Concert breaks new ground for Choirhawks with music written or arranged by students

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Concert breaks new ground for Choirhawks with music written or arranged by students

CANDLELIGHT:   On the fourth night of Channukah, the choir performed their holiday staples like Al Hanissim, Maoz Tzur and Mi Yemalel and the two new songs performed for the first time in concert.

CANDLELIGHT: On the fourth night of Channukah, the choir performed their holiday staples like Al Hanissim, Maoz Tzur and Mi Yemalel and the two new songs performed for the first time in concert.

BP Photo by Neima Fax

CANDLELIGHT: On the fourth night of Channukah, the choir performed their holiday staples like Al Hanissim, Maoz Tzur and Mi Yemalel and the two new songs performed for the first time in concert.

BP Photo by Neima Fax

BP Photo by Neima Fax

CANDLELIGHT: On the fourth night of Channukah, the choir performed their holiday staples like Al Hanissim, Maoz Tzur and Mi Yemalel and the two new songs performed for the first time in concert.

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Among the 15 songs performed by the Choirhawks at their annual Chanukah concert last month were two that represented milestones for the group: the first written and the first arranged by a student member.

The group performed a new choral arrangement of “Together As One,” which was composed last year by Choirhawk soprano Eliana Cohen, now a senior, in response to the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.  Eliana has performed it at school and also recorded it, and it has more than 1,400 views on Youtube.

The Choirhawks also performed Ariana Grande’s “The Way,” in an original, multi-part arrangement by junior and choir tenor Evan Rubel.  Written in six to eight parts at a time, including four solos and two rap sections, it managed to recreate the lively pop song with no instrumental accompaniment.

On a rainy evening in the Beit Midrash Dec. 5, the group’s 15-song set was met with applause both for Choirhawk Chanukah staples like Al Hanissim, Maoz Tzur and Mi Yemalel and for new pieces. 

Most of the choir’s songs are traditional Jewish or Israeli or American pop songs.  Usually, arrangements are created by either choir director Ms. Joelle Keene or popular arrangers such as Pentatonix’s Ben Bram, who created the version of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” that the choir also performed.  Ms. Keene’s arrangements that night included Hatikvah and Acheinu, in addition to two of the Chanukah songs.

Evan’s “The Way,” with cheerful rap verses, three solos, lively beat-boxing and lots of “doo-da-dooos” from the choir, stood in contrast to the slower-tempo pieces that filled the majority of the concert.

Seniors Noa Kligfeld and Hannah Friedman were the main soloists, covering Ariana Grande’s melody and harmony parts, augmented by sophomore Noa Silberstein in counterpoint sections.  Sophomore Hannah Benji and freshman Emily Klausner handled the rap verses, and freshman Andrew Petlak — with his own microphone — added spirited beat-box underneath.

Evan said he came up with the idea to arrange something himself at a meeting of choir officers. Evan serves as co-treasurer of the group.

“I was brainstorming with some of the other officers in the choir about potential new songs we could do this semester and I thought maybe it would be cool if one of us had our own arrangement,” Evan said. “So I decided to write an arrangement for a new song.”

Evan said he chose “The Way” in part because of Mac Miller’s death Sept. 7 at the age of 26, and because no one else had done it.

“I had liked that song previously and there are no existing arrangements, so I just decided to make my own,” said Evan. “Also as a tribute to Mac Miller, we decided to do a song that features him.”


  I was brainstorming with some of the other officers in the choir about potential new songs we could do this semester and I thought maybe it would be cool if one of us had our own arrangement.

— Evan Rubel, 11th grade


He said it took him two months to finish it and that fellow junior Kiku Shaw, who plays classical piano but is not a member of the choir, helped him perfect it.

Ms. Keene described the sheet music Evan created on music-writing software, pointing to a page filled with musical notes.

“Evan is really talented musically, and I’m not surprised that he succeeded in what he set out to do,” Ms. Keene said. “But I was surprised that he did it, and I was surprised with the degree of complexity of the arrangement. I’m still surprised.”

 

The other milestone of the night brought a more somber air to the room.  Eliana’s song wasn’t new — she performed it for all of Shalhevet when students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas addressed the student body at Town Hall March 23.  But it was a new arrangement, with her original piano accompaniment replaced by minimal background vocals arranged by Ms. Keene.

In the days after the Feb. 15 massacre, she said, she couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened.

“It was all over the news and it was just very up in the air,” said Eliana, who first joined the Choirhawks in ninth grade and had written songs before.

“It was very prevalent and I couldn’t get it out of my head. So when I went home, I was just sitting by the piano and I couldn’t stop thinking about that, and I was like — I’m going to write a song about it.”

Among the song’s lyrics are:

You’re telling me all these kids are dying and crying, there’s just no way

When someone goes, the pain doesn’t go away,

It haunts us forever, here to stay


 

The message I was trying to pass was even though what happened was very tragic, we should come together and not let hate win.

— Eliana Cohen, 12th grade


The song was unique in its minimal background vocals, allowing Eliana’s lyrics to take center stage.

“The message I was trying to pass was even though what happened was very tragic, we should come together and not let hate win,” said Eliana.

Ms. Keene said it took character for Eliana to have created a positive message out of a terrible situation.

“The fact that Eliana was as moved as we all were by what happened in Parkland last year and turned it into a song that really stands on its own — and speaks about a moment that unfortunately isn’t going away — was a tremendous achievement,” Ms. Keene said.

Other highlights of the night included two freshman duets, One Direction’s “You and I” sung by Emily Klausner and Talya Kukurudz and Rihanna’s “Diamonds” sung by Danielle Finn and Hannah Benji.


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