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Friday, April 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 53.0° F  A Few Clouds
The Paper

TOUR STOP

Straight No Chaser takes a cappella off campus
Crooning and swooning


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Last August, Straight No Chaser singer Dave Roberts got a note from a female fan who'd been wowed by his stage presence at an Atlantic City show. "I was lucky enough to sit near the front and really got to experience the eye contact and famous Dave Roberts smiles that everyone is talking about," she wrote. "I love your baritone voice."

As any guy who's participated in collegiate a cappella can tell you, the groups are bigger chick magnets than football teams. But Straight No Chaser members aren't students anymore. These thirtysomethings are making ladies swoon who haven't registered for classes in a long time. Founded in 1996, the group rocked coeds with their songs when they attended Indiana University.

The original members gathered for a 10-year reunion in 2006. About the same time, they posted a 1998 video to YouTube. The clip featured a unique version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and became an online hit. When Atlantic Records took note, Straight No Chaser was signed to a major label.

Collegiate a cappella thrives on vocal interpretations of modern pop songs. UW-Madison's a cappella group the MadHatters has interpreted Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and Passion Pit in entertaining and hilarious ways.

Straight No Chaser targets songs that are not quite as current, reflecting the age of their audience. Tracks on their website include "Tainted Love" and "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You."

Straight No Chaser's recent chart success shows how touring has become key to CD sales. The group's 2010 release, With a Twist, debuted at number 29 on the Billboard album chart.

This December, the group will perform a holiday concert on PBS. And if the comment board on the Straight No Chaser website is any indication, plenty of women will be watching. Women like Jennifer, who sent an adoring note to tenor Jerome Collins. "Hey Jerome," she wrote, "I always find myself wanting to watch all 10 of you onstage, but instead keep watching you!"

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