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Originally published March 12, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 14, 2008 at 10:49 PM

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Travel guru lends voice to Seattle Men's Chorus

When travel authority Rick Steves was invited by conductor Dennis Coleman to be the guest artist in the Seattle Men's Chorus spring production...

Times Snohomish County bureau

Rick Steves and the Seattle Men's Chorus in "A Foreign Affaire"

When: 7 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Edmonds Center for the Arts, 410 Fourth Ave. N.

Tickets: $20-$25 at the box office, by calling 425-275-9595, or at www.ec4arts.org.

Information: www.flyinghouse.org; www.ricksteves.com.

When travel authority Rick Steves was invited by conductor Dennis Coleman to be the guest artist in the Seattle Men's Chorus spring production, "A Foreign Affaire," he went to all of his TV and radio material, pulling out footage — and hilarious outtakes — from his PBS shows.

"I own all my TV and radio material, so I can throw that stuff around recklessly," he says.

"I'm going to be the slapstick host, interjecting my thoughts on international travel, then we'll have some fun with clichés," Steves says. "And we're going to be provocative, and we're going to laugh a lot."

But he makes his point — go beyond the clichés.

"Germany is not sitting on a stump wearing lederhosen and yodeling, going to the half-timbered gingerbread town and having a strudel at the village well," Steves says.

Steves joins a long list of guest artists, including Judy Collins and Bobby McFerrin, to guest with the chorus, the largest gay men's chorus in the world. This concert features 230 voices.

"A Foreign Affaire" plays Saturday at the Edmonds Center for the Arts, then March 29-30 at Seattle's McCaw Hall.

The chorus is featured first, singing the opening medley and an original song titled "Europe Through the Back Door," the name of Steves' travel company.

Steves appears at the end of that piece, and he'll do a comic travelogue with projections taken from his video library, showing different places in Europe as the chorus sings about them.

All of the music is European-focused folk, pop and classical tunes, including Swedish pop icons ABBA featured in a medley called "The Bumpy Bus Tour," about a group of non-Steves' tourists on a really bad trip. (Steves does not believe in bus tours.)

Last year, Steves invited the chorus to perform favorite hymns at his church, Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynnwood. Steves is a scriptwriter and produces video projects for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which presents teaching videos for its 11,000 churches in the U.S.

Steves has lost count of how many Americans he has sent to Europe, but his company takes 10,000 people on tours every year and his European guide books are travel best-sellers.

And, at 52, with grown children, he says, "I'm happy I still like it. It still gives me energy. I've decided to have fun with my business, with humor."

Diane Wright: 425-745-7815 or dwright@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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