Once again the seats of the Charles E. Smith Sanctuary were almost completely filled as somewhere between 900 and 1200 people, according to sources, came to show their support for Kol HaOlam, the National Collegiate Jewish A Capella Competition. Ten groups from across the country showed up this year, including Indiana’s Hooshir, Wisconsin’s Jewop, Bimingham’s Kaskeset, Michigan’s Kol HaKovod, Washington state’s Staam, Queens College’s Tizmoret, University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Kolot, and three local groups—Kol Sasson, Rak Shalom and Mezumenet,all from the University of Maryland College Park.
Mike Baxter, who hosts KolCast and started Six13, reprised his role as master of ceremonies. The judges this year included a capella guru and producer Elie Landau, director of DC’s Makela Deborah Sager, Jewish a capella singer, teacher and producer Jordan Gorfinkel and a capella singer and song arranger Brian Brandler.
There was an increased focus on beatboxing this year, with Jordan Savitsky from Rak Shalom winning an award for his vocal percussion skills. While the judges tallied the scores for the 20 songs performed, Jordan Fontheim from the University of Rochester and Josh Leviton, aka “The Orthobox” from the University of Maryland, improved some impressive beats for the audience. The havdalah ceremony, officiated over by Rabbi Gil Steinlauf of Adas Israel, also featured musical accompaniment by recent DC Jewish a capella group Jew Vox.
Tizmoret and Kol Sasson kept their first and second place medals, respectively, with Jewop gaining audience favorite. But since I captured both other Maryland groups on film last year, I of course had to pay special attention to Rak Shalom. Enjoy this Israeli classic.
With a broad and enthusiastic audience and so many spirited singers, I imagine Kol HaOlam will be a DC Jewish tradition for more years to come!