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Season of Giving
A recording of holiday music by Princeton choral groups is helping to reduce starvation in Africa.


From The Packet Online, Wednesday, December 5, 2007

By Susan Van Dongen


The American Boychoir is one of eight Princeton-area choirs featured on A Princeton Christmas: For the Children of Africa.

Just when it seemed we were never going to need our sweaters and boots again, cold nights and brisk days are here. Wreaths, lights and decorations are everywhere, cheering the darkness. Fires are crackling in the hearth. All we need is a little holiday music. And no, not Bing for the umpteenth time. Instead, how about some enchanting traditional choral works, performed by some of the best ensembles in the nation?

That was the vision of Lawrence resident Tom Meagher. Listening to his daughter sing in the Tartantones — the choir of Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart — he began to think about all the excellent choral groups in and around Princeton. He also reflected on his own good fortunes and thought about the many, many people on the other side of world who were not so fortunate.

“How can we help with issues like starvation in Africa?” Mr. Meagher wonders. “At first I thought about putting together a benefit concert of the different choirs, held at Richardson Auditorium, which is where I saw my very first concert. But trying to get everyone on the same page — with all their busy schedules — proved too daunting.”

Instead, Mr. Meagher reached out to eight student choirs, suggesting they record something new, or dip into their archives to contribute to a holiday CD. The result is the recently released A Princeton Christmas: For the Children of Africa. The 20-song compilation was personally funded by Mr. Meagher and his family, and produced in conjunction with the U.S.-based Friends of the World Food Program, a non-profit organization dedicated to building support for the WFP.

All proceeds from the purchase of downloads or CDs will go directly to the children of Africa through the WFP. The iTunes Store has become part of the distribution network for A Princeton Christmas.

Mr. Meagher says the effort “quickly went from idea to album because every school we approached — from high schools to Princeton University — believes in the mission and couldn’t wait to participate.”

The compilation includes selections donated by the American Boychoir, the Princeton Girlchoir, the Princeton University Chapel Choir, the Westminster Concert Bell Choir and Westminster Choir of the Westminster Choir College of Rider University, the Tartantones, the Princeton Day School Choir Madrigal Singers and the Princeton High School Choir.

Some of the highlights of A Princeton Christmas include the American Boychoir’s recording of “In the Bleak Midwinter,” understated but moving, and simply beautiful. So is the tender rendition of “This Christmastide (Jessye’s Carol),” done by the Tartantones. There are several exquisite performances by the Princeton University Chapel Choir, but “Nativity Carol” especially stands out. The Princeton Girlchoir’s cheerful version of “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” is special because it was done live on NBC’s Today Show in December of 2002. But really, it’s all good — there isn’t a disappointing track on the entire CD.

Mr. Meagher is passionate about the WFP’s School Feeding program because it helps in two ways — it reduces hunger and improves education.

“In poor countries, the burden often falls on children to help their families make a living,” Mr. Meagher writes in the CD’s liner notes. “This means they don’t have the time, the economic means or the energy to attend school. For a child suffering from hunger, going to school is less important than having enough food to eat. WFP provides school meals to help offset the loss of the child’s contribution to a family’s livelihood.

“A food incentive helps convince parents that they can afford to allow their children to go and stay in school,” he adds. “It also brings children who may not have been in school for a while back to the classroom.”

Mr. Meagher grew up in Lawrence, one of 12 siblings. Mr. Meagher, a patent attorney, and his wife, Debbie, have two daughters who attend Stuart Country Day School and two sons who attend Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart, a school Mr. Meagher helped establish.

The optimistic Mr. Meagher calls A Princeton Christmas “the debut CD,” envisioning a series of benefit compilations in the future.

“Next year maybe we’ll do the live concert and record it at Richardson,” he says. “I’d also like to promote this kind of an approach in other towns with great choral music traditions, like Cambridge, Boston or Pittsburgh. People are always looking for new Christmas music. This way, instead of their money going to a big record company, it goes to a good cause.”

A Princeton Christmas: For the Children of Africa is available online for $35 with free next day shipping, or can be downloaded through the iTunes Store, Amazon MP3 and other sites for 99 cents per song. Mr. Meagher invites individuals, companies and organizations to acquire the CDs in bulk with free delivery in exchange for a check made out to the Friends of the World Food Program (908) 907-3377.

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

Contact:
Tom Meagher (A Princeton Christmas) / 908-907-3377
Maria Reppas / mreppas@friendsofwfp.org / 202- 530-1694 x 111
 

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