Unlikely as it is, Rodriguez says a papal shout-out “would be another dream come true. I’ve always wanted to meet the pontiff, to spend a moment, to be one of the people that shook his hand or be one of the people that was blessed.
“It goes to my Catholic upbringing, because my grandmother, she had pictures of every pope on her wall. She taught us to love the pope. She called him ‘El Papa,’ like a father. So he became that kind of God’s minister on Earth, the closest man to God, growing up as a young Catholic kid.”
The Brooklyn-raised son of Puerto Rican immigrants, Rodriguez became an NYPD officer, but because of his musical talents, he also was one of the department’s designated National Anthem singers.
In the wake of the brutal terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Rodriguez performed “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the “Prayer for America” ceremony on Sept. 23, 2001, at Yankee Stadium.
The “Singing Policeman,” who performed in full uniform, became an instant celebrity, leading to voice instruction at an institute run by opera singer Placido Domingo.
Eventually, Rodriguez segued into full-time singing. This year, fulfilling a longtime ambition to record a Christmas CD, he created and found the financing for “A Glorious Christmas” (available for CD purchase or download).
(And if you’re in the New York City area, it can also be bought at Grimaldi’s Pizzeria under the Brooklyn Bridge, at 19 Old Fulton Street.)
The songs (some of which are lovely but not suitable for a papal Mass) are “Do You Hear What I Hear,” “Mary, Did You Know” (also released this year by the a cappella group Pentatonix), “I Believe (featuring Marla Kavanaugh),” “Where Else Would a Lamb Be Born,” “Christmas Day (featuring Shelea Frazier), “O Holy Night,” “Silent Night (featuring Karina Nuvo), “When a Child Is Born” and the original song “Lonely Christmas.”
Here’s a Latin-flavored version of “Silent Night” …
Rodriguez performs in concert at a variety of venues, including Catholic parishes and Protestant and evangelical communities. After singing before an Oakland Raiders football game on Dec. 21, in Oakland, California, Rodriguez will spend Christmas Eve at Shepherd’s Grove in Garden Grove, California. It’s housed in the former St. Callistus Catholic Church, which was offered to Pastor Bobby Schuller, grandson of televangelist Robert Schuller, after Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral campus was sold to the Diocese of Orange, becoming the new Christ Cathedral (now home to the former St. Callistus parish and school).
Although he was raised a Catholic, Rodriguez has a long history with the Schullers and the “Hour of Power” TV broadcast. His CD is also featured on the show’s official Website.
“I’ve been supporting that,” he says, “and a regular on that for some 14-odd years.”
When it comes to Christmas music, Rodriguez prefers devotional songs, saying, “‘Jingle Bells’ and all that stuff are cute, but ‘O Holy Night,’ ‘Some Children See Him,’ those things have the sentiment I like.”
One song on the CD has special meaning, and not just because he sang it with his second wife, New Zealand singer Marla Kavanaugh.
“My wife and I recorded a duet called ‘I Believe,'” says Rodriguez. “We wanted to put something on the album that’s how we truly felt, with everything that’s in the news. So, we had sung this song many times before, and the lyrics were perfect for how we were feeling — ‘Someday I’ll hear the sound of children in a world where war is banned. Someday I’ll see men of all colors sharing words of love and devotion. Stand up and feel the Holy Spirit, feel the power of your faith, open your arms to those who need you, in the name of love and devotion.’
“So, those lyrics were perfect for the album.”