Singing churchmen, The Priests, have become a global musical phenomenon.
It seems appropriate that singer David Delargy would choose to conduct interviews at St. Paul's Basilica in downtown Toronto this week. Delargy, pictured at top of page in the centre, and his singing partners, brothers Eugene O'Hagan and Martin O'Hagan, aren't conventional pop stars; they are Roman Catholic priests from Northern Ireland.
The trio calls itself The Priests. Their debut CD of the same name, a collection of classic sacred songs, is ranked fifth on the album-sales charts in the United Kingdom, and they're rapidly gaining global popularity. They performed a free concert at the Toronto basilica on Monday night to a capacity crowd.
Their journey toward a milliondollar recording contract with Sony BMG began 34 years ago, when the three men met at school and began to perform in school operas. They continued to sing together throughout their university years in Belfast, their theological studies in Rome and later as priests in neighbouring parishes of Northern Ireland.
The Sony deal came quite by chance, or as Delargy calls it, "providence."
Mike Hedges, the producer of the group's album, was looking for a priest to record the Latin mass. Instead, talent scout Liam Bradley brought him a recording of the three men singing together.
"Liam in fact recorded us on his mobile phone and he sent that down the line to Sony," explains Delargy, dressed in the traditional black suit and white collar of the clergy. "It was that blend of voices and the interaction between the three of us, I think, that was what interested them."
But signing a contract with Sony was not something the men took lightly. The conditions of the contract are unique; it is understood that their responsibilities to their parishes come before performances and promotion. Even so, balancing between their roles as priests and entertainers is a challenge.
"We find that the days where we're in the parish, we're having to work very hard to catch up with the work that has accumulated," says Delargy. "We have the sick to visit, we have our schools to visit, we have masses to celebrate, we have meetings to take part in, we have the administration of our parishes to take care of. ... Nobody else is going to do any of that for us."
Delargy says that despite all the challenges, The Priests' journey has been a rewarding one. The friends have thus far managed to keep their focus off the contracts and concerts and instead on the music.
"Music is art," he said. "It expresses something that is quite profound in the person, it says something about who you are, reveals who you are and expresses what is in a deep place within yourself."
Fortunately, says Delargy, the priests have the support of their respective congregations. They might even have a fan in Rome.
"We do know that Pope Benedict himself is a great lover of classical music. So we'll try to make sure that a copy of our album makes its way into his hands -- and who knows? Perhaps after a stressful day in the office he might sit down and be soothed by music from The Priests."
Michelle Anne Olsen. "Blessed for success." National Post, (Canada) 4 December, 2008.
Reprinted with permission of the National Post.
Visit The Priests' web site here.
Michelle Anne Olsen writes for the National Post.Copyright © 2008 National Post
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