November 13, 2008 / 5:37 PM / 10 years ago

Northern Irish singing priests to lift spirits with new CD

DUBLIN (Reuters Life!) - Satisfying the whims of celebrity artists became less of a task for one British music producer after signing up three Northern Irish priests of great talent but very modest needs.

Father Eugene O'Hagan, Father Martin O'Hagan and Father David Delargy (L-R) are seen singing as they pose for the photographer in St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh, Northern Ireland in this September 9, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Michael Cooper

The priests have become celebrities after their “million-dollar” music contract grabbed headlines, and they will finally see their album debut in 30-odd countries around the world next week, from the Philippines to Brazil.

Sony BMG hope the names Eugene O’Hagan, Martin O’Hagan and David Delargy — and the title “The Priests” — will one day be spoken in the same breath as earlier stars Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash or Celine Dion.

A video of the priests performing remained the most popular clip on YouTube for several weeks, according to Irish media.

Yet success may be where the similarity with the likes of Michael Jackson or U2 ends, said Nick Raphael, UK managing director of Sony’s Epic Records label.

“Some artists (complain): why didn’t we get a flight on a better class, why didn’t get a better hotel,” he said.

“These guys, anything you do they thank you for afterwards,” Raphael told Reuters. They appreciate every nuance you do. ‘God willing’, ‘God willing’, things like that ..., it’s never oh, you’re taken for granted.”

The priests point out that Sony’s 1 million pound ($1.55 million) investment includes the cost of organizing concerts, PR and recording, and that a portion of the royalties they earn will go to charity.

“People read a newspaper headline and they say priests sign a million pounds contract but that has nothing to do with us,” Delargy, 45, said.

The priests agreed to work for Sony on the condition that the recording or promotional activities don’t substantially interfere with their regular parish work.

“It’s funny when we’re back into our parishes after people would read this headline in the newspaper, people then think we’re very rich,” Delargy told Reuters in a joint interview with the O’Hagan brothers.

The album features “spiritually inspired” tracks such as Ave Maria and Panis Angelicus, as well as classical arias and traditional Irish tracks and blessings and was recorded in Ireland and the St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

The three performers hope the CD will encourage some men to consider priesthood as a vocation or at least raise the profile of the church in what they see as an increasingly agnostic and materialistic world. And it should cheer people up.

“Through the songs we sing we can hopefully lift people’s spirits,” Eugene O’Hagan, 49, said.

The three men may agree to work on a further album, but of course their stringent demands would still have to be met.

“Maybe a little bottle of water would be nice to keep the throat lubricated,” Delargy told the Irish Examiner newspaper this week.

“And if we’re really pushing the boat out, maybe sparkling water,” Eugene O’Hagan added.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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