Northern Ireland

The Priests: Singing clerics who achieved multi-platinum success to say farewell

The Down and Connor priests will take to the stage as a trio for the last time with a series of concerts

The Priests are to 'end their voyage' as a group with a series on concerts later this year. PICTURE STEVE SCHOFIELD

Three Catholic priests from Northern Ireland who have enjoyed global musical stardom are to “close the door on what has been an unexpected adventure”.

Fifty years on from their first performances as schoolboys in St MacNissi’s College in Co Antrim, The Priests have announced they are preparing to take to the stage as a trio for the last time.

The Priests
The Priests signed a record deal in 2008. PICTURE STEVE SCHOFIELD

Fr Eugene O’Hagan, Fr Martin O’Hagan and Fr David Delargy said they will “end their voyage” as a group with a series on concerts later this year.

From their first musical collaboration in 1974 at their Carnlough school, the trio became known as The Priests when in 2008 they signed a recording contract in front of Westminster Cathedral.

Their debut album, partly recorded in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and released in over 40 countries, earning them a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest selling debut album for a classical act in the UK, as well as gold and platinum discs for sales throughout Europe and Australia.

Their first three albums were each nominated as Classical Album of the Year in the Classical Brit Awards.

The Priests have also performed for Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis and the late Queen Elizabeth II.

The clerics, who have continued to serve as full-time priests in the Diocese of Down and Connor, said they believed their impending 50th anniversary was an appropriate time to say farewell to performing as a group.

The Priests recording at the Vatican
The Priests recording at the Vatican

Fr Eugene said: “When we signed our recording contract in 2008, we had a line put in it that said our music career would never encroach on our diocesan work.

“As times change, and we get a little older, this is becoming more and more difficult to coordinate.

“Our 50th anniversary seems the right time to step back from performing live as a group.

“These concerts will be a chance to express our heartfelt thanks to the very many people who have supported and encouraged us on our musical journey over the years.”

Fr Martin said they “have had the time of our lives, it has been a dream come true”.

“But alas, all dreams must come to an end,” he said.

Fr David added: “It has been the most unexpected of journeys, an experience we will never forget, with many highlights too numerous to mention.

“There is no doubt we will never stop singing, and we remain lifelong friends, but The Priests as a musical group, will end their voyage here”.

The priests said they are “incredibly grateful to the unfailing support and encouragement they have received from the bishops and priests in Down and Connor Diocese and of the parishioners in those parishes where they have served over the years”.

The Priests
Steve Schofield
The clerics have continued to be full-time priests in the Diocese of Down and Connor. PICTURE STEVE SCHOFIELD

Income from music sales and concerts has funded their charitable trust, The Priests’ Foundation, to build schools in Cambodia, Uganda and Thailand.

It also used been used to look after retired priests, homeless and supply schools with music apparatus.

Tickets for the concerts in Armagh, Ballymena, Derry, Belfast and Balbriggan, are on sale on Ticketmaster.