It sounds like the beginning of a great joke: A preacher, a lawyer, a cellist and a harpist walk into a bar …
But this foursome is anything but a joke.
Sons of Serendip, the 2014 “America’s Got Talent” finalists who offer fresh interpretations of popular music, bring their holiday tour to Layton High School next week for the Davis Arts Council’s DAC the Halls 2019 concert.
The band consists of vocalist Micah Christian, cellist Kendall Ramseur, harpist Mason Morton and pianist Cordaro Rodriguez. The four men met in graduate school at Boston University, while studying for their various paths in theology, cello performance, harp performance, and law, respectively.
Monday’s concert promises to put the Layton audience in a holiday mood, according to vocalist Christian.
“We’re going to be doing a lot of Christmas songs that they already know and love,” Christian said in a recent telephone interview from his Massachusetts home. “But we’ll try to recreate them so they feel like they’re hearing their favorite songs for the first time all over again, if that makes sense. We try to keep the spirit of the song while at the same time using creativity to bring a fresh interpretation to them.”
At the heart of the concert is a spiritual element, and Christian said the group looks to weave holiday memories of family and loved ones into the music.
“What we hope to do is create an experience — not just song after song after song, but we do a little storytelling to build an atmosphere,” Christian said.
The tour is named after Sons of Serendip’s holiday album, “Christmas: Beyond the Lights.” Christian says the meaning of that phrase tries to take the holiday past the usual superficial trappings of this time of year.
“I think what we’re trying to do is to get people into the holiday spirit, but in a way that’s not commercial,” he said. “It’s more about celebrating the family and loved ones that we’re going to be spending time with, but also people we wish were here.”
To that end, Christian said they’ll put up a Christmas tree at the concert and give audience members a chance to hang an ornament in honor of someone who is not here at the holidays.
“We want to help people connect on a deeper level,” he said.
Sons of Serendip became a professional band purely on a whim, according to Christian. He’d heard about the “America’s Got Talent” auditions and asked the other three men if they wanted to try out for a spot.
“We’d joked in the past about doing a performance together one day,” Christian said. “So once I saw the auditions I thought, ‘This could be a cool opportunity to see what we’re made of.’”
Their audition on the stage at “America’s Got Talent” was the first time the four men had ever performed in front of an audience together.
“We had no idea what we were doing,” Christian laughs. “We just thought, ‘Let’s go and have fun and see what happens.’”
They didn’t even have a name for their quartet. But they had to settle on one — fast.
“We only had an hour to come up with a name,” Christian said. “‘America’s Got Talent’ called us and said, ‘We need a name in an hour.’”
They settled on Sons of Serendip, a variation on “The Three Princes of Serendip,” a 12th-century Persian tale about serendipitous accidents.
“We felt like that’s how we came together,” Christian said.
Indeed. Just how serendipitous was this lineup? Well, one of the band members had meant to apply to Boston College, not Boston University.
Christian remembers those “America’s Got Talent” days as difficult ones. All four men had day jobs, so they’d get together after work to prepare for the TV competition. No one was getting much sleep.
“We were going from 10:30 at night until 2 in the morning, rehearsing songs and creating arrangements,” Christian said.
Despite going so deep into the “America’s Got Talent” competition, Christian confesses they still didn’t know if Sons of Serendip was just a one-and-done thing. They returned from their fourth-place finish on the TV show without a decision on their future.
“After we were done — after the finale — we all came back to Boston and had a meeting as a group to discuss, like, what’s our plan,” Christian recalls. “And at that moment, we decided we were going to give it a shot.”
Christian said it’s been a wild ride. This year was the group’s busiest yet, and while they continue to create unique versions of cover songs, they’re also writing more originals. After the current Christmas tour, Sons of Serendip will go back out on the road in January, hitting it hard for the first five months of 2020. They’ll also be working on a fourth album.
“When we’re not performing, oftentimes we’re backstage writing music and producing songs,” Christian said. “We’re really excited. What’s great is we feel like this is our most creative time. We’ve had five years together, but now we’re moving into a creative season where we’re showing who we are through original music.”
Christian said the group is also excited to head back to Utah for this holiday show.
“The folks we’ve met there and performed for have been some of our best audiences — so warm and welcoming,” he said.