Three Northern Irish priests will don their collars Wednesday, reverently walk on stage at the historic Orpheum Theatre and sing. This trio of two tenors and a baritone known as The Priests made history with their 2008 release – the fastest-selling classical debut album in history. Not wanting to leave their Belfast parishes for long, the three fathers are selective in both time and venue. On Wednesday, they head to Wichita.
“The more we give of ourselves, the more special it is to the audience,” said the Rev. David Delargy. “This is part of our priestly ministry.”
Delargy will be joined on stage by two brothers who are also priests, the Revs. Martin and Eugene O’Hagan. The trio will perform works by Franz Schubert, Cesar Franck and Karl Jenkins. Along with classical sacred tunes, the fathers will sing “O Holy Night,” “Silent Night” and other Christmas favorites.
The fathers hope that their gift of song will uplift the audience.
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“You (the audience) come to have your heart and spirit uplifted,” Eugene O’Hagan said. “The songs we sing hopefully touch people’s hearts. We are not on a mission to convert anyone.”
The three men, now middle aged, grew up in Belfast during a time of fear and strife. They soon realized that music became the bridge between cultures.
“Music was one of the few things that brought people together in a safe manner,” O’Hagan said as he spoke of Northern Ireland.
The two brothers, both tenors, met David, a baritone, at parochial school in Belfast. Although all three knew their heart belonged to God, they also realized early on that music was one of their gifts. After attending seminary at the Vatican, the three went on to become priests, but each of them continued to sing.
“By a kind fortune and providence I combine my love of music with my priesthood,” O’Hagan said. “Music enriches the mind and opens the heart.”
O’Hagan has dabbled in opera, musicals and choirs.
After their overnight success, the fathers realized that they not only created an opportunity to bring joy to their audiences around the globe but to help educate, feed and clothe children in Cambodia, Thailand and Zambia.
And as Delargy noted, because Jesus helped cure the lame and the blind, the fathers use some of their profits to help blind individuals in Northern Ireland. They not only give to Catholic charities, but to charities of all kinds.
Like with their charity work, the priest’s audiences cross all racial and denominational lines. They have shared the stage with Pope Benedict, performed for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip and will soon be spreading Christmas cheer at the Belfast waterfront.
“It’s music for everybody,” Delargy said. “While we are three Catholic priests, this is music for all people.”
Delargy said he was thrilled when Prince Charles and Camilla asked to meet the group. But he is just as excited about meeting audience members in Toronto, New Orleans and Wichita.
“There’s beauty in the music,” Delargy said. “We hope everyone is touched by it.”