Sons of Serendip holiday release, tour a joyous celebration
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Sometimes fate steps in and beautiful things happen.
Such was the case for the soul/R&B quartet the Sons of Serendip (SoS), four Boston University graduate school students who were brought together through as series of, well, serendipitous events. The result: a spot in the finals of season nine of the super-hot reality show “America’s Got Talent” (they finished fourth) and, most recently, the release of their second CD, the holiday album “Christmas: Beyond the Lights,” an orchestral/acoustic spin on modern and traditional classics. (Their self-titled debut was released in March).
A MUSICAL EVENING
With: Sylvia McNair, Kevin Cole and the Sons of Serendip
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 7
Where: Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Dr., Evanston
The events that brought together the classically trained quartet — Micah Christian (lead vocals), Kendall Ramseur (cello, vocals), Mason Morton (harp), Cordaro Rodriguez (piano, vocals) — are both humorous and eerie (in the very best sense).
“Well, Kendall and Cordaro grew up together but both applied to Boston’s music school independently — though Cordaro thought he was applying to Boston College,” Christian said with a hearty laugh during a recent phone interview. “Mason moved to Boston and had no housing until he got a call about a place that had just opened up in a building, and the first person he met when he went to check it out was Kendall, who just happened to be living in the building. Just stuff like that.”
Eventually the four became the best of friends — a band of brothers, they like to say. On “AGT,” the group quickly became fans’ and judges’ favorites (though Howard Stern did not like their moniker) through breathtaking takes on the likes of “Somewhere Only We Know,” “Ordinary World,” “Wicked Game” and “Bring Me To Life.”
Christian and Ramseur recently spoke to me recently about their incredible musical journey and Christmas.
Q. Every artist says it’s a strange feeling to record a Christmas album in the springtime. Did you guys experience that?
Kendall Ramseur: It’s an interesting feeling. You don’t really think about Christmas music during spring and summer. There were times the group would be out and about just humming these Christmas tunes. People would look at us very strangely. [Laughs]
Micah Christian: [Laughing] Even in the summer we’d be listening to Christmas songs when driving to performances. We’d be blasting Christmas music in the car.
Q. How did the album come together?
KR: Each member had the opportunity to lead in the arrangements. Each of us has a song or two where we have the lead. We had 20-25 songs to choose from until we cut it down to the 11 on the album.
Q. What kinds of music influence your sound?
KR: As far as the sounds, our voices are very similar. On the Christmas album, for example, all the songs have a mellow feel. [Laughs] Mason lives in the ’60s. His song, “This Christmas,” has a little Motown feel to it.
MC: I love all kinds of music. Lately I’ve been really into jazz from the ’50s — Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie
“Bird” Parker — looking for inspiration in all of that and learning how to expand what I do vocally. It’s hard to sustain contemporary music because there’s such good music from the past.
KR: I’m in a similar place as Micah. I pull from different genres, from different time periods. When I was in school. we were playing music from folks in the 1800s in my classical music. Now I just love it all. I can find something I like in every time period.
MC: Cordaro can also find inspiration in every genre. I think he gets most excited about film soundtracks.
Q. Talk a little bit about your journey to “AGT.”
MC: It was my idea. Originally I was going to try to put together an a cappella group because I used to be part of a semi-pro a cappella group. I reached out to Cordaro and then Mason and Kendall came on board.
KR: In the beginning we had to send in two videos of us doing different pieces and there were a few different rounds after that where producers would reach out to us. That process was lengthy one. We got a call a month out from the show’s [season premiere] and they wanted to hear our story. And they wanted more pieces but we couldn’t get them cleared for TV. It got down to a week before the show and we finally got a song that would work for the show. We finally got “Somewhere Only We Know” cleared for the TV show, and we were set.
Q. Did you set out to create this very lush, soulful sound that permeates your music, or did it just happen?
KR: It’s very interesting. When we came together there was really no conversation on “this is the sound we want” or we want to “sound like this or that.” Most of the quartet members are very fond of soundtracks. That [musicality] was already in us. We had very similar styles that we like to listen to. So when we came together as a group it really wasn’t difficult; things just naturally clicked. We just want the music to take on a life of its own.
MC: We were all doing music full-time because we are all music teachers. Mason still teaches harp. I used to have a studio but once we decided to go full-out for a professional career in music I had to give that up.
KR: I still teach privately when I can, but we are devoted to our careers at this point.
Q. Since you guys told me you’re like brothers now, which sibling is the smart one? The snotty little kid brother? The leader of the pack?
KR: [Laughing] Well, I’m the cool brother. The one that’s suave! Micah is the snotty little kid brother. Mason is definitely the baby brother. Cordaro is the total intellectual. The serious guy, though he’s also funny.
MC: [Laughing] I’m the practical joker in the group!
NOTE: Proceeds from the Nov. 7 concert will support the Over the Rainbow Association and its mission to increase the quality of life for people with physical disabilities through the creation of affordable, barrier-free housing solutions that encourage independence. For more information about OTR visit www.otrassn.org