Straight No Chaser presents the Christmas cheer at State Theatre
Straight No Chaser will bring the Lehigh Valley a festive Christmas for two performances, 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 27, State Theatre Center for the Arts, 453 Northampton St., Easton.
The nine-man a cappella group will be onstage with dancing, comedy, videos, a light show and amazing harmonies.
Straight No Chaser includes two Lehigh Valley natives: Jerome Collins of Allentown and Walter Chase of Forks Township. The group is a Valley favorite, having performed several times at area venues.
Collins, the group’s tenor, says the State Theatre concert will be “bigger and better” with everything Straight No Chaser is known for. “We want to give a visual as well as a great sound experience,” says Collins.
“We’re known as the Christmas group, which is fine by us. It is a family-oriented time to be around children and parents, with joy and good food, a part of life that is happy for the most part,” Collins says in a phone interview from Elizabeth, Ind.
The State Theatre is one stop on the group’s “Back in the High Life” tour, celebrating a return to live performance after being halted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shutdown.
“It is good to be back in the livelihood of singing and performing, back to what we love to do,” says Collins.
Some performers ban cell phones at concerts, but Straight No Chaser welcomes them.
“People take videos and pictures and take those memories home with them. We want you to remember our time with us and save the experience. Social media is the thing that got us where we are.”
The group stresses connection with audiences. “We look you in the eye, and we sing for you, not at you,” says Collins.
Straight No Chaser has presented concerts three times at the State Theatre, twice at Miller Symphony Hall and once at Musikfest.
Two members of Straight No Chaser are from the Lehigh Valley. Collins, who is from Allentown, graduated from William Allen High School.
“I have great memories of the Queen City.” Collins says he appreciates it when fans come out to see a “local boy.”
Straight No Chaser vocalist Walter Chase is from Forks Township.
Straight No Chaser formed in 1996 at Indiana University. The group of students did not have professional ambitions. Collins recalls that they sang for “fun, food and girls.”
Stardom came after the group’s video of ”Twelve Days of Christmas” was posted on YouTube.
“YouTube was in its infancy. It was one of the first videos to go viral. People looked at these guys not taking themselves seriously and liked it.”
The video included the group’s version of Toto’s “Africa,” one of the first songs they learned. Collins admits, “We were sick of doing it by then.”
On the tour, which began Oct. 22 and continues through New Year’s Eve, Straight No Chaser is featuring songs from its most recent album, “Social Christmasing” (2020), the fourth Christmas release and eighth full-length album. The recording ranges from the traditional “The First Noel” and “Frosty the Snowman,” to “A Long December” by Counting Crows, to new seasonal originals.
“We wanted to spread our wings and write music as well,” says Collins, who has written two Christmas songs.
The originals include the blues riff-based “Office Party Blues” and the doo-wop-flavored “Snow Globe,” as well as upbeat love songs and plaintive reminiscences of the season.
The album has a collaboration with Kenny Loggins on his song “Celebrate Me Home.”
Straight No Chaser has recorded with Paul McCartney, Elton John and Phil Collins, but remotely without being in the same studio. For the album cut, the group recorded in Loggins’ home.
“He told us, ‘I want to hear something in this song I didn’t hear before. I have done it for 30-40 years.’ He gave us the freedom to do it our own way. It was a dream come true. It was great to work with a legend like that.”
Because of the pandemic, the group had to use each member’s home studio instead of meeting in person to record “Social Christmasing.” Collins says that worked both ways for him. “It is more relaxing in your own space.” However, there can be “kids screaming, dogs barking and your wife can come in to ask a question.”
Each Straight No Chaser member has children now, which makes traveling for 100 to 150 shows a year a bit more difficult, although Collins says his children have learned to understand when he tells them, “Daddy has to go sing now.”
Members of Straight No Chaser have a book of cocktail and food recipes, sharing their family traditions with their fans. “Straight No Chaser Sound Bites: A Cappella, Cocktails, and Cuisine” went on sale Nov. 2.
Tickets: www.statetheatre.org; 610-252-3132