Keneseth Israel Congregation and Cantor Sharon Hordes invite the community to “Ringing in the Future with Voices of Our Youth,” the congregation’s annual concert, with a stellar line-up of performers, on Sunday, February 28, at 7:30 p.m.
Cantor Hordes writes, take a guess at what these groups have in common: At Harvard, it’s “Shani,” which translates as “crimson.” At MIT, it’s “Techiya,” the sound of the Shofar mixed with “technology.” The University of Chicago has “Chicago Rhythm and Jews.” Dartmouth’s group goes by the name “Kol Koreh Bamidbar,” which is a Hebrew translation of the university’s motto, “Vox Clamantis in Deserto.”
These are all contemporary American collegiate a capella groups that perform primarily Jewish songs. Students often choose clever names that reflect the blend between their celebration of Judaism and their school pride. While collegiate a capella groups have been around in America for well over a century, Jewish collegiate a capella groups have only been on the scene for about two decades. Still, in that short time, several of these groups have performed internationally, performed benefit concerts for Katrina victims in New Orleans, recorded and sold CD’s, and have even sung for US presidents.
A capella literally translates as “at the chapel” and harkens back to the Italian term’s Christian liturgical origins. Today, it is generally taken to mean “voices without accompaniment.” Over the centuries, a capella music has expanded to become an important feature in popular music, from the barbershop quartets of the early 20th century to doo wop of the 1950’s. There is even new “American Idol”-style televised contest for a capella groups, “The Sing-Off.
You can come catch some of the excitement at Keneseth Israel’s annual fundraising concert, which will feature “Hoo Shir,” the Indiana University Hillel a capella group. Joining them that evening will be a choir from Louisville’s YPAS, Youth Performing Arts School. Cantor Hordes and Cantor David Lipp, will be performing as well, accompanied by Ann Niren on piano and Michael Jackman on flute.
Consistent with some of the other catchy names used by these kinds of groups on college campuses throughout the U.S., “Hoo Shir,” a phrase meaning “it is a song,” sounds a lot like “Hoosier,” the nickname for a resident of the state of Indiana or an IU student.
The story of the creation of Hoo Shir began with a statewide musical competition modeled after “American Idol,” The Helene G. Simon Hillel Center’s Indiana Campus Super Star Project. Two IU students, Stephani Parker and Hannah Farahan, were successful in the competition and were invited to perform at an international Hillel event in Washington, DC.
Not long after, while their exceptional performance was still on the minds of the Washington Hillel staff, the White House contacted Hillel’s international office looking for a group of college students to sing at their annual Chanukah party.
Meanwhile, the students of IU Hillel were in the process of forming their own a capella group. As you may imagine, an invitation from the White House was a huge impetus to speed things up! However, when announcing auditions, no mention was made of the prestigious White House invitation, so that only the most sincerely passionate of Jewish music lovers would apply.
Ultimately, Hoo Shir was able to add its name to the more than 50 Jewish a capella groups in the country at that time. The performance at the Bush White House left an indelible mark on everyone involved. As one group member commented, “I’m singing in front of the President. I don’t know what’s next….the Dalai Lama?”
The University of Maryland Hillel’s Kol Sasson a cappella group followed in Hoo Shir’s footsteps when they performed at the Obama White House’s 2009 Chanukah celebration.
It is heartening to witness this celebration of Jewish culture happening on so many college campuses and Hillel chapters. The fact that this positive Jewish energy from our young people has reached all the way up to the White House is cause for celebration! I strongly encourage you to come support these young Jewish cultural innovators.
Advance tickets for this concert are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. At the door, they are $14 for adults and $12 for students and seniors.
A dessert reception will follow.