Some 40 years ago, three boys from Northern Ireland met, became mates, and began to sing together. Two were brothers: Eugene and Martin O’Hagan, and the other, a friend: David Delargy. As fate would have it, all three decided to enter the priesthood and wound up at the same seminary, where they continued to blend their tenor and baritone voices together, singing familiar hymns of the Catholic Church.
A mutual friend recorded a demo of the trio which eventually landed in the hands of Nick Raphael of Epic Records, a division of Sony/BMG; he had been looking for soloists for a Latin Mass project. They were signed immediately and commissioned to produce their debut album, The Priests.
As The Priests is being released during the Christmas season, this project could easily be dismissed as a Christmas album, to be put away after the holidays are over. Doing that would be a supreme waste. This collection of beautiful traditional hymns and classical pieces from the likes of Hayden and Vivaldi is meant to be heard year round, to soothe the troubled spirit and feed the hungry soul.
If you’re looking for The Three Tenors, you won’t find them here. The voices, although not remarkable in a technical sense, are still remarkable because of the purity, warmth and authenticity they convey. Several of the performances are blissfully understated, missing the histrionics of dramatic high notes and other theatrics. These three priests are not here to show off how well they sing, but to instead convey their prayerful love of God and their combined ministries as priests and music ministers.
Classic hymns such as Shubert’s “Ave Maria,” “Panis Angelicus,” “Be Still My Soul” and “Abide with Me” combine with great classical arias by Hayden and Vivaldi, and traditional Irish tracks and blessings. Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “Pie Jesu” was especially moving, as well as a newer piece, “Benedictus.” There are also two Spanish pieces included in the 14-song collection.
Father Eugene has included extensive notes for each track of the album in the CD pullout. If you’re tempted to simply go to iTunes to download mp3s, think again. These notes explain the lyrics, the history, and The Priests’ personal connections to each song. They greatly enhanced my listening pleasure, knowing what these songs meant to these 3 men of the cloth.
The Priests is an important work released at a critical time of uncertainty about the future. It works to convey a much-needed positive image of priests who are here to serve God and those who are searching for faith in their lives. If you need a break from the deluge of fear-filled and depressing news stories of the day, turn to this album for comfort.
The Priests is a CD you will listen to again and again. Fathers Eugene, Martin and David are priests you will want to know more about. Their stories are compelling.