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No Monk, but a lot of holiday cheer

BY SARAH LARSON | DECEMBER 08, 2009 7:30 AM

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A YouTube video is all it took to bring a university a cappella group to national fame.

Straight No Chaser, whose genesis occurred at Indiana University in 1996, will perform at 7 p.m. today in the IMU Main Lounge. Admission ranges from $10 to $28.

Although the group started in the mid-90s, it did not gain popularity until 2006, when an original member posted a video of the ensemble performing a version of “The 12 Days of Christmas” that intertwined melodic samples of “I Have A Little Dreidel” and Toto’s “Africa” on YouTube. The clip received around 8 million hits and catapulted the singers to stardom.

The group’s six founding members and four alumni have now recorded two full-length Christmas albums and an EP.

The 10 members are touring across the United States. Newcomers Seggie Isho and Tyler Trepp both described the experience as a fun yet exhausting one.

Trepp is used to a day filled with music. He grew up in a musical family — his father was a singer, and his mother played the piano. While growing up, Trepp played the trumpet and sang in both choir and show choir. The Des Moines native became a member of the collegiate Straight No Chaser when he auditioned during his senior year of high school. After making the ensemble, Trepp decided to attend Indiana University.

The vocalist said he is excited about tonight’s performance, especially because his family and friends will attend. This will be the first time for Straight No Chaser to perform in Iowa.

Tonight’s show will consist of both Christmas songs and non-holiday music. The Christmas tunes will come from both the ensemble’s first album, Holiday Spirits, and its newest record, Christmas Cheers.

Straight No Chaser’s performances don’t stop at music — comedy also plays an integral role.

“The stuff that happens onstage, our banter, is probably one of the best parts of the show, and that’s why it’s fun for a lot of people to come out and watch,” Trepp said. “The CDs in themselves are great, but seeing our live show is kind of unlike anything else. We make [the audience] laugh.”

While other new member, Isho, may not be one of the comedians in the group, he has always loved to sing. He began performing in second grade with the song “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” From then on, the Michigan native sang in choir and played the trumpet. Isho became a member of the a cappella group during his sophomore year at Indiana.

While Straight No Chaser’s alumni and current members never expected the nationwide success they are now experiencing, they are embracing it.

“People make us feel famous everywhere we go,” Isho said. “But to us, we’re just us. We’ll come out on stage and see a few thousand in the crowd. And stop for the crowd and just be in awe. ‘Wow, really? All these people came to see us?’ ”


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