Kol HaOlam A Cappella Contest Enters Its Fifth Year

Queens College’s Tizmoret performs at the 2015 Kol HaOlam National Collegiate A Cappella Competition at Adas Israel / photo taken by Rachel Mauro

Seats were packed at Adas Israel Saturday night for the fifth annual Kol HaOlam National Collegiate Jewish A Cappella Competition. Eight competing groups, from as far as Wisconsin and as close as College Park, competed for best in show and other honors.

The two hours flew by in a haze of choreographed dance moves, religious, classical and pop songs, plus parodies; my personal favorite had to be Jewop’s Les Mis-meets-Passover medley, “One Plague More.” Cheers and hollers erupted from the audience of college supporters. The groups competing included Mezumenet and Rak Shalom from the University of Maryland, Shireinu from Northwestern University, Jewop from the University of Wisconsin, Kol Hakavod from the University of Michigan, Rhythm & Jews from the University of Chicago, Tizmoret from Queens College and Jewkebox from Temple University.

Although I hadn’t attended in a few years, I found the event to carry some déjà vu, with Tizmoret winning first place from the judges, and Jewop winning audience favorite. Shireinu and Jewkebox came in second and third places, respectively, with Shireinu also picking up an award for best arrangement for their soulful version of “Yerushalayim Shel Zachav.” The judges also awarded some individual honors.

The judges included Cantor Arianne Brown of Adas, Cantor Matt Klein of Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, Md., Ben Olinsky of the vocal groups 18th Street Singers and PhilHarmonica, and Hannah Needleman formerly member and music director for the Barnard College group Pizmon. Reigning champions from the last two years, Indiana University’s Hooshir, sang several songs as the judges tallied up votes, and when they needed more time, several beatboxers took the stage for an impromptu jam session. I’d just been starting to think that they were underrepresented this year! 😛

Kol HaOlam was co-chaired by Geoffrey Berman and Julia Gordon; the MC this year was Laura Meckler, political reporter for the Wall Street Journal. To hear Tizmoret’s encore performance after claiming their victory, click here!