Student group sings for ‘Joy’ at White House

The Nor’easters, Northeastern’s award-winning student a cappella group, got the surprise of a lifetime on Sunday when the young vocalists got the opportunity to sing a holiday song for President Barack Obama and the first lady.

All 15 members of the group had traveled to the White House to perform for guests at a holiday party, during which they sang 10 holiday songs and a few contemporary pieces in a 20-minute set. Then they learned their next audience would be the Obamas.

“We were all in shock,” said Jessie Litwin, SSH’16, the group’s business manager. “[The president and first lady] were awesome and so friendly. When we were done singing, they talked to us and asked how finals went.”

The group learned about the opportunity to perform at the White House earlier this semester from fellow Northeastern student Klevis Xharda, who was on co-op in the White House Social Office. The Nor’easters were asked to prepare a 60-second performance in addition to their other set, but they weren’t told why.

Nor’easters President David Crozier, E’14, speculated that the White House wanted to film the shorter performance for future use. It turns out it was for the Obamas. “We were speechless,” Crozier said. “It was just an incredible end to the semester for us.”

The group performed an arrangement of “Joy to the World,” which the Obamas seemed to enjoy. “They were dancing to the music,” Litwin said.

Some group members were nervous in the moments leading up to their performance for the president and his wife, Michelle, but the anxiety quickly dissipated. “I think everyone was too honored to be there to feel nervous,” Litwin said. “They shook all of our hands. It was so cool.”

In preparation for the White House performance, the Nor’easters practiced every day for more than a month and put on another show on Dec. 6. Rehearsing while also studying for finals was a little hectic, Crozier said, but the group made it work.

“We treated the White House performance as the final for our group,” he noted.

Earlier this year, The Nor’easters won top prize at the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella. Since then, the group has traveled more and performed for a variety of audiences, which now include the president and first lady.

“That win has led to some amazing opportunities,” Crozier said.