Music groups take international stage

John Hickman laughingly agreed that if he and his fellow barbershop quartet singers don’t get much applause during their performances in South Korea next week, they can blame it on the language barrier.

But a warm reception from the Koreans is expected by Hickman, part of Puget Sound Connection, which is one of two musical groups that will be representing Federal Way.

They were invited by Federal Way’s sister city of Tonghae, host of the 64th International Camping and Caravanning Rally that began Friday and ends May 27. The event is in conjunction with the World Cup soccer tournament and is expected to attract participants from around the world.

Tonghae has asked each of its four sister cities (the others are in China, Russia and Japan) to send 15 or fewer performance artists to entertain the rally participants. Each city chose musical groups representative of their countries’ culture or musical heritage.

Tonghae is paying for the trip, which will begin May 22 for Puget Sound Connection and the five-member Tours de Force, the rest of Federal Way’s musical delegation. They’ll return May 26.

To help their host country’s people understand at least one of its English-language songs, Puget Sound Connection had “Heart of My Heart” translated to Korean through World Vision co-workers of group member Bob Wilkie.

Koreans in the quartet’s audiences will surely be receptive, regardless of language differences, said Hickman, who remembers them fondly from a 1985 visit when he was traveling home from the Philippines with a church mission group.

“They were a very gracious people, very kind. This is going to be a wonderful experience,” he said.

The barbershop quartet and Tours de Force, a Broadway-style theatrical troupe, were chosen by Federal Way officials to represent the city because of their distinctly American styles of performing. Mayor Jeanne Burbidge narrowed the choices to the final two.

Puget Sound Connection features tenor Don Rau, lead Ron Thompson, baritone Wilkie and bass Hickman.

The Tours de Force vocal ensemble, which will perform selections from Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, includes Diane Sweeney, Cheryl Massey-Peters, David Blackham, James Caddell and Andrew Miller. Sweeney, Caddell and Miller are from Federal Way. The others are from Seattle.

Sweeney, the newest member, said the group isn’t sure if the international audience will recognize show tunes such as “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin,’” “Bali Hai” and “The Sound of Music.”

“I guess it’s a little presumptuous to think they’ll know them,” she observed. “My husband asked me that, and I said, ‘It’s Rodgers and Hammerstein.’ And he said, ‘But it’s Korea.’”

Also in the Federal Way contingent will be City Councilwoman Linda Kochmar and Andy Hwang, a Police Department commander. Hwang is going because he speaks Korean and can assist in communicating with their hosts, said assistant city manager Derek Matheson.

While in Korea, the travelers will dine with Tonghae’s mayor and other city officials and do some sightseeing. There might not be much time for the latter, though. The trip’s itinerary includes approximately 11-hour flights each way between the U.S. and Korea and a four-hour bus ride to the main performance venue.

Editor Pat Jenkins can be reached at 925-5565 and

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