BY JOHN KIESEWETTER AND PEGGY O’FARRELL
NBC’s “Clash of the Choirs” has ended, but Nick Lachey’s triumphant 20-member choir doesn’t want to stop singing.
Children’s Hospital Medical Center, which received the $250,000 prize from Thursday’s TV show, plans to put them on stage here for a hometown concert.
“We are looking into this possibility of a choir performance,” says Jim Anderson, the hospital president and CEO.
“Cincinnati Children’s would be thrilled and honored to participate in a concert by ‘Team Lachey’ and our hometown choir. It would give us the opportunity to thank each of the 20 choir members and their families, Nick Lachey, and Steve Zegree (the choirmaster) for all of the time and effort they gave to showcase our wonderful city and Cincinnati Children’s to the nation,” Anderson says.
The 20 singers received a hero’s welcome at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport Friday afternoon, after an exhausting week in New York for the four-day holiday reality TV competition.
They had started rehearsals at 7 a.m. Thursday, and had to wait until the end of the 8-10 p.m. live telecast to be declared the winners over choirs from Philadelphia, Houston, Oklahoma City and New Haven, Conn. Again Cincinnati was NBC’s No. 1 station nationally, part of the show’s 8.1-million TV audience.
After celebrating in NBC’s studio, the singers and their families and friends boarded a boat at 1:30 a.m. for a two-hour cruise on the East River and New York harbor. Lachey paid for the cruise, several choir members said.
When the boat stopped in front of the Statue of Liberty, all the choir members and Lachey went to the top deck and sang “What A Wonderful World,” the 1967 Louis Armstrong song they had performed on TV Thursday night, said Dan Hilen of Lakota East High School, father of singer April Hilen, music director at Glen Este Middle School.
April has another reason to remember serenading Lady Liberty. Her boyfriend, Andrew Tunney, 25, of Mason, proposed to her on the boat.
“It was such a perfect moment,” said Hilen, 24, holding her son, Cole, 5.
A crowd of about 150 family and fans greeted the singers as they strolled into the airport. Chants of “Team Lachey! Team Lachey!” filled the air as the singers ran up to greet loved ones. Children’s Hospital representatives held signs saying “Thanks Team Lachey.”
“This is great. Cincinnati is great. God is great,” said choir member John Scott, 27, of Covington, as he hugged his two children, Joy, 6 months, and Jackson, 4.
“It has been an incredible experience in New York,” says Willrudale Underwood, 47, who sang in the choir with his daughter, Arielle, 20.
NBC several times showed Kathy Underwood, Will’s wife and Arielle’s mother, in the studio audience. She is battling breast cancer.
“Seeing her there gave me strength and courage,” says Will, who sings the in Cincinnati Church of Christ choir in Deer Park.
“I’ve never experienced anything in my life like this before,” says Carrie Scott-Taylor, a 1988 School for Creative & Performing Arts graduate. The Kennedy Heights resident was featured on NBC taking her daughter, Endiah, 8, to Children’s Hospital for monthly sickle-cell anemia treatments.
“When I found out about the Children’s Hospital connection, I really became passionate about being in the choir. I wanted to give back to them, for all the things they’re doing for my family,” says Scott-Taylor, mother of three.
With the $250,000, Children’s Hospital will purchase newborn “isolettes” ($66,000 each) for transport ambulances, and “giraffe beds” ($35,000 each), a special isolette which monitors body heat and humidity, for the Regional Center for Newborn Intensive Care, says Amy Caruso, hospital spokeswoman.
The choir victory Thursday also means the local singers will record a song with Lachey on his new album, due out in spring. “I will make good on that,” Lachey said of his promise to choir members if they won.
And if the hospital can pull together a homecoming concert, “I would certainly be there. I’d be happy to do that. Children’s Hospital is such a great cause,” says the 1992 School for Creative & Performing Arts graduate and former College Hill resident.
“Everybody definitely wants to have a hometown Cincinnati concert. Everyone loves the idea,” says choir member Meghan Watkins, 24, a Mount Lookout music therapist.