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In Studio A with Rockapella

World-renowned vocal group Rockapella
World-renowned vocal group Rockapella

The iconic vocal quintet performs with the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra on Tuesday, July 19 at 7 p.m.

The world-renowned vocal group Rockapella (Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?) is in northern Michigan for a concert with the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra Pops tomorrow evening.

Coming straight from Traverse City's Cherry Capital Airport, they visited IPR's Studio A to talk with host Keith Brown.

The quintet performed a medley featuring Carole King's "Up On The Roof" and Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World." And we didn't even need a warrant!

Make sure you listen to the very end of this interview, by the way, if you're a Rockapella fan!

Scott Leonard is a longtime member of Rockapella and also acts as the group's principal arranger and songwriter.

Leonard has been singing the famous theme of the hit PBS series Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego since 1991, which is their most famous song, along with their appearance in the iconic 1998 Folgers coffee commercial.

But despite singing it countless times, he says it’s still fun to perform, and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

“It never felt like a task, you know… it never felt tedious. It’s such a clever song, and people love it. Even if it’s Christmas, we do it at the end of every show.”

Rockapella performing in Studio A
Rockapella performing in Studio A

Although Rockapella is an a cappella ensemble, they began collaborating with orchestras back in 2006, when they took the stage with the Boston Pops.

Leonard says the experience is very different from what the group is used to.

“It’s so much fun for us to sing with the orchestra, because it’s like singing [with] the radio. Usually with a cappella, you gotta stay in tune together, you’re listening… it’s all on you. But with the orchestra behind you, it’s like, this is so easy, and so much fun. It’s a different experience.”

Leonard has known conductor Libor Ondras since his time at the University of Tampa, and before the pandemic, Rockapella continued their relationship in Michigan by performing a Christmas concert with the Grand Rapids Symphony. He enjoys collaborating with Ondras.

“He’s really wonderful, and we have a lot of fun together.”

Rockapella takes the stage in Michigan with the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra Pops tomorrow evening at 7 pm at the Great Lakes Center for the Arts in Bay Harbor.

Special thanks to Andy Martell and Judith Zorn for facilitating this interview.

Stefan Wiebe engineered this edition of Studio A.

Keith Brown is the host of Matinee Classics and the host and producer of GAMEPLAY.