Shir Madness to perform at Kennedy Center


photo by Maya Preuss

Shir Madness practices “Africa” by Toto, one of the eight new songs that they need to learn to fill their time at the Kennedy Center. Because of the Jewish holidays, Shir Madness has an hour and 15 minute long rehearsals each night to make up for lost time.

Shir Madness, CESJDS’ a cappella group, will be performing at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage on Dec. 17 at 6 p.m. The performance was organized by JDS alumna Rebecca Morris (‘16) who is a programming intern at Performing Arts For Everyone (PAFE).

The Millennium Stage has a different free performance every day of the year. The PAFE department at the Kennedy Center is responsible for planning these performances, and it sets aside certain days for staff picks to help broaden the types of performances and reach new audiences.

Rebecca saw that the Kennedy Center lacked Jewish music on its calendar for 2019, and she thought Shir Madness would be a good group to fill this need. Rebecca was a Shir Madness member when she was in high school, and her brother, junior Jonathan Morris, is currently in Shir Madness, so she had an easy way to contact the group.

Rebecca started organizing the performance in the spring of 2019. Because the Kennedy Center was focusing on performances during the upcoming months rather than those farther away, it took longer for Rebecca to figure out the logistics and get approval for the performance. Nevertheless, she worked hard to get Shir Madness a spot when she had the chance.

“The Kennedy Center especially is a big deal because of how well known it is,” Shir Madness student conductor senior Ethan Kulp said. “I just thought it was an amazing opportunity that Shir Madness would cherish and hopefully get closer through that experience.”

While the members of Shir Madness are excited to perform at the Kennedy Center, they have a lot of preparation to do. The group needs to perform 16 songs to fill the hour of performance time they have. Shir Madness has to learn at least eight new songs and add choreography to its performance.

“What’s made it difficult is that we’ve had to cram more into the amount of time we have because we haven’t really been able to add rehearsals especially with the [Jewish] holidays happening,” vocal music teacher and director of Shir Madness Aaron Dunn said. “We’ve just been having to pack more into the rehearsals that we have and occasionally [add] a CT or a lunch closer to the time.”

Shir Madness prides itself on the bond between the members of the group; they grow closer to each other through singing and performing. The group also fosters a deep love of music and performing among its many members.

“I was really proud of being in Shir Madness. It was an amazing group, and I had so much fun doing it and performing all throughout high school,” Rebecca said. “I think that, among other things, kept me really into performing and music, so that’s why when I was deciding where to intern, the Kennedy Center was among the places I was interested in because being around the arts is really important to me.”

This story was featured in the Volume 37, Issue 3 print edition of The Lion’s Tale, published on November 21, 2019.