A new breed of singing groups with unique cultural focuses are lending their voices to highlight the Hilltop’s cultural diversity.
Chutzpah, an a cappella group comprised of Jewish students, takes its name from the Yiddish word for self-confidence or nerve. Founded in 2009, the group has performed in various concerts around the United States.
“Last year, we went to Kol HaOlam, which was the first national collegiate Jewish a cappella competition,” Laura Narefsky (COL ’14), a member of Chutzpah, said. “There were groups from all over the country in a big synagogue downtown, which was a blast.”
Though the group focuses primarily on its artistry, it also places great importance on its Jewish identity. Deborah Reichmann, the program coordinator for the Jewish Chaplaincy, believes the group helps capture the spirit of Judaism on campus.
“Music has been a major part of Jewish custom for many years, so when the students said, ‘We want to do this,’ we, the chaplaincy, were very happy to help,” she said.
Narefsky agreed that a sense of culture and faith underlies the group’s principles.
“The Jewish identity is pretty important, and it’s the basis of a lot of the songs, but more than anything, it’s a unifying force for all of the members,” she said.
Reichmann stressed that the group’s grassroots beginning showcases the ensemble’s heart and enthusiasm.
“The students conceived of it themselves,” she said. “They had the will and the perseverance and it was an organic movement.”
While Chutzpah often performs in Jewish communities, it also holds joint events with Harmony, another small a cappella group on campus. Like Chutzpah, Harmony, an all-female a cappella group, also features a strong cultural identity. The group was founded in 2000 and considers itself the only international a cappella group at Georgetown.
Harmony’s global flair is what originally drew Business Manager Farah Abdallah (COL ’14) to the group.
“I was interested in joining because it was international, which I thought was the coolest thing,” she said.
Harmony promotes cultural diversity by covering musical styles from around the world.
“That was sort of a niche that there wasn’t an a cappella group to fill,” said Katrina Braun (COL ’12), the group’s musical director and former deputy city news editor for The Hoya.
The group, which performs between five and 10 times per semester, has received numerous external invitations, including one from the French Embassy.
The group is small but enthusiastic, and fosters a spirit in which Abdallah hopes that other students will share.
“I encourage people to join these cultural groups because we’re always looking for diversity,” she said.
Resonant Essence Live is also rooted in strong cultural ties as Georgetown’s only black a cappella group. Founded in 2007, Resonant Essence Live aims to promote African-American culture on campus.
The ensemble also shares an unofficial connection with the Black Student Alliance, according to Jarvis Matthews (COL ’12), a singer in the group. Members can be found serving on the BSA’s leadership board, and the BSA encourages the ensemble to perform at many of its events.
“Our musical selections are primarily taken from the Gospel, R&B, Soul and Jazz genres,” Matthews said.
The group, which currently has 11 members, performs regularly at the BSA’s Annual Kwanzaa Unity Dinner and Georgetown Admissions Ambassador Program Weekend activities. They have also sung at Union Station in an event sponsored by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for Black History Month.
“We desire for our performances to move the audience in such a way that our joy and love of music resonates with the listeners,” Matthews said.