Kol Sasson teaches Shalhevet choir new techniques

Deanna Grunfeld

Feel the Vibe: Kol Sasson, the University of Maryland’s Jewish a capella group, performed for students period 8, later mingling with the Shalhevet choir.

Leila Miller, Arts Editor

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Standing in a circle, the Shalhevet choir and Kol Sasson, the University of Maryland’s Jewish a capella group, started off chanting softly: “Energy, energy, coursing through my body” then, gaining momentum grew louder… “energy, energy, coursing through my body,…” and then, jumping up and down, screamed, ”ENERGY, ENERGY, COURSING THROUGH MY BODY!”

It was a little awkward for the Shalhevet singers, but Kol Sasson uses this exercise, called “shake down,” to get hyped up during rehearsals or before a concert. Kol Sasson taught it to Shalhevet’s choir after singing for the school in the Beit Midrash. A pulsing, constantly moving half circle of melody, the group sang six songs at a schoolwide assembly March 15 during period 8. Included were their own versions of “Fall Away,” by The Fray, “Adon Olam,” “Al Tidag,” and “Esa Enai.”

After the bell rang, Kol Sasson stayed for a while to mingle with younger members of the Shalhevet choir, listening to them sing, helping with vocal blending, and joining in an impromptu rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”

 “Energy is not a subconscious thing,” a girl from Kol Sasson told choir students. “We have to think about singing, smiling.”

Kol Sasson includes Shalhevet ’07 alumnus and former choir bass Daniel Rabin, and was invited to sing at Shalhevet after performing at the White House for President Obama’s first Hanukkah Party last December. The group was on a West Coast tour during Maryland’s spring break.

Although many of its singers had returned to class for Period 9, the Shalhevet choir pulled together to perform “Hineh Bah Hashalom” for Kol Sasson, and then asked questions.

“How can men go so high?” asked tenor and freshman Nate Erez, while students chuckled. A Kol Sasson member replied that while a person’s voice has limits, there’s always “a bit of leniency.”

Kol Sasson also taught the Shalhevet choir a warm-up called “Belly Mamba,” taken from informal warm-up videos made by the cast of the hit musical Spring Awakening. It’s sung in a round with parts for each vocal section, and Shalhevet’s choir has already performed it at Town Hall.

“They taught us to blend voices,” said bass and sophomore David Fletcher, referring to the exercise. “Blending our voices and [maintaining] unity.”

Alto and sophomore Ashley Hakimbaba, admitting that it had been “a little intimidating” to sing with Kol Sasson, agreed.

“What they do to warm up is a round,” Ashley said. “We take a phrase or a word and repeat it higher and higher to warm our voices up.”

Most of the choir recognized how much they could improve, but Kol Sasson members, who rehearse for five hours a week, offered encouragement.

“Keep going at it! Keep practicing! And don’t feel self-conscious,” said Kol Sasson member Carolyn Muraskin.

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