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Rockapella Live Review

by Sherrill Fulghum

Rockwell Hall, Performing Arts Center, Buffalo State College, Buffalo, New York - March 23, 2007

In the scheme of musical history having an instrument play along is a relatively new concept. For centuries music was sung in the church with no instruments. In Italian it is A' Cappella in the manner of the church.

Today a' cappella groups perform in choirs and churches all over the world, but there is only one group who has taken their singing style to a new art form Rockapella.

It all began back in 1986 when four mates from Brown University began performing on the streets of New York for food money but more importantly for the love of music. They called themselves the Lunchtime Specials. Later they became Rockapella and for five years were best known for their singing the theme song for the PBS children's show "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego".

There have been some changes in the group's line up over the years and none of the original four members are still with the group. The current group line up of songwriter, producer, and tenor Scott Leonard; tenor Kevin Wright; vocal percussionist Jeff Thatcher; bass George Baldi; and tenor John Brown has been together for about two and one half years.

Rockapella has released over 20 albums in Japan and the US but are virtually unknown to most audiences except for their avid fans.

Despite medical emergencies and a highly sought after hockey ticket, those fans were treated to more than just a group of guys singing.

Rockapella put on a full show interacting with the crowd and using the entire stage to perform and dance. Just two hours before the show was scheduled to begin, bass man George Baldi was in search of a dentist. In true show biz fashion the show did indeed go on with Baldi performing flawlessly and even making light of a numb mouth and a partial root canal. While Baldi held down the bass the three tenors took turns wowing the crowd with their musical prowess. The fifth member of Rockapella has for 14 years made a profession out of making noises. What started out as a form of entertainment among brothers by making various sounds to go along with their toys is now a full time job. In fact his talents as a vocal percussionist and what fellow group member Scott Leonard calls "the Mozart of spit" Jeff Thatcher has become a phenomenon and an object of study. The expression of often imitated but never duplicated applies not only to Thatcher but the Rockapella itself.

After nearly two hours of performing a mix of original songs and cover tunes from Motown, music from the forties to the seventies including disco, Rockapella's very own version of a commercial medley, and the theme from "Carmen Sandiego" song they perform every show Rockapella was rewarded with three standing ovations and two encores.

Rockapella puts on a show that keep fans coming back but is among the best produced and put together shows in the music world. Truly one of a kind!

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