Do you know me? Perhaps you’ve seen me in such photos as
SPR w/Hannah Juliano
SPR w/Rachel Chalhoub
SPR w/ 2/5ths of Pentatonix
Also, this (don’t ask).
SPR w/Jo Vinson and Ted Trembinski
I’m Sean Patrick Riley, aka SPR, aka That Guy In Pictures With Everyone. It’s kind of my thing. If there’s an aca-event, I’ll (try to) be there, and I’ll be in front of a camera. Standing impressively close to someone pretty. That’s where the magic happens. Have you noticed that in all the pictures, my companions and I are devastatingly attractive? That’s what happens when one poses with me. It’s like osmosis. I’ve been offered large sums of money to attend non-aca events and work it, but I am true to my community. If you thought you saw a picture of me and someone else at, say, the Westminster Dog Show or some NASCAR event, rest assured that was not me. Often imitated, never duplicated.
Posers. There are some lawsuits in progress, but my attorney said I shouldn’t talk about that.
I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve been told that a picture with me at an aca-event is now a must, a sought-after souvenir of a life well-lived, a song well-sung. I truly believe that every moment can be a photo op. Because SPR + some photo taking device + you = awesome. I want to make that happen for you, because that’s the kind of guy I am. So if you come to BOSS (and you should), I will be there for you, smile at the ready, arms open. Put on your lanyard, find me, find a camera/phone/sketch artist, maybe even find a historic landmark, and it will be ON. You might even end up on my Facebook wall. You’re welcome. See you at BOSS, beautiful people.
This could be you!
[ DISCLAIMER: This may or may not have been written by someone other than SPR (cough-AmyMalkoff-cough), but with his permission, I mean coercion, I mean permission. ]
A cappella is at its best when precise, when clean and rich; an impressive, well balanced array of sounds akin to popular music with instruments.
Why then would I get up on stage and perform music I haven’t rehearsed? Music I perhaps don’t even know?
Well, it all started a decade ago in a town called Bremerhaven in Northern Germany. The House Jacks were performing for a packed club (“Pumpwerk,” a former waterworks of some kind), at which we were told a couple hundred of the attendees were all from the same company.
Northern Germans speak English better than most Americans (!), so we conduct our entire show in English, joking with the crowd between songs, and I recall the banter that night was particularly cheeky, probably due to the audiences obvious inebriation. Garth, our tenor at the time, stepped forward and said “our next song will be” and someone from the audience yelled “Great Balls of FIre!”
“It will be…” and the song requests kept coming. Couldn’t finish the sentence. So, when someone yelled out “James Brown I Feel Good” we said “Fine!”, playing along with the joke.
And you know what? It was pretty good. So we took another request. And another. And the audience went WILD.
After the show, we were all a bit stunned, and in the debrief we realized we had lightning in a jar. If we could replicate that experience for every audience, we’d have something special. Mind you, the conservatory-educated music-snob-centers in my brain screamed for me to stop, but I’ve learned to ignore them when the audience is happy, and I’m glad I did.
It wasn’t easy at first, but we learned. We learned that pacing is essential, that fearlessness is perhaps the single most important component, that the audience doesn’t know the words to most songs, that short is sweet, and oddly that if the requests are too good too often the audience stops enjoying it as much because they think it’s all a set up.
That’s right, they want to see and hear our mistakes. In fact, they need to, to confirm that it’s actually happening. Much as some of the funniest moments in an improv comedy show are when the cast starts laughing or the sketch falls apart. There’s a strong bond between performer and audience member when you’re creating something unique for them… it’s hard to explain.
I realize the bar has now been raised, thanks to the “riff off” scene in “Pitch Perfect”, wherein we made it seem as though college groups could turn on a dime and quickly battle back and forth on musical themes. I did my best behind the scenes to make it sound and seem natural and perhaps even possible, when of course it’s completely impossible for groups to cut each other off on a single word and start a new song on that word… But it is certainly possible to pick a song and just dive in.
And to make it clear we’ll do anything in the House Jacks, we put no limitations on it: any song, any artist, any style.
How do we do it?
Well, first you have to come see a show to see how it works. Perhaps at BOSS, this April in Boston. Yell out your request and hopefully we’ll get to it.
And then after the show or sometime that weekend I’ll walk you through it: how we use body language to start songs, how we arrange by ear, how we know where to go in a song and when to stop. There’s a little music theory, and a little improvisational experience, and maybe a little magic.
Actually there’s no magic, but you know what they say: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
As you may have noticed, Boston Sings tickets have been unavailable on our website this past week. “Why would you do this to us?!” you might ask. “Are you sold out already?! I’LL GIVE YOU MY FIRSTBORN!” some of you have even pleaded.
Rest assured: there’s no need for dramatics, folks; we’re simply experiencing a sales-related technical difficulty. A glitch in the matrix. A disturbance in the force. [Insert additional movie reference here.] It’s like every public construction project ever: you think things are all good to go, and then the ceiling of a tunnel falls during rush hour. (No? That was just the Big Dig? Oops.) Point is, we’re working on it.
In the meantime, we’re excited to share that we’ve extended both the early-bird pricing deadline AND the competition deadline to Friday, March 1st. That means you still have a little more time to fundraise and fine-tune. Think of it as our special gift to you. A gesture of good faith. An olive… you get the picture.
So you all keep warming up your voices, arranging your groundbreaking sets, and searching for the perfect formal attire, and we’ll be sure to let you know when you can get your tickets to the biggest a cappella event of the year. Because, like Postyr says, it’s gonna be SO GOOD.
– Alexander Koutzoukis is the BOSS Executive Producer
If you asked me three years ago, “Diana, where do you see yourself in three years?”, one of the last places I would have said was Boston. Up until October of last year, I had not stepped foot in Massachusetts or anywhere north of New York City. I visited just before the first snow, when the leaves were changing and everyone was in a good mood.
My best friend since high school had recently moved to Somerville, so we decided to have a best friend reunion weekend. We gallivanted through Boston, downtown, the north end, Cambridge, Somerville, etc all weekend. Sunday morning a group of us went out to brunch and I remember clear as day, the first description of something called BOSS. It was its first stage of inception, but I already felt I drawn to it. I expressed my interest in contributing, but seeing as I lived in Florida, it didn’t seem plausible. Oh yeah, I lived in Florida. At the end of my 4 day trip, leaving felt so unnatural. As cliché as it sounds, part of me had fallen in love with Boston and I didn’t want to leave.
Just a week and a half later I went to SoJam for the first time since 2008 and volunteered the entire weekend. I got a glimpse of what went on behind the scenes and truthfully speaking, though stressful at times, I was fascinated by the whole thing. A few weeks after leaving North Carolina, I found myself shooting out of bed at 4:30am saying to myself, “I have to go to LAAF“. I bought my plane ticket on a whim and just two months later, found myself on the other side of the country. I volunteered at LAAF, met some incredible people, reconnected with old friends, heard some amazing a cappella, and found myself even more enthralled with the festival scene.
Back in Florida, I couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t at home, like something was missing, like I needed a change. Every time I leave a place I make a connection with, I feel as if I leave a part of myself. I started wondering, “Where am I supposed to be? Where will I feel at home? Where have I felt most alive?”. The answer hasn’t come to me, but just a few weeks into February, still buzzed off the LAAF high, I bought my plane ticket to BOSS and shortly thereafter I was there.
I arrived on a Thursday night to a house filled with Boston natives and transplants. The air was abuzz with excitement about BOSS, the first ever live CARA Award ceremony, and everything in between. Just like the past two festivals, I decided to volunteer in Boston as well. I did everything from set up and tear down to driving around and picking things up.
Every moment I spent in Boston I felt as if I was the happiest person on earth. Not only was I surrounded by some of the most incredible people in the a cappella world, I was in one of the most beautiful, fun, and historical cities I’d ever been in.
BOSS was unlike any festival I’d been to. From the collegiate competition and its structure, to the workshops and out-of-this-world performances, I found it to be nothing short of magical. What truly struck me was despite it being a brand new festival, it was put together so well; it felt like it had been around for years. I was truly inspired by the collegiate groups that competed, respected and admired a new musical and aesthetic perspective I was submersed in, and knew this was something I needed to be a part of on a regular basis. Upon leaving BOSS, I left with a heavy heart. This particular festival weekend changed my life and came to the striking realization that would’ve frightened anyone in their right mind– I needed to move to Boston.
In July, I packed up my tiny little life (I’m 4’10”) and shoved it all into my Honda Civic (I told you it was small). I endured a month at home in South Florida, and finally drove through ten states over the course of three days. Since September, I’ve been nestled in Somerville making coffee in Cambridge, arranging for & directing a co-ed collegiate group in Boston, mentoring a cappella groups in the Greater Boston area/Rhode Island as CASA Ambassador, and reaching out to a cappella groups in the Northeast in hopes that they’ll come to BOSS this year.
2011-2012 was a year filled with personal and musical challenges, a year of growth, of loss, and of newfound & rekindled relationships. I took a chance, I made a move (1500 miles is quite the move), and I ended in Boston. Everyone has wings but they have to find the courage to fly. BOSS just so happened to be the wind beneath my wings 😉