Monday, April 15, 2013

M: Metro

By Victoria Dong

Photo courtesy of Metro
When Deke Sharon posted the link to the first episode of The Sing-Off China, I was ecstatic, hoping that it would help to ease my “Sing-Off withdrawal.” The show was very entertaining overall, but one performance stood out above the rest. I was already mesmerized by Metro’s soulful voices and beautiful harmonies; however, my jaw hit the floor when these four Caucasian men started singing fluently in Chinese (Cantonese, to be exact). I was expecting an English song, but in retrospect, it only made sense that they performed a Chinese song. It was The Sing-Off China, after all.

I immediately searched online for more information about them! Metro is a four‑man a cappella group that originated in the Midwest and has been performing in Hong Kong for the past seven years. The group – Eric Monson, Sean Oliver, Michael Lance and Kevin Thornton – celebrated its 14th anniversary this past July. Metro has a wide musical repertoire, including covers of “Stand By Me,” “The William Tell Overture,” George Michael’s “Faith” and Rob Thomas’ “Lonely No More.”

Eric founded the group in 1998. He was producing choir festivals at Disney World at the time when one of the artists approached him and asked if he would like to put together a group to sing on the Celebrity Cruise Lines. Eric took the opportunity and Metro was born. For many years the group performed aboard cruise ships, travelling to over fifty countries and five continents. In 2002, Metro went on to perform at Tokyo Disney Resorts and later at Hong Kong Disneyland. The group has also performed internationally for over 80 high profile corporations such as Audi, UPS and Swatch. Metro is currently touring as well as performing on cruise ships and at private functions throughout Asia.

To date, Metro has recorded two albums.  Music for a Metropolis (2009) has mainly English songs with one Cantonese song, while No Borders (2012) has both classic and contemporary Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) songs. Both albums are available on their official website (www.metrovocalgroup.com) and on CDBaby.  No Borders is also available on iTunes. 
 
The first song I listened to on their YouTube channel was “My Pride." The arrangement of the song beautifully complements the words of hope, courage and love in the lyrics. Eric has a couple of incredible solos in the song. There is something special about his beautiful baritone voice that always warms my heart. You can truly feel his passion for music in his voice, along with such sincerity and contentment.

“Lights” and “A Quiet Place” are my two favourites off of Music for a Metropolis. Their voices convey such incredible emotions, yet are so soothing and peaceful that they would take anyone’s troubles away. I also love their take on “Faith.” The song is completely stripped down to the fundamentals, making it simple and organic – music in its purest form. Similarly, their cover of “Lonely No More” is also beautifully raw and organic, with a hint of dance-mix in the harmonies.

Another fun song to check out is “The William Tell Overture.” The arrangement and lyrics were written by Jay Giallombardo in the 1970s for his Barbershop quartet, The Grandma's Boys. It was made popular again in the 1980s by the Gas House Gang, and later revived by Metro when they performed it at Tokyo Disney Sea. The lyrics are hilarious and the arrangement is beautifully crafted, fun and upbeat. It’s a song that will surely put a smile on your face even on a cloudy day.

One of my favourite songs from their second album is “Meteor Shower,” the theme song from a popular Taiwanese TV drama from the 1990s. Each member has a couple of solos in this song – yes, even the bass gets to sing words! Sean, who sings lead during the chorus, has a smooth, silky voice that blends perfectly with the harmony from the rest of the group.

Make sure to check out Mike’s killer bass line, ridiculous vocal percussion and awesome rap solo in “Love is Suspected.” Don’t get me wrong, I love tenors and baritones, but I have a weakness for basses and I absolutely adore Mike’s rich, deep voice. As Metro’s main vocal percussionist, he focuses on creating the sounds of an actual drum set and doesn’t mix it with beatboxing. It’s incredible to watch him do vocal percussion while laying down the bass line at the same time, simply incredible!

“Change Myself” is a very fun song to listen to, with a lot of special vocal effects. I loved the original song, but I must admit that I love Metro’s cover even more. It’s a very positive and uplifting song and you can’t help but dance along. This time Kevin takes on the vocal percussion as Mike lays down an elaborate bass line. Kevin is a vocal percussion beast with funky beats and sounds, while at the same time singing backup for Sean. I have watched the video of them performing this song many times and it always makes me smile. They seemed like they were having so much fun performing! See for yourself

Currently, all four members are on the faculty at the American Vocal Studio in Hong Kong. Eric founded the studio to provide workshops and seminars in different styles of singing, training artists in pop, jazz, rock and musical theatre, as well as a cappella. It’s wonderful to see the group giving back to the community and passing on their musical expertise to the next generation of artists!

Special thanks to Eric Monson, Audrey Tang and Yuki Lai for your correspondence and valuable information!

Group Members:
Eric Monson (baritone)
Sean Oliver (tenor 1)
Michael Lance (bass, vocal percussion)
Kevin Thornton (tenor 2, vocal percussion)

L to R: Michael, Sean, Kevin and Eric
Photo courtesy of Metro
Links:
Official site: www.metrovocalgroup.com  
YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/MetroVocalGroup  
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Metrovocalgroup
Twitter: @metrovocalgroup  
MySpace: www.myspace.com/metrovocalgroup/
 

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Note from Sara: Great article, Tori! :o) I just couldn't resist throwing in SNC's fantastic Movie Medley under M! Today is also the 101st anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. #shipissinking
Video credit: VickyVictoriaG





1 comments:

Shawn Yankey said...

Wow! They are great singers. Thanks for sharing!
Shawn at Reading Practice

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