HomeA Cappella Love Fest at the Harmony Sweepstakes Festival

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You’ve never heard of the Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival? Even though its now in its 30th year, and takes place on May 17 at 8 p.m. in the Marin Veteran’s Auditorium, neither had I, until an email from the MC of the New York regional finals, fellow whistler Steve Herbst, tipped me off. But once you realize the extent of the Harmony Sweepstakes’ global embrace of all forms of a cappella artistry, and sense how much sheer joy and exuberance is shared between participants and attendees, you too may wonder how this annual event could have possibly fallen off your radar.

Mayflower Community ChorusMayflower Community Chorus

Theatrical producer John Neal, 60, owner and executive producer of the Harmony Sweepstakes, explains that the event began small, in Marin County. Originally sponsored by San Rafael’s British-themed Mayflower Pub, it grew out of the bar’s weekly sing-along beer fest. Out of that sprang the Mayflower Community Chorus, which is still going strong.

Eventually, one of the members of the chorus, Lisa Murphy, dreamed up a competition for the various cappella groups that had sprung up within the chorus. After the English-born Neal attended the fourth or fifth annual event with up to 600 other people, he proposed to Murphy that they use his expertise as a producer of the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, the annual Mill Valley Film Festival, a host of Bay Area theatrical productions, and key acts in the Bay Area New Vaudeville movement to take the Harmony Sweepstakes national.

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