The American sextet, whose current members include Alvin Chea, Khristian Dentley, Joey and Mark Kibble, Claude V. McKnight III and David Thomas, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and is stopping by Singapore on May 5 for a performance at Esplanade Concert Hall. We grab the group for a quick chat to learn how they stay in harmony both on and off the stage.
Two decades is a long time for a group of people to stay and work together. What’s your secret?
We have a brotherhood. We all discuss the challenges we face, the music we do, and we remain close professionally and personally. We’ve seen each other through good times and hard times. We’ve travelled the world together and seen the highs and lows of the music business. We’ve stayed a family because we care about each other and we are always thankful for the good things we experience.
For a generation obsessed with pop and dance music, do you find it a challenge to spread the love of a cappella?
It is from a media standpoint, but we’ve recently found more groups on the rise in university campuses and in films. So even though we’re in a culture that focuses on pop and dance music, a capella is still thriving and can have its place in society.
How has the group evolved musically over the years?
We carved a path with a new sound. We evolved by incorporating all genres of music in a capella, and getting the opportunity to work with legendary artists like Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, and many more.
Has your audience changed?
Of course, some of them have grown older (Claude laughs), just as we have. Yet we are always amazed at our growing younger audience. They find us through our many collaborations over the years, and it deepens their appreciation for the a capella tradition. So we believe there will always be an audience for good music and a good show.
Who are your influences and inspirations?
They’re as varied as the people in our group. It’s everyone from The King Singers to the High-Los, or Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Stevie Wonder, Prince and many more.
How does it feel to be “the most awarded vocal group in history”? Do awards actually matter?
Awards are very nice. They’ve made us feel honoured, as though we have accomplished something recognised by various people. What truly matters though is our connection to our fans. We love them for their support, their kindness, and their spirit over the decades.
You guys have worked with many other amazing artists – which experience really stood out?
Singing with Stevie Wonder. He’s unique and was one of the very first superstars who reached out to us. His always had words of encouragement and acceptance for us. The many things we’ve done with him stand out.
Few other music styles emphasise vocal purity as much as a cappella. What are your thoughts on the heavily treated music of today?
If you’re referring to pop music, then there will always be a trend for it. But trends are good because they indicate that a large number of people are at least listening to something.
What’s in the pipeline?
We have two new live touring projects, one for our own group – with new songs we’ve been adding – and another with (a capella and jazz group) The Manhattan Transfer. We’re also working on a remake of some of our music, have a new licensing deal coming online, and we’ve begun work on a new recording project. We have a lot happening and more to come!