North Shore Congregation Israel

Bag End Gems Shine at North Shore Congregation Israel

NSCI with Bag End Opal

North Shore Congregation Israel
1185 Sheridan Road in Glencoe, Illinois.

North Shore Congregation Israel (NSCI) started in 1920 as the North Shore branch of Sinai Congregation. Consequently, NSCI is the oldest congregation in the suburban Chicago North Shore. NSCI infuses music into every aspect of community life and considers music a very important part of the congregation. As a result, six custom painted Bag End, Gem Series, Opal2 loudspeakers were added to their large sanctuary.

The Architecture

The congregation’s 1964 building is located on a 19-acre lakefront parcel. The building was designed by the well-known, Detroit-based modernist architect Minoru Yamasaki. Yamasaki composed the building as a series of arching fan vaults. The voids between the concrete shells of the fan vaults are filled with colored glass above, and clear glass at eye level. North Shore Congregation IsraelYamasaki himself describes this design as “a confluence of daylight and solids.” Certainly, Yamasaki’s architecture has been an inspiration to NSCI’s strong, multi-faceted communities, evolutionary journey. Each individual contributes to this mosaic of colors that makes up a diverse, warm, inclusive and thriving congregation.

Architecture critic Samuel D. Gruber chose an image of the interior of Yamasaki’s sanctuary for the cover of his book American Synagogues: A Century of Architecture and Jewish Community. Gruber noted that this “dramatic, awe-inspiring space” was acoustically hard to use by a congregation, so a smaller sanctuary was built in 1979. Together, the two connected buildings create a portrait of Jewish aspirations in the late-20th century.

Bag End Opal2The Result

Bag End installed six, high output, Opal2 loudspeakers to meet the challenge of the original dramatic large sanctuary. As a result, the Opal’s deliver speech clarity and professional sound worthy of the the top notch musicians that play there. The Orchestra, piano, organ and electric instruments are integrated with the sound system accommodating the different sized events hosted at the church.

The Music

As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught, music provides the catalyst for connecting the disparate elements of the finely woven tapestry of (Kevah) the fixed words of liturgy –and (Kavanah) our deepest, truest intentions to reach and serve God. At North Shore Congregation Israel we search for ways to fill Kevah with Kavanah.  We explore the possibility that music can function in many ways including:

1) Praising God
2) Providing a deeper understanding of sacred texts.
3) Resonating with community
4) Linking us to our history
5) Connecting to our coreligionists around the world
6) Allowing exploration into the awesome nature of God
7) Creating moments of introspection
8) Deepening relationships within our families

As a side note, in celebration of the 2018 Illinois Bicentennial. The North Shore Congregation Israel Synagogue was selected as one of the Illinois 200 Great Places by the American Institute of Architects Illinois component (AIA Illinois).