Straight No Chaser brings a capella with a twist to Savannah

The a cappella group Straight No Chaser was already legendary when a young Tyler Trepp went to Indiana University.

The group was one of the most wildly popular college singing groups in the country. Trepp had a CD of theirs when he was in high school and ended up making the group his freshmen year on campus, performing with them for all four years, rising to become musical director.

His career with the group could have ended after graduation in 2007, and he would have been happy. But it didn't.

He now tours with the professional Straight No Chaser singers, founded by original members of the Indiana collegiate group. The group performs May 5 in Savannah.

"When I went to (Indiana University), I fell in love with it," he said. "I always enjoyed singing. I never really knew that I'd end up with these guys."

The original group started in 1996 on the Bloomington campus when 10 friends decided to start their own a cappella group from scratch. They quickly got a following for their hip takes on modern-day songs. They started headlining off-campus concerts. They won big at singing contests. They performed for John Mellencamp at a private party. When graduation came, most of the original members went their separate ways. But the group continued to thrive on campus.

The original members went back for a 10th anniversary concert in Bloomington. Afterward, as a lark, one of them posted a clip on YouTube of an old performance of a quirky version of "The 12 Days of Christmas," done with references to 1980s hit "Africa" by Toto and "I Have a Little Dreidel."

For some reason, the clip resonated in the popular consciousness and started racking up millions of hits. One of those hits was from the CEO of Atlantic Records. He heard what could be a unique sound for the holiday season and contacted the members with an offer: get the band back together.

The group became two: a professional group and another made up of college students on the Indiana campus (which still is going strong today).

The professional group released a Christmas album in 2008 that spent time on top of the Amazon and iTunes best-seller lists. They followed it up in 2009 with another holiday release and a non-Christmas album that featured their takes on hits such as Queen's "You're My Best Friend" and Oasis's "Wonderwall." They've toured relentlessly, including a summer stay at Harrah's Casino in Atlantic City.

Trepp joined when an original member dropped out. After graduating, he formed "Oceans Four," an a cappella group that sang on celebrity cruises around the world. Then three years ago, he got the call he never really expected to come and jumped at the offer to rejoin Straight No Chaser.

"I was so surprised and honored," he said. "You get to travel and sing. That's about as good as it gets."