A world first for Mill Hill United Synagogue?
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Thursday 11th June 2020

A synagogue choir in London has achieved what is believed to be a world first by releasing a live choral recording made during lockdown via the internet.

The choir of Mill Hill United Synagogue - directed by Eliot Alderman - released last Friday a recording of shul favourite Eitz Chayim Hi by Nissan Blumenthal in which the members of the choir were singing with each other and being conducted by Alderman in real time, despite all participants being isolated from each other in their own homes. The Coronavirus lockdown has hit choirs hard, as it has meant they are essentially unable to continue any of their regular activities.

You can listen via this link: https://bit.ly/2XO2WVH

‘It's affected all choirs around the world, both Jewish and non-Jewish; since they can't meet up physically due to the risk of spreading the virus, they simply cannot make music together.’ said Alderman. ‘As a conductor it can be very frustrating because when people watch your arms moving about on screen, they are not actually seeing you in real-time, but instead with a second or so of time-lag, and likewise you as conductor are not hearing them sing back at you in time with the movements you are making, meaning it's utterly impossible to keep everyone singing together and in time with each other.’

Of course, many choirs - as well as orchestras - have tried to get around this by making recordings in which each participant records their own musical line in isolation, and then the various recording are edited together after the fact to make a complete performance.   But using ground-breaking technology, Alderman and the Mill Hill shul choir have come up with a way to connect with each other via the internet in real-time, and so are able to rehearse as a choir in the normal way and even produce live recordings of their singing. 

Alderman explains:  ‘The software we use is very sophisticated, and reduces the ‘latency’ or 'time-lag' to no longer than the time it would take sound to travel from one end of a room to the other in a real concert-hall setting, so it's effectively as good as us all being in the same room as each other.’

‘It's really wonderful - it means we can rehearse and perform music in essentially the same way we would in "real life"’ explained choir bass singer Gershon Cohen.

By recording the output from their online sessions, the choir have been able to release their 'live' lockdown recording to great compliments from the Mill Hill Jewish community.

The choir has plans to release further live recordings in the coming weeks, and is also exploring the possibility of live-streaming one of their online sessions, which would effectively allow them to sing live for the community as part of an online service or concert.

by Stacey Shurlin

Director of Marketing, Communications & Events, Mill Hill Synagogue