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Blended Voices

Barbara Bensoussan

Somewhere in between celestial choirs of angels and the corner barbershop quartet is an increasingly popular phenomenon: the chassidic men’s choir. It’s not Pirchei, and it’s not about celebrity vocalists. Today’s music users are becoming infatuated with the blended sounds and mature harmonic backgrounds only a bunch of leibedig, music-loving guys can produce together.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

It’s one thing to sit around the Shabbos table at home or yeshivah singing your heart out, but could you imagine yourself doing it in front of a crowd? Fourteen years agoChiluPosen couldn’t imagine it either. Could a love of singing really segue into a career?

“A friend of mine from yeshivah told me, ‘I know you love to sing. Why don’t you come sing at my son’s bar mitzvah?’ I got together a few guys, and it was such a big success, it convinced me I could really do it for a living.”

Posen didn’t immediately resign his day job working in a Judaica warehouse. But as the reputation of his choir, Mezamrim, began to grow, he got so busy he had to quit in order to devote himself to it full time.

He explains that while Pirchei boys choirs have been performing and recording popular Jewish music since the 1970s, this is an entirely new genre; in the past decade there’s been a growing demand for this new entertainment medium — the adult chassidic choir. It has become de rigueur at weddings, Shabbos affairs when instruments are prohibited, sheva brachos, and fundraising and testimonial dinners — and not just in the chassidic world.

Suddenly Posen found himself inundated by calls asking, “Can I join your choir?” or “Could you check out my son?” Now, with up to 24 singers, Posen is out almost every night on jobs, a schedule he admits isn’t easy for his wife, although it allows him to be more available during the day. “I try to be home when the kids come home from school,” he says.

Shraga Gold began his career singing with yeshivah friends, launching Shira Choir about ten years ago. He had a job working in diamond settings, but left it when his choir took off. “Many people were making simchahs with a one-man band, and they realized a choir added a lot,” he says. “And during times like Sefirah or the Three Weeks, some people will employ an a capella choir for functions.” Choirs are also in demand as backup for CD work, promotional video clips, and performances. Now, Gold says, Shira Choir — which has released four of its own discs including a collaboration withMordechaiBenDavid, and has performed at Chabad telethons, HASC concerts, and the recent Shas-a-thon — has work just about every day of the year, drawing from a pool of 30 adult singers.

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