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Musical Mission

From The Trenton Times, Saturday, December 1, 2007

by Greg Vellner, Special to the Times

It was at about this time last holiday season that Tom Meagher made a list and checked it twice.

Contact Princeton-area choirs about a Christmas recording.


Sell CD for $30, with all proceeds to benefit starving children in Africa.


Call album "A Princeton Christmas: For the Children of Africa."


Meagher's vision has come true with the release shortly before Thanksgiving of the first-of-its-kind CD. Eight Princeton-area choirs are featured.

"It makes a great Christmas gift," said the 50-year-old Lawrenceville man, a Princeton native. "People buy Christmas music every year and here's a way for them to get great music and also make a direct donation to the World Food Program. The $30 purchase of this incredible CD will feed one African child for nearly three months."

The 20-song, hourlong CD benefits the School Feeding campaign of the United Nations' World Food Program. It was produced in conjunction with the U.S.-based Friends of the World Food Program.

Choirs featured are the American Boychoir, Princeton Girlchoir, Tartantones of Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, Westminster Choir, Westminster Concert Bell Choir, Princeton Day School Choir Madrigal Singers, Princeton High School Choir, and Princeton University Chapel Choir.

Meagher, a New York City lawyer, was motivated by a love of Christmas music. In fact, his idea was born while enjoying his favorite Christmas collection, The American Boychoir on "Hallmark Presents the Tradition of Christmas with Harry Belafonte."

"It's basically my favorite Christmas album of all time," he said.

Why not produce an album featuring the rich tradition of the many Princeton choirs, he wondered.

"My thought was there must be a way to get these groups together," Meagher said. "It quickly went from idea to album because every school we approached -- from the high schools to Princeton University -- believes in the mission and could not wait to participate."

In the back of his mind, too, was the gnawing thought something good should come out of CD sales.

A colleague, Bobby A. Williams from Liberia, told Meagher about a 1991 effort that promoted nutrition and education in Africa. The new effort, thought Meagher, could do the same.

"It's a way to entice families to send their children to school so they will receive a nutritious meal," said Meagher. "It's sort of a two-for with them getting an education and a meal."

There was no need to go into a recording studio, as choir directors donated recordings of their groups for the compilation. Others stepped up, too. John Baker, a graduate of Princeton Day School, engineered the CD, while friends Martin Olech handled Web site design and Evelyn Good the graphics for the album.

Songs on the CD include:

The American Boychoir: "Ding Dong! Merrily on High" and "In the Bleak Midwinter."

Princeton Day School Madrigal Singers: "Hark I Hear the Harps Eternal."

Princeton Girlchoir: "Personent Hodie," "Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!", "Sleigh Ride" and "A New Year Carol."

Princeton High School Choir: "Hodie Christus Natur Est" and "Celebrons La Naissance."

Princeton University Chapel Choir: "The First Nowell," "How Brightly Shines the Morning Star," "Adam Lay Ybounden," "Sussex Carol," "Mariabaen," "Nativity Carol" and "Kerstlied."

Tartantones of Stuart Country Day School: "Night of Silence" and "This Christmastide."

Westminster Choir of the Westminster Choir College of Rider University: "The Hills are Bare at Bethlehem."

Westminster Concert Bell Choir of the Westminster Choir College of Rider University: "Marche of The Nutcracker."

The recording-as-fundraiser won rave reviews from Shirley A. Tilgham, president of Princeton University and a former secondary school teacher in Sierrra Leone, West Africa.

"Princeton University is proud to be part of this remarkable grassroots initiative to help the children of Africa," Tilgham said. "The music is enchanting and inspirational, and the message of hope and love is immensely powerful."

And Karen Sendelback, president and CEO of Friends of the World Food Program, praised the project.

"We are proud to team up with the Princeton community in this timely and inspired effort to help feed the children of Africa."

"A Princeton Christmas" can be purchased on iTunes or by visiting (

"The money goes directly to the School Feeding program," Meagher said. Does Meagher have a fundraising goal for the project?

"I tell people that I expect this will make either $10,000 or $100,000 or $1 million," he said. "We've been doing a lot of publicity pro bono, trying to get some traction. People have to see it and then actually respond to it and purchase it."

For Meagher, the project came out of a desire to "get things done."

"People too often don't realize that with a little effort and a little time, they can accomplish a lot."

For more information, visit Friends of the World Food Program (http:/, a non-profit organization dedicated to building support for the WFP (

Tom Meagher (A Princeton Christmas) / 908-907-3377
Maria Reppas / / 202- 530-1694 x 111

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