There’s something magical that happens when you take ten talented male vocalists, put them in matching slim-fitting blazers, and get them to sing out loud in perfect harmony and a synchronous two-step. We’ve seen it on popular television shows like Glee and even on a capella reality television competitions like The Sing Off, but nobody does it quite like Straight No Chaser.
The professional a capella musical group, which originated in 1996 at Indiana University, is probably best known for their “The 12 Days of Christmas” video, which has been watched over 17 million times on YouTube and gained widespread popularity. The video subsequently led to a five-album record deal with Atlantic Records in 2008, and albums including Under the Influence (2013) and Under the Influence: Holiday Edition (2013) albums that hit the Billboard 200. It is no surprise that their precision, quirkiness, and sheer talent have led them to achieve musical partnerships with everyone from Cee-Lo Green to Paul McCartney to Sara Bareilles.
The group opened with a mash-up of “Roxanne” and “Locked Out of Heaven” by The Police and Bruno Mars, followed by a mash-up of “Get Ready “ from The Temptations and “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” by Stevie Wonder. These mash-ups perfectly blend the unique sound of each song by anchoring them in a common beat, creating a rich musical experience that leaves you guessing at every turn of the lyric. Their seductive cover of “Use Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” did just that—creating a scintillating musical experience that left everyone intoxicated with their sound. One of the amazing things about the group is that they’re able to take songs that everyone knows and loves and transform them into a totally new piece of art through their mash-ups and a capella arrangements.
Riding the Jersey Boys movie coattails, the group then proceeded to perform a mash-up of “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man”—a mash-up that definitely resonated nostalgically with the older group in the audience. The fact that they’re able to blend the old with the new makes them a perfect family favorite: there’s something for everyone.
Straight No Chaser is composed of ten awesome singers: Dance Ponce, Randy Stine, Charlie Mechling, Steve Morgan, Jerome Collins, Dave Roberts, Walter Chase, Mike Itkoff, Patrick Hachey, and Kevin Carroll. Throughout the evening, each individual performer got to share a little bit about himself and sang a solo in one of the showstopping numbers in their set.
Highlights included a Jason Mraz cover of “I Won’t Give Up” and an Adele cover of “Rolling in the Deep.” The group ended on a high-note with a movie medley, featuring songs from Jurassic Park, James Bond 007, E.T., Titanic, Indiana Jones, Forrest Gump, Rocky, and Star Wars.
The ensemble—whose name was inspired by the title track of a Thelonious Monk album—delivered a performance that MLive.com aptly calls “a fast-paced and fun-loving run through an eclectic songbook designed to appeal to a range of musical interests.”
The best moments of the evening were definitely when the group performed songs that showcased the mellifluous harmonies of the entire group. For example, the group performed a cover of “Let It Go” from Frozen that pleased old and young alike. In the Act II opening, the group performed a cover of “Happy” from Pharrell Williams that brought the audience to their feet—clapping and dancing all night long.
Wolf Trap got the right group to “get the party started with an upbeat collection of medleys and pop covers.” What Straight No Chaser has managed to do is no easy feat—taking work that is almost exclusively from other artists and arranging it in a way that is authentically their own and all-the-more entertaining for it.
There’s still time to check out a concert at Wolf Trap before the summer is over, so be sure to check their calendar of events for the latest information!
Running Time: Approximately two hours, with one 15-minute intermission.
Straight No Chase played on Thursday, July 17, 2014 for one night only at The Filene Center at Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts —1551 Trap Road in Vienna, VA. For future performances and information, check out their calendar of events.