In Italian, a cappella is defined as “in chapel or choir style.”
In English, a cappella is defined as Straight No Chaser, the captivating sounds of nine, unadulterated human voices coming together to make extraordinary music.
On July 12, Straight No Chaser takes the stage at the Uptown Theatre, 1350 Third St. in Napa (uptowntheatrenapa.com) at 8 p.m. For tickets, visit Ticketmaster.com or buy in person at the theatre’s box office.
Straight No Chaser began more than a dozen years ago as a student ensemble on the campus of Indiana University and reassembled in 2009 as a professional touring troupe. Six of the nine members are from the original group.
Their sound comes from the blended voices of five tenors, two baritones and two bass, all mixed by their sound engineer. Song lists are composed of oldies, classics, the Great American Song Book, contemporary and pop, plus maybe an aria or two thrown in for good measure.
Straight No Chaser’s fan base is massive with more than 20 million YouTube views, numerous national television appearances, two popular holiday CD releases and touring gigs that often encompass more than 26 weeks each year. “Nobody saw it coming,” said baritone Sargon (Seggie) David Isho.
A few weeks ago, I spoke by phone with Seggie. I was curious about how life on the road is faring for the Detroit native.
Q: How do you keep your voice in good shape?
“It’s really tough and the toughest parts are the beginning of the tour and the end. The beginning because when we are off the road, we’re all fathers and husbands and not singing for two hours each day at home.”
“On tour, I try to get a lot of sleep, drink a lot of water, and before a show, drink throat coat tea and use a steamer. Unfortunately, we don’t get the benefit of partying it up after a show. On our first major tour in 2009, we learned that lesson quickly. Even if we’re not partaking, you can lose your voice in a loud setting.”
Q: How do you balance family life with so much touring?
“We’re touring at a convenient time. Thanks to technology, it’s becoming increasingly easier and easier. Facetime is an important tool for us on the road as all of us have very young children. It makes me think about how hard this must have been when performers didn’t get to see their families from the road.”
“I think one of the guys crunched some numbers, and it turns out that we are home more hours than if we had regular nine-to-five jobs. We are gone for chunks at a time: touring, recording or rehearsing, about half a year.”
Q: Have you seen the business change over the years?
“Not really. It’s become increasingly more challenging with so much competition and endless other options, all so very good.”
“We want to connect and give audiences a niche they are not going to get at other shows. It’s become a family tradition, seeing people return. I’ve seen fans who have attended hundreds of shows, and we want to give them as much access as possible. Every show is going to be different, and you are going to leave with different things that happen in the show, things that are funny and allow people to feel they got a special experience.”
Q: What’s the most fun aspect of the show?
“We take each show that is in front of us. Just stepping on stage, it’s something you’re forever thankful for. You get to live out this dream. I like watching the men in the audience – who have very clearly been dragged to the show against their will – change from a sour face to a totally converted one.”
Q: Will you be able to do any wine tasting while in Napa?
“We will certainly try to make that happen. We played the Napa Valley Opera House in 2009, and it was so much fun! We’ve made friends over the years at some of the Napa Valley wineries, and we look forward to hosting them at our show.”