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September 24, 2009

Straight No Chaser come clean at the BCPA

Bloomington Pantagraph (IL):

Toto ... I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." -- Dorothy Gale, "The Wizard of Oz." "Toto? Smack at the end of 'The 12 Days of Christmas'? Wha'?" -- Overheard at Straight No Chaser concert.

Fact: laboratory tests have shown that pop group Toto's '80s anthem, "Africa," is a perennial favorite of those who harmonize for a living. Why? Some chalk it up to the multiple refrains of "I bless the rains down in Africa, I bless the rains down in Africa" being simply irresistible. Others insist it's the potentially addictive "doo-doo-doo, doo, doo-doo-doo, dooooom" embellishments. Whatever.

Straight No Chaser, the 10-man a cappella group behind one of 2007's biggest YouTube sensations, learned about "Africa's" harmonic popularity the hard way: the song became their calling card.

Founding member Randy Stine, who'll be on the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts stage tonight with his nine fellow Chasers, affirms it "had become the song we were known for." A running joke among the group's members was trying to find the right time and pasture "to retire the song." No offense, Toto, but "we'd sung the song so many times, we'd say, 'for this concert, let's NOT sing 'Africa.'"

Then along came a famously witty a cappella arrangement of "The 12 Days of Christmas" by Richard Gregory, an alum of the famed Yale (University) Whiffenpoofs. Gregory's ploy was to send the well-structured song careening off-course into other holiday standards, with lyrics intersecting and, sometimes, trading spaces. It climaxed with a spectacular head-on collision involving "12 Days," "I'll Be Home for Christmas" and "The Christmas Song."

While working the arrangement, "someone (jokingly) suggested sticking 'Africa' at the end instead," recalls Stine. Much to the group's surprise, if not horror, it fit. Perfectly. The consequences of that decision are being felt to this day as the group kicks off its national tour tonight on the BCPA stage. Read more.

Posted by acapnews at September 24, 2009 12:00 AM


That version of "Africa" has been around for years. It was definitely not a "Straight No Chaser" original either. They did a great job of integrating it with the Richard Gregory arrangement though.

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Posted by: real louis vuitton bags at May 31, 2011 4:30 AM

I always like that song, so rich and vibrant just like Africa. One of my all-time faves for sure.

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