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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

S.F. a Cappella Group the House Jacks Add Voice to Monday Night Football and The Sing-Off

Posted By on Wed, Aug 31, 2011 at 1:00 PM

When Hank Williams Jr. asks millions of viewers (in song) on ESPN's Monday Night Football Sept. 19 whether they're "ready for some football," he'll be backed by the versatile vocals of San Francisco a cappella veterans the House Jacks. But if you're not really into pigskin and prefer artsier inclinations, it's likely you've already heard this vocal quintet -- at the most critical moments of NBC's third-ranking show, a cappella competition The Sing-Off.

Yes, that "tension bed" audio when a winner's about to be announced, the show's cold open theme music -- and starting in September, the first 60 seconds of MNF -- are all House Jacks territory.

Many a cappella groups imitate instruments with vague "doo-wop" sounds. But the House Jacks, who've been around since 1991, are known for their uncanny ability to mimic instruments including drums, guitar, and brass. Young'uns just don't compare, especially considering the House Jacks have performed at the White House and Carnegie Hall, among other places.

Austin Willacy, who sings high tenor (but also often throws in guitar sounds), says that having the group's voices broadcast to millions is a dream come true.

"It's amazing," he says. "If you had told me in high school that that I'd be singing music for these shows, I'd say you're on drugs. No way."

The House Jacks' music has been backing crucial moments in The Sing-Off since the show's premiere two years ago, but this is the first season where the group will be listed in the show credits as the performers.

While a cappella can get stuck as a cover genre, Willacy says, it has evolved into something more creative, and the House Jacks -- by composing and arranging much of their own music -- have helped lead the way by doing their own writing, like they did for The Sing-Off.

Next time the show's elimination round has you on the edge of your seat, see if you can stop biting your nails long enough to hum along with these hometown heroes.

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Ellen Huet

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