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In a couple of days, the Netherlands will get their first taste of contemporary a cappella on TV, and the Dutch a cappella community is already buzzing from the first taping (which happened on Tuesday), but of course no one can give any specifics until it airs.

I've been asked a variety of questions by people on both sides of the Atlantic, including:

Q: How was the casting process?

A: Exciting! We identified over 140 a cappella groups in the Netherlands, which has a total population of only 16.5 million. That's less than the New York metropolitan area, and there was a fear we'd only encounter a fraction of that number, especially since there is no collegiate a cappella scene.

Holland does have a strong adult choral community that sings popular music, but there has already been a reality show geared toward choirs, so we were looking for groups that fit the contemporary a cappella mold.

In the end, we saw lots of talent, but in some cases the group numbers were small (3 or 4 members) and would benefit from combining groups ("Sharp!" was assembled by merging a male and female quartet from a music academy) or adding beatboxers ("Jade" is a long-standing female a cappella quintet to which they added 2 beatboxers).

Beatboxers are more prevalent in the Netherlands than vocal percussionists (which are almost unheard of), and one group, "Heartbeat" was formed by the #1 ranked beatboxer in the country who tapped 2 of his beatboxing cohorts and a quartet of R&B singers.

The show has one full-time professional a cappella group ("iNtrmzzo"), a group pulled from a larger gospel choir ("For-Tune"), a female quartet of musical theater singers ("Blond Beats").

We do have one very new collegiate a cappella group: a male octet called "Blue Monday" that is very much in the male collegiate mold: lots of energy and youthful swagger.

There is also a comedy quartet headed by the son of one of the nation's best known rock stars whose name translates as "Herman in a bowl of goat yogurt."

We did reach outside the country into the Flemish part of Belgium (since they speak the same language) to include "D-base".

And rounding out our ten groups is "Gentle Voices," a family group of 6 singers who bear a striking resemblance in look and sound to the US season two winners "Committed."

There are plenty of other excellent groups in the Netherlands who were not able to do the show due to existing conflicts (the casting and production process was very quick, casting in January and February for a show that starts airing in early March). We have plenty of talent for a second season if the network renews the show.

Q: How is the format of the show different?

A: Commercial breaks are less frequent and longer here, so we only have a couple of breaks and much longer acts. The core of the show is 70 minutes with 3 commercial breaks, followed by an hour long game show (Millionaire) and then a 15 minute recap followed by the elimination down to the two final groups who must repeat their song taking into account the judges comments. When the judges decide on the spot who goes home, that group sings a swan song, like in the US, but it's the same song for all groups (A Dutch song called "Sweet Goodbyes" by Krezip).

The show here has two hosts, one of whom interviews the groups backstage after each performance, and 3 judges. The stage has the same look, with groups sitting in opera boxes, but there's an extra box on the right side which has 2 groups during the first show, 1 during the second show, and thereafter will be filled with audience members.

The theme song and graphics are the same, and you'll recognize the bumper music (most of which, like the US version, features the House Jacks).

Q: What channel is the show on?

A: SBS6, which is one of the nation's biggest network. It's known as more of a family network, so our show should fit right in.

Q: Will the show be in Dutch?

A: Yes, entirely, except many of the songs...

Q: What kind of songs will groups be singing?

A: The first two shows will look quite similar, featuring mostly recent American and British popular music, with "I Got The Music In Me" and "Use Somebody" as the opening numbers (same as the first two shows in the US). Then the third show will feature popular Dutch songs (some in English, some in Dutch), with later rounds returning primarily to songs in English with a variety of themes (including medleys, love songs, boy/girl bands, party tunes, etc.)

Q: How many shows will there be?

A: Seven shows in which our 10 groups are dismissed, one per show, until we're down to three, followed by a live finale, and another show that will be a benefit for a non-profit, featuring Dutch celebrities singing with the groups. Nine in total.

Q: Why isn't the show happening in _________? They have a great a cappella scene! You should do it there!

Fact is, it's not up to Sony where the show will be produced. Sony's production companies and affiliates around the world are pitching the show to a variety of markets, and it just so happens the Dutch produced the first show outside the US. The rest of Europe is keeping a close eye on the Dutch production to see how effectively the show can be produced in a smaller country, and how well the audience receives the show (ratings are everything in television). If it does well, we can expect several other countries to jump on board. Fingers crossed!

Q: What are the differences in producing the show outside the US?

Fact is, no country will have the same production budget as we do in America. This has a number of ramifications, the most notable being that the groups in the Netherlands are all living at home and driving to Hilversum (the Hollywood of Holland, located in the middle of the country, no more than a 2 hour drive for anyone) for coaching during the week (when they can), rehearsals on the weekend, and the taping on Monday nights. Having all of the groups live in the same hotel and rehearse seven days a week is a distant memory as we scramble to get all songs arranged, taught, staged and perfected in our very tight schedule.

Q: What is your role and who else is working on the show that we might know?

A: My title is "Executive Music Producer" and I'm acting as Sony's representative from the US show, helping out in every way that I can. I've flown to Holland three times, twice for casting and a third time to participate in mounting the first two episodes, and then I'm back home with the Dutch production team handling everything from there.

The music team is top notch: Paul Kloote, founding member of Montezuma's Revenge, is the chief vocal coach and will act as music director when I leave, and Jetse Bremer, the nation's most prolific and best known contemporary a cappella arranger, has been doing many of the arrangements. They're both exceptionally talented.

Q: How is the show's audio being mixed?

Same as the US show. Ed Boyer is doing all of the audio mixing (back in CT, transferring files online), with one caveat: he and his wife are expecting their first child any day now, so if Ed is in the delivery room, Bill Hare will jump in and pick up the slack. Live house and monitor mixing (plus everything else) is being done with top-notch Dutch engineers.

Q: Can we download the show and music outside of Holland?

A: Yes! At least that's the current plan. All shows should be available, and although you might not understand the dialogue, the music will be entirely familiar (except show 3 featuring Dutch songs).

Q: How does the quality of the show compare to the US?

A: I think you'll be impressed, especially considering the much smaller casting pool from which we drew our groups. Luckily, you can judge for yourself.

Q: Will the winning group make an album?

A: Yes, the grand prize is a Sony recording contract, so we will have a major label release from the Dutch winner.

If you have any other questions, go ahead and post them below



First episode Sing-Off Holland

Hi there,

Thanks for the backstage stories! Everyone in the a cappella scene here in Holland is very excited about this new show on TV! The first episode of the Dutch Sing-Off version is now online: http://www.sbs6.nl/web/show/id=1497354/langid=43/media=268817/page=1


All the best from the Netherlands,

Marjolein Stots - Wishful Singing

Female A Cappella from the Netherlands


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