'Original' Tonic Sol-fa has different sound

The vocal group Tonic Sol-fa has been performing Christmas concerts in Rochester for a decade, but there will be something different about this year's holiday show on Dec. 11.

For starters, what was once a quartet is now a trio. Mark McGowanleft Tonic Sol-fa last winter, leaving Greg Bannworth, Shaun Johnsonand Jared Doveto continue as a three-voice a cappella group.

"It was pretty unexpected," Bannworth said last week. "But from that, we've figured out how to work as a trio. It's actually been pretty amazing. It has really opened a lot of doors. We have a new sound."

Tonic Sol-fa, which formed when the original members were students at St. John's University in Collegeville, has spent a long time building a sound and an audience. So any tinkering could be seen as either fresh inspiration or an unwelcome changeto the tried and true.

Never fear, Bannworth said. Despite the changes, you'll still recognize Tonic Sol-fa.


"For those who have seen us before, they will definitely get the same show," he said. "It's an interactive party atmosphere with lots of humor.The sound will be a little different."

Since Tonic Sol-fa spent most of the past year touring and recording a new album, "Original," finding a new singer wasn't on the radar.

"I think we would like to keep it in mind," Bannworth said of going back to four members. "But as the year has gone on, we've thought, 'Let's see where this goes.'"

So far, so good, which means Tonic Sol-fa can concentrate on getting themselves from venue to venue across the Upper Midwest in the snow and ice of December.

"I'm not sure we thought this through when we started," Bannworth joked. "Let's just say we used to travel in a van, which was very comfortable. But after the fourth or fifth spin-out on the interstate, we thought a four-wheel-drive truck would be safer, if not as comfortable."

It's all part of the adventure that is the annual Tonic Sol-fa Christmas concert tour, which this year covers South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. "They're a lot of work, a lot of time on the road," Bannworth said. "But it doesn't feel like Christmas until that holiday tour is here."

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