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Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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April 30, 2008 6:36 PM

Music from Baudboys, Microsoft's a capella group

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


GREG GILBERT/THE SEATTLE TIMES

The Baudboys in concert in Building 16 on Microsoft campus.

While it may not score them points at their next performance review, the men of Microsoft's a cappella group, the Baudboys, have met their goal.

About five years ago, the programmers-cum-pop singers 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 and a bass/baritone (and a content project manager in Microsoft's Developer and Platform Evangelism group). "So we wrote down our goals, in typical Microsoft fashion, and used it as a cyclical iteration to make ourselves better."

They won the Northwest regional event and will compete Saturday in the national tournament.

The group, which split off from another company singing group called the Microtones in the early 1990s, performed to a packed atrium on the corporate campus Wednesday.

"How cool for Microsoft to have something like that coming from within the ranks," said Shari Fowler, an employee who spent her lunch hour watching the concert.

The Baudboys, whose name is derived from a measurement of modem speeds, played a set ranging from serene Ladysmith Black Mambazo to a brazenly geeky arrangement of "Gonna Make You Happy (Tonight)," written by an Australian comedy trio called Tripod.

Here's my recording of their performance.

A few 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
Well I'll be with you in a minute sweet darling baby honey
I love how you dance for me
Could you move a little to the left baby
I can see the TV, oh, hey
Baby I can't wait 'til we start
Its just that the safe points are quite far apart, in this game baby
Ooh la la la la la la la
This parts got a multiplayer section honey
Maybe you could operate a taurant with me, would you like that baby?
Games give you hand-eye coordination especially intelligence together with map reading skills, oh sugar

Fowler and the rest of the audience cracked up. "It's perfect for the Northwest because there's so many gamers here and everybody knows that scene if they've got a husband that's into the gaming world," she said.

The Baudboys practice once a week, sometimes more when they're preparing for a performance. They know the conference rooms around campus with the best acoustics (and with no neighboring offices). They sing to their fellow employees about twice a year and do many more concerts in the community at senior centers, schools and sports events.

In addition to McEwen, the singers are:

-- Elliott Lewis, musical director, baritone and software development lead on the Dynamics CRM.

-- Mark Adolph, bass/baritone, program manager in the Office Sustained Engineering group.-- Owen Braun, tenor, program manager in Outlook. -- Jonathan Schwartz, tenor, CEO and President of Sun Microsystems (just kidding, sorry), he's actually on the Windows Security team;
-- Paul Eng, bass, test lead on the Xbox Software Platform team, also the lead singer on "Gonna Make You Happy (Tonight)."
-- Graham Sheldon, tenor and vocal percussion, technical assistant to Satya Nadella, senior vice president of the Search, Portals and Ads engineering group.
-- Ric Lewis, tenor, program manager for Access.

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