“If the phrase ‘male a cappella group’ conjures up an image of students in blue blazers, ties, and khakis singing traditional college songs on ivied campuses…think again.”
That quote comes from the website of Straight No Chaser, a professional male a cappella group who rose to fame with their comedic cover of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Even if you don’t know their name, you will most certainly recognize their covers - especially around the holidays.
The group of nine includes original members Randy Stine (Bass), Jerome Collins (Tenor), Steve Morgan (Tenor), Walter Chase (Tenor), and newer members Mike Luginbill (Tenor), Seggie Isho (Baritone), Tyler Trepp (Tenor), Jasper Smith (Baritone) and Freedom Young (Percussion).
The original group consisted of Indiana University students from 1996, but as they approach their 25th anniversary, all of the members are now alumni from a variety of graduating classes.
I have wanted to see this group for a few years, so I was excited to see them perform at the Maryland Theater in Hagerstown, Maryland, on Tuesday, September 20, 2022.
I was sitting in the upper balcony, five rows from the back. In this seat, I still had a great view of the stage; however, sometimes the microphone volume was too low, and I had trouble understanding what they were singing.
Nonetheless, the group was still very entertaining and energetic. A particular standout was tenor Jerome Collins. He is incredibly talented with a soulful, jazzy tone and flawless vocal runs. Not only was he musically talented, but he had the perfect personality for the group. From his physical humor through his dancing to his witty comments in between songs.
Straight No Chaser started the concert off with a bang with a cover of Queen's “Don’t Stop Me Now.” This was a great opener, but the crowd really began to make their presence known during a cover of “Levitating” by Dua Lipa remixed with other popular songs.
The a cappella group had a wide variety of genres such as pop, R&B and country that they performed. My favorites included “Levitating” by Dua Lipa, “Africa” by Toto, “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner and the “Movie Medley” by Straight No Chaser.
As much as I enjoyed each performance, I wish they sang more of their comedic covers. Those such as the “Movie Medley” just before intermission and “Proud Mary” as the opener to the second half were definitely the showstoppers, and the audience reacted to it with laughs and clapping along. I just found myself waiting for the next song when they were singing the slower songs such as “Tequila” by Dan & Shay.
However, that does not make them weak performers.
A cappella is an art form that I have always appreciated. As someone who did choir and musical theater growing up, I understand how difficult harmonizing can be. But without a band or backing track? It makes matters much more difficult, yet so impressive. Every single person must perform their best, otherwise the song can fall apart.
There were a variety of ages in attendance, from families with young kids to a group from a retirement home. Just three rows ahead of me, there was a little girl who stood out to me in that crowd.
She sat up straight on the edge of her seat the whole time. She danced, cried and laughed louder than anyone else in the room. It was like her dream come true to see Straight No Chaser live.
I mention this because I could see myself in that little excited girl. The thrill of seeing your favorite artist live in concert is unlike any other feeling. Straight No Chaser were arguably the first group that made that a cappella “cool,” so to see younger generations being excited about the style of music is truly special. It really goes to show that this band has made an impact on all ages.
Overall, this was a solid concert that I think just about anyone can enjoy. Considering that it was a Tuesday night, this crowd of “Chasers,” the name for fans of the group, were lively and energetic and gave a standing ovation at the end. With the genres, comedy and enthusiasm, Straight No Chaser truly puts on an entertaining performance.
Straight No Chaser will be back on tour starting on October 20, 2022, for their 25th Anniversary Celebration Tour. You can browse tour dates and purchase tickets at https://sncmusic.com/tour.