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Straight No Chaser's virtual holiday "tour," 5 Things to Know

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Wednesday, December 9, 2020

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Straight No Chaser can't be on tour, as it usually is this time of year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But that isn't dampening the a capella troupe's holiday spirit.

The group, formed during 1996 at Indiana University, has not only released a new holiday album -- "Social Christmasing" -- but is also going on a virtual "tour," performing 10 concerts streamed live from the MGM National Harbor in Maryland starting Thursday, Dec. 10.

It's a different way to spend the season, but Sargon "Seggie" Isho, who resides in Rochester Hills when he's not Straight No Chasing, says he and his eight groupmates are rising to the challenge...

Isho, 37, says SNC was together in Bloomington, Ind., during early March, as the pandemic began to take hold. "Our biggest concern then was, 'How are we going to handle the (autograph) signing lines after the shows...and keep people apart and distanced. Then it became, 'Oh, there won't BE any shows...'" Since then SNC, whose members live around the country, put together a number of Zoom-style performance videos and has also streamed concerts via its social media, some for charity, as well as recording the "Social Christmasing" album, which includes five original songs written by the group.

SNC is planning to make each of the 10 shows unique, according to Isho, with the finale on Dec. 20 an evening of all holiday music. "The set list won't be different song for song, but a good chunk of each show will be different. Each show will have a song we've never done before -- granted, it makes it easier that we have a new holiday record, and all of those songs have never been performed. But that will include more than just the holiday stuff."

Isho adds that the group is "really excited...just to see each other again and be in the same room and make music. We're all dads, so we're all looking forward to having a nice break from taking care of the kids. Some of us have young kids, so it's non-stop, and I don't envy the guys that have school-aged children dealing with virtual learning and everything. So it's going to be a nice break."

The greatest challenge, Isho says, will be performing sans audience. "Yeah, having no audience will be interesting, good and bad. It's pretty easy for an athlete to do a sport without fans, although it helps and it's exciting to hear the roar of the crowd and everything. But for us to not get any of that instant feedback we're used to, yeah, that'll be interesting. All of our jokes will clearly fail -- although that may be true of our shows whether there's an audience or not! (laughs) We toying with the idea of having a fake laugh track we can control from the stage and maybe have some fun with that."

SNC next plans to work on an album of all-original material, but Isho says the group is happy it's able to keep its holiday tradition, and the group's relationship with fans, alive this year. "We do tour year-round, but the fourth quarter, holiday season has become a special think people share with their parents and kids and grandparents. To not have it for a year really stinks, but we're getting a lot of messages saying, 'If this is the only way I can get the experience of your holiday show, this is great. We're still happy.' And we're happy to do it, happy to get back to work and make some music and get our crew some work. The entertainment industry is going to be the last thing to start up again, but I'm glad we can still put some entertainment out there for people to enjoy."

Straight No Chaser begins its 10-show virtual residence from the MGM National Harbor in Maryland at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10. The series runs through Dec. 20 and includes matinee shows on Dec. 12 and 19. Tickets start at $20. Visit snc.com/tour.

Web Site: www.snc.com/tour

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