A week from this Saturday, Ashkenazic Jews the world over will convene at their synagogues—often after midnight—for Selichot, the set of penitential prayers marking the beginning of the season of introspection that culminates some two weeks later on Yom Kippur. But if you have tickets to the ballet that night—or if late-night synagogue-going isn’t your thing—the fine folks at the Milken Archive of Jewish Music have got you covered.
Among the archive’s voluminous holdings is a complete Selichot service that you can listen to in your own time. The hauntingly beautiful service, featuring renowned cantor Benzion Miller and the Schola Hebraeica chorus, was broadcast on NPR affiliates in 2004.
Divided into two hour-long parts, the program is further enhanced by commentaries from Rabbi Ismar Schosch, the former chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, and musicologist Neil Levin.
“Selichot,” says Levin, the Milken Archive’s artistic director, “is a very musical service to the point where one might even call it a religious concert, in the context of the real spiritual meaning of the word concert, which means ‘togetherness’ or ‘connectedness.’”
Founded in 1990, the Milken Archive began as an effort to preserve and disseminate a body of music that had helped shape the American Jewish experience. The Archive has recorded over 600 pieces of music by roughly 200 composers.
Their Selichot service is but one example. To listen to it, click here.