‘Vocal Kaleidoscope’

Tonic Sol-fa concert to benefit Our Response

In continuing its response against global poverty, disease and suffering in Rwanda, Our Response is hosting a cappella group, Tonic Sol-fa, to help raise funds to continue its efforts.

the a cappella group Tonic Sol-fa will perform in concert to benefit Our Response at 7:30 p.m. March 22 in Cambridge.
the a cappella group Tonic Sol-fa will perform in concert to benefit Our Response at 7:30 p.m. March 22 in Cambridge.

Tonic Sol-fa will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 22, at the Richard G. Hardy Performing Arts Center at Cambridge-Isanti High School. The Cambridge-Isanti High School Jazz Choir will open for Tonic Sol-fa that evening.

All net proceeds from the concert will go toward purchasing medical kits for those who care for people with HIV and AIDS in northern Rwanda. People will also have an opportunity to assemble the kits as part of an event Sept. 27 with singer Sara Groves.

“Our Response aims to unite the people of East Central Minnesota to ‘respond’ to global poverty, disease and suffering with current focus on the people of Rwanda,” Our Response Director Steve Fredlund said. “With initial growth largely in the churches, we have more recently seen the unity expand to area businesses, schools and other organizations.”

Tickets for the concert are available at www.showtix4u.com, www.tonicsolfa.com or www.our-response.org. There are only a few premium reserved seats left for $25, with the remainder general admission tickets for $15. These are first-come, first-served, with doors opening at 7 p.m. Tickets are also expected to be available at the door the night of the concert, or contact Steve Fredlund at 651-587-5435 or [email protected]

Fredlund noted 2013 was another great year for Our Response, with more than $260,000 raised, bringing its four-year total to about $620,000.

“In January, we celebrated our fourth year with five celebrations in four days featuring the Asante Children’s Choir from Rwanda,” Fredlund said. “Other events included a fundraising concert with Jason Gray and our Summer Shindig (featuring the Mystery Mountain Boys and Tonic Sol-fa). The end of the summer brought our third trip to Rwanda, which once again, transformed each person on the trip and continued to build relationships with the wonderful people of Kivuruga.”

Tonic Sol-fa originally formed at St. John’s University in Minnesota with Mark McGowan, who sings baritone, and lead vocalist Shaun Johnson. Shortly after forming, tenor Greg Bannwarth, and bass, Jared Dove, completed the quartet.

The group has reached national prominence with appearances on NBC’s “Today Show” and in “Newsweek,” “Country Weekly,” and “MediaStyle” magazines and more. The group does 150 performances annually, to a combined audience of 250,000 in 48 states. The group has also won numerous original song and album awards in pop, gospel and holiday genres.

Tonic Sol-fa has also shared the stage with Jay Leno, Jeff Foxworthy, Garrison Keillor, Lonestar, Montgomery Gentry, Weird Al Yankovic, Bryan White, Neil McCoy, Jerry Spring and others.

Johnson personally joined Our Response in Rwanda last summer after connecting with the organization during the Summer Shindig.

“Though I came on board quite late, I was welcomed as a member of the Cambridge Our Response team and was impressed with the group’s varied backgrounds, spirit and drive,” Johnson said. “Instead of simply building a building, as I had done on other such trips, this journey seemed to aim for a deeper objective. And through meetings with school administrators, church leaders, AIDS caregivers, organizational heads and children … through visiting clean water sites, historical centers and more, I could see the intent was serious and all-encompassing.”

Johnson said he is excited to be a part of the Our Response team.

“I feel that the Cambridge community should feel unique in that the Our Response team actively seeks out people of all talents and backgrounds and honestly showcases one community’s generosity and passion for another community in this world, … that Cambridge, Minn., and Kivuruga, Rwanda, are bound by humility, shared lessons and of simple humanity,” Johnson said. “People asked me why I felt the need to go halfway around the world to do this. But I didn’t. It’s not 100 miles or 1,000. … It’s the shared experience of two people’s hopes.”

Johnson feels Tonic Sol-fa appeals to all ages.

“Tonic Sol-fa is a contemporary vocal group singing original songs and eclectic covers with just the human voice,” Johnson said. “We recently finished judging a fabulous high school jazz contest in Iowa, went on to some collegiate master classes in Tennessee, flew out to New York City for a fine arts showcase and opened for Louie Anderson in front of a corporate crowd. And by all of this, I mean we are comfortable in front of people of all ages and walks of life and can hardly wait to appear in Cambridge.”

Johnson said the group is looking forward to performing again in Cambridge.

“The four of us in Tonic Sol-fa all hail from small Midwestern towns, so we feel at home, and we have many fans-friends in the area who are making the drive,” Johnson said. “Singing a cappella seems like the rawest, most stripped down form of musical entertainment possible. There is simply nothing between your emotion and the audience. We love to entertain and hopefully make people forget about everything for a bit before heading back out the doors recharged.”

Fredlund said he is excited to have Tonic Sol-fa back in Cambridge.

“Tonic Sol-Fa has been described by the New York Times as a ‘vocal kaleidoscope,’ which is very fitting; the a cappella rhythms and harmonies run the gamut of deeply profound insights to toe-tapping, jump-out-of-your-seat choruses,” Fredlund said. “Not only are these guys deeply talented, they have a great way of engaging their audiences. I believe in the power of music to help us more deeply engage with our emotions and with life; our hope is that whoever comes on March 22 will feel the power of laughing together as a community.”

Fredlund thanks the community for its continued support.

“I continue to be incredibly humbled by the thousands of people across East Central Minnesota who have caught the vision for Our Response and given of their time, talents, finances, and encouragement,” Fredlund said. “I would love to be able to personally thank each person, but with more than 5,000 people who have been involved, it is simply impossible. The message I try to give everyone is to consider what makes you passionate and spend time involved there; if what we are doing in Rwanda stirs your passion, then we invite you to get engaged on this journey that will forever change you.”

For more information on Our Response, visit www.our-response.org.