What started out as a six-minute clip on YouTube has blossomed into a full-length musical and theatrical production making its way across four continents.
On Saturday, Voca People land on Proctors’ stage to re-energize their spaceship while entertaining audiences with their unusual vocal abilities and highly energetic antics.
Voca People is the brainchild of Israeli actor, writer and director Lior Kalfo and his collaborator, composer Shai Fishman, whose résumé includes positions such as head composer for NASA. The two created the clip “The History of Music,” which became a sensation on YouTube, receiving more than 2 million hits in two months. That number now exceeds 40 million since its April 2009 debut.
Like Cirque for vocalists
The Voca People ensemble is made up of eight artists. There are six singers — an alto, mezzo, soprano, bass, baritone and tenor — as well as two beat boxers, vocal percussionists who use their lips, tongues, voices and mouths to produce drum beats, rhythms and other musical sounds.
The story line is that they are aliens from the planet Voca, where all communication takes the form of music and vocal expressions. They’ve landed on Earth because their spaceship needs to be refueled — with music. During the performance, they learn about Earth’s music from telepathic communication with the audience, and they perform more than 70 versions of songs, from Mozart to Madonna.
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 8 p.m., Saturday
HOW MUCH: $55-$20
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
Voca People perform without any accompaniment. While singing a cappella is technically what the group is doing, that’s not how Cindy Sibilsky, the group’s marketing director for the United States, describes them. “A cappella might be the technique, but [Voca People] is the most modern use of the human voice,” she said of the musical arrangements that the artists perform. “It’s like a Cirque du Soleil for vocalists.”
The singers — five men and three women who take on the roles of Tubas (Bryant Charles Vance), Tenoro (Omer Shaish), Alta (Adi Kozlovsky), Mezzo (Sapir Breier), Bari-tone (Chris Dilley) and Soprana (Michal Reshef) — were selected based on talent, vocal range and an intangible “light and energy.”
“We’re taking singers that have the ability to cover every kind of music that exists out there and also become a guitar or a bass line somewhere and being able to do that while dancing around for an hour and a half nonstop,” Sibilsky said. Beat box artists Mark Martin, in the role of Beat On, and Tiago Grade, as Scratcher, round out the cast.
Fishman took the music, with favorites from artists including The Black Eyed Peas, the Beach Boys, Celine Dion, Nirvana, Queen and Beethoven, and broke it down into vocal sounds. That way the performers are singing both the words and instrumental parts, imitating an orchestra with their voices.
Their costumes are white suits over white full body spandex suits with cutouts for their faces, which show white makeup and red lipstick. The idea, Sibilsky said, is to present a blank canvas. “The white is purity and simplicity,” she said. “The focus shouldn’t be on the flashy aliens with antennas,” she said. “They are the orchestra. Being neutral, even looking a bit androgynous, helps you project anything you want to and see them as instrumentation, as an orchestra in a way,” she said.
The performers interact with the audience in this sometimes silly and lighthearted performance. For example, one of the boy aliens falls in love with a human girl, and thus opens the door for some love songs.
The show is designed to appeal to a wide range of ages and tastes. “The way I like to describe it is, if a 95-year-old great grandparent took a 5-year-old grandchild, they would both love it, because everybody’s favorite piece will be in there,” Sibilsky said.
The group that will perform at Proctors is one of five vocal suites on tour in France, Germany,
Russia, Japan and North America. The North American group, the first to tour this continent, began its tour in February after a run in New York and will end the tour shortly after its Proctors performance.