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Straight No Chaser circle back to city

A cappella group returns to Embassy for holiday concert

Straight No Chaser will be Embassy Theatre on Dec. 14.

Alan Sculley

Whatzup Features Writer

Published December 7, 2022

Straight No Chaser have one of music’s more unlikely backstories. 

The 10 original singers formed the a cappella group in 2006 at Indiana University in Bloomington. Once graduation sent them on their separate ways, the singers never expected to perform together again. They had loved their time in the group, but college ends and lives go on. So it was quite a surprise when in 2007, Dan Ponce and Randy Stine, two of the original members, began contacting the other original members about reuniting as a professional ensemble.

Now, they’ve become a bonified sensation, wowing crowds across the country, particularly during the holiday season … and especially in Indiana.

If you’re lucky, you can still snag one of the few remaining seats remaining for the Dec. 14 show at Embassy Theatre.

catching label’s eye

The trigger for the unlikely return of Straight No Chaser stemmed from a 10th anniversary reunion in 2006. To generate enthusiasm for the occasion, Stine made DVDs of a 1998 concert and posted a performance of their wacky rendition of “The 12 Days of Christmas” to YouTube. To everyone’s surprise the video went viral. 

Still, in 2007, no one from Straight No Chaser thought the video would be anything more than a cool online moment for the alumni members.

However, Craig Kallman, chairman and CEO of Atlantic Records, had other ideas after he noticed the still growing number of views of “The 12 Days of Christmas” and decided to check out the video himself. He was impressed enough to contact Ponce and Stine to see if Straight No Chaser would be interested in auditioning.

“It was something that definitely none of us saw coming,” said Steve Morgan, one of the original members. “When Dan and Randy had gone to meet with Craig out in L.A., they still hadn’t told anybody, because they kind of wanted to vet all of this before getting anybody excited.”

riding the wave

In the years since graduating from IU, the original members had moved on to various careers. In Morgan’s case, he had gone on to pursue music, first in a group that included a couple of other Straight No Chaser grads that was briefly signed to RCA Records. 

The label later dropped the group after 9/11, and Morgan moved to New York to pursue theater. He eventually landed parts in a couple of Broadway shows, including a two-and-a-half-year stint in Mama Mia.

That’s when he got a call from Stine.

“So, I had come home from Mama Mia, and I was still in New York,” he said. “I get a call, I mean, fairly late at night, probably 11 o’clock at night, saying, ‘Hey, Steve-O, got a second? You better sit down for this one.’ That’s kind of how it all began. Then when everybody flew in, we sang for them. They said, ‘Yeah, let’s do this. Let’s make it happen.’ ”

Eight of the 10 original members signed on, with two singers from later editions of the college group being chosen for the open slots. 

Thinking Christmas music was the perfect introduction to the group, Kallman and Atlantic had the group debut with the 2008 album, Holiday Spirits. It became that season’s top holiday album seller on the iTunes and Amazon. 

Since that auspicious debut, Straight No Chaser have released three more full-length Christmas albums, a Christmas EP, four full-length non-holiday albums, and four non-holiday EPs. Plus, they have toured worldwide, achieving far greater popularity than anyone expected, while being one of a handful of groups that has spearheaded a resurgence in the popularity of a cappella music.

Celebrating 25 years

The group has maintained their popularity even as several of the original singers have left (usually because of family commitments). Today, Straight No Chaser includes original members Morgan, Stine, and Walter Chase, with Tyler Trepp, Jerome Collins, Michael Luginbill, Seggie Isho, Jasper Smith, and Freedom Young, all of whom were part of later editions of the college version of Straight No Chaser, replacing departing singers.

“We’ve got some (songs) that we want to bring back, just some of our favorites over the last, gosh, quarter of a century,” Morgan said. “Then we’ve actually got a lot of great new material, stuff we’re really, really excited to get out and put on its feet. We’ve got some just fun, upbeat songs that are going to get us up and moving, put some funk in our trunk, if you will.”

And along the way, the group will celebrate its 25th anniversary.

“We’re going to have certain shows where we’re going to have some of the alums of the group come back and be a part of it, which will be a lot of fun,” Morgan said. “Definitely with our opening video we’ve tried to bring back some of those moments as well, telling some of our fun stories and also including some of the guys who have been part of the group in their time. So we’re trying to definitely give everybody who’s been a part of it a little shine.”

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