‘The Priests’ will be returning to the Everglades Hotel on Friday, May 26, following their sell-out show at the Derry Hotel last December.
Fr Eugene and Fr Martin O'Hagan and their friend and fellow group member Fr David Delargy became 'overnight stars' when their first eponymously named album was released nine years ago.
Their smooth blend of heaven-sent voices, along perhaps with the novelty of their religious calling, ensured that by the end of December 2008, the record was the fastest-selling debut classical album to date, turning Platinum in Ireland, the UK, Sweden, Norway and New Zealand.
The Priests donate the vast majority of their royalties to charitable causes at home and abroad.
Two further albums, 2009's Harmony and Noël in 2010, plus major performances and meetings with the great and the good have cemented the musical career of the three gentle clerics who love to share their joy of music and song with the world.
Now their fourth album, Alleluia, completed late last year is being re-released ahead of Easter, while a series of concerts in the north for this year starts on May 26 at Derry's Everglades Hotel.
Fr Eugene says of their latest recording: "When we sat to do this album we very much wanted to capture the sound of our very first album which was extremely popular. We wanted the tracks on Alleluia to be instantly recognisable to listeners but at the same time do something new for ourselves so we have a mixture of old favourites along with a new recording style.
"We have tracks like The Lord of the Dance and The Beatles' Eleanor Rigby which we all love. Without losing the musicality of the piece, we like to emphasise the words as the song is about the loneliness and isolation of many.”
Life for the priests, all of whom are in their 40s, is a lot quieter now than last year when they performed concerts at home and abroad while recording the album.
When they are not working on their musical career, all three continue to work as priests: Fr Eugene, a former parish priest in Ballyclare who's now a full time diocesan administrator working for Down & Conor, with Fr Martin and Fr David ministering as parish priests in St Patrick's Church, Newtownards and Hannahstown Parish in Belfast respectively.
While they might admire the careers of stars such as Lady Gaga and Madonna, Fr Eugene says that The Priests will always be priests who love to sing.
It was during their continuing study at the Irish College in Rome that they got their first big break by being asked to sing for Pope John Paul II during liturgy on several occasions.
Admiration of their voices quietly grew when they returned back home to take up their vocations as priests. They kept their singing alive by forming choral group Capella Caeciliana, recording four albums with them.
But it was a recording contract with Sony in 2008 which that led to their world-acclaimed debut classical album. It will be a few years yet until their proposed movie Raising the Roof, inspired by their story, will be ready for screening.
"The script is near its completion and has gone through a couple of workings, and is slightly different from the original text proposed." explains Fr Eugene. "It's loosely based on the three of us but it's not a biography. Now it's about getting the right director and the right director will attract the right investment to make it work at some time in the future."
Their longstanding friendship and mutual love of music is something that adds to their sound, he says.
"We know each other's voices so well and know each other's temperament so well and that all has a part to play in the real life concert performance as we can anticipate almost what each other is going to do," he adds.
"It's the glance or the wink or the tone of the voice which is a great assistance on stage. My dear brother and David would agree that probably of the three of us, I'm the most impish when it gets to the live performance.
"The joy of making music which is such a joyful shared experience for us all and can simply change our world."
Tickets for the show at the Everglades Hotel are available on Ticketmaster, or via the hotel reception or telephone 028 7132 1066 or email [email protected]
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