“Merry Christmas, New York City!” One woman's desire to remind others of the real reason for the season becomes a New York City tradition.
(note: for information on this year's concert event, scroll to the end of the article)
A few years ago, Lynn Geyer, a Catholic recording artist, found herself becoming more and more concerned about the omission of the word "Christmas" from Christmastime. “Even cashiers were forbidden to speak it to customers, etc etc etc!” she says. “It’s as if ‘they,’ (whoever ‘they’ are) wanted to completely kick Jesus out of his own birthday!” Christmas shoppers have noticed over the past several years that “Merry Christmas” has been replaced with “Happy Holidays” in their favorite stores. Ironically, much of this was coming from businesses which derive approximately 20% of their annual sales from Christmas shopping!
Lynn began to feel that she was supposed to do something about it, hearing a phrase over and over in her head: “A big Catholic thing in a big public place.” As she prayed for guidance in all this Christmas frustration, an idea was coming into focus.
“Music is what I know,” she said. “Singing, songwriting and promoting Catholic music is my life’s work.” So it seemed natural to try and do a musical event. “The thought of doing a Christian music thing in any kind of public place was daunting to say the least!” she quipped. She knew it would be a leap of faith but it had to be done. Lynn felt that God’s hand was guiding her thoughts..
And so in 2006, “Merry Christmas, New York City,” a concert to celebrate Christmas, was born. There was only one open Saturday matinee time in December in a “big” NY theatre and she was able to get it (the Alice Tully Hall in the Lincoln Center), which of course, to Lynn, was another sign that God was instigating the whole thing. The rest as they say, is history.
History of "Merry Christmas, New York City"
In the 2006 event, Fr. Charles and Laurie Mangano, a popular duo from Long Island, and OneVoice, a choir of singers from community and professional theatre in lower Westchester county, volunteered to perform. Also on board as the ‘headliner’ was Tony Melendez, a celebrated Catholic recording artist, born in Nicaragua without arms. Tony amazed everyone by playing guitar with his toes and was a favorite of Pope John Paul II. Jon Kelley, from the Prayer Channel in Queens, was the emcee.
“It was an awe-inspiring afternoon of beautiful music and witness [meant] to do nothing but honor the One whose birthday we celebrate on Christmas Day,” she enthused. “There were about 900 of the 1082 seats filled!”
A wonderful team of truly committed volunteers emerged and because of their efforts, $10,000 from the concert (and an additional corporate mini fundraiser) was donated to Little Flower Children and Family Services of New York. Donations also went to The Sisters of Life, Good Counsel Homes, the Prayer Channel, St. Mary’s Church, as well as to all the artists’ ministries and to others who tirelessly gave of themselves. It was one of the last concerts in the Alice Tully Hall of Lincoln Center due to renovations being made to the theatre (which will re-open in 2008).
Determined to make this an annual event, Lynn began a search for a theatre for Christmas 2007, specifically at Carnegie Hall, but was too late in sending in her formal request. There simply were no viable dates available there or anywhere. However, her fortunes changed in mid September when the booking agent called from Carnegie Hall and said they had a cancellation date available in their small theatre. To Lynn, this was another clear sign of God moving things around to glorify His name, so she gratefully accepted the date despite the lateness in time.
In 2007, concert goers were blessed by the wonderful Mark Forrest, internationally acclaimed Irish Tenor. Also on the ticket are Kara Klein, Michael Zabrocki and a local young people’s choir. Michael hails from Long Island and is celebrated his 30th year in Catholic music. He is known in the NY metropolitan area as the host of IcthusEQ!, has hosted the Proud2BCatholic youth festival, the Catholic Underground, and has been seen nationwide on multiple Catholic/Christian networks. He is also very active in the Polish community. Kara began singing and writing as a young child and has since written over 100 songs dedicated to Jesus Christ.
The charity receiving a percentage of the proceeds is the Faith and Family Foundation, founded by Mark Forrest, to assist families and children with disabilities and special needs. HeartBeat Records generously sponsored the artists who will travel to New York.
This Year's Concert Event
“Merry Christmas, New York City” celebrates its third consecutive year with a concert taking place at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, NY on Saturday, December 20 at 2:00pm.
Reprising his role from 2007 as emcee, is award winning journalist, Raymond Arroyo, host of The World Over Live, broadcast on EWTN; he will be accompanied on piano by Rich Berretta. Our talented musicians include Fr. Stan Fortuna, CFR who has travels the world in itinerant music and youth ministry and is a favorite of both the young and young at heart. Also on board, are Fr. Charles and Laurie Mangano. Fr. Charles is the Pastor of Cure of Ars Parish in Merrick, Long Island and along with his sister, Laurie, shares the message of God’s love in popular and contemporary song. Accompanying Fr. Charles and Laurie will be dancers from the Ballet Company of June Claire.
Also on hand is Al Barbarino, part tenor, part crooner who is busy 52 weeks a year singing in churches raising awareness and money for the homeless of NY and those suffering in Croatia. Al also works in prison ministry, donating his time to counseling incarcerated youth. Dr. Jennifer Pascual, the first female Music Director of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NY brings the NY Archdiocesan Festival Chorale to thrill us with magnificent choral pieces.
Recipients sharing the profit from the concert are the Saint Padre Pio Shelter in the Bronx and Catholic Charities for People with Developmental Disability at the behest of the ministries of Al Barbarino and Fr. Charles and Laurie Mangano, respectively.
Tickets are available at CenterCharge, 212-721-6500, online at www.lincolncenter.org or at the box office, 10 Lincoln Plaza, Broadway/65th St. Prices: $50 and $75. Special discounted $25.00 ticket pricing for students and groups of ten or more.
Lynn Geyer took a simple frustration about Christmas, entrusted it to God, and is now helping to celebrate the birthday of Jesus in a big way in one of the largest and most exciting cities in the world! As the scriptures say, “Nothing is impossible with God.”