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Phillips releases Christmas CD to benefit Emmanuel Congregational UCC


MASSENA - A Christmas Eve organ performance at Emmanuel Congregational United Church of Christ has been preserved on CD as a fundraiser for the church.

A performance by local musician James C. Phillips on Christmas Eve 2012 was recorded and is now available as a CD called “Christmas at Emmanuel” for those looking for stocking stuffers or under-the-tree presents or who just want to crank up the sound and get into the holiday spirit this year.

“Jim had done a Christmas concert last year and recorded it. He offered to do the work to produce the CD,” the Rev. Judith Van Kennen, pastor of Emmanuel Congregational UCC said.

“It’s all Christmas organ music,” she said. “It’s a beautiful CD.”

“It’s a live recording. I recorded it myself on a field recorder, which is about the size of a cell phone and will do a CD-quality record,” Mr. Phillips said.

Mr. Phillips said the sale of the CD provides a way to raise funds for the church, which he said is still recovering from a 2007 fire that kept them out of their home until 2009.

“It was recorded not with the intention of putting out a CD, for just for posterity. People got to listening to it and the idea got floated around,” he said.

The church will benefit from the sales of the CD, according to the Massena musician.

“No one is making a penny off this including me. One hundred percent of the proceeds go to the church. They lost everything (in the fire). The whole main floor was just gone. All the music library going back to 1930 was lost,” he said.

Once the congregation was able to return to their church, one of the new features that greeted them was an organ, which was used for the Christmas CD.

“The organ in the church is the latest state-of-the-art digital organ. It sounds identical to a pipe organ. It has not only samples of six different pipe organs from around the world, there are samples of all the orchestra instruments and a modern keyboard and synthesizers that are out there. It also has samples from the mighty Wurlitzer theater organ from the silent movie days. It literally has everything you can imagine,” Mr. Phillips said.

“The CD showcases all those sounds,” he said, including the traditional organ and theater organ. For the CD, there’s a banjo solo for Jingle Bells and a bagpipe solo for Deck the Hall. “All these sounds are coming from the organ and it’s live. You can hear people applauding.”

The CD includes titles like Joy to the World, Sussex Carol, Love Came Down at Christmas, Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella, Good Christian Men Rejoice, Carol of the Bells, Jingle Bells, White Christmas and Deck the Halls. Altogether there are 22 songs on the CD.

Because not all the songs were in the public domain, the Rev. Van Kennen said others helped pay for the rights to use the music.

“We had a lot of people that were very generous in helping pay for the licensing and reproducing the CD,” she said.

Mr. Phillips said he was thankful for those who stepped forward to assist with the project. “It takes a lot of effort and expense to put on a CD. There’s a lot of up-front expense. There are several people that were involved, that made it possible, that really should be thanked,” he said.

Four of the songs - White Christmas, Winter Wonderland, Sleigh Ride and The Christmas Song - were still under copyright and David Frary from Phillips Memorial Home donated the funds to the church for the copyright licenses.

MacKenzie Shoen did the photography for the CD cover photo, which shows Mr. Phillips standing next to the organ.

The graphic design for the cover was done by Mark Crosby, and Tom Gramuglia, president of Hindsight Records did the CD duplication free of charge for the church.

In addition, Mr. Phillips said, Jane and Terry DuBray shot a video of the concert that will be broadcast this holiday season on the local cable channel, WNTS, Time Warner channel 1501.

The CD, which has a suggested donation of $12 plus $3 for shipping and handling for mail orders, is available now at the church.

“There’s someone in the church from 8:30 to noon,” the Rev. Van Kennen said. “If you’d like one mailed anywhere for $12 plus mailing fees, call the church office (at 769-8523). We’ll mail it anywhere in the U.S.”

Cashier’s checks or money orders can be made payable to: Emmanuel Congregational United Church of Christ and sent to Emmanuel Congregational United Church of Christ, 39 W. Orvis St., Massena, NY 13662-1832.

Copies can also be purchased at Star Tech.

And, Mr. Phillips said, there’s a chance there may be another CD in the works for the next holiday season.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to do it again this year,” he said.

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