Out of this world

The phenomenon of the a cappella group Voca People pervades the Israel Museum this week.

Voca People 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Voca People 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Everyone knows that it’s just a stage premise, this back story of a spaceship crashing to Earth and the craft’s inhabitants, devoid of the musical energy required to fuel the ship, learning Earthly habits and “singing” their way back to their planet.
But somewhere during the Voca People’s performances, a shadow of doubt may creep in because the eight white-clad “aliens” are so brilliant and create such a full musical orchestra with just their voices, that there might be something celestial at play.
Actually, it’s the earthly talents of creator/director Lior Kalfo (of the popular sitcom Ramzor) and composer, arranger and musical director Shai Fishman, along with the eight performers (female alto, mezzo, soprano, male bass, baritone, tenor and two extraordinary beat box percusssionists) who have succeeded in making the Voca People one of Israel’s top entertainment attractions not only locally but worldwide.
Millions of Web surfers have viewed their YouTube sensation “The History of Music in Three Minutes” (which, amazingly, does just that) over the last couple years. The CBS Morning News in New York had them on performing live from Tel Aviv, and theaters from Rio de Janeiro to Milan have hosted their riveting performances.
When Kalfo, who is also the mastermind behind the popular children’s stage show Glow, first began devising the a cappella with beat box concept, he approached Fishman, who had already earned his stripes as a composer and arranger over the last decade in Los Angeles and Tel Aviv.
“It was kind of this X factor, me being this little bit crazy arranger who loves a cappella, and understanding what Lior was talking about right off the bat,” said Fishman in an interview with The Jerusalem Post late last year. He was referring to Kalfo’s vision of doing faithful full band renditions of well-known songs through vigorous medleys, featuring the song snippets flowing seamlessly from one to the other.
“I devised the idea of not doing a traditional a cappella arrangement but instead trying to sound like a full orchestra. Obviously, they’re not going to sound exactly like an orchestra, but we can fake it in a good way – using articulation, dynamics and altos to attempt stuff that a lot of a cappella groups don’t. And I knew that if I was able to do that, and if I chose good songs that everyone from a kid in Japan to an adult in Greece would know, then it would work,” he said.
With a repertoire of more than 70 songs ranging from Gregorian chants and Bach to “Who Let the Dogs Out” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” the Voca People combine their unwordly vocal talents with a highly visual stage show that is stocked with audience participation, providing all audiences with an interstellar experience.
Their performances in Jerusalem are rare, so their upcoming show at the Israel Museum on September 8 shouldn’t be missed. You never know when their spaceship will take off, never to return.