Sevier County High School students will sing with Foreigner at Smokies Stadium

Sep. 20, 2013 @ 11:24 PM

LeElyn Linx played the piano and led the singers.

“Sopranos!” said Linx, an assistant choir director at Sevier County High School.

“I want to know what love is,” the sopranos sang. “I want you to show me.” They sang the lines over and over.

This week, the Sevier County High School Concert Choir rehearsed for a very big gig. On Sunday, Sept. 22, the choir will join Foreigner at Smokies Stadium to sing “I Want to Know What Love Is,” the rock group’s smash 1984 power ballad. Thousands are expected to attend.

“Altos!” Linx said.

“I want to know what love is,” the altos sang. “I want you to show me.” They also sang through the lines several times.

The group practiced in the school’s choir room. On the walls were posters for Broadway musicals like “Wicked” and “The Lion King.” There also was a sign that said, “Never settle for less than your best.”

The tenors sang the lines. “I want to know what love is. I want you to show me.”

Then the basses. “I want to know what love is. I want you to show me.”

“Any questions?” Linx asked.

“Yes,” a boy said, innocently. “What are the words again?”

Chor Director Nathan Rhea played the Foreigner track on an iPod and led the singers through it. He coached them on vocal technique. He cautioned them against singing “want you” as “want chew.”

He talked about the S sound at the end of “is.” “Here’s the thing with the S’s,” he said. “If you’re unsure where to put the S, just don’t put the S: ‘I want to know what love iiiiiii...’”

In an interview, Rhea said he taught the Foreigner song the way he would any piece. “Music is music,” he said. “I’ve always said that, regardless of genre. I focus on technical things.”

A Foreigner representative told Rhea that the group routinely recruits local choirs to sing “I Want to Know What Love Is.” “I jumped at the opportunity,” Rhea said.

Rhea likes for the choir to be active in the community. “If someone calls and says, ‘Can you perform?’ I pretty much say yes.” The group has performed at chamber of commerce and Rotary meetings. “We try to plan events throughout the year.”

Singing in the choir is junior Kelsey Cate, who won the talent show at this year's Sevier County Fair by singing "Tennessee Waltz." The win qualified her to sing at Knoxville's Tennessee Valley Fair, where she sang "Crazy."

When they are not singing at the concert, the SCHS students will help with CD sales. Proceeds will go to MusiCares, a charitable program of the Grammys.

Foreigner will donate $500 to the Concert Choir, which is made up of sophomores, juniors and seniors. The money will go toward the ensemble’s March trip to New York, where singers will compete in the National Choral Festival. “Cost is an issue,” Rhea said. “Every little bit helps.”

A 2000 SCHS graduate, Rhea began teaching at the school five years ago. Before that, he taught at Northview Intermediate and Jones Cove Elementary. In addition to the Concert Choir, Rhea directs the Mass and Freshman choirs.

The Concert Choir singers are excited about the Foreigner show, Rhea said, because they have never performed for such a big audience.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to bring awareness to the program and the school.”

kburns@themountainpress.com