The Superbowl of A Cappella
For over a quarter century the Harmony Sweepstakes has been delighting audiences and the Festival continues to grow in popularity. The show was the inspiration for the hit NBC show The Sing-Off which aired nation-wide in December 2009 and brought even more interest to the art of a cappella singing. Winners of the eight regional competitions are flown to the Bay Area to compete in the National Finals with the winners being crowned National Champions. From vocal jazz to doo wop, barbershop to pop and all styles in between you will be amazed at the versatility of the human voice on display in this most exhilarating evening of vocal harmony singing.
Highlighting performances by hundreds of up and coming vocal groups from around the country, The Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival begins the season with regional competitions in eight major urban markets during the Spring months, followed by the gala National Finals to be held in San Rafael, California in early May. The cities of Denver, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Wsahington DC, Portland/Seattle, San Francisco, and Chicago will each send a winning vocal group to perform in the National Finals for a sold-out house of enthusiastic a cappella fans and celebrity judges, in the hope that theirs will return as the Grand National Champion.
The Harmony Sweepstakes embraces all styles of music performed a cappella, from the traditional forms of doo-wop and barbershop, gospel, and jazz to the exciting and innovative directions of contemporary vocal harmony. The essential musical instrument, the human voice, is being celebrated in many forms today -- at the top of the charts and around the world -- and The Harmony Sweepstakes is proud to be a part. The human voice and its endless possibilities have brought many diverse people together, and in a musical world increasingly dominated by technology, the appreciation of vocal music is a human connection that we can all share.
The roots of the event began in a weekly sing-a-long that was held in the British pub The Mayflower in San Rafael, California. Everybody had such a fine time singing they formed the community chorus the Mayflower Chorus and held regular concerts and performances. As it is not always easy to find performance opportunities for a large chorus several members also formed smaller a cappella ensembles and began performing around the region.
That’s when chorus member Lisa Collins had the idea to start a competition for the a cappella groups as a way to further develop an audience for vocal harmony singing. For the first few years the show was part on the annual In Performance at Forrest Meadows performing arts series at Dominican University and the Festival soon became a local audience favorite.
After a few years theatrical producer John Neal attended a concert and was thoroughly enthralled by the singing, the show and the concept of this first-of-its-kind music festival. John approached Lisa and offered to help develop the show and to expand to other cities and to make it a national event. They immediately became partners and other cites were added and the venue for the National Finals was moved to the much larger Marin Veteran’s Auditorium.
Over the next few years the concerts grew in popularity and most every up and coming vocal harmony group across the land has performed in at least one show. After awhile groups from overseas also started to participate and to date there has been two Champions from overseas namely Vocaldente (Germany) and The Idea of North (Australia). The Festival is now firmly established as the leading showcase for vocal harmony groups and has helped further the careers of many artists. John Neal is now the sole owner of the Festival is is also the executive producer.
Most of the groups that have earned the title of "Harmony Sweepstakes National Champions" have continued their careers to great success. For example, Toxic Audio, the 2000 National Champions, now perform regularly off Broadway throughout the country. The previous year's champs, Naturally Seven, signed onto Sony's record label. M-Pact was hailed by Billboard Magazine as "Best Unsigned Artist." Additionally, M-Pact's member Rudy Cardenas was seen recently as a finalist on hit television show American Idol. National Champions HiFidelity landed a gig performing frequently on the Carson Daly show, a direct result of their success in the contest.
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