Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart


It’s Sol-Fa Season

a holly jolly chat with Tonic Sol-Fa

V1 Staff

SOL-FA, SO GOOD. Minnesota-based a cappella group Tonic Sol-fa has toured relentlessly, sold more than 2 million albums, and recorded three PBS specials that have aired more than 1,800 times in 47 states and Canada. The group returns to the Pablo Center on Dec. 12 for The Nights Before Christmas.
SOL-FA, SO GOOD. Minnesota-based a cappella group Tonic Sol-fa has toured relentlessly, sold more than 2 million albums, and recorded three PBS specials that have aired more than 1,800 times in 47 states and Canada. The group returns to the Pablo Center on Dec. 12 for The Nights Before Christmas.

When Tonic Sol-fa comes to town – which is getting close to a yearly thing now – you know there’s some holiday magic in the air. The Minneapolis-based vocal group always make it point to stop in Eau Claire and spread some cheer with their infectious stage show and energetic performance. After making their Pablo Center debut in 2018, Tonic Sol-fa is set to return to the Pablo on Thursday, Dec. 12 with The Nights Before Christmas Tour. We recently caught up with the group via email to chat about the new show, how they mix up the a cappella format, and what special holiday magic keeps them coming back to the Valley for the holidays year after year.

Tonic Sol-fa coming to town is one of the fixtures of the holiday season in Eau Claire at this point. Seems like every year, y’all bring something new to the table. How long have you been performing in Eau Claire, and what makes those shows special?

“How long?” is a great question and none of us know the answer. We really should have written this stuff down. But we definitely keep Eau Claire on the holiday tour because of the incredible support! And because we know many people make this show a family tradition, we work for months each year to “up our game” with revamped staging, new songs, and surprises. The Christmas tour is put together solely by the small Tonic Sol-fa team – no agents or promoters by choice – and we are heavily invested in making people’s attendance worth every penny.   

How does the show evolve and grow year to year? 

We keep adding, changing and competing. And to that end, we consistently tinker with arrangements and song selection ... we work on blocking and movement ... we imagine sets and audience participation pieces ... we push ourselves to learn new talents as well as showcase older ones ... all in the hopes of never resting on our laurels. It is interesting to visit with people after the show who’ve maybe not seen us in a few years and see their astonishment at how much we continue to change. At those moments, all the work is absolutely worthwhile.

We know you like to mix up the a cappella formula a bit with technology and some drums and other cool live elements from time to time. How do you keep things fresh for yourselves and your audiences, while staying true to your style?

Love the question. We’ve always loved collaboration. And nothing is fresh if it’s the same tired formula. So if you see four or five guys ... from the Midwest ... singing a cappella ... at some point even all new songs in the world won’t make the show “new.” So we dream and we try, try, try. Not everything works, but the energy of that change seems to keep Tonic Sol-fa moving upward. And the change keeps us (and hopefully the audience) interested.

The theme for the show is The Nights Before Christmas – without giving away too much, what does that theme mean to you all?

For us, all of the nights before Christmas – from early November onward -– are spent on the road with friends, fans and the “family” that has evolved from touring. Each city and each night is unique. And the tour as a whole gives us unforgettable memories, recharges our spirit, and reminds us of the “why” on our march towards the 25th. 

This is your second time performing at the Pablo Center. How’d it go the first time?

We were fortunate enough to perform in 2018 at the Pablo and were blown away by the new space. Amazing. We love being just a small part of what a facility like this brings to the region ... community, change, passion, movement. We’ve definitely seen how an investment in the arts in towns across America changes the fabric therein ... and attracts the best of the best. It’s an honor for us to be invited back.

Anything else you want to tease for the holiday show?

We work tirelessly all year to make the holiday tour special and a lot can be gleaned from opening night, which occurred in early November. So let’s just say that fans who attended the premiere kept telling us they’d never seen a better Tonic Sol-fa show. That doesn’t always happen, of course. And that enthusiasm is contagious! 

What’s the future look like for Tonic Sol-fa?

We set out to have a long-term career and have accomplished that. We’ve been offered recording contracts like so many others ... been asked to change styles of music or be managed by people who assured us of millions of social media hits if we followed their formula. We’ve stuck to our brand of music and stuck together because we’ve seen so many other artists who’ve hit big and disappeared or who changed so completely and then lost themselves along the way. Our path at times is harder to be sure. But the future has always been determined by us and so it always seems to have endless possibilities ... and that is an amazing place to be.

Tonic Sol-fa is bringing The Nights Before Christmas Tour to the RCU Theatre at the Pablo Center on Dec. 12 at 7:30pm. Tickets available at pablocenter.org

Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

Chippewa Valley Technical College

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.