INPULSE (kinda) Sweeps the SWEEPS!
- There was a very impressive and well entertained crowd at Gates Concert Hall last evening for the 15th running of the HARMONY SWEEPSTAKES Derby (uh, no -- a cappella competition) that found out-of-state groups faring even better than our Colorado groups. But that's okay. The world of contemporary a cappella is very welcoming of friendly competition, new ideas and groups that want to break into the scene and make it to the top.The warmth of the friendship between the competing groups was evident as early as Friday evening when several local groups came in for the reception to welcome them to Denver and to act as informal hosts for the weekend festival. But it was even more evident on stage during the Award ceremonies when the 6 big winners were announced amid enthusiastic reception and warm hugs among all of the competitors. It was great fun to be amidst this crowd and to attend the huge Afterglow Celebration following.Okay, okay, you wanna know who took home the Gold. Well, I gave it away in the subject line above, but here's the official breakdown before it's released to the Associated Press (whom I'm sure will put it on the international wire as soon as they read this).Our judges were outstanding members of the a cappella and media community from the Denver area and, in one case, "A Cappella Hour" radio host, Brian Michaels all the way from Fargo ND. Julie Williams, outstanding vocal jazz director from the Denver Metro educational community, Norm Silver, founding member of the 17th Avenue Allstars, and Channel 4 Critic-At-Large Greg Moody. They were outstanding.Awards to individuals were presented in three categories. The judges had to narrow the dozens of potential awardees down to approximately four finalists, all of whom were greeted with enthusiasm by the 600 folks on hand, before the judges decided upon the following winners:The Jerry Lawson Best Soloist Award went to Matt McDonald of Inpulse (from St Paul, MN) for his great treatment of what may seemed to be the evening's favorite song, "Obsessed."The Deke Sharon Best Original Arrangement Award was given to Carline Michaud for her chart of "Hazy Shade," sung by the Colorado group Curious Gage (from Fort Collins).The Jeff Harris Best Original Composition Award was won by Marcus Hansen of Inpulse for his song, "Obsession" (see above).There was absolutely complete endorsement of these choices and the trophy winners received the acclaim of all present. In addition to their certificates and the significant recognition and being associated with the names of musical leaders in the a cappella community, these folks received complimentary memberships in the Contemporary A Cappella Society for 2004.We then moved to the three "group" awards, who received many exciting prizes including air travel, studio recording hours, CD production arrangements, plaques, and certificates of various kinds.And here were these winners.Taking home the grand prize, which included several generous musical gifts and the responsibility to represent the Rocky Mountain Regional Sweeps on May 8 in California, was First Place and Flesher-Hinton Music Award champs, Inpulse, all the way from Minnesota. They were astoundingly well prepared and prevailed even from the "opening act" placement which many groups dread, but this 5 guy group ate up with confidence and aplomb.The second place group was so close it gave the judges a headache and delayed the closing by several minutes as they worked out their priorities. The Runner Up DiscNMakers CD Production Award, including other special prizes, went to Lincoln, NE 6-man group, No Better Cause, who put their moniker into every measure of their a cappella skill.The usual 'fans-of-a cappella' adulation greeted the Audience Favorite Studio Production Award, which went to probably the most excited and enthusiastic group of the evening, Face, of Boulder, who were psyched beyond their usual buoyant bluster when their great performance was recognized by the fans as the 'group of the evening.'Of course, there were five other groups and 40 other singers who went home without making the final cut. But their reception by the large crowd in this spectacular venue was wonderful to hear. What receptive fans were there to show their love of a cappella and their appreciation for the skill and effort of all of the performers! The female gospel quartet, Transformed, were themselves transforming for us all in their exciting interpretation of known and original selections. The mixed 6-voice LoDo Air Band showed its remarkable resilience in an hugely exciting set that included the most original songs of the contest. And what can we say about moosebutter, who were warmly received by the crowd -- as they always are -- and provided hilarious off-the-wall humor and some off-the-wall harmony for us all. Curious Gage had refined its set to communicate exactly who and what they were to very enthusiastic reception. The show closed with a raging finale from high school-aged mixed septet, Raging Harmonies who were up to the challenge and brought the audience along for their ride before the adjudication began.Yes, it was a night for the guys, as it turned out, with only one of the awards going to a lady, who wasn't even in the group she arranged for. However, the hosts and, to my thinking, stars of the evening showed their winning form and for many, the road to the future. Groove Society, stunning as 2003 Rocky Mountain Harmony Champs, demonstrated even better than last year 'how it's done' with an ear-bending close jazz harmony set while the judges were doing their thing. The audience could only wonder if this year's winner might come back to host with the excitement and charm of this very professional ensemble. They truly are the tops in a cappella excellence.Another star of the evening was perpetual Master of Ceremonies, Robert Johnson, who gave the show its credibility and style. We call him "Mr. Smooth." He was ever reliable and ever on the money. Robert knows his a cappella and can be counted on to bring the audience along for the ride. The Colorado Vocal Jazz Society, producers of the event, were exhausted, but greatly excited by the excellent show they managed to pull off. Of course, the stars were the hard working singers, but we can all appreciate the hundreds of hours over 44 volunteers offered up to make the show what it was.By the way, if you want to catch both the 2004 Champs and the Runner Up groups, both from out of state (so you won't see them for awhile, but we hope they'll find their way back), come to Bolder A Cappella at Redfish Brewhouse on 13th Street off the Pearl Street Mall on Monday night -- yes, tomorrow evening. No Better Cause agreed to delay their departure to do the 7:30pm show, and Inpulse will show us what it's all about at the second show at 9:15pm. Don't miss this very special opportunity.Whew! It certainly was a Sweeps to remember!