Caption: Rak Shalom members pose on their recent tour.
Back, l-r: Lev Axler, David Charendoff, Noah Broth, Daniel Shapiro, Nadiv Panitch, Joe La Fiandra
Front, l-r: Sara Heckelman, Shira Laserson, Rachel Robin, Yonah Hamermesh, Estee Brown, Nira Dayanim, Mo Goldberger
Rak Shalom, a Jewish a capella group at this university, recently released their eighth studio album since their inception in 2005. The album Midnight Waves consists of 10 songs, divided evenly between Hebrew and English music.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the group was not able to record in a recording studio, so Nadiv Panitch, a senior computer engineering major, set up a makeshift studio in the basement of his home in Potomac.
“I hung up blankets on the walls and put up a bunch of mattresses against the walls and just kind of filled the room with stuff to soundproof it,” he said.“[I wanted] to make sure that the audio that we were recording was very clean and there were no echoes from the room,” Panitch explained.
Amidst finals preparation and exam week, the members balanced their school work with their roles in creating the album. Rak Shalom’s President and senior mechanical engineering major David Charendoff explained how hectic that time was. “For a week we just went back and forth from Potomac and College Park,” Charendoff said.
Despite the challenges they faced, Rak Shalom members remained committed and determined during the recording process. The singers attempted group practice on Zoom, but there were issues with audio lagging. They tried in-person practice with masks on, but wearing masks made it difficult to sing.
Charendoff explained that although Rak Shalom’s albums typically have 12 songs, COVID-19 complications made that goal somewhat unfeasible. “At any given time we have 12 songs we actively prepare to sing, but we only came out with 10 songs because of [COVID-19] reasons,” said Charendoff.
COVID-19 regulations also prohibited the group from singing in a room simultaneously. Each person had to rehearse and sing their parts alone, not knowing what they sounded like mixed in with the other singers.
Shira Laserson, a senior behavioral and community health major, explained some details of the album recording process:
“Every single person is taking their time alone in the recording studio and perfecting their individual parts. Every single note, every single dynamic, every single thing. We’re really picky, but that’s what makes the album so good,” she said.
Laserson believes that the solitary process made the singers forgetful of the talent the group possesses as a whole, so hearing the final track was gratifying for all of them. The perseverance of the Rak Shalom members in order to release their album paid off, as their album continues to gain more listeners on streaming platforms.
Rak Shalom was satisfied with the final result. Laserson expressed, “When we finally got the final track back, hearing ourselves as a group singing together after a year of barely ever singing together was incredible and amazing. We were learning songs and we had no idea what they really sounded like.” Their album Midnight Waves can be streamed on Spotify here.