There are parallel realities in Straight No Chaser, the a cappella men’s singing group named simultaneously for Thelonious Monk’s brilliant 1967 album of the same name and the popular bartender command. Fifteen years ago, Indiana University student Don Ponce started a men’s chorus with nine fellow students, dubbing the aggregation Straight No Chaser. In short order, SNC was making local and regional appearances (Wrigley Field, Comiskey Park, the Navy Pier, opening for Lou Rawls) and touring nationally. SNC’s original 10 members remained together until their 1999 graduation, when 10 new student members were selected. Since then, IU’s student version of SNC has featured more than 60 members. Five years ago, a commercial version of Straight No Chaser emerged with the YouTube posting of the original group’s 1998 performance of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” SNC’s take was based on a humorous 1967 arrangement by the Williston Caterwaulers, but SNC incorporated fresh ideas, adding a snippet of “The Dreidel Song” and adapting verses to the melody of Toto’s “Africa.”
Straight No Chaser perform at Taft Theatre Wednesday. Go here to read Brian Baker's full Sound Advice.