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Singing praises of ‘Sing Off’

December 4, 2011
By KATHRYN SPIRA , For The Leader Herald

On Monday night, "The Sing Off" picked a winner based on audience votes.

The show started out with 16 a cappella groups - all competing for $200,000 and a recording contract - which were gradually whittled down to three.

While watching the series over a period of weeks, I was fascinated with the voices that could sound like instruments in an orchestra and the various styles of singing the different groups represented.

The three final groups were the Dartmouth Aires, Pentatonix and Urban Method.

I was pulling for Dartmouth Aires for many weeks, but alas I'm not one to call in and vote and they came in second, not that my one vote would have made the difference.

Pentatonix ultimately won, and I have to say that they also are a wonderful singing group with a terrific male lead singer and innovative percussion and rhythms. But I thought musically the Dartmouth Aires were far superior. They just sounded nicer to my ear.

"The Sing Off" is one of many new singing competitions that have hit the reality TV show genre. They may have been inspired by the success of "Glee" and also are an outgrowth of "American Idol" the English "X Factor" which now has a U.S. version and "The Voice." Each competition has attributes I like and enjoy, but "The Sing Off" is most similar to my background with "Girls Glee Club/Men's Chorus" back in Cleveland Heights High School.

Of course, none of these types of shows existed when I was singing in the chorus. There was "Ted Mack's Amateur Hour" and local competitions, but the talent was never as good as what is available on the air these days, all of which seems very near professional quality.

One constant among the musical reality shows is each show seems to boast three judges who are musically inclined or somehow related to the recording industry.

I know the "Girls Glee Club/Mens Chorus" I was in never won any competitions and our talent paled by comparison. But we didn't have the professional grooming the current spate of reality music shows seem to enjoy.

I know all the special effects, stage sets and costuming really hypes the performances that past shows never attained. But the thing about "The Sing Off" is that without instruments, they seem to be able to achieve as much drama and musical variety as "American Idol" and "The Voice" do with all their backup singers, musicians and professional effects on those shows.

If you haven't been able to see these shows, check your local listings, you may be surprised at the level of talent that is out there. "The Sing Off" will air a special Christmas show Monday at 8 p.m. on NBC.

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in New York City and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns and contact information may be accessed at her website at



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