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University Choir to Sing at NHL All-Star Weekend

By Brendan H. Gibbon

Approximately 18,000 shouting, beer-drinking hockey fans will stand and listen quietly to twelve members of the Harvard University Choir sing the U.S. and Canadian national anthems at the open of the NHL All-Star weekend tonight at the FleetCenter in Boston.

"It's something quite different for us to be doing," said Murray F. Somerville, the conductor of the University Choir.

"[Hiring the choir] may seem strange at first glance," said Jonathan Holiff, Associate Producer of the All-Star weekend, who first contacted Somerville in December. "It has never been done before."

Holiff acknowledged that a church choir was not a typical choice for a hockey game, but said that the NHL wanted to do something "very special and very big."

The Harvard University Choir came up a number of times in their search, he said.

"What we wanted to do was not lose sight of the fact that Boston is hosting the event," he said. "We're very happy with our choice."

Somerville proposed the idea to the students in the choir before the winter break and received an enthusiastic response. Twenty five members, half of the entire choir which sings services at Memorial Church, signed up for only twelve spots.

"They were more enthusiastic than I expected, considering [the game takes place during] exam period," Somerville said.

While singing at a hockey game may be an entirely new experience for choir members, Somerville has had some experience with this kind of thing before.

Before he came to Harvard, Somerville founded and conducted a boy's choir in Orlando that often sang the anthem at Orlando Magic basketball games.

L. James Parsons '98, a member of the University Choir, said he was not surprised that Somerville was excited to be involved in a sporting event again.

"He seems to have two modes, a choir mode and a commercial mode," Parsons said.

Parsons, an avid hockey fan himself and a native of Newfoundland, Canada, added that he is personally excited to be performing at the event.

Parsons even brought back the version of "Oh Canada" that the choir will sing tonight.

Somerville himself composed the version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" that the choir will sing.

According to Somerville, the choir will have only four minutes tonight to get to the red carpet laid out on the ice, sing both songs and then leave the ice before the first game.

Because of the possibility that something might go wrong with the sound in such a short time period, the choir recorded their versions of both songs last night to either substitute or probably mix with their live performance tonight.

After the choir sings, retired hockey legends will face members of the Boston Bruins in the traditional "Heroes of Hockey" game. The night's events also include a laser-light show and contests in which all-stars and other finalists compete.

And what will the Harvard University Choir members do after they sing? The NHL has offered them seats, said Somerville, and all of the twelve members will stay for the hockey events.

"We're very excited," Somerville said. "We've got a bunch of real hockey aficionados.

After the choir sings, retired hockey legends will face members of the Boston Bruins in the traditional "Heroes of Hockey" game. The night's events also include a laser-light show and contests in which all-stars and other finalists compete.

And what will the Harvard University Choir members do after they sing? The NHL has offered them seats, said Somerville, and all of the twelve members will stay for the hockey events.

"We're very excited," Somerville said. "We've got a bunch of real hockey aficionados.

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