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May 30, 2007

Rockapella wows Opera House

Napa Valley Register (CA):

Whether singing "Papa was a Rolling Stone," "Under the Boardwalk," "Dance with Me," or even about chocolate or coffee, an appreciative crowd ate up anything Rockapella dished out this weekend in two packed shows at Napa's Opera House. Made up of five male singers, Rockapella is part a cappella group and part vocal percussion performance rolled up into an entertaining package of "human music."

The group performs their own original works and covers a wide-ranging selection of popular songs from the Beatles, the Mills Brothers, to the Temptations and Three Dog Night. But they're probably best known for their years as house band and performer of the popular "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" song from the 1990s children's show on PBS.

On Friday night, a wildly supportive crowd greeted group producer, writer and arranger Scott Leonard, and partners Kevin Wright, George Baldi, John Brown and Jeff Thatcher. While Rockapella was originally formed in 1986 on the East Coast, Leonard is the group's longest tenured member, joining the band in 1991.

Bounding onstage, wearing coordinating black and gray suits, the guys quickly had the crowd clapping and cheering for Rockapella's musical style, involving both smooth harmonizing, vocal percussion, dancing, snapping, knee slapping and even a little humor in good fun.

Using three microphones, two stuck to his throat, and holding one, Rockapella vocal percussionist and "Mozart of spit" Jeff Thatcher acted as a human drum set, vigorously thumping and whooshing beat after beat with power and stamina. If you weren't watching, it would be hard to believe the group uses no musical instruments, only their voices.

The five sang a combination of their original songs and hits including "Got to Get You Into my Life," "Rock the Boat," "Long Cool Woman in Black Dress" and "Love Rollercoaster." It turns out many in the group began their musical career working at DisneyWorld in Florida which they good naturedly remembered with a contemporary performance of "It's a Small World After All."

With humor, Leonard introduced a selection of the Rockapella's commercial work for Budweiser, Taco Bell, Almond Joy and Folgers coffee, all equally well received by fans. And then, with no warning, the audience, as if on cue, cried out "Do it Rockapella!" and the group launched into anthem "Carmen Sandiego," earning the group a standing ovation.

Returning for their encore, Rockapella sang "Shambala." Then, in true a cappella style, the five put down their microphones and gathered close to the edge of the stage for "Up on the Roof." Using no other effects other than their natural voices, and in homage to street corner performers everywhere, they sang, segueing into "What a Wonderful World this Would Be." The audience was silent, the song quiet and true. What a wonderful Rockapella world it was.

Posted by acapnews at May 30, 2007 10:40 PM