Fresh voices

Jared Schreiber, Reporter

Watch out, Shir Madness, there’s a new choir in town: Harmoniah.

In addition to the beloved a cappella group Shir Madness, the music department increased their offerings this year by adding a non-competitive choir.

“Students were really hungry for more opportunities,” vocal music teacher and Harmoniah and Shir Madness director Aaron Dunn said. “…Because the arts are virtual right now, it would be a really easy transition to start implementing it immediately.”

Freshman Meital Siegal also believed that it was a good idea to establish Harmoniah this year. Since there were very few open spaces on Shir Madness, many would have been left without a CESJDS choir to sing with.

“There are a lot of people that auditioned this year for Shir Madness but only a few spots [were] open because not many seniors left Shir Madness, so it gives us all a good opportunity to keep singing so that we’re not just waiting around until the next year’s auditions,” Siegal said.

Both Harmoniah and Shir Madness practice for a similar amount of time each week and sing similar styles of music, except that Harmoniah sings to instrumentation. Despite their similarities, Dunn said he hopes that “[Harmoniah] will continue to create its individual identity.”

One major difference between the two choirs is the number of participants. Harmoniah was designed to include unlimited participants, while Shir Madness accepts exactly 16 students for competitions. This semester, Harmoniah has only eight students, which Siegal finds appealing.

“I like that it is a smaller choir so we have time to work on our individual parts, and I like how we all work together to help each other with recordings and videos,” Siegal said.

Freshman Maddie Polonsky also likes the small choir, as she believes it creates a more safe and comfortable environment for people to sing.

“I know most of the people personally, and I am not afraid of singing in front of them by myself,” Polonsky said. “… All of us feel that it is an open space where we can talk and laugh.”

Both Shir Madness and Harmoniah are extracurricular choirs that require a vocal elective as a prerequisite. High school chorus was an elective offered during the fall semester, which acted as both a prerequisite for Shir Madness and as an additional singing opportunity for students. This class was replaced by voice lab following Harmoniah’s establishment. Polonsky is in favor of the new program, as it allows her to sing in a less stressful environment.   

“It’s less stressful [than high school chorus] because there is no grades,” Polonsky said.

Polonsky does not see Harmoniah as merely a stepping stone to get to Shir Madness as was the case with her previous JDS choirs. Instead, she sees it as “something in its own right.” Others agree with this statement, and the idea has contributed to many participants’ enjoyment.

“I enjoy that every single person that [is in Harmoniah] really genuinely wants to be there, they are really there because they want to be together even though we’re virtual, they want to be singing together, they want to be making music,” Dunn said. “As such, I think they are creating really cool stuff and doing really great work.”