“Omaha has a lot of personality; it’s not generic.
There’s a vitality to the city that we don’t encounter elsewhere.”

New York Polyphony, a two-time Grammy-nominated male classical vocal quartet, traveled to Omaha last year to record its new CD, Roma Aeterna. But, instead of booking time in one of our traditional studios, the ensemble went in a wholly – and holy – different direction, setting up in our St. Cecilia Cathedral.

Now, with the album ready for an August release, we caught up with bass Craig Phillips who talked about the allure of the Cathedral – and the group’s great affection for the City of Omaha.

Q: Of all the potential recording spots in the country, why St. Cecilia Cathedral for the new album? Why not some place closer to home?

A: We felt that the music we were recording required a “special” sound – something that was spacious and majestic. Palestrina’s Pope Marcellus Mass, which is really the centerpiece of the new record, is without a doubt the most famous musical work of the Renaissance. So we had to get it right. Geoff, our countertenor, had visited the Cathedral on one of our visits to Omaha and was immediately taken with it, both in terms of acoustics and the sheer beauty of the church. Add to that the fact that we’ve made many wonderful friends in Omaha, and it was a no-brainer.

Q: How long have you all been performing together as New York Polyphony?

A: 2016 marks 10 years together as a group, believe it or not! What started as a fun side project (an excuse to sing obscure early music, really) has taken on a life of its own. At the end of this season, we will have sung in 40 states and 15 countries. Hundreds of performances, two Grammy nominations – we still can’t believe it.

Q: Being New York based, what initially brought you to Omaha? How did you learn of St. Cecilia’s?

A: Our first visit was in September 2009. We sang a concert at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. The church really welcomed us and took a strong interest in the work we were doing. Since then, we’ve returned five times. It’s not a stretch to say that our Omaha friends have been the catalyst to our artistic growth!

Q: During your visits to Omaha over the years, how have you connected with the city? What do you like most about coming here?

A: Omaha has a lot of personality – it’s not generic. There’s a vitality to the city that we don’t encounter elsewhere. Great food scene, interest in culture.  Plus, it’s a perfect size and very easy to navigate. The Old Market and restaurants like Louie M’s, Mark’s Bistro, and Provisions are great. (We like to eat and Omaha doesn’t disappoint.)

Q: Will tour dates bring you back to Omaha anytime soon?

A: We return to Omaha March 2017 for a concert at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.

Q: Aside from the local connection, why should we pick up the new CD?

Roma Aeterna, the new CD, is the first all-male, one-voice-to-a-part recording of the Pope Marcellus Mass in 40 years, first of all. But most importantly, it’s a “bucket list” piece of music. Everyone needs to experience it before they die. The sound is glorious (and we sing it really well, too). 

You don’t have to take Craig’s word for it. Listen for yourself.