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There Is Love
CD Released: 2001
Video Released:2001

featuring:
 Noel Paul Stookey and 
Michael Kelly Blanchard

available: now




 
The spirit of the holiday season abounds in There Is Love, a magical performance by two of America's most inspirational songwriters, Noel Paul Stookey, of Peter, Paul and Mary and Michael Kelly Blanchard. Accentuated by the joyful sound of children singing and an invigorating performance by an interfaith choir, this 70 minute digital audio recording from their television special touches the soul with uplifting Christian folk-music and classic Christmas Carols.

Recorded at the historic First Congregational Church in Southington, Connecticut, Michael and Noel Paul use folk story-songs to explore the idea that a spiritual connection exists between all humans. Songs like Wedding Song, Facets Of The Jewel, Christmas Dinner, Thy True Love, Love after All and Be Ye Glad seek to reveal the loving heart of the Divine hidden in everyday life.

With its meaningful lyrics, intimate setting and engaging performers, the resultant celebration stirs the heart. More than just a holiday concert, There Is Love captures the essence of the season by reaching out to the human spirit.

*

 

 Liner notes:

"There is Love" was not a labor of love, because love is not labor when given away. In fact, love is not love unless it is given away. This then is a short story about a long process… where people gave of themselves for a special idea… love.

Just over four years ago on a working commute from Miami to Jupiter, Florida, I heard a song on the radio that inspired me so much I had to learn more about it. The station didn’t mention the artist or song title, so I wrote down the call letters and the time and phoned the station later that day. The DJ told me the song was "The Holy Land of the Broken Heart" and the singer was a guy named Michael Kelly Blanchard. He told me Michael’s work was very good but that it didn’t get the airplay other artists enjoy because "many of his songs are lengthy and tell stories with descriptive lyrics that you have to follow closely in order to understand" (obviously this DJ didn’t grow up in the 60’s). That evening I went to the local Christian bookstore and picked up the tape Mercy in the Maze that contained "The Holy Land of the Broken Heart" and played it several times over the next few days. The song poetically reflected some of what I had discovered in my own life and some of what I hoped to achieve. It was one of those pieces where lyric, melody, and my life, all blended together. I had found a new favorite song.In my work at the time as an independent television writer/producer, I was in the very beginning stages of an idea that a fellow producer had encouraged me to pursue and one I had never attempted before - a music pledge (fundraising) special for PBS. I had been working quite a bit with WPBT, Florida’s premier PBS station located in Miami and had made some good friends there. At the same time I had discovered the music of a European artist whose work was particularly inspiring. His blending of Norwegian and Irish pop with its Celtic feel and ethereal mood seemed perfect for a PBS pledge program. After talks by phone with the artist, we began the first steps in this effort.But in a short time, something didn’t seem right somehow. It was as if I were being led away from the project by a force greater than my ability to resist. And as anyone who has enjoyed an inspiring entrepreneurial moment knows, simply giving up on it is pretty hard to do. It was evident then that it wasn’t my idea to back away because of how hard I tried to resist. But wise counsel from my daughter helped me put it all into perspective as only a 12 year old could do. So after two or three weeks more the project was dropped.Then, as mysterious as the feeling to back away, came another to move forward, but in a different direction. It seemed that dropping the project wasn’t the object at all, dropping the artist was. I felt led to pursue the musical pledge program idea with Michael Kelly Blanchard. This was out of left field because Michael’s music was… well, "religious". So true to form I fought this too. The reason was a selfish one. I thought the music was great - that was not the issue. The issue was, by going forward with this project I might be revealing some of my own personal leanings toward the idea of a greater Being. But You-Know-Who has a way of wearing you down. I called the number on the back of Michael’s CD and lo, and behold, a baritone voice picked up on the other end.All good stories have a beginning, middle and an end. That was the beginning. The middle part was filled with new friends, new discoveries and a realization of just how quickly things can happen when you’re not busy working and defending your idea. Before I knew it, things clicked. Michael and I had agreeable visions of the project from the beginning. The original program title was "Heart Songs". But as the concept began to grow and the more we talked, the more a feeling of incompleteness began to surface for us both. So once again, the maker of all good ideas decided it was time to reveal the rest of the story… Noel Paul Stookey.Noel and Michael were longtime friends, and Noel was very much a mentoring force in Michael’s musical life. Like millions of others around the world, I too am a Peter, Paul & Mary fan. Not only are they icons of social conscience in music but they’ve also been consistent in this passion for 40 years. I was thrilled when Michael asked Noel to be part of the project. Noel agreed right away and his commitment brought an avalanche of ideas that really shaped the program concept. WPBT showed interest. A marketing tape was developed and financial "feelers" went out to secure the funds needed to underwrite the production. Our plan was to shoot the program in an old and very beautiful Episcopal Cathedral near downtown Miami. But though some parts of the project momentum moved forward, others stalled. Finding dollars is never an easy thing. But even in difficult times we never gave up because it wasn’t ours to give up on.About two years into the project I was asked to join WPBT’s production team, where I enjoy the company of good and very creative people. With their help, things began to happen. Michael called to say he and Noel were doing a concert together in Southington, Connecticut and couldn’t we look at that venue as opposed to Miami. After all, it is a holiday show and winter in Connecticut makes for the quintessential holiday setting. They were to perform at the First Congregational Church in Southington, Connecticut in February 2000, with Senior Pastor Gordon Ellis coordinating. WPBT’s Senior Vice President of Programming & Production, Jack Gibson, sent me to the concert to observe. Four months later PBS gave us a grant for the program. And exactly one year from the week of that February concert we were rolling tape on the holiday music special, "There Is Love", the concluding line in verses from Noel’s famous "Wedding Song".And now, the end of the story. Many people in the First Congregational Church and in the town of Southington gave of themselves to help this idea come together. Gordon Ellis gave a great deal of time to coordinate all the many efforts. Noel and Michael gave countless hours of planning and creative collaboration. The national offices of PBS gave their commitment to help us all create a warm, and inviting Christmas pledge special – a focused goal of our efforts. We brought on director George Veras: Doo Wop, Yanni, etc., etc. And our musicians, Greta (Blanchard), Cam, Susan, Richard and Joe gave more than we could have hoped.In the program, Noel performs "Facets of The Jewel", a new favorite song (sorry, Michael). It talks about the connectivity we all have with each other. No matter who we are or what our life’s experience might be… "our lives are connected". That doesn’t have to be a spiritual message but I’m glad it is. It’s the great equalizer of life. For Noel, Michael and myself (with encouragement from our families) that connectivity brought us together to work on an idea that would eventually manifest itself in a small town in Connecticut after four years of work. This December, (close to the beginning of our fifth collaborative year) we hope many thousands, if not millions, of people will be settling down on a cold December’s evening to watch the final product, think about the message of the season, and oh yes, make a call to support their local PBS station for bringing such an inspiring program into their homes.

Wish I had thought of that.

David Counts

CREDITS:

Musicians:Greta Blanchard (vocals), Joe Nerney (recorder, saxaphones, harmonica, whistle and vocals),Cameron Kotler Sawzin (cello), Richard Kniss (bass), Sue Evans (drums and percussion). 
Assistant to MKB: Marion Dietrich
Assistant to NPS: Joyce Hall
Recording Engineers: Paul Whitehead, Bob Wright and Phil Barnett
Remixed by Bob Wright and Jim Mason at Iliad Studio, Nashville
Digital Mastering: Jim Mason at FTM studios, Steve Sundberg, Denver, Colorado
Photography: John Atashian
Art design: Oscar Lopez
Graphic transformation: NPS


 

 

 

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