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Choirs reunite after separate eye-opening tours

10/8/2012

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

They still got it.

A Fort Hays State University choir that made a USO tour 40 years ago reunited Friday and Saturday as part of the school's homecoming celebration.

Choir members, along with members of a choir that toured Taiwan five years ago, sang with the current FHSU choir before Saturday night's football game at Lewis Field Stadium.

"They sounded great," said Terry Crull, choral director at FHSU.

The 1972 choir had a practice Saturday morning to get those vocal pipes warmed up.

"Oh yes, they're great singers," Crull said. "They got it yet."

Larry Gerber, who graduated from FHSU in 1971 and made the USO trip, begged to differ.

"Oh no, we're relying on the younger kids," he said with a laugh before they sang.

Instead of singing the school song, as is usually the case before games, the choir sang a song composed by the late Donald Stout, the former choral director at the school. He wrote the lyrics and music to "A Song for Fort Hays."

The USO tour made stops during two months in Japan, South Korea, Okinawa, Hawaii and the Philippines.

"It opened up the world for all of us," Gerber said. "It was the first time I had seen the ocean, the first time I had been out of the country. It opened the world to me. Since then, I have not stopped traveling.

"It was because of Dr. Stout and this school; I love Fort Hays State."

Anna (Trent) Gugler, a 1973 FHSU graduate, remembers the bond the choir members developed while being away from home, and it still exists today.

"We just picked up right where we left off," she said.

Traveling to foreign countries was an eye-opener.

"It was quite a rude awakening to see the poverty in other lands," said Lynn Courtney, a 1973 FHSU graduate who was on the tour. "It really helped me to realize how fortunate we are -- and blessed."

Gugler said Stout got the nickname "Doc" while on the USO tour. Stout was playing cards with strangers on the plane trip. They asked his name, and he said it was Dr. Donald Stout.

"So they started calling him 'Doc,' " Gugler said. "We picked that up, and he's been 'Doc' to us ever since."

The choir members who traveled to Taiwan watched a video of their tour Saturday.

"It was a lot of fun," said Crull, who was in his second year teaching at FHSU, and also made the trip.

The Taiwanese people adored the singers.

"They treated our kids like rock stars," Crull said. "That was a thrill for the kids."

Alexis Corbett, a 2008 FHSU graduate who was on the tour to Taiwan, remembered the crowds, too -- and the bond her group developed.

"I remember mostly how welcoming the people were, how much they enjoyed our performances," she said.

"Just the unity we felt as a group; had a great group."

It was a weekend to remember.

"Other than a little chilly and a little wet, I think it's been a great weekend," Crull said.