Hastings High School graduate Abby Schultz got what she calls a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” recently. A junior at Augsburg College and the choir manager of the Augsburg College Choir, she got to join her fellow vocalists on stage with the legendary Barry Manilow April 7, when he stopped at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on his farewell “One Last Time!” tour.

Manilow routinely invites choirs to perform with him, choosing groups that are based in the places he gives concerts.

“Barry Manilow apparently saw Augsburg Choir performing on a YouTube clip and he picked (us),” Schultz said.

About 30 of the choir’s 54 members got to participate.

Prior to the concert, the choir was given music and started rehearsing. They learned some basic dance moves and practiced with Manilow’s choir conductor just before the concert, but never actually got to rehearse with the star himself.

“The first time we got to sing with him was in the concert,” Schultz said.

The choir was part of Manilow’s closing act. Together, they sang three of his most popular songs: “I Write the Songs,” “Miracle” and “Copacabana (At the Copa).”

“We were the big bang,” Schultz said.

The audience that evening treated Manilow with as much enthusiasm as if they were Justin Bieber’s fans.

“I couldn’t see,” Schultz said, noting the view from on stage was a bit blinding, “but word is that a bunch of middle-aged women were screaming their heads off. ... Women in the front row were going crazy.”

The fans got even louder when the Augsburg Choir took the stage, she said.

Although Schultz is used to performing – she performed with the HHS Riverside Company show choir before heading off to college – the concert was one that ranks highly for her.

“It’s an experience I will always remember, not only because I got to perform with Barry Manilow, but as the choir manager I got to be interviewed by KARE11 and FOX9,” she said.

“I’m glad it happened when I was in the choir, for sure,” she said.

Performing in Europe

Looking forward, Schultz has a full summer of choral activity planned. At the invitation of her college choir director, she’ll be joining a mixed choir for a series of performances in Florence, Italy, June 2-12. Although it’s led by the same director as the Augsburg College Choir, this particular group is not associated with Augsburg College and is not part of the choir’s concert schedule.

“Yes, it costs money, but I don’t know when I’ll get another opportunity to do this,” she said.

A month later, she’ll be flying back to Europe with her family to watch her sister Libby perform in Prague with the Minnesota Oratorio Society.

It will be her first trips to Europe, she said.

While the music will be fun, she said she’s most looking forward to seeing the region’s cultures and history.

“I am definitely the touristy type,” she admitted. “I like to go to the museums and put on the headphones and have someone talk to me about all the history.”