Every Little Thing They Do is Magic

Key of She releases a new CD with a party at Orpha’s Coffee Shop.

By: Susan Van Dongen


The all-female a cappella group Key of She, from left: Pat Stearman, Debbie Nutt, Dyann Mazzeo, Sue Jaques, Lisa Ernst and Amy Raditz.

   Altos rejoice. There is a place for you sultry- voiced gals in the choral cosmos.
   The Skillman-based, all-female a cappella group Key of She is comprised predominantly of altos, and they’re doing just fine. On their new, self-released album, In the Key of She, they wrap their voices around songs as diverse as the Police classic "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic," George Gershwin’s "S’Wonderful" and Joan Osborne’s "Spider Web." That’s just the melody and harmony. The women use their voices to create all the instruments and percussion on the songs as well. You can bet Julie Andrews couldn’t do that.
   "Yeah, I’m down there in the basement, voice-wise," says Key of She founding member Pat Stearman. On the new CD she’s featured on "Something to Talk About," originally done by Bonnie Raitt. Ms. Stearman also does a lovely version of Fleetwood Mac’s "Warm Ways." In fact, she’s just about perfect for the song, which was written and sung by Christine McVie, another alto.
   The group is celebrating In the Key of She with a CD release party June 12 at Orpha’s Coffee Shop in Montgomery. KOS will do three mini-shows, inviting listeners to discover the joy of music, sans instruments.
   This has been an interesting six months for the gals, who all hail from central New Jersey. In addition to professionally recording their CD in New York, in December they appeared on Jane Pauley’s nationally syndicated holiday show.
   "We got the call only a week before," says Lisa Ernst of Hightstown. "It took us all by surprise, in fact we thought they had the wrong number. The day of the show, they picked us up in a white stretch limo and drove us to 30 Rockefeller Plaza, where an NBC page whooshed us upstairs to our dressing room. We just felt like queens. They had breakfast waiting for us. They freshened and steamed our clothes, did our hair and makeup. It was so much fun. And Jane Pauley was lovely — very warm, just like one of the gals."
   KOS discovered they had a soulmate in Rickie Trudeau, the daughter of Ms. Pauley and Doonesbury cartoonist Gary Trudeau.
   "She’s the one who found us, through our Web site," Ms. Ernst says. "She and her mom had decided they wanted to do a show on a cappella music because Rickie is in a group herself, Out of the Blue, at Yale."
   "Gary (Trudeau) was there too, right in the front row," says KOS founding member Sue Jacques.
   "We would have paid them to be on the show," Ms. Ernst says. "That kind of exposure for our Web site and everything was monumental. It was very cool. Afterwards I got calls and e-mails from friends I hadn’t seen in years."
   In the Key of She is a real leap forward for KOS. Our First Time, their debut self-released CD, was recorded in Ms. Jacques’ basement studio in Skillman. But with the new album, the women reinvested a great deal of the group’s finances to have it done professionally. They chose Jeff Thacher, a New York-based producer known for his work with a cappella groups, to oversee the project.
   "It was quite an experience for us," Ms. Stearman says. "We’re proud of the fact that this is a product of our hard work over the years."
   A mixture of everything from elegance to bubblegum, In the Key of She includes a hilarious version of "In These Shoes." The song features Amy Raditz on lead vocals, with the backing gals throwing in squeals, wicked laughs, vocalized horns and percussion, horsey neighs and asides like "what is this, the Peace Corps?"
   A liberated-female version of Del Shannon’s "Runaway" has Ms. Ernst on lead. There’s a cool rendition of "S’Wonderful" with the gentle harmonies of Ms. Jacques, Dyann Mazzeo and Patty Cronheim (who left the group in January, replaced by Debbie Nutt). KOS favorite "Bald Headed Men" extols the charms of "chrome domes" like Sean Connery, Homer Simpson and Kojak, and tells follically challenged men that "you’re not losing hair, you’re just gaining face."
   To top it off, KOS takes us back to the days of the Partridge Family with "I Think I Love You," where all the gals get to take a solo. So, who’s the David Cassidy fan who suggested this one? Where do they come up with their repertoire?
   "We’re quite a democratic organization," Ms. Jacques says. "We have a ‘music night’ where everyone is supposed to bring in five songs. We play all the songs, make this great tape or CD, pass it around and listen to it and then we vote on what we like. Then we arrange the ones that get the votes. But it’s easy because we have the same taste, to an extent."
   "Although each of us also has a real love for a certain kind of music," Ms. Ernst says. "But we all appreciate each others’ tastes. A good song is a good song."
   In honor of the group’s new CD, Orpha’s has created a special drink, Frappé de She — a slushy white chocolate and strawberry concoction that Ms. Jacques says is "she-licious." The folks at Orpha’s are big fans of the group.
   "Orpha’s has been very accommodating for us," Ms. Jacques says. "We’ve been performing there for a while and we’ve packed the place, in fact. It’s a great open space. You can fit a lot of people in the room."
   "We like to try new arrangements there, kind of work out any new songs we’re doing," Ms. Ernst says. "Because many of our other gigs are benefits, we stick to the music (people know). But at Orpha’s we can just test the waters."
Key of She’s CD release party for In the Key of She will be held at Orpha’s Coffee Shop, 1330 Route 206, Montgomery, June 12, 1-4 p.m. Free admission. For information, call (609) 466-2494. In the Key of She is available through CDBaby or on Key of She’s Web site: www.keyofshe.com