Hoja serves up modern take on a cappella singing

The three young guys in Hoja perform Beyonce’s Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), complete with the whole thigh-jiggling, butt-slapping dance routine. It kinda gives new meaning to a cappella singing, admitted Matt Deroche, of the vocal trio.

The three young guys in Hoja perform Beyonce’s Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), complete with the whole thigh-jiggling, butt-slapping dance routine.

It kinda gives new meaning to a cappella singing, admitted Matt Deroche, of the vocal trio.

“It shows the music can be cool and fun… It’s not just about… dudes in straw hats going around singing songs from the ’20s…”

Deroche credits the popular Pitch Perfect movies for erasing the “geek factor” surrounding a cappella music. A Hoja concert has the same affect.

The Calgary-based group, which performs Saturday, May 28, at the Golden Circle in Red Deer, has a wide-ranging musical repertoire.

There’s Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, a 1950s doo-wop tune from the Delltones, and a medley from The Beatles. A rendition of Coney Island Baby from the TV show The Simpsons will be performed, along with a Gregorian chant, Stayin’ Alive from the Bee Gees, and tunes from Johnny Cash to Journey.

There will also be a few campy numbers. “Somehow Beyonce’s Single Ladies tends to find its way into every show,” said Deroche, who rehearsed for 25 hours with group members Jessie Froese and Dave Yurkewich to mimic all the synchronized moves from her music video.

“I’ve always had a lot of respect for Beyonce,” said Deroche — but the fact she can sing while energetically dancing is particularly awe-inspiring. “I get so exhausted every single time I do that song…”

Deroche has been with Hoja for five years, Froese for four, and Yurkewich for two. The group has been around since 1998, turning over various singers as some leave for other projects and new ones come on board after acing the audition process.

Deroche grew up as a choir kid in Winnipeg. He recalled “There was a lot of judging done” — usually by other kids who didn’t realize how much fun he was having as a singer.

With the support of his family, he started studying opera in university, but quit to working in musical theatre.

He was serving at Calgary’s Jubilation’s dinner theatre when he heard about the Hoja auditions. With his bass voice, Deroche was a natural for beatboxing — but didn’t know how to make instrumental sounds before he began practising from YouTube videos.

He now usually provides the bass line and percussion effects, although all three singers alternate on lead vocals.

“This is all about teamwork. There’s no one person who is more important than any other one,” he said, noting the layered a cappella sound “doesn’t happen if you don’t work together.”

Deroche believes one of the best parts of the job is performing and speaking at schools across Western Canada. “I love inspiring the kids and being a role model,” he said.

“I’d like them to go out there and try everything. If they find something they really like to do, they should know they probably won’t be good at it at first… But if they practise over and over again… if they can rise above and keep going, they can make a whole life out of it!”

Tickets for the 7 p.m. concert are $20 from the Golden Circle.


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