On Wednesday, December 13, 2017, the Boston-based a cappella group BALL IN THE HOUSE performed at the George Daily Community Auditorium in Oskaloosa, Iowa. This 5-member all-male ensemble blended beatbox and vocal bass lines under the three higher voices to provide 2 solid hours of entertainment. Their show included arrangements from top 10 hits of the 1950’s through today, and many of the songs incorporated cool choreography and even some audience participation.
Members of the group include:
Dave explained how he and Jon met at Boston Boys Choir School (junior high school). This intensive musical training really gave these two performers a solid foundation. Different performers have cycled through the ensemble, although Jon is one of the founders. The group, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, performs about 250 live shows every year. The group has opened for major artists such as The Temptations, the Beach Boys, Gladys Knight and many others.
Earlier in the day the band members had worked with Oskaloosa middle and high school students, and many of those students were in the audience and gave shout-outs to their favorite performers on stage.
The show opened with a darkened stage and the group singing “Ain’t Nobody” followed by “I Just Don’t Want to Stop/Take Back the Night”. Next up was Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” which featured Wallace’s high and enjoyable tenor vocals. The group continued to mix old and new hits, singing “Use Me Up” by Bill Withers followed by “Say my Name”, a hit for Destiny’s Child.
The group then moved into full-holiday mode, performing “This Christmas”, “Little St. Nick” featuring Monty’s wide-ranging baritone, and the spine-tingling “Mary Did You Know?” They stepped away from the mikes to sing a holiday song I’d not heard before: “Some Children See Him.” How wonderful to hear voices unadorned by amplifiers or instrumentals!
Two more songs preceded the intermission: “My Girl” made famous by The Temptations, and “Dancing in the Street.”
What in the world is “beatboxing”?
Okay, I know the movie franchise Pitch Perfect brought a cappella groups to the forefront, but frankly I was never a big fan of this genre. So, I had no idea what a beatbox performer did. So I was glad when Jon Ryan demonstrated his beatboxing technique, in which he mimics the sound of percussion instruments–snare drum, bass drums, cymbals–just using his mouth and voice. The kids in the audience really loved this!
The singers returned to the stage with the energetic Michael Jackson hit “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough.” They continued with more holiday tunes: “Angels We Have Heard on High”, “Jingle Bell Rock”, “Do You See What I See”, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”,and “The Christmas Song.”
More top hits followed: “What ya’ Doin'” and “Can You Stand the Rain.” Here’s a video from the band’s youtube channel of the latter song:
Next up was a medley of disco tunes that included “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees” and “YMCA” in which they instructed the audience on how to move along with some of the choreography. Fun!
“When You Wish Upon a Star” was a beautiful number, which was followed by Stevie Wonder’s hit “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” After the concert the band members mingled in the lobby talking to audience members and signing CDs.
I have to confess that I wasn’t sure how much I’d like this concert, since I tend to listen to instrumental music much more than pure vocals. However, I enjoyed the fast-paced action and the individual members’ interaction with the audience. I also like the fact that the band meets with students and inspires them to keep studying music. This auditorium has a great sound and lighting system for a town of only 11,500 people (thanks in part to a grant from the George Daily trust).