UMD’s Rak Shalom Releases New “Midnight Waves” Album
By Winter Hawk
October 18, 2021
Image Credit: Josie Jack for The Campus Trainer
The University of Maryland’s Jewish A Capella group, Rak Shalom, released their eighth album “Midnight Waves” in early September. The group, founded in 2005, sings a combination of English and Israeli pop songs, along with Jewish melodies.
Rak Shalom drops a new album every two years to feature the group’s roughly 12-song repertoire. Between each album, the group introduces new songs to practice and perform.
“At the end of each semester, we'll retire three songs and choose three new ones to be in the group,” said David Charendoff, a senior mechanical engineering major and the president of Rak Shalom. “That means that every two years, we have a whole fresh set of 12 songs.”
This year, the group’s album featured 10 songs. While this is less than usual, Rak Shalom embraced new challenges brought on by Covid-19 during the production of “Midnight Waves.”
In past years, Rak Shalom rented a room on campus to set up a studio for a week. However, at the height of the pandemic, the group switched to practicing on Zoom. Last spring, members came together outside to practice with masks on. But to produce the album, members had to get a lot more creative.
“We ended up basically setting up a makeshift recording studio in the basement of one of the members,” Charendoff said. “Over the course of about a week, [we] traveled back and forth from his house to and from College Park.”
The group managed to record the entire studio album during that time, a feat that should not be underscored, according to Joe La Fiandra, a junior bioengineering major and the group’s business manager.
“We’re very very proud of this [album],” La Fiandra said. “[It] was so logistically complicated since singing is not a very covid-friendly activity.”
The group finished recording in May and spent the following couple of months working with various producers to revise the songs. After wrapping up the production process, Rak Shalom released “Midnight Waves” on Spotify and Apple Music.
“We got a ton of listens and we really just got a ton of great feedback from all our listeners and our fans,” Charendoff said. “We get [listeners] from America and Canada, Israel, Mexico… we've got a few listeners in South America and Europe.”
“Midnight Waves” currently has 583 monthly listeners on Spotify.
Zevi Traum, a senior mechanical engineering major, first heard of Rak Shalom when he was a freshman.
“For me, the appeal of the music is the genre of A Capella in general. I think it's really cool how voices come together to build the background behind the soloists,” Traum said. “I've been to some of their live performances and the sound [on the album] is pretty similar to [the] live performance.”
Even down to its name, the album is representative of the group. It’s a symbol of the members’ dedication, even in trying times.
During spring break, the group took a beach trip to the Outer Banks, North Carolina to practice before recording the album.
“One of the main ways that we were able to end up recording this album, [which] is extremely difficult a lot of the time, [is] to practice,” said Charendoff. “Being able to kind of be all together for a week was extremely helpful… We were literally right by the beach, and we went one night, so that's how we kind of came up with [the name “Midnight Waves”].”
Although the album symbolizes many of the challenges that Rak Shalom has overcome, the songs still uplift many of the group’s singers.
“It's a really awesome arrangement, just every time we sing it it gives us tons of energy,” Charendoff noted.
Rak Shalom will perform the “Midnight Waves” set at their final concert in December. Until then, fans can keep streaming the group’s songs.
“Make sure to crank the bass on “Powerful,” the last song,” La Fiandra said.