like, famous moment where more than just friends and family came out and people who don’t even know know you,” recent graduate Kris Richmond said.
As Foreigner started to play their hit song, “I Want to Know What Love Is,” Tuesday, July 3, at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek in Raleigh, the 18-member GHS choir filed on stage to sing backup.
“Once you got up there and you looked out, it was crazy,” Richmond continued.
All they could see were the thousands of lights emanating from the crowd’s cellphones.
“And then at some point during the song, they turned on the house lights, and you could see everybody. I was like, ‘This is cool. I could get used to this.’”
Though they didn’t get to meet the band, rising senior Ashley Hinnant said it was cool to see how everything operates backstage.
“It was a really cool atmosphere, being backstage,” Hinnant said. “They felt like everyday people.”
Radio stations across the country have hosted contests for local choirs to win the chance to sing with the band for almost a decade.
Graham beat out two larger Raleigh-area choirs in the final three for the coveted experience — news that shocked both the students and Graham Choir Director Jennifer Wells.
“I was so excited because, I mean, I was an ’80s kid!” Wells said.
It’s been 42 years since the band formed in 1976, churning out hits like “Hot Blooded” and “Feels Like the First Time” in the late 1970s before releasing their most famous song, “I Want to Know What Love Is,” in 1984.
Though most of the students in Graham’s choir were born in the early 2000s — yes, that’s how old we all are — they were familiar with the majority of the band’s hit songs.
“Foreigner came on stage, and they knew the words to almost every song,” Wells said. “They were up on their feet. They were dancing the whole time. I was impressed that they knew.”
Lead singer Kelly Hansen, who replaced Lou Gramm in 2005, gave a small speech after their performance.
“It was the coolest thing because he said, ‘I say this every night, but this is our future. Call your local officials, call your superintendents, call your principals and remind them how important the arts are.’ I thought that was really cool,” Wells said.
The choir members, who gave up vacation time to come to summer rehearsals prior to the July performance, were happy to represent hardworking choirs across the state.
“I felt like we deserved this because we worked so hard,” recent graduate Vanessa Doan said. “Our group, this year, worked so hard and we put our minds to it and worked to have positive thoughts in the present and push all of the negative thoughts outside the classroom.”
“They’ve grown so much. I’m very proud of them,” Wells added. “This was like the cherry on top of their years.”
Reporter Jessica Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 336-506-3046. Follow her on Twitter at @jessicawtn.