"The Sing-Off" season two begins Monday, December 6 on NBC. Ten amazing groups will compete for a Sony recording contract and cash prizes. We'll be featuring profiles of each group leading up to the debut, and during the show's run, we'll have a review of each episode. Have an opinion on any of the groups, or the show? Comment on any article or our forum
University of Oregon’s On the Rocks has been around for roughly 10 years and has been gaining recognition for about 8. Started in 1999, their rolling stone momentum was anything but rocky. OtR placed 3rd at the 2002 ICCA and 2nd in 2003. They’ve won many many awards, including CARAs, and have been featured on the SING, VOICES ONLY, and BOCA compilations. Recently, their track "Lighthouse" was chosen to be featured on the just-released SING 7 compilation. They've been featured on the WB News and have performed live on NBC's "Today Show". I think it’s safe to say that they’re the a cappella royalty that you’ve never heard of. Unless you have.
The 9-12 member male company was the first official collegiate Orgeonese group, and have since inspired the creation of such groups as Divisi and Outspoken. Virally, they are known for their stellar version of Lady GaGa’s “Bad Romance” (which currently has OVER 7 MILLION hits on YouTube) and I’ve personally Rickrolled many a fool with their exceptional edition of Rick Astley’s classic “Never Gonna Give You Up”. The album track it self was a “Rickroll” as it was titled “Coldplay Medley” to surprise unsuspecting listeners. For more On the Rocks, check out their new album "A Fifth" available on iTunes. Don't forget to catch OtR November 5th @ the 10th Annual West Coast A Cappella Showcase
Known for their choreography, antics, and some serious singing, these men won’t be subject to any more “rocky start” puns by myself or anyone else. Check them out on the 2nd season of NBC’s Sing-Off, 12/6 @ 8 PM. http://pages.uoregon.edu/ozog/
-by Evan Feist
Celebrating their HUNDREDTH YEAR in 2009, the "Whiffs" (Yale Whiffenpoofs) are the oldest a cappella group in the United States. Period.
Traditionally, the group is comprised of 14 Yale seniors. Their traditions have been imitated (but never duplicated) and they’ve written the book in many respects. But not all their customs have caught on. The business manager and musical director, in Whiff tradition, respectively, are known as the "Popocatepetl" (an active volcano) and "Pitchpipe" (a device used to derive pitch).
Embedded within the historical zeitgeist, due to famous alumni such as Cole Porter, and their role in Mel Brook’s "Young Frankenstein" and (in my opinion) the best episode of "The West Wing", the Yale Whiffenpoofs put their name to good use. A portion of their proceeds each year is donated to the Whiffenpoof Children's Literacy Initiative, which aims to create 15 literacy centers in 12 countries, including the United States.
The Whiffenpoofs are known the world over and obviously deserve a slot in this years "Sing-Off" competition. Their madrigal style has been copied by hundreds of groups and although they are known more for spirituals and more glee-club style songs (as opposed to Top 40 or Rock), it will be very interesting to see what they bring to the table this season.
Make sure to catch The Whiffs (12/6 on NBC @ 8PM) assembled, suited-up, “with their glasses raised on high” while “the magic of their singing casts its spell”. http://www.whiffenpoofs.com/
-by Evan Feist
The students of Kettering-Fairmont High School’s mixed octet Eleventh Hour are pioneers of high school a cappella. Formed in 2000 by music teacher and award-winning barbershop singer Brody McDonald, the group was originally intended to be a classical crossover group in the style of the King’s Singers or Disney’s Voices of Liberty. Eleven students showed up to audition for eight parts, but all were so talented that they were all accepted and Eleventh Hour was born.
Since then, this talented group of youngsters, under the leadership of their dedicated director, has brought high school a cappella into the public eye with their energetic stage presence, mature sense of musicality, and vivacious spirit. They’ve won countless awards and recognitions, including a spot on the prestigious Best of High School A Cappella compilation albums in 2008 and 2009, inclusion on the SING V: Groovus compilation in 2008, and two wins from their seven nominations in the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards from 2008 to 2010. The group has also been busy sharing their talents with music educators and scholars across the state and country, performing at numerous Ohio Music Educator Association and American Choral Director Association conferences, and has recently been invited to perform at the exclusive bi-annual National ACDA Conference to be held in Chicago, IL in 2011.
Eleventh Hour is unique in that McDonald believes his group should be treated like any other band. The students choose their own music, arrange their songs, and book their own gigs- no small feat for this creative group of high-schoolers. This independent musical spirit promises to serve this group well as they head off to California to continue breaking new ground as the first and only all high-school group performing on the second season of “The Sing-Off”!For more info on Eleventh Hour and to purchase their newest album, Electrify!, visit the group’s website www.eleventhhouracappella.org!
-by Christopher Diaz
Nashville’s Street Corner Symphony are unashamed to admit that they formed with the sole purpose of winning this season of "The Sing-Off". Coming together for the first time as a birthday gift for group member Mark McLemore in May of 2010, the group is the result of a talented and diverse meeting of men from all around the Southern United States. With a roster of members that includes a pilot, a major label recording artist, an operatic baritone, a dichromat (color blind person), and a fruit-a-phobe, Street Corner Symphony’s personnel are almost as diverse as their repertoire. Yet while the group attempts a wide range of song styles, they are most heavily influenced by their rich gospel heritage. Five of the six members are sons of preachers, and two of them are grandsons of the tenor Bill Shaw of the “Blackwood Brothers”. Their relationship with gospel music runs deep, and the group hopes to use this sense of down home soul and style to wow “The Sing-Off” audiences and judges!
For more information, blogs, and news from Street Corner Symphony, make sure to check out their website at http://streetcornersymphony.org/.
-by Christopher Diaz
For the past decade, a group of experienced musicians has been pleasing audiences all over the Pacific Northwest. Now, this septet brings their unique brand of vocal stylings to TV audiences around the world. Groove for Thought, a Seattle, Washington based a cappella group, will take the stage for NBC’s “The Sing-Off” in December for a chance at winning $100,000 and a Sony recording contract.
Each member of the group brings an incredible musical background to GFT. For instance, Amanda, the lead soprano, has been singing or playing music since she was eight years old. Stephanie, second soprano, was playing three instruments by the time she was in middle school. Jeff, bass, was performing in show choirs at age six. Each of the members has a long history in musicianship and brings it all together to form a cohesive entity of sound.
GFT has been said to be “loaded with ear candy” and once you hear their tight vocal harmonies, you will soon agree. Calling on the muses of Bill Withers, Three Dog Night, Billy Joel and many others, GFT infuses their arrangements with a Jazz and R&B feel. Their arrangements are stunning representations of the possibilities of vocal harmonies – their crisp rhythmic movements, close intoxicating harmonies, and playful personality makes a winning combination for this group.
GFT is excited for the opportunity of singing on national stage. They are grateful for the chance to share their music with a huge audience and to work with some amazingly talented people on “The Sing-Off” cast. They appreciate the support of their fans and, for those of you who aren’t a fan yet, they look forward to making you one!
Groove for Thought’s Jazz style and sensibility is something brand new to “The Sing-Off.” Tune in on December 6 at 8PM EST and experience their original sound. Check local listings for details.
Groove For Thought: http://www.grooveforthought.com
-by Jeeves Murphy
The days of the musical genre that I call “The Nouns” have long been over. I grew up listening to groups like “The Spinners,” “The Originals,” and “The Delfonics.” What people in the world can resist joining hands when they hear the timeless hit Love Train by “The O’Jays?” Those were the days of authentic Soul music – real music in general, as far as I’m concerned - and I’m sad to say it’s over…
… Until December 6, when Jerry Lawson & Talk Of The Town take the stage for the second season of NBC’s “The Sing-Off.” Talk Of The Town brings a mix of the contemporary with the kind of gospel-style Soul that made people groove back in the 1970s. With influences from Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, and Elvis Presley, the group’s unique sound is something brand new, and yet reminiscent of something we’ve come to know and love. But most of all, these guys have the kind of Soul that comes from a group that sings with a passion for life, for love, and for the music itself.
Stan, CD, Douglas, Paul, and Chase make up Talk of the Town and are led by the inimitable Jerry Lawson, former lead singer of The Persuasions. Jerry originally left The Persuasions to record on his own with the assistance of instruments – jazz standards, Soul, R&B, and other genres that Jerry says “deserve nothing less than a full orchestra.” But through a series of miracles, magic, God-touched synchronistic events, Talk of the Town and Jerry Lawson became one!
JL/TOTT says that the thing that gives them an edge in this competition, other than Jerry Lawson, is their Soul. They are thrilled to have a chance to introduce their style of A Cappella Soul to the world in addition to seeing their hero, Jerry Lawson, be acknowledged after being told for 40 years that there was no market for 5 guys without a band. Their message to their "Sing-Off" audience is a simple one – “Do what you love & know that it’s never too late for your dreams to come true.”
These six men will most certainly be the talk of the town when they leave the stage of "The Sing-Off". While their harmonies are still ringing through the studio, the audience will be left stunned, reminded of a happier time when music was much less… processed! Jerry Lawson & Talk Of The Town make their primetime debut on December 6 at 8pm EST (check local listings).
Their debut CD “Jerry Lawson & Talk Of The Town” is now available digitally on iTunes and the 20 track disc is available at www.jerrylawsontalkofthetown.com
Jerry Lawson & Talk Of The Town: http://jerrylawsontalkofthetown.com/
-by Jeeves Murphy
The Men of Note started as an all-male a cappella group at Cherry Hill High School West of Cherry Hill of Cherry Hill, New Jersey. They won the International Championship of High School A Cappella three years in a row (2006-8), becoming the first group to ever accomplish this feat. Now, eight alumni have joined to form an all-star version of Men of Note as they set their sights on "The Sing-Off" stage. The octet draws from the roots of the contemporary a cappella movement; they pull from the rich harmonies of barbershop while infusing fun and camaraderie into songs from artists such as Elvis and Beyonce. Make sure to tune in to "The Sing-Off" on December 6th to see Men of Note do what they do best, and check out “The Sing-Off: Harmonies for the Holidays” to hear Men of Note’s take on “The First Noel.”
Richard "Randle" Crandle
Rajeer "Ryan Howard" Alford
Jason "Nop" Nop
Robert "Baby Bobby" Waldner
Kurt "Captain" Knecht
Perry "Pear-Bear" Hudicka
Kevin "Kev-Do" Catanella
Mike "Nagatar" Williams
-by Ryan Grajo
What do you get when the collegiate a cappella movement hits one of the most prestigious hotbeds of musical talent in the states? The answer is Pitch Slapped, a coed group hailing from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Founded in 2006, this relatively young group has already made waves in the a cappella community and was the 1st runner up in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella of 2010. Pitch Slapped marries its musical dexterity with a clear and brightly blended tone, deftly tackling diverse genres of music and musicians from the Beatles to Rihanna. This group is certainly one to watch out for; to learn more about Pitch Slapped, visit their website at www.pitchslappedacappella.com , stay tuned for the premiere of NBC’s "The Sing-Off" on December 6th, and catch their rendition of “Joy to the World” which opens “The Sing-Off: Harmonies for the Holidays” .
-by Ryan Grajo
Presently hailing from Alabama's Oakwood University, the esteemed birthplace of a cappella greats Take6, the sextet Committed is poised to bring their close-harmony Christian and jazz-infused stylings to "The Sing-Off"! Committed was originally founded by four high school sophomores in 2003 at Forest Lake Academy in Orlando, Florida, and over the intervening years has, like many professional and amateur groups, endured some growing pains due to changes in their roster.
Despite these disruptions, Committed, true to their name, forged ahead, strengthened their resolve to bring soulful music to the masses, and steadily improved their craft commensurately with the attraction of increasingly better talent. Their stronger line-up enabled them to hone their sound and style to what it has become today: a melange of old world doo-wop, soul/gospel and jazz, presented apropos with classically conservative attire.
Their transition from the cloistered confines of church performances in New Jersey and Washington D.C., to the raucus corpulency of a live prime time television extravaganza, will be intriguing to behold. It's rare to find understated, yet powerfully captivating and precisely tuned performances on reality television. Committed, however, should provide a measured counterpoint to the more prosaic, brazen or ostreperous acts that are wont to inhabit this realm. The variety of approaches, sounds and styles among all of the featured groups will enable us to appreciate the uniqueness of each, and will, no doubt, provide all the more excitement to watch!
-by Adeel Pandith
The Backbeats are one of the newest groups to hit the a cappella scene. Assembled from members of competing collegiate ensembles, these twenty-somethings from around the country are quickly honing their sound. After last season's "Sing-Off", Kenton Chen asked his friend Kelley Jakle (from the SoCals) to help him form a group to audition for this season. Together they pulled in their best friends, who then helped them find singers for the group through their friends. In a musical 6 degrees of separation game, they finally assembled the group in May that would later become the Backbeats. Though most of the group hails from NorCal or SoCal, they have members from Texas, Chicago, and Kansas City - USC, UCLA, and BYU.
The Backbeats like to mix it up stylistically, doing songs that have R&B, Pop, and Soul influences. Though they admit to feeling a bit daunted competing against such established groups as Whiffenpoofs and Groove for Thought, they are excited to show people what they can do. When asked what their goals are as a group, they had this to say: "Simply put, we want to make good music. So many of us have been in the a cappella circuit for years, and it's such a satisfying mission to show people just how dynamic and relatable a cappella can be. In each of our performances, our emphasis is always on the art. It's always about how the song serves the message, how we can honestly deliver that message, and hopefully move beyond pure entertainment to music that is truly compelling."
And here's a fun fact about The Backbeats, from the group themselves: "In addition to a vocal warmup, we have a 'jam session' before every rehearsal. Members make up parts to each other, and the big emphasis is on creating parts that compliment and play on each other. In this way, we not only warm up our bodies, but our minds as well."
-by Amy Malkoff