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May 14, 2007

Rockapella rocks Cultural Center

Scranton Times-Tribune (PA):

The vocal quintet Rockapella wound up the Scranton Community Concerts season Saturday before an enthusiastic audience that was sadly sparse. Fewer than half the seats at Lackawanna College’s Mellow Theater were filled, but those in attendance were about as full of high spirits as the folks onstage.

Most of the numbers in the first half of the program were noisy and uptempo. Clearly, this was an entertainment aimed at a younger audience, which seemed to find no end of amusement in the group’s antics, which included a series of gags built around the word “Lackawanna,” which group leader Scott Leonard defined as “sort of wanting to.”

A 20-year-old pop a capella group, Rockapella is probably best known for its years as the “house band” on the PBS children’s show “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” and for an assortment of commercials for things like Folger’s Coffee, Almond Joy and NBC.

Indeed, a medley of their advertising jingles, which opened the second half of the program, elicited some of the warmest applause of the evening.

The singers who now make up Rockapella, which no longer includes any of the founding members, are clearly top-notch musicians: Mr. Leonard, a high tenor; tenors Kevin Wright and John K. Brown; bass George Baldi; and “vocal percussionist” Jeff Thacher, who makes a wide range of drumlike sounds with mouth and vocal cords.

The program had the musical sameness that can mark rock concerts by a single group, but occasionally, the five did pull away from their musical roots in gospel and rhythm and blues.

Toward the end of the first half, for example, the group essayed a swing-era tune, “Paper Doll,” in a duly credited Mills Brothers style and did a bang-up job of it.

If Mr. Leonard wasn’t joking, which was much of the time, Mr. Thacher actually wears a pair of contact microphones around his neck to pick up assorted rumbling sounds. Mr. Baldi provides catchy countermelodies and an unusually wide range of notes for a doo-wop bassist.

The two of them working in tandem in a vocal “rhythm section” provided some of the evening’s most enjoyable musical moments.

Posted by acapnews at May 14, 2007 10:29 PM