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A cappella singers? All Microsoft employees? Who knew?
That harmony you hear coming from a conference room on the Microsoft campus is not the latest Xbox or Windows boot-up sound.
It is the Baudboys, an all-male a cappella group made up of Microsoft employees. They get together on Thursdays to sing. And only sing. This month they will make their Kirkland Performance Center debut with The Coats, Oct. 18.
The Baudboys, whose name is derived from a measurement of modem speeds, boast a wealth of musical training and performing experience. All performed with other groups before joining the Bauds and several have founded or directed previous ensembles. In addition, the group’s members are drawn from a variety of teams across Microsoft.
The Baudboys have been in existence for more than a decade. In the early 1990s, four Microsoft employees decided to form a quarter so that they could sing the charts from college groups, and the Baudboys were born. While none of the original Baudboys remain, the group has expanded its membership over the years to its current size to tackle more complex arrangements.
The Baudboys want to debunk myths about techies.
“People have very strong stereotypes about technology workers – that [we] don’t bathe regularly and stay up all night playing Starcraft,” said high tenor Lenny Chung, who works with Administration eXperience Platform. “People assume that if you are passionate about technology, you won’t be passionate about things like music and art.”
About five years ago, the Bauds started reinventing their sound with an eye on the Harmony Sweepstakes, billed as the “premier American showcase for vocal harmony music.”
“We kind of got the idea that we could, if we dedicated ourselves, compete with this,” said Dave McEwen, the group’s president. “So we wrote down our goals, in typical Microsoft fashion and used it as a cyclical iteration to make ourselves better.”
If a cappella conjures up images of a stiff half-circle of men singing show tunes in the barbershop style, then the Baudboys will definitely surprise. Their lively set list includes jazz standards, cover of They Might Be Giants and Paul Simon tunes, original works and songs heavy on wit, a la Weird Al Yankovich.
They have been known to sport some clever choreography on occasion as well.
On of their biggest hits, “Gonna Make You Happy Tonight,” is a classic, albeit tongue-in-cheek, love song. A man pledges a night of romance to his lady love – as soon as he completes the next level on his video game.
A sample of the lyrics: “Before we get down to love, before we get down/I just gotta finish this level/You see I got a high score tonight/And I just wanna save my game. … I think this Xbox/Is the best present I ever bought for you, baby!”
The Bauds won the Northwest Harmony Sweepstakes this year and went on to the nationals in California. Setting those goals has certainly paid off.
The Baudboys are: Elliot Lewis, Musical Director and baritone from Customer Relationship management; Dave McEwen, President and bass/baritone from Developer & Platform Evangelism; Mark Adolph, bass/baritone from Office Sustaining Engineering; Owen Braun, tenor from Office; Jonathan Schwartz, tenor from Windows Security; Paul Eng, bass from the Xbox Console team; Graham Sheldon, tenor and vocal percussion from the Search, Portal and Ad group and Ric Lewis, Tenor from Office.
The Baudboys and The Coats will perform at 8 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Kirkland Performance Center. There will be a pre-show wine tasting, free with ticket purchase. For information and tickets: www.kpcenter.org or 425-893-9900.