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Home > Main > After The Sing Off – An International A Cappella Debate

After The Sing Off – An International A Cappella Debate

by Nate George, David Michael Loucks, Stephen Saxon, Tom Keyes, Deke Sharon, Willy Eteson and Florian Städtler

On February 7, a remarkable thread emerged out of Facebook, a real-time discussion  by a bunch of a cappella activists. This online debate, which was exciting to be part of, happened after Nate George, baritone for Red Harmony, a Los Angeles based, 6-person vocal group updated his facebook status with a comment on the image the US TV show “The Sing-Off” created in the US public.  What followed was a highly interesting discussion of experts offering views from inside the business and a lot of general a cappella insight.

So this time I will radically break the rule of “Don’t write more than one page in a blog”: This post is quite long, but worth reading if you care for vocal music. And the debate is not an exclusively US American issue. Many thoughts, especially on the image a cappella music holds in public apply to the European music scene as well.


Nate George David Michael LoucksStephen SaxonTom KeyesFlorian StädtlerWilly EtesonDeke Sharon

Nate George wishes ‘collegiate a cappella’ was not the face of the a cappella music scene, in pop culture. What about the many professional vocal groups that tour around the world? There, I said it, don’t chastise me!

David Michael Loucks You and me both, bro. Sad state of affairs. Thanks for nothing, sing off.

Stephen Saxon Is it worse to be misrepresented or to be ignored completely? I don’t have an answer, but perhaps a foot in the door is better than a closed one.

Nate George No disrespect to collegiate groups, some really do a good job, but they often don’t have the resources or the musical training to pull off industry standard recordings or entertaining live performances. As they are the ‘face’ of the genre, it gives the genre an amateur stigma, thus limiting the kinds of audiences that come to the concerts and buy the recordings.

David Michael Loucks The Sing Off could’ve/should’ve done more to include professional groups as special guest performers, most of whom would surely have done it for free just for exposure and/or for the opportunity to be associated with such an event.

How do you have a show that supposedly celebrates acappella with NO Take6, NO Rockapella, NO Real Group, etc, etc??? Deke Sharon was actually involved with the behind the scenes… yet no appearance by the House Jacks. Any one of those (or many other) groups would’ve been enough. More than one would’ve been ideal.

Instead they feature famous/semi-famous artists that have zero to very limited knowledge of acappella??? Boyz II Men? Pussycat Dolls? Ben Folds? Gimme a break. It was a complete joke. Boyz II Men had the worst performance of any of the guests, judges, or contestants!…
Now for most of America, acappella is the Beelzebubs. Good grief.

Nate George I totally agree!!!

Stephen Saxon Well, Bobby McFerrin has some a cappella credentials <grin>, and he did a pretty good turn when he appeared. Ben Folds had just done a tour with Kerry Marsh as his choral director (oh, have you checked out Kerry Marsh and Julia Dollison singing the music of Maria Schneider? Of course not, it is going to be released in March. Not exactly a cappella, but it’s absolutely awesome!). I thought Ben’s comments were the most consistently musical and intelligent.

Deke was able to use a lot of House Jacks clips slotted as the “return from commercial” music. I think it was most or all from their recordings.

But let me be clear – I don’t disagree with you guys. Mostly I’m in tune with you. But it’s kind of like healthcare reform (uh, oh!). I’d rather have some change that moves us in the right direction than to see the world as we know it remain unchanged. Perfection can be an enemy of the good. And if folks think that a cappella = boys from Tufts, well, perhaps it’s better than them having absolutely no context for the concept of a cappella, or that it’s what the four guys from their high school production of The Music Man were doing. (No offense to BSQ’s, of course. I’ve worked with many and have a healthy respect for that area of the tribe).

David Michael Loucks Bobby M was the only solid… though most people don’t know him as an acappella artist, so again… for me it doesn’t exemplify much exposure to professional acappella artists that are outside the mainstream. McFerrin’s inclusion in the show was however one bright spot in the midst of a huge goose egg.

I’m aware of the Ben Folds college acappella connection. No disrespect to Kerry Marsh (I really like his stuff)… but Ben Folds making an album with a college acappella element does not make him an expert, though I do respect his musicianship. My problem with him as a judge is that his knowledge is limited to college acappella, which is only a minimal and very amateur part of the genre.

House Jacks bumper music doesn’t exactly qualify as exposure. Not trying to be argumentative… just trying to clarify and defend my thoughts.

Stephen Saxon No disrespect taken or intended.

After all was sung and done, I thought the right group was “crowned.” And they weren’t the Tuft’s boys, of course.

If they do the show again, it will be up to the collective “us” (though I’m not talking about myself) to show what professional or semi-professional groups can do. Alpha / Nota is a professional group, and they showed their depth and versatility in the competition. I’ve met them and I like them, and I don’t have any reservations about their having won. In fact, I thought that just about each one of the eliminations was the right one at the time. Some of the decisions really surprised me, because I thought the producers might be more inclined to include much more non-musical criteria in their decisions than they did.

If The Idea Of North, or M-Pact, or any one of a number of other groups were interested in sweeping the thing, it would be a very interesting thing to watch. The “prize” for winning, though, is not likely to tempt any group that is producing recordings or performing regularly already, as those groups are. Take6 or the RealGroup or TION or M-P don’t need a recording contract with Sony, nor $100K, if those came along with any real restrictions on their control of their own direction or careers. So it will remain a contest of semi-professionals versus amateurs (kind of like the Olympics used to be :-)).

Tom Keyes Interesting thread guys… just a note: MOST of the pro/semi-pro groups I know went out for auditions, but ultimately were rejected for the show. Perhaps they refused the contracts and eliminated themselves in cases, but I doubt that Face, Nota, and Maxx Factor were the the only non-collegiate groups that actually signed the thing. (David maybe you know the answer to that on m-pact’s part). What you saw on screen was a carefully chosen list from the minds of the producers. Perhaps the producers felt that a group like M-Pact wouldn’t provide enough growth for a 4-show arc.

And I doubt ANY group mentioned would refuse the $100K, unless of course the carrot it dangled from involved a full leash.

David Michael Loucks That’s exactly my point. Any group already making money was not likely to do the show given how restrictive the contract was. The producers’ decision to do it with amateur contestants (who’d be the only ones willing to sign such a contract) is fine, HOWEVER… not giving any historical background, or including the GREATS in the field (even if only through video footage) was very disappointing to say the least.

With that in mind, I don’t think it really is up to “us” to show what those groups can do. Many of those groups were courted by producers to be on the show, but would not sign the contract due to the fact that it was ridiculously unreasonable for existing professional groups. I expect most of them are glad they chose not to participate, as most agree the show would’ve made them look bad. The show’s producers made the decisions on song choice, arrangement, wardrobe, choreography… pretty much every aspect of what makes those artists who they are, so in that sense we didn’t see a true representation of the artist’s vision.

I agree, the contestant who should’ve won, did… at least in as much as they were the most marketable. The behind the scenes dirt is that several of those groups were formed specifically to compete on the show… including the winners. They didn’t exist before NBC started searching for “America’s Top Vocal Group.” At least one of the college groups I spoke to admitted that they didn’t even audition, and the producers not only sought them out to be on the show, but also chose which students/alumni would participate… even buying key members out of existing contracts on other gigs to ensure their participation. Typical reality tv manipulation… as usual, it’s not about “reality” or the artist, it’s about the show.

In my opinion, a great opportunity to introduce to the public what acappella has to offer was missed. It bothers me greatly that NBC (and the production company who’s name I can’t remember) had this vision for a show and yet missed the mark in so many aspects of their production. It’s like producing a documentary about the Civil War and neglecting to mention Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, and Ulysses S. Grant.

David Michael Loucks Tom… a great many of the groups that we (mpact) spoke with who auditioned did not sign the contract. We also auditioned but did not sign the contract. We have no idea whether the producers would have chosen us for the show or not… but we’ll never know because we wouldn’t sign a contract with so many restrictions.
A $100k Sony recording contract isn’t worth as much as you’d think when you have to give up as much as the contract required.

Tom Keyes I wondered about that when I saw you guys there. My group never made it to the contract part, so I couldn’t comment on it specifically. As far as being worth it, I did mention the “leash”. :)

Stephen Saxon One more perspective on this and I’ll try to leave it alone. The producers of this show patterned it after the Harmony Sweepstakes national finals (even to the extent of having a group from each region of the country). They taped the finals – all day, not just the performance – with extensive interviews of the participants in 2008. I was one of the performers that year, and when I saw the contract (and learned that signing the contract was mandatory in order to perform in the finals), I did a lot of crossing out of offending clauses and had their representative initial each of those changes (a copy for them and one for me). Don’t forget that it is a legal option for you to modify any contract you’re offered, folks. A contract is intended as a two-way agreement. It is not necessarily an all or nothing offer. It wasn’t in that case, anyway.

But given what they were using as a pattern and model, I think they did much, much better than the original. It could have been better, but I think it could have been a LOT worse, too. Just having Deke involved to help the groups work out their musical kinks would be enough of a take-away for most groups to benefit from the experience. I would guess that each group got to take their new costumes home with them, too. Maybe I’m a half-full kind of guy, but even Face seemed to be pleased to get some national exposure, even if they only got to sing 1.25 songs. It may be that the Tufts boys got the best outcome of the show by placing second. They don’t have to abide by the recording contract or tour to support Sony, but they got huge exposure and increased fan-base.

Florian Städtler Hi everybody, I don’t know if it’s appropriate to join the conversation from outside the US. But as European tv and radio usually copies every US entertainment format with a delay of about a year, the EU a cappella groups might face the “reality question” rather sooner than later.

Talking to members of professional vocal groups from both sides of the Atlantic, I could imagine having the same kind of discussion over here. To what degree should a cappella and vocal groups compromise in order to get into mainstream media. Btw: this is not an a cappella question in particular. None of the groups I’ve worked with as an agent would agree on anyone being in control over artistic questions.

I think producers know that they will NEVER make artistically serious groups sign a contract that leaves them as puppets of artistically lightweight tv producers. And they are probably more happy that way, as the young amateur groups (some which are of amazing, almost pro quality) will be easier to handle and incorporate into the rigid reality formats….

So what can both US and EU acappella and vocal activists do? Firstly, I think we have to realize that we all need each other. There will be no pro groups without a semi-pro and amateur scene. Imagine there was no basketball besides NBA, no Spanish soccer besides the Primera Division etc. Singing together is a social activity before it becomes a profession and singers will most likely be an audience for other singers.

If the common goal is to create better music and more opportunities for singers, arrangers, producers, engineers, promoters, the current and future followers, college and amateur group need the national and international groups, too: They can show the audience what a cappella can do and that this kind of music is as artistically outstanding and independent as other contemporary styles are.

Couldn’t this be a strategic goal for CASA? Using the lobby of tens of thousands of singers combined with the a cappella flagships Rockapella, m-pact, Housejacks, Take6 and maybe international top acts like The Real Group, Rajaton, The Idea of North, A’Cappella Expresss, The Swingle Singers, Vocal Sampling…

Looking forward to your feedback.

Willy Eteson All very interesting for us reading this! The swingles were in our office HQ towards the end of last year, and the TV reality show “Britain’s got talent” was auditioning in the building. We had a look at the application forms for interest (and even came up with a few group name pseudonyms for good fun) but decided not to enter because of the contract straight jacket. It would basically have meant potentially giving up all our existing contracted work for 1.5 years! not very tempting.

I’m not sure what the solution is to this, because I agree with the sentiment expressed here about these type of TV shows. How can pro a cappella groups create something engaging for the mass audience addicted to ‘reality’ scripts? I think it’s either join them (as coaches or suchlike) if you get the opportunity or create a similar amateurs competition from within our own a cappella festivals/summits etc. I’m not sure we could guarantee a 100k for the winners though!

Willy Eteson Oh Hi Florian! Seems Europe is back home for the night! You are right that you need am. and pro. – although it’s perverse that the am. gets the big exposure which is converse to major sports! All in all – I think it’s good for a cappella profile. Perhaps we should campaign for a grammy category in its own right!

Florian Städtler Willy – reality shows with artificially casted bands love to leave the stage to non-professionals. To be honest I haven’t seen American Idol, but the German version of the show, “Deutschland sucht den Superstar” (Germany’s search for the Superstar) was in my humble opinion 10% art, 10% kitsch and 80% voyeurism. And still I believe that there are niches for authentic artists. Would be OK for a cappella to get 10% of the music market, wouldn’t it? ;-)

Nate George The show’s producers should have made the show about looking for the NEXT big vocal group, an amateur group that they’re helping turn pro. Not a ‘super group’ that should be known as the representative of the best in A Cappella. The fact that they billed it as them trying to find the best A Cappella group, but then focused on paying collegiate groups to be on the show proves my point that the media thinks that collegiate groups ARE the ‘face’ of A Cappella. I made a new friend recently that is somewhat familiar with A Cappella music… the first thing he asked me was ‘How many people are in Red Harmony?’ When I told him ‘six,’ he was surprised. He knew of a cappella groups (obviously collegiate only though) to have nearly double that many members. That was definitely not the first time I had mentioned A Cappella to someone and they made a comparison to the collegiate format.

If they had wanted to make the show about the ‘WORLD”S BEST’ group, the producers should have done their research and sought out the top groups to have somewhat of an ‘ultimate showdown’ (as I chose those words, I must point out, I’m laughing :-)). Something to showcase the absolute best talent and make the prize worthy of an already-professional group. This would be ideal because then the world could see what the ‘vocal bands’ of today are really made of. Then they should get some judges from the A Cappella scene that are seasoned performers/directors/clinicians and do a backstory on them, letting the world know about their accomplishments, maybe invite the group, that they sing with, to the stage. Maybe the content wouldn’t be initially exciting for people that don’t know anything about A Cappella music, but the producers can still make the show flashy, add some drama, do what they do to sell a show to the masses. If someone can make a show about fishing interesting (like ‘Deadliest Catch’ haha), they certainly can make a show about the A Cappella world interesting to anyone who watches it.

Florian Städtler Nate, I think that even with much money involved, the groups – quite naturally – would love to sing *together* instead against each other. This is the core of singing in a group: Sharing the experience. Might be not as spectacular for the masses…but as Willy said before: It’s our job to create formats and concepts that are both artistically valuable and efficient in fascinating mass audiences. Let’s work on that!

David Michael Loucks Stephen, using FACE as an example… in my understanding, they were outfitted and choreographed by the production company. More than that, the song they performed (which was far from their first choice) was selected by the producers… AND re-keyed… AND the lead was given to a different member of the group… AND their performance was mixed by an engineer other than their own who clearly missed the mark (mixes were horrible throughout the entire event). All choices that were out of the groups hands. Then, the judges questioned their choice of song on the taping of the show. How dramatic. Too bad for FACE though. If I were a member of FACE, I’d have been very disappointed with the exposure the show provided… despite having to say the obligatory, politically correct thank yous while gracefully exiting.

Unfortunately, nobody saw the FACE that they would see at a concert… whether they were good enough to win the contest or not. At least they could’ve been allowed to represent themselves honestly.

Again, I think making it an amateur competition is great… and I agree with Florian, we need amateurs as well as pros. My hope would be that EVERYONE would be more interested in vocal music in general as a result of a show like the Sing Off… BUT, don’t ignore the history, its pioneers, and its top notch performers in the process.

Nate George Florian, yes, I agree, a showcase of the best groups would be awesome! a televised festival, rather than a competition!

Florian Städtler It will take some effort. And a long-term plan. And lots of time an energy by people who are able to share what they know about music and business. Let’s keep ourselves posted across the Atlantic.

And thanks a lot for starting this discussion. Vitally important and a great opportunity to learn from different views.

Tom Keyes I think what Florian is saying, if I may paraphrase, is if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself. ;)

David, I liked everything in your last post and agree with all, except a minor nit. I don’t think the show strictly *ignored* the pioneers…after all Deke himself was a major consultant. Did they run a package that talked about the recent history of Contemporary A cappella or give him any screen time? Obviously no, but they thought enough about it to bring him on when they could have ignored him completely. Progress, I guess is what I’m saying. I’m willing to bet they had none of this consideration on any of the other shows that groups have appeared on (the mixing on them bears this observation out). For the record, I would have LOVED to have had one less appearance of Boys II Men (Boys 3 Men?) or Nick Lachey, and one more appearance of any of the groups who’s names we’re throwing around here for a showcase reference.

I think people in TV are taking a huge risk with someone else’s money every time they stage something that is an unknown, and they are rightfully cautious about it. But conservative successes can lead to bigger and better opportunities later. Maybe next year they have live show bumpers instead of canned (ala a “Live Band”). Better or more relevant judges. A larger venue so people attending the live taping won’t get turned away next time (right Nate?)

As long as we keep getting chances to represent our own selves (i.e. m-pact doesn’t lose a gig because they don’t have 14 members, all female and cute…no offense), we’ll be fine, and the additional exposure will help people understand that we’re not singing church choir music when booking us

Deke Sharon Great discussion! A decade ago a Cappella was bbshop, doo sop or classical, and now it’s contemporary music – big step. Also, American idol doesn’t feature Aretha Franklin…

Willy Eteson All true – the best thing is that we’ve got a bit of progress as Deke has pointed out. Whilst over in Boston when the show was on I read a review in the Washington Post or something slamming the presenter for ramming it home that a cappella meant “no instruments”!! I can understand that frustration over in the states where a cappella is relatively well known, but here in the UK people are still trying to get it – they still say “oh like barbershop”!! I agree about the mixes – don’t know what is was like for the groups in the studio but the aired mixes were terrible in my opinion – I felt for every group when a judge made comments on the group’s live balance. Thanks Nate for your hospitality, by the way! nice to drop in!!! ;-)

David Michael Loucks Tom… though Deke had a behind the scenes roll in the show (which I agree was a good move), no one who watched the show knows any more about Deke Sharon or the House Jacks than they did before the show aired. That’s what I meant by no “exposure” to the pioneers, legends, etc… there was no bar set for the general public to understand what good acappella is supposed to sound like. That’s the main problem I have with the show. (Please understand that this is not some embittered rant based upon mpact not being part of the show… we CHOSE not to be involved, and believe me, after seeing it, we’re glad we made that choice.)

David Michael Loucks … and Deke, you are right about AI… but as you might expect, I have issues with that show too. :-)

Nate George You’re very welcome, Willy! Its always great to hear from you! :-) I’m excited that my post garnered such interest from everyone here. I agree with Florian, we need to have more discussions like this. Maybe it will help us come up with ideas as how we can make our music more mainstream. I’m sure that surrendering our creativity to today’s producers is not the only way to achieve that mainstream status!

Deke Sharon I agree that everything suggested above would be nice, but the fact is that network television is rarely educational, as American Idol doesn’t teach anyone about singing. The fact that the show did have Bobby McFerrin in the final and treated contemporary a cappella with great respect made it a net win, even without a treatise on the King’s Singers etc. And if we get a season two I’ll be involved in casting (I wasn’t last time) and there will likely be more groups involved (longer run) and we’ve already lept many of the initial hurdles (sound issues, etc) so I think everyone will be happy with it…

Deke Sharon BTW – regardless what anyone here thinks, BoyzIIMen is the only group in music history to have 2 top 40 a cappella hits. A significant statistic. And Bobby McFerrin is the king, second to none. A gutsy casting choice that paid off. And he also had a huge top 40 hit that was a cappella (something the Real Group, Rockapella and Take 6 never had). If you consider the others who have had big radio hits with a cappella (Huey Lewis, Nylons, All4One, Shai…) they were the two to have. In my opinion. And if we get a second season, we’ll hopefully have more.

David Michael Loucks Well stated Deke… you make several strong points here, but even so I disagree somewhat (which should come as no surprise based on all my other scathing posts). :-)

1. I don’t think the “AI not teaching people about singing” comparison is relevant. The fact is, we’re talking about exposure to acappella, and with that in mind I’m only pointing out that many of the top acappella groups in the world remain relatively unknown. I still feel the show could’ve done more to highlight some of those super talented, lesser known groups. That’s not the same thing as being “educational.”

2. Boys II Men may have 2 top 40 acappella hits… but again, I don’t think anyone views them as an acappella group. It’s fine that they were part of the show in that they are more of a viewer draw, I get that… but it would’ve been better to follow that up with an actual top notch acappella group that would not only be a solid “guest performer” but a representative of the elite in acappella that much of the US may be unaware of. Everyone knows Boyz II Men already, and sorry… but they’re a poor example of good acappella, hits or no hits. In my opinion they keep the bar very low in the consciousness of America.

I’ve already stated that Bobby M was a solid choice… best part of the show, but again he’s well known so he doesn’t exactly expose the public to the genre in a new way. He’d have been an ideal judge.

All that said, Deke… I’m really glad you’re a part of the show. Another bright spot in my opinion. Though I’m a “call it as I see it” kind of guy, I really do have the highest hope that the show will be a great success. I’ll be looking for good things in seasons to come.

Florian Städtler Deke, keep on doing the pioneer thing. And let us all not expect things to be perfect. It will certainly be a long way with lots of little steps and some detour ahead.

I love people who get things done. And the fact that Deke Sharon was involved in the (pioneer) show is a proof that he and contemporary a cappella has a built a reputation and a lobby.

Btw. in Europe the situation is quite similar and we still have this decade of development Deke mentioned before us. All of you probably know the Comedian Harmonists, which have done great stuff, both as musicians and entertainers. However, a cappella groups in Germany, home country of the Harmonists, tend to concentrate very much on being funny, writing funny lyrics, doing funny choreos etc. instead of writing great original material and high quality arrangements. As a consequence, most of the people over here believe this is a cappella – a parallel to the barbershop-is-acappella-perspective the US scene suffered from a long time….

Reading your post has been incredibly valuable for me, I think this thread offered much insight, thanks everybody for contributing. I think it would be great to have more a cappella activists join this conversation – is anybody against making this thread public? (Well, in fact it is public for Nate’s friends…)

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  1. 16. Februar 2010, 18:20 | #1

    So you guys had a boy blog party, eh? No chick input? Who am I, Nicole Scherzinger? : )

    Many good points are made here, many I agree with.

    Maybe I have lived in Los Angeles for too long (maybe?!?), but it was obvious from the start that this show was about TELEVISION. It was about ENTERTAINMENT. That’s what the producers were creating.

    Why else would they use mainly young groups? (because anyone over 30 looks terrible in hi def)

    Why else would they choose an eye candy female judge instead of someone from Manhattan Transfer or New York Voices, or even En Vogue? Talk about insulting! But you need look no further than AI for the model for that. (Doesn’t anyone recall that Paula Abdul was sued by the woman who did the guide tracks for her album, who claimed it was in fact her voice and not Paula’s on certain sections of the final product?)

    The Bobs are happy that attention is being paid to vocal music. And the sing off isn’t what we do, either. But we never thought it was.

    Anyone who comes to our show expecting costumes, choreography or… hi def will surely be disappointed!

    Word to all of you.

  2. 17. Februar 2010, 01:29 | #2

    Amy-Bob – I don’t think that female side was avoided. It’s a function of Nate having no woman friends on FaceBook. Or maybe it’s just that we’re all so post-gender, already…

    But seriously, I’m glad that Deke joined in on the conversation, albeit pretty briefly. I definitely hope that the show gets a second season. And a third.

    I have a suggestion or two for the producers, though. Perhaps there could be a different contract option for groups who already take their careers seriously and have made investments of time and experience. Maybe their prize would be less money with fewer or no professional restrictions after the show is done. Kind of like getting taking an up-front lottery payment that is much less than the total payout if taken over 20 years. If that were the case, I bet some professional or semi-professional groups might be much more willing to participate. The benefit to the producers would be a much more competitive and higher level of performing, which should also generate better ratings.

    One way to bring in some of the history of a cappella (if the producers want to do that) would be to have a mentoring session included in one or more rounds, with members of some great groups helping out some of the competitors. Or having an open spot on the judges panel for a guest judge at each round. That judge could be from a famous or established group (Take6, Manhattan Transfer, The Real Group, Singers Unlimited, etc.). Top Chef has done both of those in their show, and it really works, in my opinion.

    I’ve long felt that one missing piece in the contemporary a cappella competition scene (and Sing-Off is included in this), is any place for solo a cappella or for studio-only a cappella singers. Three to eight (formerly seven) voices is the standard set by the dominant contemporary a cappella competition. Sing-Off obviously had larger groups than that. I’d like to see producers and promoters considering those who use widely available technologies that redefine what a “group” can actually be.

    Standard rules would eliminate Bobby McFerrin, Andrew Chaiken / Kid Beyond, Amy X Neuberg, Sam the “One Mouth Band” and many others who either use solo voice in concert, do live looping, or record many tracks of their own voice as their primary mode of operation. Does any of that make it any less vocal? I maintain that it does not. It’s kind of like what BB King said: “I’ve thought many times if you’re black and you’re a blues singer it’s like being black twice, two times.” I’m not black or a blues singer, but when you’re singing a cappella and you don’t have a place at even the main a cappella table, well, be like Charles Ives. Follow your muse, pursue your artistic passion, and don’t quit your day job, my friend.


  3. 17. Februar 2010, 01:30 | #3

    Wait a second… I had a parenthetical phrase in there that the comment about Nate was a joke. Really, I did! Somehow it got stripped – oh, I used angle-brackets instead of parentheses. Sorry, Nate. It really was a joke.

  4. 17. Februar 2010, 22:05 | #4

    I think Amy-Bob brought up a very interesting topic in general: Female a cappella singers being a fringe group, mixed groups being a rarity and all-female groups hardly to be found.
    Is it because of the differences in range? Is it because of barbershop and Comedian Harmonists history/tradition? Or (I’ll try to be very correct & pc here…) that there are general gender differences working in a band? (How many all-female, or mostly female pop and rock groups are there compared with U2, REM, Stones etc.)

    Sing-off makes us think about and discuss many different issues – so let’s hope the show will go on and we can contribute new ideas and get more feedback by participants and the audience.

  5. Nina
    18. Februar 2010, 17:48 | #5

    I know from experience, that a group with only women sounds not definitive. My ears are not content with this sound.
    The a cappella-female group “Medlz” (Germany) use a micro with bass response. This needs getting used to. But for all that, I like the group and their music. With this technically feasible effect, the group sounds entire.

  6. Nate George
    18. Februar 2010, 20:19 | #6

    No worries Stephen, no offense taken. In my defense tho, Clare Wheeler, of The Swingle Singers ‘liked’ the debate! haha :-). Anyway, I like your suggestion, I think a different contract option for more established groups is a very good idea, especially if that can help our friends in professional groups get some national (or international, that is!) air-time. The world needs to see what they’re missing out on!

  7. 19. Februar 2010, 13:03 | #7

    Hi everybody – a very special hello to the ladies online.
    As the “Female A Cappella” topic seems to be a separate issue
    worth being discussed I’m going to open a new discussion board
    at our facebook group. I’ll paste and copy your tipps and suggestions
    from the yet short thread and add a few ideas and links next week.

    It goes without saying that any comments here at the Vocal Blog
    are highly appreciated :-) Still waiting for Clare’s comment, but she
    seems to be busy Swingling en italiano…

  8. 21. Februar 2010, 23:29 | #8

    I’m a bit late to this party but I saw the discussion thread recently and thought I might add a few things. I’ve been a fan of the Swingle Singers for years, as well as a friend of Willy Eteson’s from university, and I’ve sung with The King’s Singers for six years now.

    The distinction between television entertainment and high art has been made enough times already, and for one thing I think it’s great that the spotlight is ever shone on groups who sing in harmony as there’s a definite trickle-down that affects all professional groups. Shows such as The Sing Off and Glee can only do good things for the popularity of high school and college acappella groups, and on our current US tour we’ve taught masterclasses to groups who seem to have chosen their repertoire straight out of epidoes of Glee – think “Don’t Stop Believing” and you’re pretty much there. But these shows shouldn’t be held up as really promoting the best of the best in terms of acappella performance, because they’re not at a high enough level. I don’t want that to sound patronising or arrogant, but to my mind they’re just not quite there.

    In order to elevate such shows to become real centres of excellence, you HAVE to have the best consultants, star guests and professional performers as contributers. Bobby McFerrin is indeed great (we’ve worked with him and he’s incredible) but he’s a soloist, NOT an acappella group. Rockapella, similarly, have done great things for the acappella world, but look a little closer and they’re pretty one-dimensional in terms of their repertoire and arrangements. There have already been groups mentioned who are really at the top of the live performance tree, worldwide, and it’s strange that they’re not asked to advise.

    The main things that stand out to me as needing more promotion are first the skill involved in arranging songs, whether existing pop/jazz songs or writing original material. Unlike writing for, say, piano and voice, vocal music should take advantage of the harmonics and blend that only live voices can produce. Hardly any arrangements I hear on television, even from groups who have been successful such as Boyz II Men (although I have to agree with previous comments that they’re not REALLY acappella singers – they use too much sound production and backing instrumentation) use anything other than basic chord structures. The best professional groups, such as Chanticleer, The Real Group, The Swingles, and (I would hope) The KS, use incredibly complex chord structures which demand the highest standard of tuning and musical awareness and the vast majority of singers either don’t possess the ability to do this, or don’t work hard enough at listening to succeed. These chords (writing, tuning and balancing them live) are what sets the professional groups apart and what means that, ultimately, there remains a difference between the TV shows and what the established groups do. Quite often the TV arrangers are not singers themselves, have no concept of how vocal chord-structures should work and don’t have a clue how to balance emsembles correctly without twiddling buttons on a sound board. Which, to be frank, is cheating – and covering up low standards.

    Moving on from this, another importance is the ability to sing on AND off microphones. Sure, in a big hall you need some help (we recently played 4 nights at a 21,000-seat arena – not possible to do without some boost!) but in smaller venues the real test of character is in producing your own balance, blend and tone simply by adjusting within the group, accoustically. This never seems to be taken account of in most of the TV shows – and Glee certainly doesn’t really help this as it shows unrealistic results using incredibly highly-produced sounds in a High School auditorium with no trace of the real accoustics left at all. Sure, nobody wants to watch a 50-minute episode of some kids rehearsing tuning techniques, but I think the importance of working at the small things should be emphasised more.

    I know we’d love it if there could be judges, advisers or special guests on these shows who work at the very top of the profession – i.e. those who know how incredibly hard it is to do what we and our friends in the industry do. To my mind this is a separate show, though, one that actually wants to find a group of great musicians and teach them how to be excellent performers, while showing how hard it is to do these things properly.

    The difficulty comes when commercial shows hold themselves out as being the zenith of achievement when, sadly, they just promote more mediocrity. All this does is dumb-down the standards of music the public is used to hearing, and create short-lived careers for a few lucky singers who have no deep understanding of what they’re trying to do. I say this without a trace of bitterness, as I am fortunate enough to belong to an incredibly successful group with a wonderful career and with 100% control over what we sing, where we sing it and how we work. Instead I feel bad for the young groups out there who are chasing a dream without really knowing how to work at it.

    It’s “fast-food-consumer-ist” music at its worst, really, but it’s been coming for a while. During the 1970s and 1980s people sat down on a Saturday night to watch television that showed talented people doing things very very well – whether they were magicians, musicians or other performing artists. We were impressed because they were doing things we couldn’t dream of doing ourselves. These days, we want to sit down on a Saturday evening and laugh at people with little talent TRYING to do something well and failing dismally.

    I think that, until the current trend changes and the public want to watch excellence once more, we are condemned to a few more years of watching people do things either fine, badly, or somewhere in between, but not much more. I hope I’m wrong!

    On the subject of all-girl groups, we recently taught an amazing female quintet from Holland called Wishful Singing. Check them out on the web. They, for me, are a compelling answer to the question as to whether girl-groups can work or not. Of course the ranges are smaller, but the techniques are exactly the same, and if you’re looking for excellence these girls have it in bucket-loads.

  9. 22. Februar 2010, 04:35 | #9


    It’s an honor to have to take the time to write your thoughts about the show and the state of a cappella and televised art in general. I’m sorry I missed your recent show in San Francisco… I had a gig of my own that night.

    I’ll do my best not to take it personally that I’m not considered “at the top of the profession.” ;)

    I think there are a few things to consider:

    * Primetime reality shows are entertainment. This can not be stressed enough. If it is not entertaining to the average primetime viewer, it is not considered. It’s not education, unless that’s entertaining. And so on. That’s the nature of TV. And it’s not about people not “wanting” information or education per se… it’s just not this.

    * I don’t personally believe the show promoted more mediocrity. I’ve already made the statement that I believe it to be the most difficult reality show on television. Eat a bug? Sleep in the sand? Who cares. Try singing in perfect tune on live tv with 7 million viewers. You know how hard a cappella is… and these are amateur singers.

    * Yeah, there’s no way around it – as a reality show, it’s gonna be amateur singers. Pros wouldn’t sign the contract – too demanding, doesn’t make sense if you have a record contract and international touring. Michael Buble doesn’t compete on American Idol either.

    * Regarding chordal complexity, the Voices of Lee arrangements were quite impressive. 5 or 6 chord factors in many chords (not including doublings). As for close micing and twiddling knobs, I’m afraid there’s no way around it; groups need to move to engage a TV audience (at least sometimes) which means individual micing, which means a mixing board… which adds an additional level of complexity, of course, as we need to make sure each group is positively yet fairly (relative to other groups) represented.

    * A television show will boast that it’s presenting the best… because that’s what TV shows do. If this level of hyperbole is frustrating, a close analysis of a 30 minute news program should make your head explode! The Grammys aren’t the best albums, the Oscars aren’t the best movies, and so on, but that’s what they claim, and understandably so.

    * People have always complained the popular culture is less valid or of lower quality than high art. Not something we’ll decide or agree on here. However, I’ll guarantee you that in 1970 there were people lamenting that that things just aren’t as good as they were in 1950, and so on.

    * Should the Sing-Off get a second season, I’ll be involved from the start at a higher level, which will likely result in some improvements that will please you (I started the show as simply an arranger but then morphed into more). Feel free to level all the critique you feel appropriate at that point as well, as the second time around we’ll not be doing everything for the first time. Camera angles, quantity of choreography, monitor placement, house EQ, quick costume changes without leaving singers out of breath, live mixing, wireless microphone issues, celebrity singers working with amateur groups, vocal and general health, emotions, angle of air conditioning ducts, amateur singer’s nerves… there are issues galore to be dealt with at a moment’s notice in a way that never appears on television.

    * Also, should the show be produced in other countries (no word yet), it’s possible for them to take the tone or focus of the show in a different direction… but I don’t think it’ll be vastly different. The reality television blueprint is well-tested, and people like seeing things presented in a specific way.

    No matter what happens, I want to make sure you know that we’d all be thrilled to have the King’s Singers compete on season two! I’ll send a contract right over… ;)

  10. 23. Februar 2010, 05:02 | #10

    Haha! Re-reading my post I sincerely hope no offence was taken – certainly none was intended. And thanks, Deke, for the invitation to compete in Season 2….. I’ll have to check the diary on that one. I’m sure we’d find time for a guest appearance though, and maybe some coaching slots, even though we don’t tend to dance about much ;)

    I think we agree – entertainment has to rule when it comes to TV, and on that score the ratings alone prove that the current formats work. And I take your point that there have been some good groups and singers that have come out of such programmes – that’s not in doubt. I’m not sure any of the groups have been truly world-class, but time will tell.

    When I was referring to “top of the profession” in terms of acappella ensembles I was really referring to groups rather than individuals, and (he says, grovellingly) of course I know your work personally and the revolutionary methods you’ve brought to collegiate acappella and The Contemporary A Cappella Society. The reason I cited other groups such as The Swingles, The Real Group, Take Six, Chanticleer etc is that you can go to pretty much any country in the world that has a choral tradition and people who are interested will have heard of (and in many cases own copies of) their music. I say that not with pride or with any intended form of arrogance, it’s just simple fact. I think it’s probably in part because of the diversity of repertoire that those groups perform, from their own original material to classical, jazz and other styles, rather than just straight pop. It takes a huge amount of work and precision to sustain an annual diary of over 100 concerts plus in 3-4 continents and find time to make a couple of recordings, as anyone could imagine, and it’s always amazing when the groups I love who put so much into their craft get recognised and rewarded – as opposed to people only hearing about amateur groups who have been formed at short notice, or thrust into prominence, purely for TV entertainment. Perhaps that’s life, but I think there’s room to honour both sides of the fence.

    That’s not to say there are many groups out there who are wonderful and who neither of us has heard of, but as you rightly say the modern world judges excellence in terms of relative fame and popularity (as with the Grammys and Oscars), whether merited or not. You also made a great point when reminding me that these are amateur groups and just want to have fun, which is what all singing should be about at the bottom line.

    I think the points concerning arrangement complexity and sound systems are inter-linked, to an extent, as it’s always much harder to sing complex arrangements with lots of added notes if you’re on mics, as you have to listen so much harder and are at the mercy of the monitors. I suppose I’m too much of a purist – I want to hear people sing using true listening techniques and thinking about purity of blend, intonation and vowels, which basically means don’t use mics! Get it right OFF the microphones first, really listen to what you’re doing, then take it on-mic, and you’ll be much better at it because you’ll know what to listen for.

    I laughed out loud when you wrote about pop culture and high art – I realised I sounded just like my father used to do and I’ll just button my lip on that one in future :)

    I’m flattered that you did refer to us in your first post (some people write off the KS as acappella dinosaurs despite the fact that the old group truly were pioneers), so thank you for that. And of course I do wish you good luck with Season 2; as I said at the start, the benefits of shows like yours to acappella music in general can’t be underestimated, and as long as people are getting to sing that’s a start.

    Hopefully I’ll get to meet you at a show sometime and we can carry on with this over a drink afterwards – we could discuss a European night for The Sing Off 2 featuring us, the Swingles and The Real Group, for example…..

  11. 23. Februar 2010, 16:02 | #11

    No offense taken at all, Christopher, and you’re on for that drink!

    With a conservatory degree and decades of classical training, I’m most certainly going to continue to push for precision and technical excellence from the groups, all the while keeping an eye on the need to entertain people and show a cappella’s power through current pop music and idioms (not negotiable with this production – the net might widen a bit, but this is a pop music show by design).

    If it’s any consolation, I want to ensure you we’re on the same page. I agree with your statements and intents, and know that we want the same thing: for powerful communication through music. The show is designed to focus on unsigned groups/singers (as all reality music shows are – for logistical and contractual reasons), but sometimes their music, if a bit raw, can be just as affecting as a perfectly tuned major 9 chord.

    BTW – I’m pretty sure I can land you a prime spot on TV if you guys perform “Pants on the Ground.” In fact, I’d be honored to arrange it for you… :)

  12. 24. Februar 2010, 06:15 | #12

    Hi All,
    So glad that you guys made so many points that we can learn from.
    In Taiwan, at least 4 “American Idol” or “British talent” shows were/are on the TV, now, one TV company is going to do something like sing-off, they said they are inspired by a Japanese TV who did this (may be 5 years ago or more) and as I know, that program created a few professional vocal groups in Japan managed by that TV company of course. More importantly, more than 6000 student groups has formed and start a cappellaing.
    Anyway, the good thing is, we talked and they want to bring good groups in Taiwan to perform first and educate some star-group (group from “American Idol” like winners) in the show to make entertaining effects, may be after a few weeks, they will start competing on TV.
    Is there any advise for us, please?
    Our organization (Taiwan Choral Music Center) hold international contemporary a cappella festivals every year, March and October, dozens of groups from 4 lands except Africa had come and enjoyed our hospitality, not for boosting our work, just to let you know what I am doing since we (Asia) are kind of out of the circle, I am telling you, no, we are in, guys! Our competition has very high standards since we invited all the champion level groups to compete.
    Four Taiwanese groups had attended the competition in Graz and two of them won champions and one Japanese 6 women group (Takarabune) just won Jazz champ last year. Their woman bass is lower then me, I am a tenor.
    Nice to talk to you guys here, hope to see you and talk to you some where in the world.

    Ray YL Chu from Taiwan

  13. 24. Februar 2010, 06:20 | #13

    Oops, sorry, I wrote “group from “American Idol” like winners”, I meant solo winners of a season formed a group… Eglish is not so good -.-

  14. 24. Februar 2010, 09:22 | #14

    Hey guys!

    I just read this discussion after being notified by Facebook.
    Please be sorry if I did not look through every detail of it. To be honest, I didn´t know there was a TV broadcasted Sing-Off in the US, but as far as I got that now, I agree with you in general.
    There is a huge Barbershop scene in the US, and there is a huge a cappella – scene. How come that none of those were properly represented in that show??

    Personally, I don´t understand at what criteria a hit, even if it´s a cappella , “hits” the charts. Bobby McFerrin had one, that´s what made him popular (if popular means: “widely known and ON AIR”) – Boys II Men had two – okay.

    You see, I´m from Germany, just as Florian, and our version of “American Idol” screens the crudest way of making and marketing pop music with a terrible percentage of voyeurism.
    They invite a cappella groups these days for a similar show called “X-Factor”. It sounds very much like an US format! It includes sending chosen participants to a “boot camp” for a few weeks and later locking them into “jury houses” for further drilling.
    What sense is there in that except having lots of food for hungry cameras?
    In artistical sense: FORGET IT!

    We have that problem, Florian mentioned it. A cappella´s got to be entertainment.
    I am a singer with a group who carries that mark for 25 years now,
    some people think should have passed away by far.

    But it took years for groups like that to get on TV in some “niches”. Cabaret or carnival or in a classical context.
    TV in Germany is down to copying US formats or political theatre or cheap entertainment. The rest is not for the “broad mass” of viewers. Oh my, poor country!

    A cappella in Europe is growing and yes, I agree: It should be initiated for a public broadcasted event including the right people, groups and …. yeah, music.

    The time will come, let´s be the first in line to make it real!


  15. 24. Februar 2010, 16:56 | #15

    Just because our trained ears don’t enjoy something doesn’t mean it’s artistically bad or invalid. After 5 years in a conservatory I believed this, but luckily have shaken off this elitist stance.

    Music is for everyone, and should be for everyone – not only as audience members, but also as singers.

    There is a pure joy that comes from singing, and at times amateur singers are more effective at capturing and sharing that joy. I’ve seen college group concerts that were more compelling and generally “better” (in my opinion, and likely those of the audience) than many a perfectly tuned classical performance.

    If the Sing Off shows people that singing is fun, and that it’s an activity that everyone should be inspired to do, then it is a success in my opinion.

    Consider it a “gateway drug” – people watch the show, hears songs they know performed a cappella, find a favorite group, come to love a cappella, and start on a life-long journey as a fan and perhaps as a singer. 7 million people saw each show… what can be wrong with that?!?

  16. 24. Februar 2010, 20:38 | #16

    Deke, we’re on the same track.

    Which brings me back to that balance inside any genre: There will be pioneers, innovators, virtuosos and musicians who do something unheard of. But these are outliers, exceptional cases of talent who will do “their thing” with perseverance until they fail or become the stars of their scene, musicians’ musicians, hidden or widely acclaimed stars (or both). We probably won’t have to push those guys, they have a plan and will keep pushing themselves.

    If we as “a cappella hubs” can do anything, it is to show to the world one basic thing:
    The activity of singing in a group brings out the best in those who do it. And vocal groups can inspire audiences by the most natural, appealing, authentic instrument, the human voice.

    Matthias, don’t get me wrong: I think it’s not our role to be judges and tell people what “real a cappella” or “true vocal music” is. Tobi Hug (Swingle Singers) put it that way: If we cooperate and work for our music and take the lead in a bigger movement, our role should be strictly functional. (end quote) I think our function in the public is to find loopholes and even Trojan horses to get what has become the currency of the information age: Attention.

    Congrats Deke for millions of people who maybe watched an a cappella performance for the first time in their lives. We have to start somewhere – you and CASA just did it.

    Can you imagine the NBA as the only place in the USA for basketball, without
    millions of amateurs just having fun, playing, socializing, being fans and players at the same time? It’s the same with vocal & a cappella music: We need the best of both worlds.
    The outliers, the artistic daredevils. And those who just do it without thinking
    much about changing the world by what they’re doing.

    Did I say how immensely thankful I am to discuss these things with all of you?
    This is hands-on, practical know-how and has already inspired me for many
    future blog posts. It’s so true: The a cappella scene is incredibly rich with
    good ideas and great people. Thank you so much for joining the conversation!

  17. 24. Februar 2010, 21:22 | #17

    Hi, it’s me again, happy to welcome another a cappella luminary at Vocal Blog.
    This message was sent to me via e-mail and it comes from Mark Kibble, member
    of Take 6. Mark allowed me to ghost-post his message here. I’m sure he will be
    back on the blog ;-) soon if you post replies further below.

    Here’s Mark’s comment:

    “Room For Improvement

    Well, it would have been nice to have been included in some kind of respect. But I guess to the world outside of professional a cappella, the producers picked the more recognizable faces. Well, it just leaves lots of room for improvement – and perhaps for those of us who truly know a cappella to do it again ourselves. Any takers?” Mark Kibble – Take 6

  18. 25. Februar 2010, 05:20 | #18

    Hi Deke,
    Sorry that nobody answer me yet, since you are the only one who has experienced dealing with TV people, could you please shad some lights on what we (Taiwan a cappella people) should propose to a TV program, it is quite hurry since we are going to have a meeting with TV people on the coming Monday…
    The reason I put it here is that everybody will share your knowledge and may be inspired on something else …

    Dear Matthias, when is the next vocal summit? I think to record it will be a great content that many TV companies would search for in the near future. May be one episode can be a part of the Sing-off?

    Ray from Taiwan

  19. 25. Februar 2010, 06:59 | #19

    Ray – it was Sony to took meetings with various international television producers about expanding the show into other markets, not I, but I’d be happy to share my thoughts with you. Email me with more specific information about your contact and the situation and I’ll do my best to help you with your pitch.

  20. 25. Februar 2010, 07:41 | #20

    Hey Ray, next Vocal Jazz Summit has not been confirmed yet. Most probably there will be a one-day event in 2011 and the next real, 3-4-days festival including workshops etc. in 2013. But that’s by no means confirmed, I’ll keep you posted after the next meeting with the Summit’s organizers. Keep me updated about what you’ll work out with Taiwan TV, it sounds very interesting. Best, FSt/F L O R I A N

  21. 26. Februar 2010, 17:13 | #21

    thank you all, for replying.
    Ok, Deke, i will write you another mail.

    I will post it here when we have some progress…
    5 European groups will come to Taiwan International contemporary a cappella festival this October, it is possible to get them all on TV shows, hopefully!

  22. 26. Februar 2010, 23:05 | #22

    I’ve enjoyed reading through all the recent posts – and I think there are some positives that most agree with:
    *SingOff was/is a good thing in promoting A Cappella to a wider audience – whatever the format it raises the profile for everybody. The 1st series was a good start, the 2nd one will be even better!
    *We all desire A Cappella to be in the mainstream as a recognised genre of music. There is so much variety that it embraces and each aspect is as valid as each other, from Barbershop to Beatboxing, from 4 part groups to 12 part groups, amateur to pro and everything in between!
    * we are all trying to help in our own way – fortunately, the very nature of singers, especially a cappella singers is to be inclusive and to help each other out. This coming together of minds and intentions is surely the right way to go, so keep it going and keep supporting!

    [For our part in the swingles, Tobi and I have for a number of years dreamt of raising the profile of a cappella in the UK - only to try and catch up with other parts of the world - not a very lofty target but still difficult. We first tried about 4 years ago (Chris may remember we were trying to sort it between the King's Singers, Cantabile and the Magnets), but have finally managed to get the London A Cappella Festival of the ground in 2010 - now hopefully to appear every January, every year. So many UK singers turned up and said effectively the same thing: They'd been waiting years for somebody to organise something like this!
    At the moment the 'pro' groups are appearing out of the love of it, but we hope to raise sponsors in future years so we can afford to get some international groups over to London, and of course to pay back the invitations we have received from other a cappella groups over the past years.
    I see it as a responsibility (as a member of a pro group) to try to make things like this happen and am glad there are like-minded people out there too doing the same!]

    Ray – hope the Taiwan festival goes well – you are way ahead of us from the sounds of it!!!

    I am certain that SingOff will grow and grow – not just subsequently in the US, but elsewhere around the world. This is great for the profile of a cappella.

    I believe the issues that need addressing in the wider scheme of things are:
    *How to make the connection in the wider public’s mind, between the TV show and what is offered as live concerts / CD recordings by pro a cappella groups right now.
    *How to make a cappella a musical genre in its own right in the perception of the music public – surely a grammy category for this would be a good start. Perhaps we need to start a campaign of pressure as a cappella continues to grow!

  23. 27. Februar 2010, 00:43 | #23

    Ah, a Grammy!

    There have been 3 major pushes for an a cappella grammy (that I know of) in the past 20 years. Once via the Barbershop world, once via the contemporary world, and once with everyone joining forces.

    The most honest answer we ever received was by one board member who was blunt in saying “it’s likely not ever going to happen, unless sales significantly increase. We spend our time debating the validity of best female rock soloist… the scope is just too small.”

    In addition, there’s the problem of style: a cappella spans all styles, making it near impossible to judge (or find in a record store, RIP!)

    Luckily there have been many Grammys for a cappella groups, and will doubtless be many more to come.

    As for making the connection from Sing-Off to other groups, CASA is working hard to bridge that gap, but there’s always much more than can be done. Hopefully people come searching for a cappella online and follow links to groups they like (much easier to search and track down music you like than it was a couple decades ago…)

    Onward and upward!

  24. 1. März 2010, 14:26 | #24

    Just got the following news (via @acappellablog) and retweeted it:

    “NYT says NBC is renewing The Sing Off – read the news at (comment on the Sing Off Debate thread) #acappella”

    The New York Times ( got the news via Reuters/Hollywood Reporter, who published:

    “NBC renews competition series “Sing Off” (Sun Feb 28, 2010 9:44pm EST)

    LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – NBC is renewing “The Sing Off,” which features top a cappella groups performing popular songs in an elimination competition. The series debuted to solid ratings in a four-episode stint in December. The network doesn’t have a specific premiere date set for the return of the show.”

    Looks like the Sing Off will be back – we’re keen on getting more detailled information soon.

    Florian Städtler

  25. 2. März 2010, 06:49 | #25

    Wow… I’m exhausted! Good thoughts from all.
    Congrats on a 2nd season of “The Sing Off.” Let’s hope it will continue to increase public interest in, and appreciation for a cappella.
    Seems that we’d all love to see more special guest performers/judges/coaches from the world of professional a cappella on the show, rather than pop artists who dabble in the genre.
    Clearly we all have high hopes… so don’t let us down, Deke… we’re holding you responsible! ;-)
    Carry the torch!

  26. 2. März 2010, 06:53 | #26

    … speaking of icons, today is Merv Warren’s birthday. Stop by facebook and wish him a happy one, if you’re so inclined. Wouldn’t mind seeing him on The Sing Off, season 2. Hmmmm…

  27. 3. März 2010, 09:22 | #27

    I agree, Willy, and you’ve done an awesome job in getting the London Acappella Festival off the ground. I’m only sorry the KS couldn’t be involved, but I’m pushing for us to make an appearance at another one, soon. We’re also trying to set something up that will complement rather than work against your great ideas. I like the Acappella Grammy idea, too. We were blown away by winning the Crossover Grammy last year – a real honour – but I’ve never really thought of what we do as crossover in the strictest sense, it’s just that there was nowhere else to put us.

    It’s great that we’re all talking and through this dialogue hopefully more great things will rise.

  28. 8. März 2010, 15:29 | #28

    Hi everyone,
    I am joining in not just late but very very, hopefully not too late :-)
    Good to see this discussion and great to have a forum for the hardcore a cappella posse ( or”vocally challenged ” ;-) – not sure about the correct PC term )
    Bits and bobs to add to the discussion:

    I recently had an interesting chat with Linda Goldstein (Bobby McFerrin’s manager) about Sing Off and Glee:
    We talked about the “Glee”ification of a cappella or about the “Sing-off”ication, if you will. I want to link this in with what Florian said in one of his posts..
    The Comedian Harmonists as a popular phenomena of the 1920s and 30s have shaped german a cappella for almost a century now. Florian says rightly that the CH seem to have defined what people believe a cappella to be. But, playing devils advocate, I would go even further – they have stifled the development of original a cappella in Germany not rooted in Comedy, so although giving it exposure, you could argue that they actually harmed (of course completely unintentionally) a cappella for a century to come. So today you have a plethora of groups in the mould of the CH and great audiences, but few groups of international reputation based on purely musical merit, especially if you take into account how many groups there are in in Germany.

    So, I very much hope this will not have a similarly defining effect for a cappella in the US, and of course, that with Deke’s influence, the next season will give more the context of pro a cappella. The context is essential – Deke said in an earlier post: the Oscars are not the best movies, but it is natural and “ok” for them to claim so.. I don’t agree, just to give you an example Eurovision /Grand Prix d’Eurovision, our (fyi: our european song contest – a huge europe-wide TV event) doesnt claim to showcase Europe’s best pop singer and is doing perfectly fine. And while The Oscars hardly acknowledge anything outside the anglophile world, American Idol at least does bring some context with celebrity mentors as diverse as Diana Ross, Bono, Tony Benett and Dolly Parton.

    David – reg Bobby – Linda mentioned that he was approached to be a judge in the first place. He wasn’t interested though since he is not into competitions out of principle. Good for the producers
    though to bring him on nonetheless for the final and have the groups sing together !.

    If you wanted to make a show with pro-groups, it would have to be much more in Bobby’s vein – a sing-together, maybe even hosted by one of the groups.. concert-style.. Let’s give Quincy Jones a ring !
    Pro-groups don’t want to be cannon-fodder for reality-TV makers.

    Sing-Off in Europe will be interesting since there is basically no collegiate a cappella scene .. the singing cultures here are vastly diverse.. from Yodel to Hilliard !

    PS: I am, too, slightly puzzled by the criteria of a Top 40 hit in order to perform on the show – surely e.g. a group like Take 6 with 10 Grammies and their standing in the music business, Rockapella with “Where in the worlds is Carmen San Diego ?” and Spike Lee credentials, the Swingles with music being used in “Glee” to name just a few, should have credentials and recognition enough to appear on the show ?!

    PPS: Ray, great to hear about the TV opportunities in Taiwan, good luck with that and glad you are involved – you’ve been building up the scene there for 10 years now and hopefully will get credit for – and, importantly, an artistic say in that !

  29. 13. März 2010, 10:45 | #29

    Hey guys!
    All artists wish to be in the show-business… But if the artist or vocal group do not appear on TV, – they always to be doomed the poor….
    If you – a’cappella group – you can and you should advance yourself in media… Any PR… Your faces and your name should be recognised and remembered.
    You should sing a’cappella and with orchestra… If you have possibility to sing on TV together with pop-stars – it’s a fine possibility for advancement.
    If you wish to sing ONLY a’cappella – you not a place on TV…
    You should be universal artists… It is necessary to be able to do all and to be ambitious. Only such way a’cappella groups can be a part of show-business and have a success in the country. This my opinion.

  30. 24. März 2010, 13:59 | #30

    Can I say just how awesome it is to be reading a pan-continental a cappella debate?

  31. 24. März 2010, 15:20 | #31

    @Jes Sadler

    Hey Jes – it’s unbelievable what happened here (after just 4 months since we went online!) Thanks for sharing it with all aca-people you know.

    And how about a guest blog post – I could imagine that would be a great read, my Jesmeister!

    Hope to see you asap, real, offline and in person. It’s been a while!

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