STORY WRITTEN BY FERN BRODKIN
For Digital First Media
Sons of Serendip, the quartet that rose to prominence as contestants on America’s Got Talent in 2014, will visit Sellersville Theater on Feb. 9. The show will predominately feature the music of Stevie Wonder.
The band members chose the name Sons of Serendip because of the random manner in which they all ended up in graduate school at Boston University and then how, on a whim, they applied to appear on America’s Got Talent, were accepted, and ended up finishing the 9th season in 4th place.
“After we graduated we all went our separate ways and were heading into different career paths,” said the band’s vocalist Micah Christian in a telephone interview from his home in Boston. “Since (America’s Got Talent) we left our other jobs and have been doing music full time. It’s been a real blessing for all of us.”
There’s certainly no shortage of “tribute” or “cover” bands around. What clearly makes Sons of Serendip unique is their instrumentation: keyboards, cello, harp and voice. That makes for some very interesting arrangements of songs that most people are familiar with.
Christian explained how the band selects and arranges material to cover.
“What usually happens is one of the members of the group will bring a song idea to the group. We’ll listen… for the musical aspects because we like choosing songs that are interesting musically, but also we listen to the lyrics. We try to find songs that have some meaning to them in some way.
“Then from there we begin to build the arrangement and we try to maintain the essence of the song, while at the same time, doing our best to make it interesting and fresh and new for the listeners.”
Christian explained that their keyboard player, Cordaro Rodriguez, will typically “sit down at the piano and begin hashing out a structure of some sort. He’ll play around with different ways of interpreting the song musically.”
And then after a basic structure is agreed upon they come up with the rest of their parts through improvisation.
“It’s a process and it takes a long time,” explained Christian, “but at the end we usually have something that we’re happy with and that we think people will enjoy.”
Sons of Serendip’s eponymous debut album (NIA, 2015) includes their unique interpretations of songs including “Somewhere Only We Know” (Keane), “Wicked Game” (Chris Isaak) and “How Will I Know” (Whitney Houston).
The band’s second album, “Christmas: Beyond the Lights” (NIA, 2015), features their interpretations of traditional Christmas music as well as one original song. A logical question is whether the band plans to add more original music into their repertoire.
“One of (our) goals for this year is to release more original material. We have one song that’s been written and recorded that’s actually going to be coming out on our next album. It was written by Cordaro.”
At the same time the band is cognizant of their notoriety as song interpreters.
“We’ve gained a following through people hearing our arrangements of popular music,” acknowledged Christian. “What we don’t want to do is ever let that go. What we’d like is to have a mixture of originals as well as the arrangements that we’ve become known for.”
Christian says that the band enjoys recording because “it gives us a chance to explore some of our creative ideas that we aren’t necessarily able to do live just yet.”
The band considers performing live to be very special.
“One of the things that we love about (performing live) is that we get a chance to connect with an audience. We connect with an audience through our storytelling as well as (through) audience participation and also after the performance it’s nice to be able to have moments with audience members. Talk, hear their stories, hug. You get to see people and be there and share the music live with people so they get to experience who we are as people, and we get to experience them as well.”
Christian explained that it was through these interactions with fans that they were repeatedly asked to do a tribute show of some kind, and thus the idea to pay tribute to Stevie Wonder was born.
“We thought that Stevie Wonder, because of the genius musician that he is, (that it) would be good for us to see what we could do with his music. He has so many hits and so much music that people love… people of all ages and backgrounds. It’s not often that you hear a Stevie Wonder tribute concert using classical instruments and so we thought that would also be a good challenge for us.”
Christian added that the Sellersville Theater show will feature “a majority of Stevie Wonder but we will be playing other songs as well, some of the songs that the people have requested and seem to be our more popular songs.”