Jewish a cappella groups leave audition season empty-handed

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Kol Sasson plans on creating more music videos like “Hazug Hazeh” which was released in December 2020. Photo courtesy of Kol Sasson.

By Ella Sherman
For Mitzpeh
@umdmitzpeh

As the audition process comes to a close, the three Jewish a cappella groups at this university have decided to hold off on recruiting new members until next fall. However, February auditions were still held virtually, as Mezumenet, Kol Sasson and Rak Shalom each used Google Forms, Zoom, audio or video submissions, according to the groups’ leaders.

Last fall, applicants also submitted recorded auditions, which inadvertently helped alleviate some of the intimidation that comes with auditioning.

“It kind of takes away some of those nerves, and you can kind of put your best face out there and prepare something you’re proud of,” said freshman journalism major and Mitzpeh writer Nira Dayanim, who auditioned for Rak Shalom last semester.

Now a member of Rak Shalom, Dayanim is part of this semester’s decision process.

“Like all the members of the group, I listened to the videos, and then we did a Zoom where we voted on who would get a callback,” she said.

Although Rak Shalom isn’t taking any new singers this semester, they’re used to having fewer applicants in the spring. COVID-19 also contributed to a decline in auditions, according to junior mechanical engineering major and president of Rak Shalom, David Charendoff.

“We were kind of pushing people to come back in the fall, to hear them again,” he said.

Earlier this month, university president Darryll Pines said he expects in-person classes to resume this fall, a time that Kol Sasson predicts welcoming a larger applicant pool.

“We’re expecting maybe even more than we usually get in a normal semester because there are incoming freshmen next year and any current freshmen this year will be sophomores,” said junior psychology major and musical director for Kol Sasson, Yona Levitt. 

The three groups were all looking for the right fit with specific characteristics in mind from vocal range to leadership. Musical expertise was a plus, but perfection was not a requirement, according to group leaders.

“I don’t think anybody’s perfect,” said Leora Barkai, a junior Public Health Science major and co-president of Mezumenet, this university’s all-female Jewish a cappella group. “I think a big part of what we’re looking for is, first of all, motivation.”

“We like to take into account the musicality in an individual,” said Levitt.

“A big thing, of course, is it’s nice to have a good balance of people in each voice bar. So we really have four voice parts which are bass, tenor, alto and soprano, we like to keep a good balance,” said Charendoff. 

Until next fall, the groups are finding other ways to fill their time amid the pandemic. Rak Shalom plans to record an album this semester, while both Mezumenet and Kol Sasson are looking forward to making music videos.

“The hope is that next semester, we’ll be in person, and at the end of the day, letting someone into our group for four years is a big decision,” said Charendoff.  

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