AJ to go collegiate at annual music fest

Going to this year’s AJ Music Festival? Be true to your school and wear your colors, because this year’s program will have a decidedly collegiate feel.

In fact, the theme for this year’s festival – which is slated for Sunday, February 19, 7 p.m. at Congregation Adath Jeshurun – is “J-Harmony: An A Capella Delight.” Two voice-only college groups will take the stage.

Back by popular demand are Staam, from Washington University in St. Louis; and Hooshir from Indiana University. Locally, Cantor David Lipp, Jennifer Diamond and the Jewish Community Choir will fill out the marquee.

Founded in 1997, Staam (Hebrew for “Just Because”) sings popular music in English and Hebrew that is written or performed by Jewish artists, according to its website. The group tours the country and competes in national competitions, singing its own arrangements. Its latest album, Balagan!, was released in the fall of 2015.

Hooshir (a play on the Hebrew word for “sing”) is a mixed a-cappella group comprised of 20 students from different walks of campus life, according to its website. Rehearsing three times a week, its members learn dozens of songs each academic year from artists as diverse as Lady Gaga and Beyonce to the Israeli a capella group Six13.

Both groups last appeared in Louisville at the 2015 music festival.

“Each group was allowed to choose how best to present themselves and they stood on the steps of our sanctuary and sang with great polish,” Lipp recalled. “Hooshir had been the winner at the recent a cappella championships in Washington D.C. and they had a very professional feel to them. Staam was almost like an organism. They stood on the bimah in a semi-circle and when they sang their songs it was as if they were a cell, breathing and moving as a unit.”

The cost for admission is $10. Contact AJ at 502-458-5359 or mevancho@adathjeshurun.com, or visit adathjeshurun.com/musicfestival for more information. A dessert reception will follow the performances. The event is underwritten by many donors, but a significant gift comes from the Adolf and Sara van der Walde and Israel Rosenbloum Charitable Fund.

The last time the groups performed here, they drew more than 500 people, Lipp said, the largest attendance for the music festival in at least a decade.

Founded by former AJ Cantor Marshall Portnoy and continued by Lipp, the festival has been making music for 46 years.

“I can’t say what the impact has been on the Louisville Jewish community,” Lipp said. “[But] I’ve always invited choral singers from all congregations to participate in singing in the community choir and it has often been a wonderful experience for me to get to make music with representatives from all the shuls in town.”

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