Ireland's Singing Priests' Latest Album

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
6 Nov 2009

Amazing Grace, the Lord's Prayer and the Rogers and Hammerstein hit from Carousel, You'll Never Walk Alone are just three of the tracks on the latest album from Ireland's three singing clergy, The Priests.

The much anticipated album will be released in Australia on November 20 and promises to trigger the same sort of excitement and rocketting sales that characterised the release of their first album in November last year.

Called Harmony, the Priests' new album includes  such favourites as How Great Thou Art, Ta Deum, The Lord's Prayer and Ave Verum as well as beloved classics such as Bach's O Comfort My People and the ever popular, Silent Night.

Now listed in the Guinness Book of Records for having the fastest selling classical album of all time, Fr Martin O'Hagan, his elder brother Fr Eugene O'Hagan and their friend from their Belfast schooldays, Fr David Delargy, created history with their first album, titled simply The Priests when it sold more than 1 million copies in its first seven weeks on release.

Harmony is expected to be even more popular and to sell even faster.

On their first album, with Fr Eugene and Fr Martin as the group's two tenors and Fr David as baritone, the trio sang beloved religious classics as Ave Maria, Panis Angelicus and Pie Jesu as well as the Irish Blessing and other Irish favouirites.

Recorded in St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, the album titled simply The Priests (Mark, please delete) shot up the charts of more than 30 countries world-wide, making it the fastest selling classical album of all time.

Signed by Sony for a whopping $(Aust) 2 million by Epic Records, a subsidiary of Sony in February 2008, the three fortysomething Irishmen have more than proved their worth. Feted and acclaimed in more than 32 countries, The Priests are music's lastest phenomena. But despite their fame worldwide and triggering round-the-block queues wherever they perform, the trio refuse to act like "stars" and insist any profits from their albums and concerts be donated to nominated charities.

For the past 12 months in between taking the world by storm and recording Harmony, their latest album, the three Irish priests have continued to lead their normal lives as parish priests in the picturesque rural Diocese of Down and Connor in Northern Ireland.

From the start, the trio imposed a limit on the number of concerts they would perform and stipulated in their contract was their insistence on not being away from their parishes for more than a few days at a time. The only exception to this in the past year has been the Priests' whistlestop trip to Australia where they performed one concert only in Sydney last May.

"On that trip we were away from our parishes for a little over a week but that was because of the distance we had to travel," explains Fr Martin O'Hagan.

For the past year the three have continued to minister to the people of their parishes, performing weddings, funerals and baptisms as well as weekly Sunday Mass and all the other duties involved in being a parish priest.

Despite being in demand worldwide and having performed for Queen Elizabeth II and other Royalty, what comes first for these three are their parishes and most days of the week you will find Fr Eugene ministering to the people of Ballgowan and Ballyclare, Fr Martin at his parish of Newtownards and Comber and Fr David, a half hour's drive away, at his parish of Hannahstown.

Their first love is their role of parish priests, they say. But music is also a passion and when they can combine the two they are delighted. For them, music is a way of evangelising and bringing people closer to God.

Singing for Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI remain two of the great moments of their lives and they love to joke that while at a seminary in Rome where they frequently sang together, they were dubbed Holy, Holy, Holy.