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Maroon 16 will know what love is: Denfeld chamber choir to perform iconic song with Foreigner

Denfeld High School singing group Maroon 16 performs Foreigner’s "I Want to Know What Love Is" in this still frame from their audition video. The group won the KQDS-FM contest to sing with the famed rock band during its upcoming Duluth performance. Denfeld High School image

A local high school chamber choir wooed classic rock fans with school colors, purposefully hokey choreography, and an impassioned cover of one Foreigner's most recognizable songs.

The big prize: Denfeld's Maroon 16 gets to take the stage with the 1970s-bred band when it performs Wednesday at Symphony Hall.

The 16 students in the audition choir led by Paul Christenson were among the 11 middle- or high-school-age groups that submitted videos of their take on "I Want to Know What Love Is" to 95 KQDS-FM. Listeners of the classic rock radio station were able to vote for a favorite act on its website.

Jason Manning, program director at KQDS, said he was impressed with the way Maroon 16 was able to compete against bigger choirs. A good thing, too.

Duluth Denfeld's Maroon 16

"Only 25 can go on stage," he said. "They don't have to draw straws."

For the win, the Denfeld music program will also receive a $500 donation from Foreigner, which will be matched by Music Go Round.

This is a contest Foreigner, who is touring with the Dave Eggar Orchestra, has been offering at stops around the country.

Christenson said they found out about the contest and had four days to learn the song and find time to get it on stage. They added drummer, guitar and bass player.

"Their voices sounded great," Christenson said. "I told them that great voices don't necessarily win these kinds of contests. Whatever that meant to them, they had to do it."

The students, dressed in maroon, gold and black, added choreography that specifically mimicked the lyrics.

At "gonna take a little time," a student studied an invisible wristwatch.

The whole group points theatrically during "I want you to show me."

Pom-poms fly in the air.

And at the end, as the video fades, they all burst out laughing.

The group is an audition choir featuring eight girls and eight boys that takes on special singing engagements, such as Christmas caroling in the Skywalk. Aside from the specialized choir, Denfeld students are known for the yearly music videos they make featuring the student body lip syncing and dancing to a pop song.

Superior Middle School 8th Grade Show Choir and Harbor City International School Choir were early leaders in the contest that was ultimately a close race, according to Manning — who didn't have a personal favorite. As for his critique of Maroon 16:

"They're kids singing their hearts out to a song they've never heard in their lives," he said.

Duluth Denfeld's Maroon 16

That might be true. Foreigner came on the scene in the mid-1970s — but it went on to be a popular band with 16 songs that landed in the Top 30 and 10 platinum albums. Some of the band's best-known songs include "Cold As Ice," "Hot Blooded," "Feels Like the First Time" and "Urgent."

Christenson said Maroon 16 found out it won when it was announced on KQDS. They've been in contact with Foreigner's manager. The group will come on stage with the band to sing the song.

This might not be the audition choir's only experience with Foreigner this year.

"Now that the educational opportunity has presented itself, maybe we'll do some Foreigner stuff at our pops concert," Christenson said.

GO SEE IT

What: Foreigner and the Dave Eggar Orchestra, with Denfeld's Maroon 16 accompanying "I Want To Know What Love Is"

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Tickets: Start at $55, available at Ticketmaster outlets including the DECC box office and www.Ticketmaster.com

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