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Vocolot is a contemporary Jewish women's a cappella ensemble based in California consisting of Elizabeth Stuart, Julia Bordenaro, Shana Levy, and director Linda Hirschhorn, founded in 1988. The group performs original compositions and arrangements of traditional Jewish, folk, and world-music songs in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, and Arabic. Mixing folk, classical, cantorial and Jazz idioms in a polyphonic style of intricately interwoven voices, the women perform a cappella with occasional use of hand drums and Body percussion. The ensemble has been compared to Sweet Honey in the Rock, and most recently they were the only American group to make it to the finals at the 2008 International Jewish Music Competition in Amsterdam.
Many of Vocolot's songs share themes of peace and justice, and Vocolot has sung at numerous rallies and fundraisers on behalf of El Salvador, Nicaragua, the homeless, women's shelters, Darfur, and at many anti-war demonstrations. In addition, they commonly perform at festivals, conferences and conventions, folk music clubs, Jewish community centers and federations, colleges and universities, and synagogues throughout the U.S.A.
Vocolot began in 1988, when singer-songwriter Linda Hirschhorn informally assembled a group of musicians to record some of the songs she had written for four- and five-part vocal harmonies. When they had finished recording those, for the Gather Round album, she asked the singers to join her in an on-going group. The founding members were Rosalind Glazer, Max Ventura, Tay Holden and Linda Hirschhorn.
Vocolot has gone through many incarnations as new members joined and prior members left to start families and pursue other careers. Besides the current members and the founders, there were Kirsten Zerger, Alisa Peres, Helen Cohen, Ellen Robinson, Gale Kissin, Judy Larson, Sharon Preves, Abbe Lyons, Naomi Hannah, Judith-Kate Friedman, Fran Avni, Jennifer Karno, Alison Lewis, and Felicia Sloin.
Although Vocolot performs mostly a cappella, in the early 1990s they began incorporating percussion into some of their songs, with Helen Cohen, Gale Kissin, Ellen Robinson and Liz Stuart on doumbek and frame drums, and one of their more recent songs, "These Hands", integrates body percussion.
The name 'Vocolot' (Hebrew pronunciation: [vokoˈlot]) is a bilingual pun on the English word 'vocal', meaning "vocal", and the Hebrew word קולות qolot [qoˈlot] , meaning "voices", chosen by the founding members in November 1988, at a time when the politically active group was encouraging electoral participation with the slogan was "Get out the local vote with Vocolot!" at their performances.