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September 11, 2008

A cappella rockers

Las Vegas Review Journal (NV):

It's humankind's original musical instrument, and whether employed in the service of a doo-wop tune, a Christmas carol or a disco ditty, an adeptly played human voice can make actual musical instruments seem, well, a bit superfluous. The members of Rockapella, who know something about the power of the human voice, will demonstrate that musical reality Saturday during a show at the Clark County Amphitheater.

The show, part of Clark County Parks and Recreation's 13th annual Moonlight Concert Series, comes on the heels of Rockapella's just-completed tour of Asia and Europe, says Scott Leonard, the group's high-tenor and primary songwriter/arranger.

Rockapella has gone through several incarnations since its founding in the '80s by a quartet of Brown University alumni. Leonard joined Rockapella in 1991 -- "I'm the granddad now," he jokes -- and says the now-quintet "has never sounded better."
Same for the group's shows, Leonard adds. "I think the focus has always been on the content and the performance, and the guys we have assembled now are just singularly talented people."

Rockapella's shows feature original a cappella arrangements, choreography, audience interaction and, most of all, a sense of humor and an offbeat, edgy, fun vibe. Leonard says the musical bill of fare for the upcoming Las Vegas show will include everything from the Mills Brothers to "a cappella disco.""The show itself is really more entertaining than it's ever been," he adds. "It's all about connecting with the audience."

Some of those audience members probably became acquainted with Rockapella through the group's appearances during five seasons of PBS' "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" Others' introduction to Rockapella probably came from a popular Folgers coffee commercial in the early '90s that featured the group.

Because a cappella may be the only musical form to not inhabit a niche of an increasingly subdivided radio landscape, such novel means of exposure -- as well as the release of 10 albums domestically -- have served Rockapella well.

Rockapella "has kind of carved out its own niche," Leonard agrees, and has become so well-known through its appearances at college campuses, arts centers and classical music venues in the United States, Europe and Asia that "it's the name that kind of comes to mind when people think of a cappella."

And while clips of the group can be found on YouTube and CDs can be purchased on Rockapella's own Web site (www.rockapella.com), "the best way to experience Rockapella, and probably a cappella in general, is live, because you can see there's nothing between us and you," Leonard says.

The voice is "the most simple of instruments," he continues, and in live performance, "there's that extra element of seeing it created for you." Even now, as Leonard and other Rockapella members also pursue individual endeavors, Leonard can't imagine not performing with his group. "The neat thing about being with guys like this is, you can be the backup, you can be the Pip in the back," he says. "But you also get to step out and be the lead, which is kind of fun,

Posted by acapnews at September 11, 2008 9:58 PM


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