By Savannah Williams
“Our mission with our music is to go around and spread the love of Jewish music, and give people a meaningful performance, not just one they’ll enjoy.”
That’s senior bioengineering major Noah Bar-Shain, who joined the a cappella group Rak Shalom his second week of college, won best beatboxer in the national Jewish a cappella competition, Kal HaOlam, and sang as a part of the group for the last time on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. in a Van Munching Hall auditorium.
Rak Shalom’s spring concert did more than just send Bar-Shain off, though. The group performed mid-song quips, a beatboxing demonstration, soaring riffs from a pink, inflatable guitar, a CD announcement and two of the singers’ solo debuts.
The audience members said the performance displayed a lion’s-share of talent.
“The whole ambiance is really nice. They’re amazing,” said Hadas Bernstein, a recent graduate of Binghamton University who came to support her friend, Daniela Nagar. She gestured to the girl sitting next to her, and said, “We both have been saying how we have goosebumps. Fifty percent of the time it’s goosebumps, or the other part is just – mouth open.”
Christiana Littrell, a sophomore English and communications major who came to support her roommate, Hannah Borison, said she was equally impressed.
“I love hearing the music, especially the Hebrew songs,” Littrell said, “because I don’t speak Hebrew so it’s really cool to hear.”
Ariella Shapiro, one of the new soloists, said even though it was “nice to have a song in the spotlight,” she had her reservations about calling so much attention to herself.
“I was so nervous for the solo,” said the freshman psychology major. “I’ve never been so nervous. I’m not very confident about my stage presence, so I was a little bit nervous about that, because when you’re in the background you blend in.”
Shapiro took the lead in Ishay Ribo’s “Od Yishama,” after practicing with the online program Noteflight, and then working to balance her voice with those of the other group members.
“It’s different,” Shapiro said. “It takes a lot of different skills, but it’s interesting and I like it.”
Tali Ron, a sophomore math and computer science major, was the group’s other new soloist and first female beatboxer, who sang part of the mashup of Shir Levi’s “Yom Echad” and MKTO’s “Wasted.” She agreed that the spotlight comes with some nerves, but that it was enjoyable nonetheless.
“I think I’d prefer a smaller portion of a song, a little less pressure,” Ron said. “But yeah, performing is fun, it’s an art form and it’s good to know I’ve got my friends holding me. They have my back.”
Ron said she’d be willing to do more solos with her friends behind her.
“I’m excited,” she said. “The future is bright.”
Ryan Sevel, a junior journalism major and the artist behind the inflatable guitar, agreed with Ron that Rak Shalom was taking professional strides when he announced the group’s upcoming CD. With an expected fall release, Sevel said it would be the group’s fifth production of the kind.
Bar-Shain, who said he connects to Judaism most through music, was impressed with how close the group had become through the time spent in practices and rehearsals. He said he’d most miss this aspect of Rak Shalom after graduation.
“This is definitely not the last time I’ll sing,” Bar-Shain said. “It’s definitely not the last time I’ll be part of a group, but I don’t ever expect to be a part of a group that everyone takes it so seriously, comes to practice on time, learns their music outside of rehearsal and I can count on again.”
Bar-Shain said he’d always hold a special place in his heart for the day the team took first place in Kal HaOlam, and that he was proud of this finale performance – particularly the rendition of alumni Josh “The Orthobox” Leviton’s “Olam Chesed.”
“We’ve struggled to get that really sharp live and really to blend,” Bar-Shain said, “but today I really felt like we hit it, and it sounded as full in my vision for the choral part in the end as imaginable.”