What do you get when you combine Glee, the Madhatters and a bit of Judaism? Add bi-weekly practice and fun-loving members and you get Jewop, the University of Wisconsin’s premier Jewish a cappella group.
In a word, club member Rebecca Schwab said, “Jewop is simply vibrant and new.”
Sponsored by UW Hillel, Jewop is now in its sixth year and is receiving an increasing amount of attention around campus. Originally formed at Nicolet High School in Glendale, Wis., Jewop was brought to UW by two of its members in 2006.
Anna Volodarskaya, a senior in the club, explained how Jewop has evolved. “It used to be more of a casual [thing], a group of friends, friends of friends, signing in different places, maybe performing.”
Jewop took the leap from singing group to a cappella group when Volodarskaya took over her sophomore year. A cappella music is performed only with voices; no instruments are used.
Don’t let the name deceive you, though — members need not be Jewish to be join. Volodarskaya explained that roughly half of Jewop’s members are Jewish. Jewop instead features music with a Jewish connection or theme.
“We focus on singing music that has a Jewish tilt, or a Jewish background, or has some Jewish about it, whether it’s Yiddish, or Hebrew or a prayer. It also could have a Jewish theme or be sung by a Jewish performer,” she said.
But that doesn’t mean Jewop’s music is solely similar to what you’d expect to hear during a production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”
“We pride ourselves in that we have a great variety of music in term of genre,” Volodarskaya said.
She explained that Jewop has sung everything from Hasidic reggae rap and traditional Yiddish music to folk and pop music. The group has covered songs by many artists, including Matisyahu, Regina Spektor, Neil Young and the Barry Sisters.
Their most current project is a parody of LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” titled “Jewop Shabbat Anthem.”
Jewop held auditions this fall and currently has 17 members — its largest number yet. Rehearsals are twice a week and are held at Hillel and the Humanities building. The rehearsals, which are about two hours, include warm-ups and rehearsing the music the group is working on.
Jewop is more than just an a cappella group. It’s a community.
“Most of us are best friends in the group, either from knowing each other before or from Jewop. People come into Jewop knowing that we are going to spend so much time together and work on team building that all of us are really good friends. We do Jewop parties and dinners,” Volodarskaya said.
Schwab added, “I get a social life, a therapeutic break from studying and a purpose from Jewop.”
Sounds like more than your average club. Volodarskaya also explained that Jewop prizes positivity and a strong team dynamic.
“It’s all about being happy when you walk into rehearsal, and when you walk out. Hopefully,” Volodarskaya commented with a laugh.
Although Jewop is one of many a cappella groups on campus, its members feel a sense of comradery, rather than rivalry toward the other groups.
Volodarskaya explained, “We are big fans of them [Tangled Up in Blue, Madhatters]. We think they are great. We all present something different.”
Last spring, Jewop had its first solo show at Hillel and received an impressive turnout of over a hundred people.
It has also sung at events like the Suicide Prevention Walk and Sellery Idol and at locations like retirement communities and Memorial Union. In addition, the group has conducted workshops with middle school bands.
In the future, Jewop looks forward to hosting open mic nights at Hillel’s Café Osher, signing at the 20th anniversary of the Jewish Studies department and the Badger Bash at Union South before the Purdue football game on Nov. 5th. It has also signed up for a Jewish a cappella competition and hopes to hold a Hanukkah show at the end of the semester.
“Jewop is an up-and-coming group on campus that is something a little new,” Volodarskaya said. “We are just really excited to offer something different to people and add to the a cappella community and be a part of that.”