By Savannah Williams
Students and alumni flooded the tiny stage in the partitioned, gray auditorium of the Riggs Alumni Center – singing, swaying, bobbing, beatboxing and generally relishing the opportunity to create music among friends.
Kol Sasson’s spring concert this year was all about celebrating the 20 years of community its members have built and sustained. About 150 parents, friends and alumni came to support the a cappella group at its 3 p.m. Sunday performance in the Riggs Alumni Center.
The group performed unique arrangements of songs including The Andrew Sisters’ “Bei Mir Bist Du Shein,” Avicii’s “Addicted to You,” Sam Smith’s “Latch,” Ella Henderson’s “Ghost,” Avihu Shabat’s “Adayin Shelach” and We Are Twin’s “The Way We Touch.” Between its acts, younger members gave speeches to bid farewell to graduating seniors Aliza Grant, Zoe Eisenberg and Leeza Malachevsky.
When the singers needed a water break, they gave the audience a short intermission, featuring pictures and videos of past generations of Kol Sasson. Many alumni laughed, cheered and pointed out their friends as the slides cycled through.
Eisenberg, a past president for the group and expressive movement therapy major, said these were special additions to their usual routine.
“This year we did a little bit more shtick,” she said. “It was more about the 20 years, and what we’ve gone through as a group, and the ups and downs.”
The singers took a moment to sing “Happy Birthday” to Tali Feldman, an alumna and four-year member of Kol Sasson who traveled from Atlanta on her birthday to share her support. She said everything about the performance made her nostalgic, but she also noticed some new trends in the group.
“They’ve gotten more musical, more modern,” said Feldman. “I love that they’re doing cool new pop songs that aren’t just generally great for synagogue crowds, they’re also good for a college crowd.”
Melanie Blatt, a 2011 alumna who flew from Boston, for the concert, agreed that Kol Sasson’s musical tastes had developed since her time at this university.
“When I first joined the group, it was very simple,” Blatt said. “Ever since ‘Pitch Perfect’ the movie has come out, the arrangements and mashups have been more intricate.”
Blatt, like many alumni, said Kol Sasson’s impact has reached far beyond her graduation. Blatt, who said her experience inspired her to start studying to be a Jewish cantor, spends time as a judge for the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella.
“I’m comparing everybody to the sounds that I used to get and feel from Kol Sasson,” she said, “but there’s nothing like it, because if you’re singing with a group of your best friends, you’re going to be feeling so much more from the music.”
This familial relationship was a prevalent theme at the concert.
For Naomi Ratz, a 2006 alumna, describing the group as a “family” was especially apt.
“I married Kol Sasson, and I have Kol Sasson babies,” Ratz said. Ratz said the same was true for her companions.
Although Ratz doesn’t know any of this year’s singers, she said she still felt deeply connected to the group, and wanted to both support them and see in what new directions the group has expanded. She said she liked the balance of pop songs and more traditional Hebrew pieces, and remembered searching for that balance in the group’s past repertoire.
“We were straddling a hard line,” Ratz said. “We were trying to figure out all the things, like when she [Leah Schatz] was saying, ‘How would Kol Sasson handle this?’ We were coming up with how Kol Sasson handled it.”
Feldman said the group’s duration and generations of new members serve to make Kol Sasson dearer.
“It’s just crazy to me that Kol Sasson has been in existence for 20 years, and that we’re still here celebrating it today,” Feldman said. “And yeah, the group changes, things change, songs change, people change – but the fact that it still has such a following and still has such a soul, is so special to me.”
Eisenberg expressed the same sentiment. While she said she appreciated singing, Kol Sasson’s fellowship was something Eisenberg was especially glad to be taking with her.
“There’s nothing else like this in a college experience, that brings you so close with so many diverse people from so many levels of Judaism,” Eisenberg said, “which I think is the most beautiful thing about it.”