HomeBlogsDekeSharon's blogCARAs and ACAs and Cars, Oh My!

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By the end of the year, all of the albums are uploaded onto a secret server running a fantastic custom program by George Hoffman (Julia’s husband and indefatigable unsung CARAs hero).

Jon and Julia also reach out to a cappella fans and experts around the globe to find an unbiased staff of nominators and judges. The nominators listen to every album and individual song that falls in their category, and individually decide what they believe are the best tracks and albums. The highest ranking choices (by number of votes) are then fed back to all nominators so that all can have a shot at ranking the most popular choices, and from those second rankings we arrive at each nominee.

This happens in time for the announcement of the nominees, at which point a second round of judges comes into the equation. They listen only to the nominees, and listen carefully, repeatedly. Each only has access to the nominated tracks and albums, and from those ranks their favorites. And then they all sit back and wait for the announcement.

I should mention that until the CARA finalists are announced no one knows who the nominators and judges are other than Jon and Julia. There’s no way to lobby for your track, and every judge has their own perspective. Once the awards are announced, so are the nominators and judges, so that the public knows who was involved, and is welcome to raise a red flag if they think any bias came into play.

We think this system (gathering all albums from around the globe, then have all judged by a qualified, unbiased panel) is the best way to decide our award winners. Nonetheless, I say this every year: this is by no means an ultimate measure of artistic merit. Art is in the eye, or this case ear, of the beholder, and there’s no accounting for taste. Different judges might return a different result. We don’t do this to help further the notion that there’s a single standard by which music should be measured, as we don’t believe there is one. We do it to help groups and fans.

Groups benefit from the awards by having a feather in their cap. They can announce a CARAs nod on their web site, send out a press release, put a sticker on their CD to help sell it, and generally toot their own horn. Fans have a chance to hear about some excellent albums, which will help get them in touch with new wonderful recordings, and help the artists as album sales generally spike after the April announcements.

We don’t bother to announce who didn’t win, because that’s moot. We hope no one ever assumes that not winning an award is a slight, because it isn’t. We’ve done our best to create and enact a fair process, but in the end if you’re not awarded, your album is no less than it was before. Remember that the Anita Kerr Singers beat the Beatles many years ago. And if you want a chance to cast a vote for your favorite albums and a cappella artists, there’s always the ACAs

The ACAs grew from a desire for fans and artists to voice their own opinions. Granted, they’re basically a popularity contest, but there’s room for that in the a cappella world; With twice as many awards, there are twice as many chances for groups to send press releases and get articles written in local papers. You can see this year’s recently announced ACA winners on casa.org as well, and help build a buzz for the winning groups.

Speaking of buzz, there’s been a great buzz in vocal music circles this week regarding the English Honda ad featuring a choir creating all the sounds of a Honda with only their voices. It’s an impressive work as an ad as well as from an a cappella standpoint. I’d gamble that at least a few of those sounds hadn’t been attempted before by a choir, and the result is astounding.

The British ad team that created this spot contacted me a few months back about this, as they were initially balking at the cost and scope of this production and wondered if there were less expensive alternatives. I told them I could do it with an octet (given the right voices), which would have been cool, but a different effect, no doubt. Heck; give me Andrew Chaikin, Michael Winslow, Frederick Newman, Bill Hare and an afternoon and the five of us could recreate the 2005 Indy 500, an episode of Speed Racer, you name it!

Much as I would have loved to cash that check and get the glory, I think they made the right choice by going with a choir, as the overall effect is perhaps more impressive when you see a large group performing it. It says “look what anyone can do with their voice” or “look what you can do with your voice” as opposed to “look at what these handful of ringers can do.” The choral setting is doubtless more beneficial to a cappella, as it might generate more interest in a cappella.

Speaking of more interest, there has been a large increase in readership here on casa.org. It’s not uncommon to see 400-800 readers at any given time, which is great news for us all. If you build it they will come? Well, we’re still building. Actually, I don’t know that we’ll ever stop building. Perhaps we’re the Sarah Winchester of the music world? If you are stopping by for the first time, please register for a free membership and load a photo into your bio. One of CASA’s best tools to help a cappella is networking, and our facebook is an excellent way to make friends as well as new business contacts/partners/bandmates/fans.

Speaking of making new friends (are you noticing a lack of creativity in my segues?), I’ll be in Germany for most of February performing with the House Jacks. With 18 consecutive concerts in 18 cities over 18 days, I probably won’t have time to meet you in a cafe for a steaming cup of schnitzel, but I’m happy to hang out and grab a drink after a show.  Drop me an email, or just introduce yourself.