The British Invasion, reversed

Published 10:33 pm Friday, November 7, 2008

Many people remember when a student band from Bury St. Edmonds, Suffolk County, England, visited last summer and wowed Suffolk, Va., audiences with its talent.

Now, it’s time for Suffolk, Va., to return the favor for its English Sister City.

A 24-person chorus and a 16-person band were selected from Suffolk high schools to travel to England in July 2009 and perform for audiences there, said Mary Jane Naismith, a member of the Suffolk Sister Cities Commission. In addition, five local teenagers will be attending the Sister Cities International Youth Conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in July 2009.

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“This is what I want to do in college,” said Rebecca Hofler, a Nansemond-Suffolk Academy student who is a member of the chorus for the trip. “I think it will be a good experience to prepare me for what I want to do in the future.”

Hofler, an alto, sang her first solo at the age of 3. Her friend Jesse Sanderson, also an NSA student, has played the trumpet for eight years.

“I’m looking forward to performing in front of everybody,” said Sanderson, who will play the trumpet in the band for the trip.

Suffolk Sister Cities, along with the students and their families, needs to raise about $80,000 to make the trips possible.

“When we were auditioning the students, we said we wanted the best students we had, not the ones that could afford to go,” Naismith said.

Each students’ family has pledged to pitch in between $200 and $2,000, depending on what they can afford, Naismith said. The rest of the money will have to be obtained before July.

“We’re trying to get all these kids over to England and Ireland,” Naismith said.

The organization has applied for grants through local and state foundations, asked for business sponsors and suggested the students ask for money for Christmas and birthdays and “have their own little fundraisers,” Naismith said. The commission also is holding group fundraisers.

That’s where the community can help — starting tonight.

The group is hosting “A Holiday Sampler” from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Suffolk Museum, 118 Bosley Ave. Proceeds from the $10 tickets will be used toward travel expenses for the chorus and band going to England, and the group of students going to the conference in Ireland.

Featured at the event will be samples of food and drink from the new Suffolk Sister Cities cookbook, wine and ale tasting by Vineyard and Hops to You, table setting ideas from local merchants, creative gift wrapping ideas by Red Thread Studio’s Angelia Armstrong, and stocking stuffers and gifts for sale.

Since alcohol will be served, the event is geared toward adults. The wine and ale tasting is $5 for four one-ounce samples or one glass.

“We really hope people come out … to support and help fundraise,” Sanderson, the trumpet player, said.