Up With People is bringing its 120 voices and smiles to Goucher

March 13, 1991|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,Evening Sun Staff

Up With People, the youthful confection of 120 voices and pairs of dancing legs, comes to Baltimore again Saturday with its 22 tons of staging and another 22 tons of smiles and upbeat philosophy.

The group plans two "Face to Face" shows at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Kraushaar Auditorium, Goucher College, to benefit the Second Presbyterian Church and its choir's plans next year for its first European tour, led by Elam Ray Sprenkle, director, and Margaret L. Budd, organist.

The members of Cast D, one of five touring companies, will stay in up to 40 local homes for several days during the Baltimore visit. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students. Call 889-6819.

Two singers taking a year off other jobs to tour and see the world, Florence Hernandez, of Roslyn, N.M., a TV news reporter, and Lynn Hewitt, of Belfast, Northern Ireland, a health club manager, said interested Baltimoreans between 18 and 26 will be interviewed at Goucher March 16 for possible hitches with Up With People. They can call the church first.

The year-long memberships cost singers $9,800, seen as "tuition" or an "educational fee." Expenses for each member total $30,000, the difference made up in citizens volunteering homes and similar activities. For their money during their one year, the students get to perform 200 concerts, tour numerous countries, meet hundreds of people and receive possible college credits.

The Baltimore group, in action since its August training in Tucson, Ariz., has already visited the West Coast and, in the last five months, Switzerland, Italy, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Finland and Sweden.

In an interview, Hernandez, Hewitt and staff member Elizabeth Brown opened a small window on the famous group:

Applicants don't have to prove they can sing. More girls apply and are accepted than boys, a reality known to chorus and drama teachers everywhere. Eleven rules govern their conduct, such as no physical intimacy. Marriages between members often occur eventually. Minor problems develop -- last year a Dutch member missed the bus but caught up later in Wisconsin. Members come from many countries; most speak English.

Of 8,000 annual applicants, 600 get accepted for one of the casts. Their music covers rock, rap, ballads and folk tries to promote "peace through understanding." An eight-member band travels along on the 32,000-mile tour.

After 25 years, Up With People still sings its theme songs "What color is God's skin?" and "Up With People" but 60 percent of the songs in the two-year programs are original. Social concerns such as racism ("Does it Really Matter?") and environmental destruction ("Hole in the Sky"), are addressed. Also sung are native tunes from around the world.

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