A cappella singing is growing in popularity around the country, and the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia is marking the trend with a concert featuring two groups on Saturday in Fairfax.
Performing for the first time at JCCNV will be Hooshir A Cappella, a co-ed Jewish group of Indiana University students fresh from their first-place win on March 1 at the Kol HaOlam competition in Washington, D.C.
Hooshir, which also won the contest last year, was one of nine university a cappella groups that competed in the 4th Annual National Collegiate Jewish A Cappella Championship Competition at the Adas Israel Congregation in Washington.
Also performing at the JCCNV on Saturday is Potomac Fever, a pop ensemble of 13 singers founded in 1983 that is affiliated with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington.
The Washington area is relatively supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, but that’s not true in all parts of the country or the world, said Jeff Buhrman, artistic director of Potomac Fever,
Part of the ensemble’s mission is to support HIV/AIDs charities and organizations, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.
“We’re about championing gay equality and changing minds and hearts,” Buhrman said.
Potomac Fever will be one of four American groups going to Dublin in June to perform at the LGBT Fall Festival, he said.
“We’ve been using our music to promote change,” he said. “We’ve come a long way.”
But an even greater part of Potomac Fever’s mission is to entertain audiences, both gay and non-gay.
“It’s all about sharing your music with others,” Buhrman said.
On Saturday, the group will likely perform pop tunes such as “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything,” recorded by Barry White; “Take Me Home Tonight” recorded by Eddie Money, and “Faith” recorded by George Michael.
Also in the repertoire are Broadway tunes, such as “Corner of the Sky” from “Pippin” and “I Can Cook Too” from “On the Town,” Buhrman said. Also likely is “Everything Possible,” which was originally written by Fred Small as a lullaby and has become a song for all ages about unconditional acceptance.
Meanwhile, Hooshir expects to perform a mix of Jewish and American tunes and some Israeli pop tunes, said Rebecca Shappell, director of the group and a senior studying public health.
Hoo Shir means “it is song” in Hebrew, a word that the group changed to Hooshir, a play on “hoosier,” the nickname for natives of Indiana and those who go to Indiana University.
The group expects to perform “I Will Wait” by Mumford & Sons, as well as music from Israel, including tunes by Israeli keyboardist, composer, and producer Idan Raichel, who started the Idan Raichel Project in 2003 featuring cross-cultural music.
Some Hooshir members have studied in Israel and brought back some of its contemporary music, Shappell said.
Sometimes the group will also take a traditional Hebrew melody and substitute new lyrics.
“It shows that the music can be fun and can be young,” Shappell said. “It’s important that young people feel connected to their music.”
Also in the repertoire is a song written by Hooshir member Becky Mann called “Ose Shalom,” which means peace in Hebrew.
In 2011, Hooshir released the CD “Knock, Knock, Hooshir!”
“The album is a mix of American pop music and Hebrew influences,” said Shappell, adding that the group is currently working on a new CD.
In the meantime, members are looking forward to performing in Fairfax, thanks to an invitation from the JCCNV’s cultural arts director Dan Kirsch.
“We’re flattered [he] heard us a year ago and that he kept us in mind — it feels good,” Shappell said.