Internationally acclaimed a cappella group Naturally 7 had its Columbus audience well in hand on the Bartholomew County Library Plaza.
Hundreds were clapping along on their first song. And by the second one, hands were waving in the air.
The seven band members, originally from New York City, charmed an estimated 1,500 people at the third annual Columbus Area Arts Council Live on the Plaza event Friday evening, including a few visitors from as far away as Florida, Connecticut, Ohio and even California.
Troy and Donna Parker, from Branford, Connecticut, had front-row seats, saying they left from the East Coast at 4 a.m. Thursday specifically to drive to Columbus to see Naturally 7, all based on a YouTube video that had turned them into instant fans.
Story continues below gallery
“This is just a thrill for me,” Donna Parker said as she waited for the free concert performance to begin.
The members’ voices mimic percussion, guitars, horns, flutes and more as backing instruments to their singing voices, trading off who does what.
Naturally 7 immediately captivated the audience with its opener — Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” followed by the mellow ’70s Seals and Crofts hit, “Summer Breeze.”
An actual summer breeze made for a pleasant evening in 80-degree temperatures with low humidity.
Before the show, group member Rod Eldridge promised a wide variety of music, saying the group likes to have a little something for everyone in its family-oriented show.
The group has enjoyed its trip to Indiana, Eldridge said, including a stop at the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. After the Columbus gig, the group is off for another international tour to Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France.
Naturally 7 has been through the Midwest before, after forming in 1999, and setting off on the college campus circuit to perform for students, Eldridge said. It was there the group honed its skills to get the audience invested and involved in their performances — including having a few surprises and building audience involvement as the show progressed.
Their secret to keeping their voices, which are their only instruments, healthy is sleep, he said.
“You know, that rock and roll lifestyle; we avoid it,” he said. “We do take care of ourselves, and the key is trying to get that rest.”
Local residents who had learned about the group’s popular shows began placing chairs as early as mid-morning Friday, said Karen Shrode, who thanked the crowd for coming to her farewell party as she leaves her position as executive director. Also introduced was Shrode’s replacement, Kathryn Armstrong.
Shrode said the arts council’s Tami Sharp, program director, had been trying to get Naturally 7 to Columbus for 10 years, and Sharp had finally done it.
Many in the audience brought dinner with them, from boxes of pizza to bags of sandwiches. Volunteers from kidscommons children’s museum were helping kids create glow necklaces, and kids also could get their faces painted.
Linda Scheidt, Columbus, said it was her group’s first trip to Live on the Plaza and she decided to make it a light supper buffet, putting up a table complete with tablecloth and serving watermelon, grapes and blueberries along with crackers, brie and hummus.
Columbus Airport Director Brian Payne, fresh off organizing and presenting a successful weekend air show, was putting out his chairs for the concert and described it as a terrific event for the city.
“It just proves there are so many opportunities to do things in Columbus,” he said.
“This is just a thrill for me.”
— Fan Donna Parker who traveled from Connecticut for the show