A Quintessential A Cappella

Essentially “a capella” means unaccompanied. That’s a bare bones definition which got pushed to the limit last Saturday evening at the Rosemary Clausen Center in Holstein.

Home Free’s Christmas show was truly a performance extraordinaire. It combined sacred music, pop holiday favorites, some rather questionable puns, and light hearted moments with the audience. As an aside, you might want to check their website to see if the crowd at the Center was , indeed, their “most joyous ever”. If roars of approval were any indication, they probably were.

The group is comprised of two tenors, one bass, one baritone, and one vocal percussionist. Matt Atwood, Chris Rupp, Adam Rupp, Rob Lundquist, and Matthew Tuey are master of their art. A person could easily be forgiven for wanting to pull aside the stage curtains to see where the heck the band was. The music of these young men is so richly interwoven with complex harmonics and counterpoints that it almost morphs into the realm of magic. It flirts with vocal jazz; it skitters around scat; it blends centuries of tradition with youthful exuberance.

Age old Christmas carols such as “Joy to the World” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful” were wonderfully done. Not the way they’re usually sung in church, perhaps, but taken and reshaped into new interpretations. Dave Brubeck’s jazz standard, “Take Five” was unexpectedly inserted into “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” with beautiful results. Hearing the carols performed this way as opposed to the norm was a bit like comparing the Living Bible with the King James Version. They both have the same message; they just phrase it differently.

Then there were the lighter moments – “What Are We Thinking While We Are Singing – Parts One and Two”. How could you top Chrome for the Hollandaise or Olive, the Other Reindeer? They might have been groaners but they sure brought out the laughs. Mashing together two seasonal favorites – “Let It Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” was a supreme use of the group’s collective concentration and probably had Perry Como spinning like a top some where in the far beyond. A surprise reprise of “Joy to the World” concluded the evening’s entertainment. Three Dog Night would have been hard pressed to best it.

The Home Free guys came to Holstein, jumped into the holidays like a chord from the mighty Wurlitzer, and took the audience with them. What a really splendid way to begin the season.