From the newly-dubbed ‘Choirhawks,’ something new and then some

SPICE: Shalhevets choir sang pop songs with beatboxing and even some choreography at its concert May 29.  Freshman Jake Benyowitz, at top right, provided the percussion.

Goldie Fields

SPICE: Shalhevet’s choir sang pop songs with beatboxing and even some choreography at its concert May 29. Freshman Jake Benyowitz, at top right, provided the percussion.

By Hannah-Leeba Ellenhorn, Arts Editor

This year’s annual Choir spring concert May 29 was anything but predictable. Arranged on the risers in their new choir uniforms, the new and improved group gave the audience a real treat with a blend of pop and Israeli music.

Newly dubbed the Choir-Hawks — and wearing red-emblazoned black T-shirts that said so —  the 14 singers performed an almost completely new repertoire of songs, spiced up with some dance moves and a new style. Overall, this semester’s performance ventured into more pop-y, more upbeat, and perhaps even more smiley territory.

The group pulled off the newer repertoire and lighter mood, though other innovations  like choreography, beat boxing, and a first-ever use of hand-held microphones were sometimes clumsy.

The night began, however, like every spring concert before it, with the national anthems. The Choirhawks borrowed Milken Community High School’s challenging arrangement of “The Star Spangled Banner” with grace. The whole choir sang the Hatikvah together, unlike in December when just a few sang it while the rest of the choir somewhat awkwardly watched; this reflects the immense amount of improvement the choir has made since its start this year.

Without a doubt, the best piece of the evening was a mash-up of “Y’hei” and “L’Cha,” two yeshiva pop songs the choir learned together from Rak Shalom — one of several Jewish a capella groups based at the University of Maryland — during a 90-minute workshop visit to the Beit Midrash in March.

Soloists Rebecca Elspas, Natalie Dahan, Adam Rokah, and Benny Balazs, accompanied on beatboxing by freshman Jake Benyowitz, executed the song perfectly. This song made numerous heads in the audience bob. In fact, it seemed the only thing stopping the parents in the audience from getting up and dancing was their embarrassed children.

And get this: in a first for the group, the Choirhawks added a bit of choreography to the mix!  A little work might be necessary in order for the members of choir not to injure each other while swaying, however. The choreography was a bit shakey and at some points awkward, but the group deserves props nonetheless for making an effort to become more visually pleasing.

There were other highlights as well.  Early in the evening, the choir awed the audience with a mostly a capella version of “Some Nights” by Fun, augmented by Jake’s beat-boxing. Starting off with a solo by junior Natalie Dahan, the song captivated the audience. Perhaps the most unusual part was that one of the solos was sung, or shall I say spoken, by junior Benny Balazs. Yes, you heard correctly, this song also showcased a talking solo! If that doesn’t scream cutting-edge then perhaps nothing can. Finished off with a solo by freshman Laly Chriki, this song was fun, contemporary and just plain cool.

Next came the quirkiest of quirky songs, “The Way I Am” by Ingrid Michaelson and arranged by Mrs. Keene, carried out marvelously. The choir sang this song in a manner that can only be described as cute. Solos by Adam Rokah, Rebecca Elspas and Natalie Dahan brought smiles to the faces in the audience.  The only minor issue with this song was that the percussion was slightly louder than the vocals, which could be fixed easily.

As the upbeat “pop-y” songs came to an end, the choir sang a quiet and graceful song.  “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” from The Lion King, originally written by Elton John, was the perfect song to lead into the Band’s interlude. Junior Liat Bainvoll was designated the solo for this song and boy did the designator know what he/she was doing. Liat’s strong soprano voice allowed for this song to be sung to its fullest potential. Soon Benny  Balazs chimed in. His deep voice meshed perfectly with Liat’s.

Then came a Band interlude, when senior and band leader Kalil Eden accompanied sophomore Rachel Glouberman in a piece that was simply beautiful. Performing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” Rachel’s deep, raspy voice harmonized wonderfully with Kalil’s piano playing of his own arrangement, full of lush chords and warm, evocative textures.

The Choirhawks then dashed back onto the risers and sang their most famous song, “Hinei Ba Hashalom.” The choir delivered this song with the usual panache and vibrancy. Liat Bainvoll sang the soprano solo while freshman Shirel Benji sang the alto solo, which provided an unexpected, but good contrast. This song was fun and will clearly always be an audience favorite.

“Acheinu,” a slower song arranged by our very own Mrs. Keene, was dominated by Benny Balazs’ beautiful voice. It seemed as though Benny’s voice was made for this song. Joined by sophomore Rachel Spronz and Liat Bainvoll, this song was somber, and even Reb Noam Weissman stopped bobbing his baby up and down in the back of the room for two minutes.

Junior and soloist Natalie Dahan said the year had ended well.

“Choirhawks were able to pull through and have a really fun cool year, with dancing solos and smiles,” Natalie said.

And so they were. The choir will be singing its last performances June 9 at graduation and June 12 at the Shalhevet gala and groundbreaking. Congratulations on an amazing performance, an amazing year, and a bright future for the newest members of the Firehawk family.