HomeBlogsMister Tim's blogInside View: Los Angeles Harmony Sweepstakes

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  Los Angeles Harmony Sweepstakes: Official site and results

The LA regional is the polar opposite of the Rocky Mountain regional.  RM has been, for the 5 consecutive years I've been there, micro-managed.  it seems to work for them: frequent mailings with every detail of the audition, selection, preparation and competition process detailed to the nth degree.  I well-oiled machine.  Liasons who watch and guide your every move - you've not allowed to go to the stage without them leading the way, stay there all day for the extra meetings, details, details.  Provide a detailed set list

LA goes the Southern-California way.  First 7 or 8 groups that apply do the competition.  Pay your fee.  The address and information is on the web site, and we'll email any other needed details.  If you have questions, ask.  Show up for sound check at 5:30, do the show at 7:30.  If we think of something important, we'll tell you.

Advantages of the laid back style: late arrival time - we weren't expected to sit around the venue all afternoon.  Sound check was scheduled for 5:30.  Every group only got a few minutes to check sound, which is really just fine (particularly when they are not changing anything in the sound booth, anyway).  We were treated like adults - we know how to be where we need to be, when we need to be.  We take care of our own selves, our own groups.  

Disadvantages of the laid back style: I used to dislike this style more, but I really liked it last night.  The sound (detailed below) was a concern.  Overall, the quality of the shows (LA and RM) were about the same, the quality of groups were about the same, the audience enjoyed the show about the same - but it was much, much less work for the LA people.  The sound guy was late, and there was concern about having time to compensate for tech problems, but they rolled easy with it and the show started mostly on time, ended earlier than most, ran smoothly.


Opening group was Ready, Willing & Mabel - they were the judges and special performing guests.  LA always has a group be the judges - one group, they just decide all the awards.  I was a little uneasy about this setup when I first sang in LA in 2005 - probably because my group lost (!) - but I like it more and more the older I get.  One group, of similar and specific tastes, decides a winner not based on numerical scores or complicated rubrics, but simply based on what they feel was the best performance.  There's beauty in that.  I do wish they announced the judges sooner, so I could tailor my competition set to those judges (jazz?  Barbershop?  Pop?).  I might even apply with a different group or groups based on who the judges are... but I am probably the only person in the world loony enough to be in that situation ;-)

Anyway, Ready, Willing & Mabel : classic, old-timey a cappella, they all sing around one old microphone ('Mabel'), very charming stuff.  They were great judges, and great musicians.

Southbay Coastliners Chorus: the sponsoring group, nice folks - they sang, which I didn't hear, and use this event as a fundraiser.  Go, choirs!

These Guys (2nd place): I met these guys (har) first at the 2003 ICCA Semis at Stanford, when some of them were in Fermata Nowhere; later at the 2005 (maybe?) ICCA Quarters in Boulder, CO when they were These Guys.  They're still singing and having a good time.  They have some really funny stuff.  They jump through a lot of material quickly.  Their pitch is suspect at times.  They're a group that I feel like ought to trim themselves down to a quintet if they really want to be successful, and because, like most college-based groups, the extra people really aren't adding much.  Also, they sang a gorgeous tune at the afterglow that absolutely should have been the middle piece in their set.

King4 (3rd place): Elvis!  One of my groups - unless you've experienced it, you can't comprehend how great it is to have 'mature' women cheer for you like that.  **blush**

Vocal Magic : Didn't hear much of them - seems like they sing for the love, sing a variety of stuff, had some good jazz sounds.  Great addition to the competition.

Evolution (1st place, audience favorite): I didn't hear their competition set.  Their encore was not terribly impressive, but their afterglow songs were magical.  They seem like a souped-up barbershop group, singing syllables and styles that went out of style for a reason.  An enigma: some stuff they did really well, some stuff was strangely awkward.  Great guys, though - singing for the right reasons, and I think they can become a great group.

Red Harmony : I didn't hear them.  At all.  Nice folks.  They won best arrangement.

Elemental Harmony : I love this group without prejudice or hesitation.  They are a trio of ladies singing earthy, world, funky eclectic stuff (barking like a coyote!).  So refreshing to have awesome groups like this.  They were great singers and marvelously composed performers... at least, that's how it seemed from backstage.

Throat : My all-original rock group.  Our first performance!  We weren't great.  Rushed everything, yelled everything, all our songs were the same tempo.  I could go on... I'm hyper-critical with my music.  I'm curious what the general audience thought of this group.  Original music - THE HORROR!  We suffered horrifically for not having subwoofers or an experienced sound guy.  Also for only having a week of rehearsals due to several members dropping out at the last minute due to things.  All the music is written to be performed with octave pedal and guitar effects, so I guess I wasn't that surprised that it didn't sound great on the two little speakers used as mains.

Last year's winner, SoundStage, was excellent.  Really had their stuff together.  I could tell the sound was off because they were clearly incredibly capable, sound musicians, and were nailing 90% of their stuff, but every once in a while there were just off... and it was not their fault.  I guarantee they could not hear themselves through the muddy monitor mix.

Obligatory sound gripe!  The sound guy got there late, and took long setting up... that's not a big concern, stuff happens... but he wanted to start sound checks, and said to all the groups waiting there: 'the monitors aren't working yet, but you guys don't really need monitors anyway.'  WHAT?  (I cannot think of what or how to write that can adequately express our collective flabbergastedness and dumbfoundery at his statement).  


So, needless to say, the sound wasn't great.  It wasn't horrible, but every group had pitch problems - groups that sounded amazing at the afterparty, where they could hear each other, struggled on stage - that's a monitor mix issue.  Yes, it takes time... but not much.  Yes it takes knowledge... but not much.  Give the singers a clear monitor mix and they will sound better.   The audience will get a better show.  You wouldn't set up a major symphony orchestra in a high school gym.  That's what you're doing when you ask a good vocal group to sing on a bad system.  

No subs.  Can I emphasize this enough?  No subs.  The vocal spectrum does not end at 100hz.  If you have subs, you can crossover the bass frequencies, separate the bass and vp out of the main mix, which makes the mid-ranges cleaner, which means you can actually make the mix QUIETER overall, = happy old people!  And it fatigues the ears less ... seriously, you sound engineers need to produce a short, simple document that we performers can hand to every sound engineer we work with to teach them the basics.  And it's very basic - most of these people don't have a clue.  They might be great engineers for the local punk rock band, or for the community theater productions, but they do not know vocals.  Help a brother out.  Collaborate, make it short and simple.  Thanks.

Afterparty.  They had it at an Eagle lodge - GREAT PLACE for an afterparty.  Enough room to sit, lots of people attended, they had a bar for those into that kind of thing, and there was a perfect room for un-amplified singing.  Groups sang!  And sounded great!  It was nice.  And we skipped out early because we had to get back to Las Vegas.  Vrrrrrmmmm.


la sweeps sound

Tim, the sound was awful; And it wasn't just the shorting, popping and distortion; (I wanted to go back to the board and ask them to shut the whole thing down, figure out the problem, and fix it before continuing.I almost stood up and screamed.)

I can also understand reluctance to speak up about this at the show for fear of sounding diva-esque, and you don't want to piss off the soundguy... sadly it's not uncommon to have a controlling yet inept sound person, even in Los Angeles.  I might actually say ESPECIALLY IN LOS ANGELES.  But when it's all you've got to offer, and you are obviously not speaking for just yourselves but for the whole slate of competitors, I'd say go for it, as nicely as you possibly can; Or they WILL mess with you.  :  )

-Amy Bob  (The Bobs)

P.S. As you'll see in the piece I am posting about this show, I loved the fact that THROAT did all originals, and hated the fact that the balance and lack of monitors handicapped you perhapsmore than others.  But hey, it's one show, one competition. Don't sweat it.

Too laid back to follow the rules?

My group didn't compete this year, but I did attend the competition, and if we had competed I would have been pretty upset about the flagrant rule violation on the part of King4 and Throat (i.e., the fact that a group is not supposed to be able to compete twice by adding or subtracting a member and renaming itself. This is stated in exactly these words in the rules posted on the internet.) For those of you who did not attend the Los Angeles Regional, Throat was King4 plus a woman.  The names as printed in the program were different, but they were unmistakably the same people, which indicates that the people involved probably knew that what they were doing was a violation of the rules. 

Frankly, I think both groups should have been disqualified from placing at all based on this violation.  That's like having a competing group use of of the judges as a sub (which almost happened one year...)

As someone who has been so involved with the Harmony Sweepstakes for so long, Mister Tim Jones, you should have known better.  Shame on you.


sound sound sound

This is one reason why HS will never have upper level pro groups in the competition. Maybe I am calling out the producers of the HS shows but when you have an engineer that says "you don't need monitors" things need to change. There are plenty of a cappella sound engineers that would come to mix the show for a couple hundred dollars. Producers do not try and cut the cost of the show by cutting the sound budget.

This is also why T Minus 5 does not perform unless we have our sound engineer and tech rider fulfilled. There may only be 5 singers in T Minus 5 but we have 6 members in T Minus 5. Our Sound engineer is such a huge part of who we are and helps create our signature sound.

re: Too laid back to follow the rules?

   Ever hear of stage names?  

Bottome line: the judges knew it was the same people.  The producers knew it was the same people.  They know the rules, and they are in charge of their regional.  If they felt it necessary to disqualify anyone, they would have done it.

Apparently they felt that the "positive additions to the concert" part, the "entertaining" part, the "original" part, were more important than being sticklers about the vague wording of a rule.  Maybe they were abiding by the purpose, philosophy, and goals of the Harmony Sweepstakes instead of being shackled by a single rule.  

Or maybe they just didn't know!


Sound Guy

It was a terrible night for the sound man. We personally had a lot of feedback, and ping coming through the moniters. We would suggest paying a past winner of harmony sweepstakes to run sound. Soundstage would have done a great job.

These Guys

Mercy for the sound man!

 I don't want to pile on the sound guy - LA sound guy did reasonably well for the tools and expectations he was given.  But, the singers are complaining, the audience is complaining... something's got to be done.

The problem is that the tools and expectations are subpar.  They don't know what equipment to use, or how to use it, so they don't.  They simply don't KNOW, for example, that contemporary a cappella groups need subwoofers. 

Like Jared said, there are skilled, a cappella-experienced engineers that can do the show for a couple hundred bucks.

To be fair, hiring out isn't nec. the solution: the expensive sound engineers don't always sound good at competitions because of the moronic idea that putting everyone on flat EQ is somehow 'fair.'   Let the professionals mix it to sound good, and everyone will be happy.


I dunno, Tim, I just looked at the rules, and that one isn't "vaguely" worded. It's pretty clear.

Multiple Entries
One person singing in more than one competing group is allowed. If one or two singers bring a couple of good groups that will be positive additions to the concert, that's terrific. A group may not, however, rename itself and compete twice just by adding or deleting a member.

If you used different names and a headshot with no heads when you submitted your materials, there's no way they would have known until you showed up that it was essentially the same group competing twice (with different rep). Maybe you told them beforehand and they didn't care (because you say in your comment that they knew...and then you say maybe they didn't know)?

I'm not sure if each regional has the leeway to bend the rules as they wish, and if they do, they probably shouldn't have global rules listed on their website, because that makes it seem like those rules apply to all regionals. If they are rules, they are. If they aren't, the producers can pick whoever the hell they want.

I also question having one group comprise all of the judges, and that the producer is also in that group, and that that group also performed that night. If I were competing, I would want the judges' full attention, and if they're concentrating on performing (and producing), I question their ability to rapidly switch gears/come down and go into judging mode. So maybe the "rules" are more fluid than one would expect in general...

Amy Malkoff http://www.amymalkoff.com/harmony CASA (Contemporary A Cappella Society) Program Manager + Director of Web Content - http://www.casa.org Judge - ICCA, ICHSA, Harmony Sweepstakes, etc.

breaking rules?

According to the rule you quoted here, Tim didn't break the rule. He was a singer who brought two different good groups that added to the concert.


I don't think anyone would confuse either of those groups as the same group, renamed with an added or deleted member, competing twice. If the groups defined themselves as 'eclectic' and in other shows did both styles of music, there would be a problem here. But neither group is of the 'eclectic cover band' tradition--both a clearly defined 'concept' gropus that are, as Amybob said, apples and peanutbutter apple sandwiches. Different.

So what rule WAS broken?

I Agree With Amy

She's right, the rule is not worded nebulously by any means at all.

Plus, as a competitor that night, I'll fess up to looking up information on each group "sizing up" if you will. And The only image I'd ever been able to see of King 4 was that promo image:

Where you can kinda make out the side/back your face (if you know what you look like). So with the stage names I had no idea you were the same group 'til the *delayed* soundcheck.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's anywhere near an intentional obfuscation. But to me it was a bummer. Part of the intent of this competition/festival is to bring the tight knit a cappella community closer together, particularly the new groups that came to perform. Under Philosophy, on the Rules page: "...the common goal is to create a special evening of camaraderie and intimacy for singers and audience alike."
So, it was a bummer that the only group in competition that I personally didn't get to communicate with was your quartet. Karisma (of Throat) being a quirk, as she was out in the lobby watchin King 4 while y'all were swingin' them Elvi-Pelvi all about.

Hopefully there'll be a bit more opportunity to intermingle with you and your other comrades of Mouth Beats (The '09 Rocky Mountain Winners) at finals.

Jamie Paisley

J. Paisley
Slapdash Graduate '05-'07
Nantucket Cobbletones '04-'05
Ithacappella '98-'03


Any time Kai, you rule.


J. Paisley
Slapdash Graduate '05-'07
Nantucket Cobbletones '04-'05
Ithacappella '98-'03

Rules schmules??

I guess I am confused about what this actually is any more. I always thought it was a competition with Judges, winners, prizes and etc...There is obviously something "on the line" here and so adherence to the rules IS very important.

By the logic of some in this discussion, you could hypothetically enter as many different groups as you want by cleverly disguising them and presenting them the way Tim did here. How fair would that be? This completely defeats the point of a competition if you ask me. I mean let's say it was 3 groups out of 7 or 4. You would now have a competition where almost half of the groups are the same group. I mean, is THAT the mentality that we want here? I mean, REALLY? "I'll win one way or the other. If I have to put 4 groups in this thing to better my chances, I'll do it." It's lame if you ask me and it stacks the deck in favor of certain individuals who by having multiple groups competiting have more chances to win. The ironic part is that neither group won.

Can't you see how the credibility of this show keeps going down every year by things like this? I mean, it's like a free for all now. I don't care if it would have shortened the show by two groups if they had disqualified them. The only ones to blame are the groups involved that caused the problem in the first place. Tim also competed with different groups in more than one region too. Let's say both win their regions. Now two spots at nationals are taken by essentially the same group doing different styles.

This is my beef with the Sweeps every time this type of discussion comes up. The rules AREN'T observed by every region. I think that this competition has become more of a joke than something to take seriously. I used to really want to try to win the sweeps with a group. But every year this competition loses more and more of its credibility. And every year there is a myriad of excuses and justifications and then no changes or improvements happen.

As far as the sound, unless groups intentionally practice on a crappy sound system it's really hard to overcome that. People DO pay $20 a ticket to see the competition. That's all the more reason for the producers or Jon Neal to make damn certain that there is a minimum standard of quality for the sound. I mean, what good is it to enter the competition if in the end, the judges and the audience don't get to hear what you ACTUALLY sound like?

It's a joke that almost justifies boycotting this competition across the board until these things are fixed. I think that short of that type of extreme action being taken, the sorely needed changes will never be addressed.

This competition should be renamed "A cappella Survivor." Basically, you enter, you show up, they throw a whole bunch of obstacles at you and the group who survives wins. The only way to prepare is to expect and practice under the worst possible conditions you can imagine.

Having said all that, I will have to give Tim some credit for being clever enough to come up with this in the first place. I guess you can't blame the guy for trying.

Don't lose sight of the OTHER rules

 hyperdel, I think in your righteous rage you have missed some details here.  The rules most definitely DO allow for the same people to compete in multiple groups.   What happened in LA was an anomaly - the names listed in the program _were_ the names of those who applied and were scheduled to compete.  Within 3 weeks of the competition all of the others had to drop out - work conflict, work conflict, death in the family, loss of job, loss of job - and instead of leaving the producers in a lurch, I decided to use other cast members of those groups - I double cast (or more) all my groups - used the other cast for these groups.  It worked out, because of necessity, that they were the same for the two groups.  

I _have_ had 3 out of 7 groups in the same regional - Rocky Mountain in 2007.  A vocal jazz / world music quintet, a comedy trio, and a heavy metal septet.  All three singers from the trio also performed in the heavy metal group, and two of us also in the vocal jazz group.  The heavy metal group also had two guys who competed in a _different_ group that night.  Was that a breach of the rules?

Let's check the rules: (full rules here): 

"Multiple Entries
One person singing in more than one competing group is allowed. If one or two singers bring a couple of good groups that will be positive additions to the concert, that's terrific. A group may not, however, rename itself and compete twice just by adding or deleting a member."

My daughter-of-a-lawyer-has-an-English-degree wife is up in arms about everyone's interpretation of this rule.  The rule states "a group may not... rename itself and compete twice."  King4 and THROAT are NOT the same group.  They exist separately, gig separately, have distinct repertoire, distinct audiences, distinct artistic goals... yes, they happen to share cast members.    As a substitute member of Toxic Audio, I assure you that many groups have subs.  When I sub into Toxic Audio, it does not become the King4 because I'm involved - it's still Toxic Audio.  3 of the 4 original members of Toxic Audio sang in a production of Forever Plaid - does that mean Forever Plaid is the same thing as Toxic Audio?  Me and another of the members of moosebutter sang in a post-college group called 'Blue' that did typical middle-of-the-road mainstream pop covers.  Also in that group were two other guys who we used as subs with moosebutter.  If those four did a show as moosebutter, singing mostly-original comedy songs, does that mean it is just 'Blue' renaming itself?  

King4 and THROAT did not, have not, and will not ever sing the same style.  We won't ever sing the same songs.  THROAT won't ever pretend to be Elvis.  Even if the two casts happen to be the same.  If five members of your group get hired by a caroling company to sing carols, for their company, under their name, in their style, does that make it the same group as yours?

And if I might get even more stupidly lawyerey, if we want to take the rule to the literal letter of the law, then you can make these summations: 1) ONE person, and only one, may sing in more than one singing group.  If more than one person sings in more than one group - which I've seen plenty of times, and not just in my groups - that's against the rules.  2) ONE or TWO singers may bring a COUPLE of GOOD groups.  Does not specify who is singing in those groups.  Also, technically I could bring as many groups as I wanted as long as they are not good.  3) a group may not rename itself... that does not preclude the same group competing twice under the same name.  No, seriously, go read the official rules - while it may be assumed, it's not actually in the written rules.   4) nowhere is it specified where singers are allowed to 'bring' their groups to... a single regional?  The national field of competitors?  The sound check? 

Yes, I'm being nitpicky.  But the rule is plenty vague.  Vague enough that all of you are interpreting it in different ways.  Vague in the same way this rule is:

"Competing Again
If a group wins its regional competition but does not win the national finals, it must skip a year before competing in their regional again."

Did you spot the loophole?  I know 3 groups that have taken advantage of it.  If a group wins 'their' regional they can't compete the next year.  But... they can compete in ANOTHER regional.  Fair?  Balanced?  Honest?  Ethical?  What would a lawyer say?  More importantly, what does the national producer say, since his is the only voice that actually matters?

I like taking advantage of loopholes.  Is it because I'm selfish and want to maximize my chances of winning?  Do you really think entering 6 groups, splitting rehearsal time between them, writing/arranging/rehearsing six sets of music, dealing with logistical concerns for 6 sets of people, and simply keeping track of which group is going where and doing what... you think THAT increases chances of winning?  If anything, it DECREASES chances of winning.  

I take advantage of the loopholes because I want as much performance opportunity as possible.  I want to get better.  I want to meet people.  And yes, I want to win awards for the resumes and subsequent marketabilty of my groups.  Frankly, the Harmony Sweepstakes is pretty much it for a cappella.  There are no other competitions.  It's the only live performance award once you're out of college.  I want my groups to experience other groups, to have good performing opportunities, to meet other great musicians, to travel, to have deadlines that inspire us to be better.  I go to the summits and conferences and shows as much as I can.  But it's a stated purpose of the Harmony Sweepstakes.  From the official rules: 

"Our essential purpose is twofold:

1. To provide the performers with a positive experience, and with tools to help them progress in the performance of vocal music."

If I have multiple groups that need positive experiences, and need tools... why can't I take multiple groups to compete?

"2. To put on a highly entertaining show."

And not to mention all the originality, innovation, blah, blah blah blah.

If I can do that - with 1, 3, 6 groups - why not?

What the Harmony Sweepstakes needs is not a boycott, but for groups to get their crap together and show up and impress the audience and judges.  For the good groups to get over themselves and go show everyone else how it's done.  For groups to get in there and do something truly innovative and original.   For groups that are not competing to attend the events as audience members, cheer on their peers, and have the guts to LEARN something from other groups.  

Rules against international groups?

Since when is it against the rules for a group outside of the United States to compete? There have been non USA groups competing for years. This isn't something new.

I've already posted on this topic, but I think the real question is whether this should really be considered a competition or just "a showcase of a cappella on one very special night". Sarcastic tone intentional.

To pick a "lucky winner" you could draw a name out of a hat and send them to San Francisco to "represent" your region that year. I mean, after all this IS called the National Harmony SWEEPSTAKES, right? That way all of those pesky rules don't get in the way of "putting on a good show".

Oh but then you risk sending a "lesser quality" group, right? Gotta have a great show, right? Then I guess we would have to stop just letting anyone in because the show needed "warm bodies" to meet the 7 group criteria.

Bottom line: Either it's a feel good evening all about the love of singing and the many different types of a cappella groups there are out there...OR it's a competition with judges, prizes, winners, losers and yes, I know it's hard to accept...RULES. Rules that are pointless if they aren't followed. (Great point, Amy Malkoff) It's ridiculous to suggest that you can't have a competition that adheres the rules consitantly across the board in every region AND still put on a good show that celebrates a cappella and harmony.

I agree that the best show

I agree that the best show should be the ultimate goal. But there are either rules, or there aren't. Either keep 'em, or scrap 'em. Actually, I personally would be more inclined to not care who comprises the groups. That's not really the issue for me. But having rules and then not following them is sort of like being a Cafeteria Catholic - it's convenient when it works for you, and when it's inconvenient...well, meat on Friday isn't SO bad, is it (how's THAT for controversy??)? That's the only way to be fair all around.

(I didn't compete or even attend this show, so I have no actual dog in this fight...it's really about consistency for me. To me, the crappy sound is a much more important issue)


Amy Malkoff http://www.amymalkoff.com/harmony CASA (Contemporary A Cappella Society) Program Manager + Director of Web Content - http://www.casa.org Judge - ICCA, ICHSA, Harmony Sweepstakes, etc.

It seems to me that everyone

It seems to me that everyone here has missed a key point.

There are two ways of defining the "group"--and you are using a different definition than both the producers and Mister Tim used when he applied for the show.

A "group" can be a distinct set of individuals who perform together. If we use this definition, Mister Tim broke the rules.

A "group" can also be a musical entity with a distinct style and repertoire which they are true to, regardless of the cast. According to this definition, Mister Tim absolutely did not break the rules. Nobody is going to confuse the King 4 and Throat--they are absoutely distinct musical entities, and, considering the differences in the names on the program, I suspect they have alternate 'casts' of people who also sing in them, without changing what the "group" actually is.

Before you all go bashing my definitions, consider Toxic Audio.  The cast of Toxic Audio fluctuates, varying according to the location of the show and who is available. Who you  might have seen in Las Vegas wouldn't be who you saw on your cruise the month or year before, or maybe even who you will see in the next city over the next day. But Toxic Audio is a distinct entity. You're not going to confuse it with the other 'groups' the very same cast members sing in (and they do sing in other groups, too), any more than you'd confuse "Phantom" for "les Miserables" even if the casts were identical, and you're not going to say they cease to be Toxic Audio when they change cast members in and out, even if none of the original cast members happen to be doing a particular show. Likewise, if the entire original cast gets together and sings only opera music for a show, you're not going to say you saw "Toxic Audio", nor will they advertise that you're going to--because Toxic Audio, as a group, is a separate thing from the people who happen to be singing in it.

So separate from the 'should we bend the rules' debate, we should all be talking about what the rules mean. Once we understand that, maybe then we can take the producers job away from them and decide who belonged in the competition or not.

four dudes, two groups, no waiting

I don't see why it matters how many groups someone is in.   

Those two particular acts were like apples and... peanut butter and apple sandwiches.

Guess that's why you didn't take the sunglasses off.   Which would have been one of my critiques had I been a judge.  Gotta see your eyes at some point otherwise it's totally alienating (and eventually less funny).

Amy Bob

LA Sweeps

My two cents on the two group controversy: they were clearly two distinct groups with two distinct sounds and purposes.  Combined with the apparent "laid back" attitude that Mister Tim mentioned, and it's a good guess that it didn't matter to the sponsors.  Maybe if any of them read this controversy, next year will be different... whatever.  I thought Throat and King4 were good representations of two completely different styles of a Cappella and I would argue different from the other groups that performed enough that I think they added to the show.

I'm going to blog about my general impressions of the show but I wanted to add that bit here.  Enjoyed the show, enjoyed Mister Tim's groups and thought it was pretty ballsy to enter with all original stuff; much harder to win over an audience with stuff that's not Top 40; the evidence to me is that your group doing stereotypical impressions of a guy who's been dead 30 years who himself performed covers placed higher and there's no comparing the two styles in terms of musicality or difficulty.

Kings4 is a great concept; I assume that they're well received in Vegas.  To me it's an inspiration that a cappella has room for all kinds of interpretations and in the end, entertainment is supposed to be entertaining, not just an art form.  You can aspire only to the latter but you'll cut yourself off from potential audience.  Comedy sells.

Too laid back to follow the rules?

Ouch!   As one of the judges and also as a performer (and I'm speaking only for myself)  I'd like to address some of the HOT topics in this blog!  I had no idea until the performance that THROAT and King 4 were the same group plus one, duh....their write up in the program gave no indication. However when THROAT arrived on stage with just one female (unlike the photo and bio) it was clear this was not the same group as advertised. Added to that, with the Elvi in disguise, it was hard to pick. Although it became clear that Mister Tim and Tim Jones were one and the same, I would have been hard pressed to spot the others. However, as judges, we did have this discussion over THROAT and King 4 when we were hashing out the winners (thanks to eagle eyed Jim).   My comments regarding the "Rules" are these. If another group had been bumped out of the competition because of the double entry, it would not be OK with me. But in my experience over the last 3 years, I have seen groups drop out at the last minute, sometimes on the day of the competition, without any notification, this year being no different than the others. Is that fair to groups which would have liked to be in?   Let me throw a question back to you... If we disqualified both these groups, on the day, should we let them perform?  If you were in the audience having paid your $20 how would that sit with you? Is it not the purpose of this competition to find the best a cappella group Los Angeles has to offer, any given year?  Only one group can win, and if THROAT or King 4 had been the best on the night, would it be right to disqualify them and send second best?  Clearly we did not need to make any decision over this, as the best on the night (and audience favorite) was Evolution.   Sadly, I have to say that much of this comes back to us as performers. Why do we need these rules? Our own behavior sometimes sets the rules, which we are quick to use or discount as it suits us. If we want to be professionals we need to step up to the plate and behave in a professional and responsible manner. I would say this as a performer, forget the politics, work hard, polish your craft, find your audience and you will be rewarded.   Judges have no control over who gets to enter the competition, and when groups make personnel changes late in the day, how can the producer be expected to know? I can only judge to the best of my ability on the night. The sound system was the same for everyone, yes it was completely out of balance and distorted, no floor monitors (it sucked), but as a performers we are often put in less than perfect situations and it is how we make it work that makes the difference, (yep we've all been there!) A cappella singing is music that requires us to tune by ear. If you can't hear the other harmony parts, you need to move closer to each other to make it work!  (wow, I sound like Tim Gunn)   On the topic of having one group (who all sing the same style) decide who they think are the winners....  Los Angeles has (for as long as I have known) had the policy of having the winners come back to emcee and judge. Although I had reservations about that myself,  I can say this, Los Angeles has done better than most regions in its win lose ratio at nationals, so I guess being judged by your peers works. Why fix what ain't broke!  As for me personally, I'd like to say I have very diverse musical tastes... to imply that because you sing or perform one style limits your ability to enjoy and assess the musical ability of other styles is a little insulting. I may not have the ability to do V/P (so I don't) but it doesn't mean that I was not in awe of Mr. Tim aka Tim Jone's ability. I think they should have a category for this area, along with awarding groups for the degree of difficulty in the music they perform. Complex chording (5 part chords) and difficult rhythms are much more difficult to pull off successfully in a live performance than say 3 part voicing (easier to tune), but it all seems to be sounding a bit like ballroom dancing or ice skating; land the quad and you deserve more points. The truth is, we mostly do this because we love the art and we are successful in it if we find an audience who appreciates it. We can add and redefine rules, but unless we have the ability to move an audience, we are wasting our time. Ultimately that will be the measure of our success. Performers...bring your fans, they spur you on and help set the audience mood!  It is an odd competition, not apples for apples (or even peanut butter) ...a cappella music encompasses so many diverse styles. My advice, forget the politics, work hard, polish your craft, find your audience and you will be rewarded.  I hope I get to see you all perform again next year!

Kate, you ROCK!

Kate, you ROCK!

All I know

Something to consider:  Three weeks ago Evolution was on the waiting list to compete and fortunately a group dropped out.  Perhaps the rules are in place to allow as many groups as possible to be a part if this festival?


That said I look forward to singing with you (Mr. Tim) again and with one of your other groups "Mouth Beats".   It is pretty cool to have so many chances to win too!  Good luck!








Amy Bob is my favorite.

Peanut butter and apple sandwiches?  Really?

I dare you to write a Bobs song about that...

--Dave Brown

now: Mouth Off host | ICCA & CARA Judge

then: CASA president, CASAcademy director, CASA Bd of Directors | BYU Vocal Point | Noteworthy co-foun

I already write about food too much

SANDWICH MAN  (from Get Your Monkey Off My Dog)

:  )


Amy Bob

[from event co-producer Will Hamblet]

[from event co-producer Will Hamblet]

As a co-producer of the show let me add my two cents.  As far as the Mister Tim controversy is concerned, I can assure you that the producers of the event were not complicit in any way.  I knew Tim was in both groups, but being in more than one group has been done before.  I assumed that different names meant different people.  I did think it was peculiar that I didn’t see any of the members of THROAT before the show began, but assumed that, because they came from Las Vegas, they were just late getting there.  At the time THROAT was doing their mic check, I was busy elsewhere putting out some other fire and when they went on stage, I wondered why there was only one female in the group when their promo picture clearly showed two.  I only found out about the substitutions after the contest was over.

Trust me, if I had known about the situation before the whole show had completed, appropriate action would have been taken (probably let both groups perform, but limit them to one group being eligible for any of the awards).  Obviously, checking out the personnel before the show will become a new item on future check lists.

With regards to our judges, Los Angeles has been using successful vocal groups as judges for a number of years now.  During those years m-pact selected Moira Smiley & VOCO (a folk group), Hi Fidelity (a barbershop quartet) selected SoundStage and Ready, Willing & Mabel selected Evolution (who sing a style that I know one member of R,W&M is not particularly fond of).  The point is, good a cappella groups recognize musical excellence, regardless of style, & award it accordingly. 

As far as the sound was concerned, I have no excuses.  Improving that aspect of the show will certainly be our highest priority for the coming year’s competition. 

-Will Hamblet

Amy Malkoff http://www.amymalkoff.com/harmony CASA (Contemporary A Cappella Society) Program Manager + Director of Web Content - http://www.casa.org Judge - ICCA, ICHSA, Harmony Sweepstakes, etc.

nice to hear from the producers

In light of the rules quoted here, it sounds like disqualifying a group because

a) different people show up than applied or

b) the singers sing in more than one group

would be expressly AGAINST the rules. We can't disqualify people for imagined rules any more than we can qualify them for imagined applications.


Neither of those is stated as against the rules in the rules that have been quoted here. I should go read the whole set of rules just to be sure, but we're all discussing enforcing rules that are merely implied, or traditional, but not in the book.

Rebecca: On the face of what

Rebecca: On the face of what you've said, you're correct.

1.) The rules don't say that you can't apply with one group and show up with another, though personally I think that's a bit sketchy. Last minute substitutions may sometimes have to happen, though, and I understand that. In the past, most groups would just drop out if someone in the group couldn't make it, because we really thought of the specific personalities of a group as THAT GROUP, and most groups didn't (and still don't) have extra bodies in the wings who could step in. But if the group you're submitting isn't about that group itself, what IS it about? Just the music? In which case, why not place a computer on the stage, and just have it play your chosen songs?

2.) Some singers may sing in more than one group, but as the rules state:

One person singing in more than one competing group is allowed. If one or two singers bring a couple of good groups that will be positive additions to the concert, that's terrific. A group may not, however, rename itself and compete twice just by adding or deleting a member.

And that last sentence, as far as I understand it, is exactly what DID happen. Two groups (King4 and THROAT) appeared at the same regional, and those two groups only differed by one person. That's exactly what the rules, above, say you cannot do. The two groups in question went under a different name, changed clothes, and did a completely different rep, as they are completely different groups. Noone's arguring that they may be stylistically completely different, or that anyone might "confuse" the two of them (or that Toxic Audio has different casts all under the "Toxic Audio" umbrella - irrelevent). That's not at issue, and it's a smokescreen to bring it up. What is at issue is that two groups that competed at the same regional on the same night were the same core group of people, but for one person. For better or for worse, that IS against the rules. The rules aren't trying to prevent two core groups of the same people doing THE SAME EXACT SET on the same night under two different names, as noone would do that, and it's absurd - and again - a smokescreen - to suggest otherwise. But they're trying to avoid...exactly what happened.

Tim, your daughter-of-a-lawyer wife (this poster? Rebecca?) might want to read closer, because this could not be more clear cut (though you left out the most damning part of the rule - the last sentence, when quoting it). Whether the regional, or Harmony Sweepstakes as a whole chooses to enforce this is something else.

As more and more groups get into this multi-cast format (my own has a few people available for some parts, but is mostly one small core group), it would probably behoove the Harmony Sweepstakes organization to assess how they want to handle such situations. Is it ok to apply with one group, send in photos and a personnel list of that group, have them printed in the program...and show up with other people, who are still technically part of your rotating cast? Should (the groups) be required to notify the producers beforehand that this will be the case if they do (I certainly think so, because to me a group really is about the people in it. I guess I don't think in that production line/Disney kind of way)? This skews Harmony Sweeps more towards the ICCA model, where a group is more its entity than its members, as its members are college students and it's understood that they'll always be different. If I went to see the House Jacks and all the regular guys were gone and replaced with people I didn't know (but still performing under the name "House Jacks"), I'd be really sad, feel deceived, and want my money back. That (plug-in cast) thing works for corporate gigs and Vegas gigs where people are going to see "an a cappella group" and not THIS group with THESE personalities. And it may work for Sweeps, too. It will make it tough to build a loyal audience for any given group, though. It does bring up some interesting questions. This is something HS might want to hash out, but I don't get the feeling that this is an organization that does much ongoing restructuring or self-examination. So that means we'll likely continue to run into these snags. 

Amy Malkoff http://www.amymalkoff.com/harmony CASA (Contemporary A Cappella Society) Program Manager + Director of Web Content - http://www.casa.org Judge - ICCA, ICHSA, Harmony Sweepstakes, etc.

is it a group, or not a group?

 Amy, the House Jacks HAVE replaced people in their cast.  3 of the 5 are different than they were 5 years ago.  Are they still the House Jacks?  

I'm arguing semantics here, but, in response to this:

"A group may not, however, rename itself and compete twice just by adding or deleting a member.

"And that last sentence, as far as I understand it, is exactly what DID happen. Two groups (King4 and THROAT) appeared at the same regional, and those two groups only differed by one person."

Pay attention to what you wrote: TWO groups.  Not "A GROUP."  

"That's exactly what the rules, above, say you cannot do. The two groups in question went under a different name, changed clothes, and did a completely different rep, as they are completely different groups.  What is at issue is that two groups that competed at the same regional on the same night were the same core group of people, but for one person. For better or for worse, that IS against the rules."

The rules do not, not, NOT say you cannot do that.  You are reading the rule how YOU want it to read, not the way it actually reads.  A group did not rename itself and compete twice.  You say so yourself, "as they are completely different groups."  How can they also be the same group?  

I hope this doesn't sound angry - I'm quite enjoying the discussion and hope it's not emotional for anyone.  Nice to see activity on CASA!


yippee - more smokescreens!

Well, I guess it comes down to this: considering that the producers have now said, here and to me directly, "Had we known about this in advance, we would not have allowed this to happen because it's against the rules", that kinda makes my case right there. Did they not say that clear enough for you? Please do contact them directly. The whole "you're interpreting it the way you want to interpret it" thing? Not so much.

Yes, the House Jacks have changed personnel a few times over the many YEARS, but if they were constantly changing personnel, like from show to show such that you didn't know who'd be there for any given show (which is EXACTLY what I said in my last post, but you chose to not read that), it would be a whole different thing (a factory/Disney/Vegas sort of thing, as I've pointed out), and that's not something I personally would be interested in. Maybe someone who wants to have a nice meal and "go out to see a show" would be interested in that, but to me, the group is its members. In the former case, "show" could be an a cappella group, Blue Man Group, or a stripper, for all they care. They just want generalized "entertainment". My favorite bands are my favorite bands because of the people in them. But that's not really the issue.

But good job throwing out the Clintonian "it depends on how you define 'group'". Good lord!


Amy Malkoff http://www.amymalkoff.com/harmony CASA (Contemporary A Cappella Society) Program Manager + Director of Web Content - http://www.casa.org Judge - ICCA, ICHSA, Harmony Sweepstakes, etc.

Quoth the Raven: Evermore?

"I hope this doesn't sound angry - I'm quite enjoying the discussion and hope it's not emotional for anyone.  Nice to see activity on CASA!"

No, it doesn't sound angry to me. To the contrary, your comments are coming across to me as distinctively thought-out & sinuous in its maneuvering to wherever you want to be in regards to your performances. Moving in and out of loopholes with self-admitted joy, and seemingly bringing up your daughter-of-a-lawyer-has-an-English-degree wife (which means bupkis), as some sort of going-on-the-offense action. In answer to your question "Am I selfish", I'm afraid I view the answer as yes.

If it comes down to the different interpretations, while some of us view it as nebulous and some as rigid, it's down to the producers of the shows and none of us. Will Hamblet has already made his comment on how he would have liked to handle the issue if he had all the information. That said, I'm not angry with King4 or Throat, as I said in a previous post, I DO NOT think this situation arose as any sort of intentional obfuscation to blur rule lines. Though I admit my resolve of that statement is shaken in light of MisterTim's recent profession for the joy of loophole explotation mentioned earlier.

I am interested in hearing from Sharp11Girl comment about whether or not she as been persuaded by any of the comments so far, anyone else?

J. Paisley
Slapdash Graduate '05-'07
Nantucket Cobbletones '04-'05
Ithacappella '98-'03

Well, in fact

Nope, I still hold basically the same opinion: the rules expressly say that what happened at the LA Regionals in 2009 was against the rules.  Maybe it shouldn't be, but that rule had deterred me from doing the same thing Mister Tim did in years past.  So change tha rules, I'll bring 4 groups, and I'll stop bitching about it. :)

Well, in fact

Nope, I still hold basically the same opinion: the rules expressly say that what happened at the LA Regionals in 2009 was against the rules.  Maybe it shouldn't be, but that rule had deterred me from doing the same thing Mister Tim did in years past.  So change tha rules, I'll bring 4 groups, and I'll stop bitching about it. :)

defining words...

I guess the interpretation of the rule depends entirely on how you define "group", and as you and I clearly define it differently, we will never agree.

I go by the 'sole proprietorship' model of groups as a business organization, where the singers are contract 'employees'  and you are more in line with the "LLC owned by all members of the singing group" model. Both are legit, though different. Both lead to completely different readings of this rule. This is the exact reason almost every legal document begins with paragraphs defining all key terms that will be used in the document.

By the way, the rules don't specify the same "group of people" can't change their name and compete twice. They say "group." See? Vague unless you define that one word. It isn't clear cut at all without that definition.

I believe the rule doesn't refer to the same musical entity trying to enter the same set of music twice with different names. I agree that it would be ludicrous to even suppose someone would do that. I believe the rule means that one musical group can't enter twice, changing their name and one or two people, and sing two different 10-minute sections of their regular repertoire (since most groups do have more than 10 minutes of music in their repertoire). I suspect this rule exists because someone tried it once before (and why wouldn't they? There is a startling and sad lack of variety among a cappella groups--often the only thing that distinguishes one group from another is their cast).

I'll grant you that the a cappella "eclectic cover band" tradition lends itself to the "set of people" definition, and, in fact, may almost mandate it in many cases. In reality, it's only the faces of the people on stage that distinguish 75% of a cappella groups from each other (despite all of their claims that they are doing something completely unique).  I listened to recordings of Resodence and Evolution side by side one day and couldn't tell them apart, and they're both in the finals. If THEY consisted of the same faces on stage, they'd clearly be breaking that rule.

But Tim's groups don't fit that "cover band" tradition very well and are highly unlikely to be mistaken for each other, despite their cast members.

By the way, since you mentioned it, the House Jacks doesn't have the same cast they started with. Neither does Duwende, Toxic Audio, Rockapella, or the King's Singers. If I'm not mistaken, m-pact and Cadence have changed members, and so has moosebutter. Any group with any sort of longevity or career (as a business entity) is going to have cast changes. Should we insist that all these "groups" change names and get new business licenses because they added and deleted members, and therefore are no longer the same entity? They all have awfully loyal fans who would be sorely disappointed that their favorite group disappeared, even if (as in the case of Rockapella), there were more new cast members than originals.

Hey! Look over There!

As I just said, and quite clearly, it's not about groups changing personnel over the years (almost every long term group does that - it's nearly impossible to avoid, and shouldn't be), it's about groups changing personnel from show to show. But that was really  just a side issue I was mentioning, and yet...you glommed onto it in order to throw up...another diverting smokescreen! Clever! I love me some misdirection.

What you're saying is that you think the rule means that one singular group can't call themselves, say, "Cool Dudes", and do their set, and then rename themselves "Hot Dudes", and swap out one of the dudes and then do another 10 minutes from their rep? And you're saying that because the groups in question are two separate groups with different names and different reps to begin with, that this does not break the rules. It IS questionable, for sure. At that point it's up the organization and/or the regional producer to decide. If (Tim's groups) really didn't think they were breaking or bending any rules, I'd think they would have given the producers the heads-up in advance...just for their info, so they'd know what was going on when they saw the same people on stage twice in the same night. And if there were last minute, emergency personnel changes, they could have let the producers know that day. But they didn't.

In the meantime, since I'm tired of this, I highly recommend that you and/or Tim contact producer Will Hamblet, and he can tell you DIRECTLY (or he can back down, or change his mind, or whatever he chooses) that no, those groups would not have been able to perform had they not been (no pun intended) vocal (about last minute changes) and had the producers not missed their soundcheck (which also proves my point that the producers can't effectively be the producers AND the judges AND perform all at the same event, but that's another thing all together!).


Amy Malkoff http://www.amymalkoff.com/harmony CASA (Contemporary A Cappella Society) Program Manager + Director of Web Content - http://www.casa.org Judge - ICCA, ICHSA, Harmony Sweepstakes, etc.

more from Will Hamblet

[he's having trouble posting, so I'm passing this along]

Mr. Tim’s description of our Regional as “laid-back” is something of a two-edged sword.  On the positive side, it sounds like a relaxed environment where the participants are hassled as little as possible… and that’s definitely what we strive for.

On the negative side, given our locality, it presents the image of two stoned SoCals leaning back in their chairs saying, “whatever works, man.”  This couldn’t be further from reality.  Both Pete Neushul & I have several decades of experience in the “real world” successfully planning & managing projects.  In addition, Pete has been associated with Harmony Sweeps for almost 20 years now & I have been involved for almost 10. 

Our sole goal is to produce a show which is both entertaining to the audience & rewarding to the participants...  and we definitely work at it!


Amy Malkoff http://www.amymalkoff.com/harmony CASA (Contemporary A Cappella Society) Program Manager + Director of Web Content - http://www.casa.org Judge - ICCA, ICHSA, Harmony Sweepstakes, etc.

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