Not since I first heard the Voice Squad’s spine tingling harmonies during the 1980s have I been as captivated by any group’s vocal talents – until I first heard The Priests last year. Their full, melodic blend of voices blew me away.
Except for the odd Liona Boyd or John Williams classical guitar album I rarely listen to classical music, and never sacred music. But I was so impressed by their voices that I bought their cd – and listened to every track.
The Priests release their second album, Harmony, today and I’m equally wowed by it. For this album, as well as singing magnificently, they’ve also tried their hands at composing. So how did that turn out? When I recently spoke with Fr David, 46, he seemed pleased with the result as well as eager to get audience reactions to the album. He said, “It was very much a collaborative effort by all three of us and, I think, we are all very happy with the end result. You know, it’s our first attempt and, I suppose, we are nervously awaiting the critical reviews. But we like it anyway. It fits well with the album.”
The words for their song, King of Kings, were taken from a prayer written in poem form by the Donegal saint, St Columba. The trio liked the words of the poem and believe the sentiments it expresses. Fr David explained that the song’s theme is that no matter what difficulties anyone experiences “…we’re in God’s hands…We’re not just at the mercy of fate or destiny”.
They set the words of the prayer to the melody and chorus they’d written and the song was born. Fr David continued, “It starts off quite gently and moves to a fairly uplifting and rousing chorus that, I think, is an anthem.”
So, will they have another go at composing in future? “Why not?” Fr David said, without hesitation. “It shows we can do it. We’d never done it before and we thought, Will we be able to compose? Can we do that? And we came up with something and we’re happy with it. So why not have another go?”
Maybe next time they might pen the lyrics too as they have a wordsmith in the group. When he gets a free moment Fr Martin, 46, writes a bit of poetry. He said, “I find poetry is a great means of putting down on paper what may be going on in your life. And trying to craft words that somehow capture that moment in time and perhaps the message is caught and fixed and you can go back to that…I love playing around with words and somehow put down on paper what’s happening in my own life…My poetry I tend to write reflects my mood or my journey.”
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to the album they’ve just released. Fr Eugene, 50, describes Harmony as an eclectic mix of classical and sacred music. It includes old favourites such as How Great Thou Art and Amazing Grace as well as the emotionally gripping, You’ll Never Walk Alone. My favourite tracks are their own song, King of Kings, and the beautiful Gaelic Blessing. Both display the trio’s wonderful vocal harmonies that first captivated me combined with lovely melodies.
When describing the album to me Fr Eugene said, “We’re quite happy with the sound now and hoping people who hear it will like it.” Well, I certainly do. And now, during the manic melee and mounting tensions in the run up to Christmas, I think I’ll just sit back and enjoy a bit of Harmony.
If you’d like to hear more about the Priests and their new album, articles based on my interview with them will appear in Ireland’s Own magazine (on the newsstands today) and Senior Times magazine (on the newsstands the first week of December).