Straight No Chaser Brings a Little Holiday Spirit to the McCallum Theatre Tonight
The internationally acclaimed singing group Straight No Chaser will bring their signature vocal stylings and a little bit of the holiday spirit to The McCallum Theatre tonight, December 4 at 8:00 pm as part of Fitz's Jazz Café Series.
If the phrase "male a cappella group" conjures up an image of students in blue blazers, ties, and khakis singing traditional college songs, think again. Straight No Chaser (SNC) are neither strait-laced nor straight-faced, but neither are they vaudeville-style kitsch. As original member Randy Stine comments, "We take the music very seriously; we just don't take ourselves too seriously."
Originally formed over a dozen years ago while students at Indiana University, the group has reassembled and reemerged as a phenomenon – with a massive fan base, more than 20 million views on YouTube, numerous national TV appearances, and proven success with two holiday releases, 2008's Holiday Spirits and 2009's Christmas Cheers as well as their most recentWith a Twist. In an era when so much pop music is the product of digital processing and vocal pro-tooling, Straight No Chaser is the real deal – the captivating sound of ten unadulterated human voices coming together to make extraordinary music that is moving people in a fundamental sense…and with a sense of humor.
With a Twist marked Straight No Chaser's first full-length departure from holiday music, and the group's highest debut on the Billboard 200 at #29. Christmas, however, has been good for SNC. The group's 2008 debut, Holiday Spirits, hit #4 on Billboard's Top Holiday Albums chart and spent two weeks in the #1 slot on Amazon and five days atop the iTunes sales chart. Its version of "The 12 Days of Christmas," which incorporates Toto's "Africa," went Top 5 on the Adult Contemporary chart and was Top 10 on the Christmas radio chart. The subsequent Christmas Cheers in 2009 was #6 Top Holiday Albums and rolled into the Billboard 200 at #38. SNC bundled the albums Holiday Spirits and Christmas Cheers with a never-before-commercially released DVD, Live In New York: Holiday Edition, to create All I Want For Christmas, a 2-CD and DVD box set.
On the road, Straight No Chaser has built a reputation as an unforgettable live act. The group held a hugely successful residency at Harrah's Resort Atlantic City, where they performed 40 shows in 8 weeks. Although constant traveling takes its toll, the direct connection with their fans reinvigorates them. Says group member Ryan Ahlwardt, "Here we are, touring nearly 160 days a year, singing for thousands of people. To see the joy on the faces in the audience when we are onstage reminds us why we're doing what we're doing."
The group originally came together in the fall of 1996 at Indiana University, as "10 guys who happened to be good friends who also liked to sing." Choosing the members carefully for personality as well as vocal talent -- Stine, Mechling, Jerome Collins, David Roberts and Walter Chase remain from the original lineup -- SNC set itself apart from other a cappella groups with its contemporary repertoire and dynamic approach, quickly headlining concerts both in Bloomington and on road dates and John Mellencamp even invited the group to his home for a private performance.
When the founders began graduating in 1999 and went on to jobs mostly outside of music, they chose replacements and established SNC as an ongoing group on campus; more than 50 members have passed through the group so far. Such was the impact SNC made at IU that the school hosted a 10th anniversary reunion show for the original lineup in 2006. When Stine posted clips from a 1998 concert on YouTube, SNC's fan base grew exponentially. The group's version of "The 12 Days of Christmas" has been viewed more 11 million times, and the group's cumulative YouTube views clock in at more than 25 million.??Among those viewers was Atlantic Chairman/CEO Craig Kallman. He emailed Stine, who initially thought it was a prank but thought otherwise when he was whisked to Los Angeles to meet with the label chief. A few days later, the entire group was in New York City to sign its recording deal. "A music career was definitely not on my radar; getting the guys back together, not just for someone's wedding or bachelor party but to spend the majority of the year together touring and recording is a dream come true." Stine says. "I pinch myself all the time and hope it continues and becomes a longstanding career."
Straight No Chaser, who was featured on the "Generation YouTube" episode of ABC's "20/20," is using this tour to continue expanding on their social media interaction with fans. The group credits a large amount of its success to its early adoption and encouragement of sharing content. "This group started because of a viral video on YouTube," explains Stine. "From day one, we have encouraged fans to upload photos and videos from our shows, even expanding venue photo policies to ensure that this was possible. We are excited to really drive home the idea of building a fan community around content by naming our tour #SNCLive. As the name suggests, #SNCLive will be a multi-platform concert event, with the hashtag giving fans a way to search and categorize content specific to this tour across all social media platforms.
This tour follows the first ever Straight No Chaser Cruise – "Chasers At Sea" – on the Carnival Destiny in October. In addition, PBS continued to support SNC by airing their highly successful TV special, "Songs of the Decades," during the June and Fall pledge periods. The special featured the group taking a musical journey through the pop songbook, from doo-wop to contemporary pop, all performed with the distinctive SNC twist and filmed during the group's summer concert engagement at Harrah's Resort Atlantic City in 2011. Straight No Chaser recorded their fourth full-length album over the summer.
This performance of Straight No Chaser, tonight, December 4, at 8:00pm, is part of the Fitz's Jazz Café series at the McCallum Theatre. Tickets are available online at the Theatre's web site at www.mccallumtheatre.com or by calling the McCallum Theatre Box Office at (760) 340-2787