Friday, April 20, 2018

Looking Back on the April 14th 2018 Aca-Challenge

The Harmonizers hosted the fifth-annul Aca-Challenge April 14th at the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in DC. This year’s event was presented by the Harmonizers, hosted by contemporary a cappella spokesperson Deke Sharon, and co-sponsored by the venue. Jason Lee headed this event for the chapter with help from TBD.

Here is a report of the event from Gary Cregan. (Thanks for taking notes Gary, And for filling in details by Robyn Murane.YeEd.)

“It was a packed house, with hardly any seats available. The crowd was quite varied, ranging from young teens up to folks who could have been their great-grandparents. There was a lot of excitement for the show to begin, and everyone was looking forward to some great a cappella singing.

“The emcee for the event was a cappella advocate Deke Sharon who bounded onto the stage and helped the crowd prepare for a nite of great singing. He said that the Historic Synagogue at Sixth & I reminded him of his college experience singing, and gave the origin of the term a cappella (Italian for ‘in the style of the chapel’). He also announced that the show was being broadcast on FloVoice ( He closed his introductory remarks by talking about the rules, and the prizes, concluding by saying “when you sing a cappella, everybody wins.”

ConneCT, from Connecticut and consisting of nine performers (four women and five men), took the stage wearing grey tones, and gold armbands that related to the plot of their set. This group varied from the format of a three song set by performing a ‘mini-musical’ consisting of three related original songs. The crowd was very enthusiastic to hear music they had never heard.”

“In the break between acts, Deke gave a brief history of a cappella music, starting with Gregorian chant all the way through doo wop. He introduced the next act, The Workshop, hailing from NYC and wearing black and grey, who took the stage with six women and five men. They performed three songs, each of which was applauded with enthusiasm.”

“Before introducing the next act, Deke described how recorded music has changed the way we approach music, because now that we have recordings, there isn’t a requirement to be able to perform in order to have music. He also started giving judge’s resumes, starting with our own Tony Colosimo.”

“The next act was DaCadence, from University of Maryland. Wearing all black, this group consisted of five women and seven men. Their three song set was extremely well-received by the audience.”

“Deke’s next patter was an introduction of judge Mike Rowan, director of communications for ChorusAmerica.”

“The only all-woman group of the evening, BluesTones, came to the stage wearing black with blue accents. These ladies from James Madison University were enthusiastically cheered by the crowd after each of their three songs.”

“After the BluesTones, Deke presented the resume of judge Amanda Cornwallis, senior manager of FloVoice.”

“The next contestant group was Word of Mouth, a DC local group, who wore blues, blacks, and whites. They had an even mix of six women and six men, and two of their songs were popular enough that even the older folks in the crowd recognized them (‘The Time of My Life’ and ‘Lady Marmalade’).”

“Before the last group came out, Deke invited the audience to visit the Harmonizer’s ‘Learn a Tag’ and display table. He then introduced GW Vibes, who was a last-minute fill in when Out Of The Blue had to bow out.”

“GW Vibes was also a big crowd favorite, bringing six women and seven men to the stage, dressed in tones of grey and black. Before they started, one of the ladies announced that their set was an exploration of mental health issues, warning anyone in the audience that they were going to deal with very dark themes. The audience enjoyed it very much, despite the theme.”

“Deke announced the intermission, and the judges departed to deliberate.”

“After the intermission, Deke introduced two exhibition groups, the first of which was Evolve, a co-ed a cappella group from Chesapeake Senior High School in Pasadena, MD.  Deke discovered them during one of his youth festivals. Despite the fact that they have only been around for two years, Deke said that they were so good, he had to pull the members of Evolve out of the larger group to work on their own music.”
Evolve took the stage in all black; the men had blue accents and the women had silver accents. Their performance was very impressive, and they followed the format of the contest, presenting three songs. The crowd was quite impressed.”

“Finally, Deke came out to introduce our own TBD, who came out in their black suits. This Harmonizer a cappella group includes Terry Reynolds, Todd Ryktarysk, Clark Chesser, Reed Livergood, Jeff Burkey, Troy Hillier, Noah Van Gilder, Nick Leiserson, Joshua DesPortes, Kellen Hertz, Scipio Garling, and Josh Roots.”
“Their first number was “All You Need Is Love,” with solos by Noah and Josh. Reed stepped out during the tag and asked everyone in the audience to tell their neighbor “all you need is love,” and then led audience participation.”

“Terry stepped out next to talk about TBD’s mission, then brought Deke out to discuss his arrangement of their next song, “The Rhythm of Love.””

“Finally, Scipio stepped up to introduce TBD’s final number, “Take You There.” Following the massive applause for TBD, Deke came back out with the results of the competition.”

“Deke did a great job of building suspense, leading off with the audience favorite (determined by electronic voting), which was the BluesTones. He then announced the 2nd runner up (third place), which was DaCadence, 1st runner up (second place), was BluesTones, and the winner of the $1000 prize, GW Vibes.”

As usual there was a large contingent of Harmonizer helpers that nite too.  This was not a theater so back stage was a little crowded but our crew of Randall Eliason, Adam Afifi, Steve Murane, Robyn Murane and Nick Leiserson make it work smoothly.

There were about 400 attendees.  A Harmo crew served greeters. Programs were available for guests before they took their unreserved seats in pews in the synagogue. There was an afterglow after the show for premium ticket customers to meet Deke and visit with the contestants.  Ken Rub managed this aspect of the event with Clark Chesser.  There was a membership table there too coordinated by Dave Kohls with Bruce Roehm, Dean Sherick, Mario Sengco, and Steve Murane.

Until next time – editorjack! 

(This message is prepared for your review if you were there, for your information if you had to miss, and as a historical record of the great things going on each week during the 70th year of the Alexandria Harmonizer Chapter. —YeEd

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