Established 1980

Copyright©  Mayflower Choral Society 2014

A 501 (c)(3) Corporation Tax ID:  68-0311407

Last modified 6/18/17

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We wish to share our passion of music whether as singer, student, musician or listener

Lisa Murphy Collins


Born in Sausalito and raised in Fairfax, Lisa Murphy Collins is a true Marin County native. One of the founding members of the Mayflower Chorus, Lisa enjoyed the creative encouragement and support of director Larry Vargo, and helped to produce a number of the chorus’ original productions in the early 1980s. She also performed in Larry Vargo’s original productions “Ark Row” and “Hello Marin, Hello” as well as the Novato Players and the Mountain Play.

Through the chorus, Lisa, an alto, met three musical soul mates: Jim Prawdzik (baritone), Pat Noel (soprano) and Kirk Griswold (tenor). The four found that their voices blended beautifully together and formed the vocal quartet “Three Sheets to the Wind”, styling themselves after “The Manhattan Transfer” under the tutelage of coach and accompanist James Gloystein.

In an effort to create more opportunity and incentive for vocal groups, Lisa created the Harmony Sweepstakes which premiered at Dominican College’s Forest Meadows Amphitheatre in 1985 as part of the summer concert series program which allowed local producers to mount events on a profit-sharing basis rather than requiring venue fees. Members from the Mayflower chorus offered tremendous support, from helping behind the scenes to forming a group to compete (“Men of Pause”). Lisa offered a $1,000 grand prize, hired the hot a cappella group “The BOBS” to open the show, somehow persuaded vocal legend Gene Puerling to join the judging panel, and hoped people would show up.

There were approximately 200 people in the audience during that first production. The weather was perfect, the setting magical, and the event was a hit. Such a hit, in fact, that Lisa had made the decision not to do it again because she thought it could never be as good as the first one. But the phone started ringing with inquiries from singers who were putting vocal groups together for the purpose of competing in the next one, as well as fans who wanted to know when they could buy tickets. So, a second competition was mounted, and it turned out to be every bit as good as the first, and the groups were even showing signs of growth in the craft, both artistically and technically.

The San Francisco Chronicle gave Lisa the title “The Den Mother of Doo Wop”, and she was presented with the “A Cappella Legend Award” in Los Angeles. The Harmony Sweepstakes continued to grow in size and popularity to the point that Lisa actually had to drop out of her beloved quartet in order to devote the time necessary to produce the event. At about that time, she teamed up with producer John Neal, who helped it grow into the national, even international, event that it is today.

In 1995, Lisa realized that being a full-time producer was preventing her from following her true passion: performing and writing. So it was a natural progression that John Neal took up the reins and has kept the event alive and well ever since.

Lisa met and married her husband, Bill Collins, a successful singer and commercial performer/producer in 1993, and moved to Redding, California in 2002, where they are very active in theater, radio, film and performing arts education.

Lisa Collins

(530) 953-8542

John Neal

John Neal is a veteran of the San Francisco Bay Area performing arts and music scene having produced shows throughout the region for several decades.

A native of England, Neal was a theatrical producer at the internationally acclaimed Edinburgh Festival in Scotland and at the historic Hackney Empire venue in London.

n 1988 he partnered with Roger Clark, head of Bill Graham Presents publicity, and takes over the Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival.

The human voice has always held a special interest for Neal and so in 1990 he founded the Coconut Room, a cabaret supper club in Corte Madera, Marin County. He presented the nation’s top cabaret acts including Weslia Whitfield, Sharon McKnight, Maria Muldaur, Morrie Bobrow, Nicholas, Glover & Wray, Madeline Eastman, Maureen McVerry and many others. Neal also produced and helped develop Marin’s longest running stage production “For Whom the Bridge Tolls” which still mounts productions to this day.

Neal’s passion however has always been for a cappella music and over the past 25 years he has become a leader and expert in the field.
Beginning as a local event the Harmony Sweepstakes (, under Neal’s guidance, has grown to become the most significant showcase for a cappella music in the nation and attracts hundreds of groups and tens of thousands of audience members every year. The Harmony Sweepstakes was the original inspiration for the NBC prime time series The Sing-Off.

Neal founded Primarily A Cappella Records, currently the only record label dedicated to vocal harmony, which is distributed world wide thru major music outlets. Artists on the label include The King’s Singers, Rockapella, Blenders, Swingle Singers, Alley Cats, Mighty Echoes, Tonic Sol-fa, The Bobs, Vox One, M-Pact and others.

For many years Neal produced the A Cappella Summit, a weekend event featuring classes, workshops, seminars and performers by the leading experts in the field. A sampling of the many groups who performed over the years are The Persuasions, Rockapella, Vocal Sampling, Nylons, Gas House Gang, Fred, Yesteryear, Four Voices, Acoustix, Gas House Gang, Toxic Audio, and Vocal Six.

Neal is president of United Singers International ( which is the nation’s leading vendor of a cappella music including recordings, arrangements, DVDs, songbooks and instructional material for singers. He is a featured exhibitor at the annual conventions of the Barbershop Harmony Society, American Choral Directors Association, California Music Educators and works with many non-profit singing organizations.

Neal writes the informative blog at which has a large and loyal readership. This web site is a primary source of information on the latest in a cappella music and is also distributed via Facebook and Twitter.

Neal is considered an expert on a cappella music and has been interviewed at length by major media outlets including CNN, BBC, New York Times, Newsweek, NPR’s “All Things Considered”, Time Out, SF Chronicle and many, many others.

Neal is a member of The Barbershop Harmony Society, American Choral Directors Association, Music Educators National Conference, California Music Educators, Association of Performing Arts Presenters, and Sweet Adelines International. He is a voting member of the GRAMMY’s (National Association of Recording Artists).

2013 AWARD

We are proud to present this years award to the founder and  to the current producer of the

The Harmony Sweepstakes

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