Six inches of snow and even ice coated some area roads the last time the Swedish-based Real Group performed in Columbus in February 2015. But the international pioneers in a cappella vocal jazz, pop, classical and other styles since the mid-1980s still proved a hot ticket.

More than 400 people came to The Commons for the performance that was part of the St. Bartholomew Concert Series, which highlights a broad spectrum of artists and genres.

Organizer Bogdan Minut succinctly pinpoints their popularity.

“It’s just the unique sound they create,” said Minut, St. Bartholomew Catholic Church music ministry director who saw the group in concert in Cincinnati in 2014. “It was just amazing to me that their live sound seemed even better than their recordings.”

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The curious can hear for themselves when the group returns to The Commons downtown at 7 p.m. Friday in a totally new show, also a part of the church concert series. Minut and others expect the celebrated quintet to include material from a new album, “Elements,” released in December. The disc includes a varied collection of tight harmonies.

Minut understands that many music lovers have embraced other vocal a cappella groups such as Pentatonix. But he points out that The Real Group was laying the groundwork for newer, similar ensembles more than 30 years earlier. And the Swedes still have their edge.

They currently are nominated for Entertainer of the Year category as part of the A Cappella Music Awards on May 19. Still, some things matter more than sheer excellence.

“We go onstage not to show people how good we are,” member Morten Vinther told The Republic before the group’s Columbus show three years ago. “Our goal is to experience the music with the audience.”

Columbus resident Shanda Sasse saw the group when it last visited Columbus. Sasse has been a singer accomplished enough to perform as a member of the prestigious Singing Hoosiers nearly 20 years ago at Indiana University, where she was a vocal music major.

“They were awesome,” Sasse said of the Real Group. “A cappella music is raw, because there is nothing to hide behind.”

The group’s eclectic set lists, from Beatles numbers to Nordic folk songs, especially impresses her.

“They do a really nice mix,” Sasse said.

At some concerts, they take crowd requests, not only for tunes, but the styles listeners want them wrapped in. They sing in English, Swedish and Norwegian. And they have a strong enough pop sensibility to jump into their own arrangements of contemporary tunes such as Britney Spears’ “… Baby One More Time” or the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.”

“They reach a cross-section of people across the spectrum of ages,” Minut said. “That ranges from high school and college kids all the way to senior citizens.”

In fact, for the last local concert, some schools brought groups as large as 40 people. Sasse, who is manager of The Commons, remembers fielding plenty of calls from those asking about tickets three years ago.

“So I definitely knew they had a strong following,” she said.

If you go

Who: The Swedish-based a cappella vocal jazz ensemble The Real Group, whose members have performed all over the world for crowds as large as 60,000.

When: 7 p.m. Friday.

Where: The Commons, 300 Washington St. in downtown Columbus.

Tickets: $25 apiece, available at Viewpoint Books, The Columbus Area Visitors Center and St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, or online at:


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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.