Under The Streetlamp is a vocal quartet that salutes American pop music from the past. The group has its origins in the Chicago company of Jersey Boys. It was during that run of the show that Shonn Wiley and the other members began moonlighting as a vocal group performing music from and around the doo-wop era. By early 2010 the production had closed but the members continued to perform together.
“We started finding other opportunities in the Chicago area to continue to work on this material and to continue to bring this great music to the masses,” Wiley says.
The group’s big break came when PBS aired a concert special featuring the quartet in 2012.
“We had no idea what was going to happen," he says. "It was a surprise hit. We now have a second PBS special and have been touring in support of both of those all over the country. We’ve been to Europe. It’s been awesome.”
The repertoire is not strictly related to Jersey Boys though that music remains important to the quartet.
“We like to call the music music from the American radio songbook," Wiley says. "We pay tribute to our roots, where we came together, singing the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. But we also sing Bobby Darin, Dion and The Belmonts, Little Anthony and The Imperials, Etta James, Motown, you name it, we cover it.”
One of the joys of singing the music incorporated in the show comes from the lyrics, which were written at a time when writers chose their words more carefully.
“We’ve as a society gotten really literal with how we speak and what we’re trying to say," he says. "And for a while there’s been this desire to really shock people. That wasn’t what was on their minds when they were writing this music. It was incredibly subtle and some of the imagery is really visceral and beautiful.”
Under The Streetlamp has not yet reached a youth audience but as more people become aware of the group it seems inevitable that the two will meet.
“I’m optimistic that the younger kids and the younger generation are going to come in,” Wiley says.
Under the Streetlamp will be performing on Friday, December 5 at The Orpheum Theatre