Less than a month after concluding its “The New Old Fashioned Tour,” a cappella group Straight No Chaser will return to the stage — and to Penn State — with the “I’ll Have Another ... 20th Anniversary World Tour.”
The 10-member vocal ensemble will perform mashups of hit songs by popular artists as well as music from the group’s upcoming release, “I’ll Have Another ... Christmas Album.”
Straight No Chaser was formed at Indiana University in 1996 comprised of members of The Singing Hoosiers, who decided to start singing a cappella on the side. Ten years later, a video of the vocalists’ mashup version of “The 12 Days of Christmas” found its way to YouTube and now boasts more than 19 million views.
The singers have built on their reputation as an extraordinary live act and blend tongue-in-cheek humor with serious vocal chops.
“When we were first starting as a professional group in 2008, music had become so incredibly mechanical and processed through computers,” Steve Morgan, a tenor in the group, said. “A cappella had a purity to it, a return to a more natural sound, and, particularly with a holiday album — our 2008 release ‘Holiday Spirits’ — I believe that resonated with people. This was an accessible introduction to our sound, and once people heard it and liked it, they were willing to check out more of the musical stylings that we could perform.”
As opposed to performing with musical accompaniment, there are more variables when performing a cappella, particularly with 10 voices.
“With instruments, once the tuning is done and the notes are learned, you can count on what you are going to hear,” Morgan said. “The human voice, while capable of more expression than almost any other instrument, also requires constant concentration to stay in tune at all times. It’s an absolute joy to sing with an orchestra or other accompaniment, but there is something special when human voices blend together in harmony.”
Straight No Chaser has recorded with some of the biggest names in the music industry, including Paul McCartney, Barry Manilow, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Phil Collins and Dolly Parton. In May 2015, they performed “Back Home Again in Indiana” for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.
“Singing at the Indy 500 was an incredible experience, and I will never forget when we got the news that we were going to have Sir Paul on our album,” Morgan said. “We have been blessed with so many amazing opportunities through this group that it’s hard to single out just one.”
“I’ll Have Another ... Christmas Album” is the ensemble’s sixth full-length release and first since 2009’s “Christmas Cheers.” The new collection features a variety of new and old holiday classics, including “Joy to the World” and “Do You Hear What I Hear?; new versions of holiday hits by popular performers including Bing Crosby and Stevie Wonder; as well as new songs by the group, such as “Feels Like Christmas,” featuring 2012 Academy of Country Music New Female Vocalist of the Year Jana Kramer.
Morgan said that the group is incredibly proud of the album, and eager for everyone to listen to a little bit of everything: classics, originals, sacred and secular.
“Because it is the 20th anniversary of our group, we wanted to include a lot of our history, so we invited former members and collaborators to contribute arrangements,” Morgan said. “In the end, it made for some difficult decisions because we had so much great material.”
Taking this show around the country has been a blast for Morgan and the group, and they hear all kinds of compliments from audience members after their shows.
“We hear everything from, ‘I wanted to get up and dance,’ or ‘I did get up and dance’ to ‘the ballad you sang brought tears to my eyes,’ ” he said. “But the overwhelming thing we hear is that people laughed along with us throughout the show.”
IF YOU GO
- What: Straight No Chaser
- When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11
- Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park
- Info: cpa.psu.edu