June 19, 2015

Vacation time!

A cappella can sure be a lot of work when you do it for a living and it's a job I enjoy very much. So now the Harmony Sweeps season is over and before the busy fall retail season begins I am taking a break and going to England to visit my elderly parents. They are so looking forward to spending time with the grandkids and we have several fun things lined up. As it is such a long (and expensive) flight we are going to spend over a month there and probably won't have the opportunity to post here on the blog. So this space will be quiet for a few weeks but I'm sure I'll come back to all kinds of interesting a cappella news to tell!

Have a great summer everybody.

John Neal

Posted by John at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2015

Acappella The Musical

A new musical is coming to the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) this summer called Acappella The Musical and features the songs of Keith Lancaster and The Acappella Company. The press release states - "It’s the tale of a gospel singer turned teen pop-idol who returns home to find his voice. The story is captivating and the music is soul stirring!"

The performance are July 7 thru 14th at the PTC Performance Space. My info on the web site.

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2015

Auditions for a cappella tour

Deke Sharon is working on a new a cappella touring show and the production is auditioning singers for both the tour and associated recording. A great opportunity for professional level singers. Audition info here.
Posted by John at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2015

'Pitch Perfect 3' Moving Forward at Universal

Hollywood Reporter

There will be more, dear pitches, but it won't be cheap. With Pitch Perfect 2's massive $160.9 million in domestic box office (and counting), Universal and Gold Circle are moving ahead on a third installment.

Sources say negotiations have begun with Kay Cannon, who wrote the first two movies, to return for a third. It remains to be seen whether co-star Elizabeth Banks, a steward of the franchise as one of its producers, will return to the director's chair.

How a story would reunite the core Barden Bellas now that (spoiler alert) most have graduated college will be easier than making deals for such stars as Anna Kendrick and Rebel Wilson, who sources say were paid about $2 million each for Pitch 2, which cost $29 million to make. That's a step up from their fees for the original 2012 film, which were in the low-six figures for Kendrick and less than $100,000 for Wilson, whose Fat Amy became the breakout.

Deals for a third movie will be costly because options aren't in place for the pair. In contrast, say sources, Universal and Gold Circle were smelling a franchise when they made sure to lock in series newcomer Hailee Steinfeld for a follow-up.

Photo is of Kay Cannon

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2015

VocalEssence to perform with The Rolling Stones

VocalEssence announced today that it will perform with the Rolling Stones on stage during its one-night-only performance June 3 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The VocalEssence singers will perform with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood during the Minneapolis stop of its 15-city North American ZIP CODE Tour.

The tour marks the first time the rock legends have played North American stadiums since the 2005-2007 “A Bigger Bang” Tour.

VocalEssence, founded by Philip Brunelle, got its start in 1969, at about the same time as the Stones released its album “Let it Bleed.”

“VocalEssence is honored—and thrilled—to be before an audience with the Rolling Stones. Could it get any better than this?” said Philip Brunelle, founder and artistic director, VocalEssence. “We’re proud to represent, literally, the voice of Minnesota’s incredible choral music tradition in this performance. It’s a great way to introduce choral music—and VocalEssence—to the legions of Rolling Stones fans at TCF Bank Stadium. Plus, Mick Jagger and I share a birth month and year—July 1943. Maybe we’ll have an early celebration on stage?”

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2015

Sting joins a barbershop quartet

Sting surprised the audience when on Friday night when he popped out behind Jimmy Fallon and his barbershop quartet The Ragtime Gals and joined them in a a cappella rendition of Roxanne. It's actually a pretty cool arrangement.

Posted by John at 3:22 PM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2015

2015 Harmony Sweepstakes National Finals results

With the support of a full house of lively a cappella fans the National Finals were once again a rousing success.

The 2015 results are:-

National Champions - Straighter Road
2nd place - Timepiece Quartet
3rd Place - The Bluesette Quintet

Audience Favorite - Timepiece

Best Original Arrangement - “God Has A Way” - Kevin Kunz - Straighter Road

A special thanks to all the groups as each and every one of you were not only very talented, but also had the "Harmony Sweeps spirit" of being both supportive of, and friendly to each other. I watched Pitch Perfect 2 the other day (a fun movie to be sure) and thought to myself how glad I am that our events are not like those portrayed in the movie as being super competitive with groups glaring at each other and being mean.

The Harmony Sweeps has always been more about being a celebration of a cappella and the creative possibilities of the unaccompanied human voice. We just so happen to also be a competition. We believe in the word "harmony", both in voice and in spirit, and every group tonight were exemplary ambassadors of this philosophy. Thank you everybody!

See a selection of photos from the event thanks to Ken Osbourne of Misterken Photography.

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2015

Reggie Watts' Beatbox Jam From The Future

Last night watching the The Late Late Show I caught a marvelous beatboxing set by the show's band leader Reggie Watts who has excellent vocal skills. And then this evening I saw an advance screening of Pitch Perfect 2 and there he was again as a member of the a cappella group the Tone Hangers (with John Hodgeman, Jason Jones and Joe Lo Truglio). Once again he did a great vocal interplay and was a musical standout for me in the movie.

See his Late, Late Show jam here.

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 9, 2015

Muppets a cappella

We may have movies and TV shows featuring a cappella but I know a cappella has really hit the big time when the Muppets release an all a cappella video. With help from Mike Tompkins they sing Echosmith's "Cool Kids" and I have to say they do a pretty good job. But then again I have always had a soft spot for Miss Piggy!

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 6, 2015

A cappella on cover of Entertainment Weekly

For the second time in the past few months Pitch Perfect 2 was the cover story of Entertainment Weekly with photos both times of the wonderful Rebel Wilson. It's great to see a cappella getting this type of major media attention and it's a happy coincidence that the National Finals of the Harmony Sweepstakes and the movie opening are on the same weekend (May 16).

Posted by John at 10:40 PM | Comments (0)

May 2, 2015

Anna Kendrick on ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ and Not Trying Too Hard

New York Times:

Having acted in 15 movies over the last three years, Anna Kendrick is well versed in the indignities of the modern publicity trail, where stars are increasingly expected to do much more than engage in witty banter. Marie Claire once asked Ms. Kendrick to get drunk during an interview. She complied. In January, at the request of Nylon magazine, she spoke to a reporter while hanging from a trapeze.

Read more.

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

April 30, 2015

Ancient a cappella treasure found

We have found the King Tut of a cappella archeology!! Many years ago our storage shed got flooded and all the a cappella archive files I had there were water-damaged, moldy and absolutely not worth saving. A crew came in to clean out the whole shed and everything got chucked. But this weekend I was cleaning a dusty corner of the car port and lo and behold, under a bunch of firewood was an a cappella treasure! I did remember pulling this one box but never saw it again and thought it had been thrown out with everything else. The box contains hundreds of group photos from our very first Harmony Sweepstakes event on and programs for the first 15 years. We updated the Sweeps web site recently and added a bunch of info but thought this very early stuff was gone forever. We are going thru the box, scanning the photos and entering in the program info to the site. I feel like a regular Hiram Bingham. (I was in fact an archeologist earlier in life)

National Finals are coming up in two weeks. May 16th.

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

April 29, 2015

The Hard Work And Close Bonds Of Competitive College A Cappella

A cappella was on NPR again this past week with Linda Holmes of Weekend Edition doing a story on competitive collegiate a cappella. "In the story, you'll get to hear them sing, you'll hear some great reflections on the friends you make when you work really hard on a common goal, and you may be surprised how much work goes into creating an arrangement for a group to sing in the first place."

Read and Listen here.

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2015

Roomful Of Teeth on NPR


The vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth consists of eight classically trained singers incorporating Tuvan throat singing, Appalachian yodeling, operatic trills, rhythmic exhalations and whispered speech into music written by some of the most exciting young composers of the 21st century.

Roomful of Teeth's Grammy-winning debut album topped the classical charts, and their work has been praised by the New York Times and Pitchfork. Now they're releasing a new album, Render.

"In a choral setting," Wells says, "typically you have at the very least three or four altos, three or four tenors, and you're going for a rich, clean blend in each section. And this group is about not single colors or single unifying blends, but almost the opposite: juxtaposing the individual colors of the voices in the group."

Listen here.

Posted by John at 12:15 AM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2015

Manhattan Transfer looking good!

Here's the new publicity photo for The Manhattan Transfer with our old a cappella friend Trist Curless an official member. It has been a difficult time of late for the group but here they are looking great (quite dapper I'd say) and have a great show coming up with Take 6 on May 15th in Bridgeport, CT.

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2015

2015 Harmony Sweepstakes line up complete

After a great show in Boston yesterday afternoon, and the win for Timepeice, the 2015 Harmony Sweeps National Finals lineup is complete. Once again there is plenty of talent with a nice variety of styles and group size and all them promise to be excellent!

Our 2105 Regional champs:-

Pacific NW - Straighter Road
San Francisco - Business Casual
Mid-Atlantic - Stiletta
New York - Low Key
Chicago - Remedy
Los Angeles - The Bluesette Quartet
Boston - Timepiece

The Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival National Finals
Saturday May 16th, 8pm
Marin Veterans Auditorium
San Rafael, CA

It's going to be a wonderful night of vocal harmony. I hope you can join us.

Posted by John at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

April 21, 2015

SoCal Vocals wins ICCA

Congratulations to SoCal Vocals (University of Southern California) who won the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella this past weekend in New York City. Voices in Your Head (Univ.of Chicago) took second and The G-Man (Univ of Michigan) were third.

Posted by John at 10:09 PM | Comments (0)