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Published: Thursday, 1/3/2008

High Street hits all the right notes


Joshua Steele lives for tiny moments when his voice and those of his seven friends and fellow High Street A Cappella members blend together into one sonorous sound.

That is when the hours of rehearsal, the day after day requirements of tending to his voice, and the commitment to the craft of singing pay off in pure bliss.

"There's obviously an overall satisfaction when you finish a show and there's a standing ovation," he said in a phone interview prior to the Columbus-area group's performance tomorrow night in Maumee

"That's a rush that's unparelled in life, but more than anything for me it's the musical moments. I do most of the arranging and I think it means even more to me.

"You just close your eyes and revel in that quarter of a second. That can carry me for months; it's really euphoric."

Steele, 24, and his group seem like an obvious throwback to the days of barbershop quartets and wandering minstrels, except they're young, their repertoire is relatively hip, and they can comfortably entertain revelers in Port Clinton on New Year's Eve - as they did Monday - or perform in more formal settings.

The group formed more than three years ago, and it is composed of former members of the Ohio State University Men's Glee Club, a prestigious vocal ensemble. Steele, who has a bachelor's degree from OSU and a master's of business administration from the University of Cincinnati, said all of the members are classically trained vocalists.

All of the singers in High Street, which includes Matt Croy of Findlay, live in Ohio and most in the Columbus area. They rehearse or perform at least once a week and their repertoire ranges from "Make the World Go Away," the Ray Price standard, to "The Simpsons Theme." Throw in Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville," Van Morrison's "Wild Night," and Paul Simon's "Late In the Evening" and you have an eclectic set that includes classical fare.

Steele said the band members have equally broad tastes, ranging from opera to Rob Zombie, and one of the challenges on the group's two CDs is covering that broad array of interests.

A cappella singing is more popular on the East Coast, he said, where stronger traditions in doo-wop singing make the style more common. Cities like Syracuse, N.Y., might have a dozen vocal ensembles while Midwestern cities have just one.

One of the keys of performing the music successfully is taking care of your voice, something Steele said he's diligent about.

"I try to get at least seven hours of sleep at night, drink a lot of water, not get tanked before a show," he said, laughing. "It's tough, we have a really social group."

High Street's singers are capable of hitting eight separate notes simultaneously, which gives the group a jazzier feel than other similar ensembles, he said.

Toledo area audiences are enthusiastic about the music, according to Steele. High Street's previous show at the Maumee Indoor Theater had an overflowing crowd of 250 and about 200 people had to be turned away. Tomorrow they will be playing in the full theater rather than the smaller space at the Conant Street facility.

"Toledo audiences have been amazingly receptive," Steele said. "It's a very musical community."

The Maumee Indoor Theater is at 601 Conant St. High Street A Cappella's performance is at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow, and tickets are $7. They can be purchased in advance at the theater box office or the night of the show.

Contact Rod Lockwood at rlockwood@theblade.com

or 419-724-6159.

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