About this Recording
8.553506 - Christmas with Paul Plishka

Christmas with Paul Plishka
Several years ago on a freezing Sunday just before Christmas, Norman Vincent Peale, the minister at Marble Collegiate Church, told his congregation about two men, hurrying to do last minute holiday shopping. They were standing on the curb of a busy New York intersection. Traffic was at a standstill. Cars were in a gridlock and were backed up for blocks. Horns honked, people pushed and tempers were tested. One man said to the other, "Isn't this terrible?" The second man smiled, looked at the crush of humanity around him and replied, "I think it's just amazing. All this hustle and bustle caused by a tiny infant born two thousand years ago."

Each of us sees Christmas differently. Even carols describe a variety of scenes: Love Came Down at Christmas, Cold December, Silent Night, O How Joyfully. For Metropolitan Opera bass Paul Plishka, "Christmas is family and it's seeing other people happy." It's not always easy to find family and happy people in a big city. But when you have a loving home church, your chances of a "hometown" Christmas are much better.

Marble Collegiate Church may sit on New York's sophisticated Fifth Avenue, but it could just as easily grace a sleepy little lane in Vermont or a rural road in the corn-fields of Indiana. The Collegiate Church is America's oldest Protestant church, with a continuous ministry since 1628. It was the New World and the small city was known as New Amsterdam. Early settlers had come to the land on the Hudson from Holland and the church they founded was Dutch Reformed. Since then, a remarkable group of clergy and laity has served the Collegiate Church, from Peter Minuit - its founding Elder - to Norman Vincent Peale and now, continuing the tradition, Arthur Caliandro.

Marble Collegiate Church is an astonishing mix of tradition and warmth. The bell in the outer churchyard was cast in Amsterdam, Holland, in 1975 and, before being moved to Marble, it hung in the historic Old North Church on Fulton Street. The bell in the tower has tolled at the death of every American president since Martin Van Buren in 1862. The spire rises 215 feet above Fifth Avenue and is crowned by the original six- foot-six-inch-high Dutch style weather-vane, a reminder of the cock that crowed after Peter denied knowing Jesus.

The interior of Marble is no less fascinating. Three carpeted aisles divide horizontal pews of solid, deep mahogany padded with rich red wool damask upholstery, woven in France from the original pattern dating from the mid-nineteenth century. Tiffany stained-glass windows installed at the turn of the century filter sunlight into the sanctuary. A narrow balcony is suspended over the sides and back of the church, like a rectangular European recital hall, the back of which houses the organ, a mass of organ pipes and the choir-loft. And three carved mahogany chairs sit on the chancel, which is flanked on both sides by two more sets of organ-pipes. Marble may be carpeted, upholstered and dignified but, like those who worship there, it's also encouraging, genial and friendly. It's always aglow with lights and conversation and cheer and love. " America's Hometown Church" is written in large letters outside the doors and, inside, the affability overflows in noisy, communal chatter.

Christmas at Marble is a time of family remembrance. It's a time to join with new and old friends to celebrate the warmth of the season; to sing carols and inhale the aroma of the perfect pine wreaths, decorated with huge red bows, that circle the balcony. It's the Christmas we dreamed of as children. It's the Christmas we long for as adults.

People from allover the world worship at Marble and this Christmas recording is meant to reflect their diverse backgrounds. Each of the carols is familiar, from the gentle It Came Upon a Midnight Clear that sets the tone for a tender, old fashioned Christmas, to the rollicking good cheer of Good Christian Men Rejoice, with its tambourines, harp and high spirited singing. The carols are sung in English but some verses are heard in their original languages: French, German and even Ukrainian. The settings are simple, the tunes and words well-known, and the performances balance the sophistication of a Fifth Avenue church with the hometown spirit of Marble.

The essence of Marble is Home. And this recording is made to conjure up memories of Christmas past and fantasies of snowy seasons to come. You're invited to sing along or have a party with plenty of friends and good cheer. Decorate your tree while you listen. Or curl up on the couch with your dog, a mug of hot chocolate and your memories. Marble is America's Hometown Church and this recording is meant to give you a real hometown Christmas.

1995 June LeBell

Paul Plishka
Paul Plishkahas been a principal artist and starring bass of New York's Metropolitan Opera for over 27 years, with a busy career that has taken him to leading opera-houses throughout North America and Europe. He was born in Pennsylvania into a family of Ukrainian origin and had his musical training with the Paterson Lyric Opera Theater before joining the National Company of the Metropolitan Opera. While his majestic and powerful voice and impeccable artistry make him one of the world's foremost singers, in the opera-house he is most often associated with the music of Giuseppe Verdi and for his renowned and idiomatic portrayal of the title role in Boris Godunov. His recordings include a release from the Metropolitan Opera on laser disc and video of Verdi's Falstaff, in which he assumes the title role under the baton of James Levine, as well as a number of complete operas, and solo recitals of opera arias and of Ukrainian folk songs. His extraordinary bass voice, heard so often in major operatic roles, also exemplifies the gentleness, warmth and depth of feeling associated with the seasonal music of Christmas. It adds a new dimension to this Christmas release, in which Paul Plishka celebrates the holiday season in a church to which he has developed a very special attachment.

Camellia Johnson
Camellia Johnson's connection with Marble Collegiate Church began when she joined the alto section of the professional choir. Since then she has emerged as a soprano of distinction, making her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1985 in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. Her career has taken her to major opera-houses from the Met to San Francisco, as well as to Glyndebourne and to the world's concert halls.

Richard Erickson
Richard Erickson, who served as interim Music Director at Marble Collegiate Church for part of the 1995 season and arranged many of the carols heard on this record, is director of music at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in New York City and Artistic Director of Bach Works, a New York ensemble that specialises in eighteenth-century music.

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