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March 7, 2008

A cappella competition spans genres

The Olympian (WA):

If a cappella music conjures up thoughts of barbershop quartets, you're right - and wrong. The annual Harmony Sweepstakes Northwest Regional Competition, happening Saturday in Olympia, will feature a wider array of music than most people would expect.

"There are some groups that are more into the jazz side of things and others that are into being goofy on stage and just doing fun or funny stuff," said Jon Morgan, a member of Olympia's own Akafellas, who will compete Saturday night. "Some are more rock 'n' roll, some do a lot of choreography on stage, and others just stand there and do their thing and sound great," Morgan added.

The Akafellas' 10-minute set consists of The Beatles' "Let It Be," Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' " and Fountains of Wayne's "Stacy's Mom. The group has competed in a number of the regional competitions, Morgan said. The Akafellas came in second in 1999 and third in 2005, the last time the group competed.

"We've always gotten a kick out of it," said Morgan, who sings bass. "The main reason is we get to perform in front of a group of people who really enjoy that kind of music. "And we get to meet a lot of these groups that do what we do. It's neat to get to talk to other people who like to do this kind of thing and see how they do things. You get ideas. You see how they arrange songs and perform their stuff."

The Coats, the band that won the regional and national competitions in 1994, will perform during the judging. "They are the pinnacle as far as I'm concerned," Morgan said. "They are fun to watch."

The regional competition is hosted by Masterworks Choral Ensemble. "We run the whole show," said the group's director, Gary Witley. "Our people are invisible to the audience, but we are the crew. It's the unique thing in our season in that we are the presenters and not the performers in this."

Morgan and fellow Akafella Tony Benjamins met when both sang with Masterworks. Rounding out the group are Kurt Fralick, Michi Imamura and Jon Murdock. Morgan said some of the members are more invested in winning than others. "Of course, we'd love to win," he added. "The audience favorite award is the one I've hoped we would win."

But win or lose, the Akafellas get a lot of support. "It's fun to have many people cheering for us because they know us from other things and might have seen us performing," Morgan said. "We've always been the hometown boys."

Posted by acapnews at March 7, 2008 12:30 AM

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