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Band that introduced the idea of vocal play
Published 17/03/14

A RATHER unusual group makes its debut in the Thames Valley next weekend.

Naturally 7 is an a cappella group who have just completed a world tour as special guests of Michael Bublé on his Crazy Love tour.

The origins of the group date back to New York in 1999 when Manchester-born Roger Thomas started the group with his brother, Warren, and five other talented singers they had come to know over the years from singing around the city.

Having been in and out of several traditional male groups over the years, Roger developed an affinity for a cappella sounds and a unique ability to create distinct harmony arrangements. When invited to sing at a major a cappella competition in New York, they won the competition, moved on to the nationals and took away two more wins.

Riding the wave of this newfound success and still unable to decide if Naturally 7 were going to be an a cappella group or a traditional band, Roger had a novel idea: they could be both.

He remembered as a child, his brother Warren always wanted a drum set but their mother always told him no because it was just too noisy. So Warren learned to make true drum sounds, with different ways of making the kick, toms, snare, cymbals, and other drum sounds, to compensate for not having real drums to play. Roger approached Warren with the idea from their childhood, and asked if he could become the band’s drummer, so to speak, to accompany Naturally 7 on up-tempo songs.

The idea evolved, and the other band members found unique aspects of their own voices to determine which members would be which instrument. After all, Roger thought, if the human voice truly was an instrument, it should not matter which instrument it needed to be. And for Naturally 7, it really didn’t matter. “Vocal play” was born.

What is the difference between vocal play and a cappella? A cappella is defined as singing without instruments, while vocal play is singing as instruments, and becoming an instrument with the voice.

What makes Naturally 7 different is that every instrument sound that they sing is created from the human voice. There are no actual drums, guitars, horns, flutes, or any other instrument that is heard when listening to them perform — it’s the band members playing each of their vocal instruments.

The group has recorded a number of CDs over the years — including Non Fiction in 2000, the aptly titled What Is It? in 2003 and Ready II Fly in 2006. The latter contains their YouTube-hit Feel It (In the Air Tonight). Naturally 7’s now famous Paris subway performance of the song has received more than four and a half million hits on YouTube.

They continue to tour the world attracting rave reviews and have in the process garnered diverse fans including Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Jay Leno and Brian Eno — who has said: “This is one of the must-see performances of all time.”

• Naturally 7 play at the concert hall in Reading’s Blagrave Street on Saturday, March 15 at 7.30pm. The show will open with a set by jazz singer and classical guitarist Chloe Charles. To book tickets call 0118 960 6060 or visit www.readingarts.com

PUBLISHED 17/03/14

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