Los Angeles-based composer Shai Fishman compares the concept for Voca People to a baby babbling. If one does it, it's mumbo jumbo. If eight do it in unison, it's a language.
Voca People is a group of eight white, ruby-lipped, "extraterrestrial" vocalists here from planet Voca to recharge their spaceship with musical energy, or so they say.
Who: Voca People
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6
Where: Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford
Tickets: $29, $32 and $35; or $20, $23 and $26 for ages 18 and younger
This intergalactic act actually originated in Israel in 2009, became an immediate YouTube sensation with more than 40 million hits, toured internationally and has grown to include five companies based in the United States, Germany, France, Russia and Japan.
The U.S. company, which spent the past 14 months performing on and off Broadway in New York, will kick off its first national tour with a show at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 6, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. The company is Mark Martin, Tiago Grade, Bryant Charles Vance, Omer Shaish, Adi Kozlovsky, Sapir Breier, Chris Dilley and Michal Reshef.
By definition, Voca People is an a cappella project, but its members actually recreate the sounds of instruments using their mouths (think beatboxing).
"It's far from barbershop," says Fishman, the group's musical director and arranger. "It's an a cappella orchestra. It can be a classical orchestra, a rhythm section or jazz quartet."
As each vocalist performs his or her — you can't tell because of the white, unisex costumes — assigned sound, classic and contemporary hits take curious but familiar forms.
"I think for our show, you'll always find yourself reminding yourself that it's all a cappella," Fishman says.
When Fishman and creator and producer Lior Kalfo first envisioned the show, they made the decision to do a revue of the classics.
"I knew that if I wanted the show to be international and have that immediate connection with people of all ages, I would have to do the classics," Fishman says.
The full show, "a roller coaster of songs," is about 82 minutes long and covers about 70 hits by The Beatles, Madonna, Celine Dion, Beethoven, Mozart, Stevie Wonder and many, many others. With popular music, sometimes you only need to do a few seconds of a song for the audience to recognize it, Fishman says.
No recordings or instruments are used. The sounds, beats, "instruments" and various articulations are engineered by Fishman.
A phrase such as "pound got up" repeated with just the right articulation and vocal production can mimic the nasal, tinny, vibrating sound of a guitar, Fishman explains.
"Most of my time is spent finding out these articulations," he says. "The beautiful thing is once I find the language, I can use it whenever it comes up."
Introducing the vocalists as "aliens" helped get the language aspect across.
"The fact that they are white helps get that cleanliness we want in the show — no elaborate set designs, no costume changes, no sparkly things, no fancy pyrotechnics "… nothing that takes away from the focus: What are they doing and how are they doing it."
Tickets to the show at the Craterian cost $29, $32 and $35; or $20, $23 and $26 for ages 18 and younger, and may be purchased at the Craterian box office, 16 S. Bartlett Ave., Medford, and www.craterian.org or by calling 541-779-3000. For more information, see www.voca-people.com or check out Voca People on YouTube.