“We’re having a party. Everybody’s singing. Swaying to the music, on the radio,” could be heard blaring out of the speakers at Brantal’s Restaurant in Tiverton Friday night.
Northshore Acappella entertained approximately 250 friends, family members and fans with their renditions of some of <otown’s classics, including “60 Minute Man,” “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” and “Ohh Baby Baby.”
Guests enjoyed a full dinner and danced into the night while the group sang their hearts out. The five members, Guy Chiapponi, Paul Lopes, Tom Duarte, Vinny Straccia and Jim Martin, wore smiles from ear to ear as they greeted guests and told stories about their adventures in Los Angeles.
The group is riding high from their current run on NBC’s hit show "The Sing Off," a reality show competition for acappella groups. The show airs on Monday nights at 8 p.m.
The night had special meaning for the two Tiverton locals, Lopes and Duarte.
“It’s so hard,” Lopes said. “It’s extremely trying, but very rewarding at the same time.”
Straccia received a phone call from the casting director on the show one night while driving. He said he wasn’t in the mood to talk so he sent the caller to Chiapponi, who immediately agreed to audition and the group was sent to the Paramount in Boston. Thirty-five groups auditioned in Boston alone, and 250 auditioned all together for the contest. For that first audition in Boston, Northshore Acapella sang a medley of songs.
Their call-back performance was a bit more challenging for the most senior group on the show. They were asked to perform “The Lazy Song” by relative newcomer, Bruno Mars.
“We learned that song between sets of a private party we were performing at,” said Chiapponi.
The guys chatted about the reactions they receive from the hometown fans, and insist they get more of a thrill out of seeing their family and friends’ reactions.
“I get no thrill out of it,” Duarte said. “I don’t like looking at myself on TV and watching it back. The part I love is seeing our family and friends reactions to us.”
“The thrill for me is being out there," Chiapponi said. "I’m not always pleased with myself when I see it on TV.” He described his feelings best by saying he was “drunk on TV” throughout his entire experience in L.A.
“What we do, we do for our families,” added Martin.
While being in the spotlight is exciting for the group, they also experience some hardships, namely being away from their families. Their constant schedule makes it difficult to talk and visit with friends and family.
Performing in front of a massive studio audience also presented a challenge for the group. Since the entertainment business subscribes to the theory of “hurry up and wait,” the group spent many hours standing on set waiting to perform. Once it was their turn, they had to be ready to go in an instant.
“We rehearsed for 12 to 17 hours per day, and then went to wardrobe, make-up, interviews,” said Chiapponi of their television experience. “The kids on the show are so great. We were like one big family.”
Martin added, “I don’t want it to all be about winning. Of course, I want to win, but that’s not what it’s all about.”
Another challenge the group faced was learning choreography. They already incorporate a few moves into their regular routines, but "The Sing Off" took it to a whole new level for the guys.
“They definitely took us out of our element, out of our comfort zone,” Martin said.
This is not the first time the group has been recognized throughout their 30-year career. In 1991, Northshore entered the Harmony Sweepstakes and were named the National Acappella Champions. In 2010, they were runner-up.
While Northshore Acappella may seem like one of many, what makes them unique is their structure and strong bond. The group has taken many forms over the years, but the relationships don’t change.
“I love the guys I sing with,” Straccia said. “I’m very lucky.”
According to Martin, one of the elements that make the group unique is that every member sings lead, much like The Temptations. That has been their strength over the years.
While one might think cast members on a competition show would harbor negativity toward each other, Chiapponi has nothing but kindness for his younger cast mates.
“If that’s what the future looks like, we’re in good shape," he said.