Wednesday, December 17, 1997

Kewpie performers on move: The choir is planning a trip abroad but is performing at home tonight

Published in the Columbia Missourian

Director Martin Hook gathers the Hickman High School choir on the stage, alive with music and musicians. Ready for rehearsal, clutching purple folders, the Kewpie choir arranges itself four lines deep.

The singing group is on the move again. About every five years the group travels abroad to sing and explore new places.

First, though, the members will raise their voices in concert with the Hickman orchestra and band for a free holiday performance at 8 p.m. tonight in the Hickman auditorium.

The 45 singers more than fill the space they have to stand in. Their voices more than fill the auditorium. The musicians practice the entire concert once, and then again. They are ready for the show.

They almost are ready for the trip.

The last two weeks of June 1998 will see the Hickman choir tour in Britain and Ireland. They will sing concerts about every other day, Hook said. The group will spend about three days in Ireland, before moving on to Wales, Scotland and then England.

But before it can go overseas, it needs to raise funds to pay for the trip. The total cost for 45 students and eight adults will be almost $100,000.

"The students and their families are paying half of the cost," Hook said. The rest is being funded by special events the choir will host throughout the school year.

In addition to singing in local churches on Sundays, the choir will hold a car wash and give away door prizes at concerts, said choir members Megan Bennett and Brandon Belvin.

Several businesses have donated the prizes. One of the choir members is the sister of MU quarterback Corby Jones. The entire football team has signed two footballs, which will also help the choir raise money for the trip.

Despite all the effort and planning, not all choir members will go.

"I don't have the time, I don't have the money," said 11th-grader Lonnie Nichols. He will, however, still sing this summer: A good friend is getting married and Lonnie has been asked to sing.

Right now, Hook said, the group has around $12,000 - about one-fourth what it needs.

"We have about enough to get to Pittsburgh," Hook said.

Hook is not yet sure where the choir will sing on its travels. He still is working on specifics but hopes it will sing at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, among other locations.

He is using local contacts, such as the choir director at the John Burroughs School in St. Louis, as well as a professional tour company, to locate and book venues for concerts.

Previous Hickman choir trips have been to Austria in 1987 and to Spain in 1992.

This week's concert will be at 8 p.m. today in the Hickman auditorium. Admission is free, and the public is welcome.