Arts Listings

SoVoSo: The East Bay’s Winning A Cappella Group At First Unitarian

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Planet
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:59:00 AM

SunshineBecker, a 14-year veteran of SoVoSo, talked about the group and its new lineup for Friday’s show. 

“SoVoSo started as a spin-off of Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra a cappella ensemble. In ’91 or ’92, Bobby wanted to go off in other directions. So members of Voicestra started up with a new name. A year later, a couple of members left, they called auditions, and I joined. In the time since, the group has grown, become an a cappella tour band. It’s been a Harmony Sweeps champion in the Bay Area; we’re the only yearly a cappella headliner at Yoshi’s. We have five albums now.” 

The difference between SoVoSo and Voicestra? “Voicestra goes out onstage without a set list. When we go out, we do a lot of improv, but we have arrangements, tunes to attack, as it were, audience favorites. We have songs that have been written for the group. But the commonality lies within; both are not just about singing songs about the moon or about two people in love—beautiful things, but not about the description! We’re singing about the vibes, instead. What’s positive, lifegiving. Nothing preachy. We go out to do a show, aiming to enlighten, to show we all have a voice. The voices are a full band, with the sound of the instruments, but not just imitative. Anybody can do this; we made it a career.” 

With a repertoire of styles that spans jazz, rhythm ’n’ blues, Latin, funk and original compositions, “we’re all over the place; especially in the music business, everything’s labeled. If it’s not in the bin or online.... We ask our audiences to come out on the net with us!” 

This show will see a new face in SoVoSo, though one familiar to many listeners. “Vernon Bush will be in our new lineup Friday. He was with the Glide Memorial Choir for many years. an outstanding soloist and an inspirational guy. The group did a show at Esalen in Big Sur over the Fourth of July weekend--while I was having a baby!—and Vernon debuted with us then. We have more personnel changes now, more of a come-and-go policy, pulling whatever voice goes with the music we’ll do, to fit with our different shows.” 

The four core members of SoVoSo include founding member David Worm (a current Voicestra member), Bryan Dyer, Zoe Ellis and Becker. Becker also mentioned their upcoming 8th Annual SoVoSo Holiday Seasoning Family Gathering at Yoshi’s, Monday December 14 at 8 and 10 p.m., which will feature special guests, including past SoVoSo (and Voicestra) members, like Berkeley’s Nicholas Bearde. 

Becker said the group was looking forward to “kicking off Utunes’ second year, with new and old material and a little improvisation thrown in, a very diverse lineup.” In addition, it’ll be a celebration of David Worm’s daughter, Ella, on her birthday. “It’s her third! We’ve had her singing in group rehearsals. She’s just a doll!” 


SoVoSo—“from the Soul to the Voice to the Song”—the East Bay’s eclectic a cappella vocal ensemble, will perform Friday at 8 p.m. at UTunes Coffee House at the First Unitarian Church, 685-14th St. in Oakland. $14 advance, $16 at the door.; 292-6574.