of these recordings
Perry Como's first
traditional hymns recorded for the RCA Victor Records label were produced by
Charles Grean, recorded on location at
The Church of Incarnation, New
York City, on a Friday, the last day of September, 1949. With
Choir and Organ directed by Mitchell Ayres, assisted by Ray
Charles, the recordings of
"Ave Maria" and "The Lord's Prayer" were released on a
special 12" 78 RPM record due to their length. Both recordings charted in
the United States at positions 22 and 28 respectively.
While not a great deal is known
about the recording of these two hymns, Perry would record both again ten
years later, again produced by Charles Grean, but this time with the Male
Voices of the Robert Shaw Chorale. In October of 1959 they were
recorded at the Manhattan Center, New York City, with orchestration
conducted by Mitchell Ayres. These new 1959 recordings were released on a
limited distribution stereo single but never released again in
"Living Stereo" until three-track master session tapes were discovered just
prior to Perry's death in May of 2001. After forty-two years in the
RCA Victor Archives, these historic recordings are now available again in
real stereo for the first time since their original issue.
Following the success of his 1949
recordings, Perry recorded six traditional hymns at the
Academy of Arts &
Letters, New York City, again produced by Charles Grean, with Mitchell
Ayres conducting and Organ Accompaniment by Charles
Marie Courboin. Two of the hymns, "Mother Dear, O Pray for Me"
and "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" were recorded with the St. Patrick's Cathedral Boys
Choir. Traditional versions of the "Prayer of
Thanksgiving" and "Bless this House" and "The
Rosary" were recorded with a Mixed Chorus and a Women's Choir, while "Rock of Ages" included a Male Chorus with Organ
Accompaniment only. These hymns were released as singles and within
two 45 RPM Extended Play albums. His first full album of traditional hymns
Believe" subtitled "Songs of all Faiths Sung by
Perry Como" was first released in the original 10" LP format in
1953 on RCA Victor Records LPM-3188. All songs within the compilation were
recorded between September 24th and November 23rd that same year. The title
recorded twice, once with Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of Hugo
Winterhalter and then again with Mitchell Ayres. It was the Ayres version
which was released.
compilation also included "Onward Christian
Soldiers," with Orchestra and Chorus under the direction
of Hugo Winterhalter, "Goodnight, Sweet Jesus,"
"Act of Contrition," "Abide With Me," and
"Nearer My God to Thee," with Chorus under the
direction of Ray Charles ( the Ray Charles Singers backed
Como on television and record for many years ) and two songs
in Hebrew, "Kol Nidrei," and "Eli, Eli"
again with Mitchell Ayres and His Orchestra.
was expanded in 1956 in the long play 12" format to
include "Ave Maria," "The Lords
Prayer," "The Rosary," and "Bless this
House," on RCA Victor LPM-1172. All of these recordings
pre-date the stereophonic era and were recorded in monaural
only. Until recently, only one of these recordings, "Bless this
House," recorded June 26, 1950, had been released in the
compact disc format ( I Wish It Could Be Christmas Forever
4526-2-R ) and none of the others, including "I
Believe," were generally available on compact disc. In 1999 an eclectic
compilation from BMG Special Products, which also carried the title "I
Believe", included only two tracks from the original compilation
plus an undocumented alternate take of the title song. Mr. Como recorded a new
version of "Ave Maria" on August 1, 1968. This
version was arranged and conducted by Nick Perito with the
Ray Charles Singers, in full stereophonic sound, and included
within his 1968 RCA Victor album "The Perry Como
Christmas Album" LSP-4016. This album is currently
available in the UK on compact disc but the 1968 version of "Ave
Maria" has been re-released within various compilations.
interviews Mr. Como has remarked that his recordings for
"Songs of All Faiths" were not as well received as
he thought they might have been. His interpretation of these
religious standards may well have proved more ecumenical and
ahead of his time than was the record buying public of the
early 50s. His observations need to be put in perspective,
however, due to the overall popularity of anything he
recorded during this time; even moderate sales by any other
measure would have been considered a success.
Perry Como recorded
an inspirational album in 1958 titled "When You Come to
the End of the Day" in full stereophonic sound and
containing some of the finest interpretations of his recorded
career. Produced by Joe Reisman with Mitchell Ayres
Orchestra and the Ray Charles Singers, arrangements by
Reisman, Jack Andrews and Joe Lipman, it was recorded at RCA
Victors Studio A, New York, on April 30, May 1, June
18, 19, and 23, 1958 and engineered by Bob Simpson. Although
released in stereo, sales of the monaural version likely
predominated during what was only the beginning of the stereo
era. Although there is no evidence that this recording lacked
for success, one is given to wonder whether Mr. Como, generally
considered a devout Roman Catholic, was well received in
performance of fundamentalist Christian material. Apart from one
track, "Prayer for Peace,"
these recordings for many years were not released in full
stereo. In May of 2001, just prior to Perry's death, these
recordings were re-released in true "Living Stereo" for the
first time since their original issue. They are now
available within compact disc compilations from
Collectables and BMG's affiliate Buddha Records label.
recordings were made in January, 1994, during the taping of his Irish
Christmas Special but not for the RCA Victor Records label.
Very appropriately, however, his last recording was "Ave
Maria" arranged and conducted by his long time conductor and good friend
Nick Perito. It became available on compact disc, CD-ROM and various video formats.
The Irish Christmas Special has been aired annually on the PBS Network since
1994. Perry's recordings and many performances of "Ave Maria"
through out his long career have been so closely associated with him that it
seems appropriate this should be his final recording.
HQV Selekt Group