I've been reading here and there about The Priests from the time of their signing on the steps of Westminster Cathedral until the release of their little cd (What I didn't read about was their free concert in Toronto at St Paul's Basilica until the day after the concert- grrr.) and I thought I might say a few words here and there about them.
I bought a copy of their cd, and it is a pleasant if safe listening experience. It has many of the old favourites done by these three Irish priests, along with orchestral backup and a large choir. I find this to be a fault, as the voices of the three stars often get lost in the accompaniment. I find the three men to be good singers, but where they excel is in their ability to blend with each other. There are no tracks on the album that really showcase this ability, but there is this video from Youtube showing the three men going straight acapella. The recording is not the best, but even so their blend come through very well.
As I said, the cd follows some well trodden ground, and really does little that is new. This was to be expected, as the Priests were paid one million pounds by SONY. For that kind of money the album had to sell well, and therefore no chances were to be taken. Safety was the order of the day.
Apparently SONY was looking for a singing priest act when they came across these three, and immediately changed their plans. My question is, why were they looking for a priest act? Perhaps they were hoping for a more low-maintenance superstar? In that case they have a little problem: the contract for the three of them stipulates that they are, first and foremost, priests, and their touring and promotion of the album is not to interfere with their priestly duties. How they intend to manage that juggling act I don't know. Another reason that has been suggested is that SONY hopes the people who listen to religious or 'spiritual' music will be less likely to illegally download pirated versions and will actually pay for the music to which they listen. If that is the case and the priests are successful, we may hope to see other albums of this ilk in the future.
I commented over at Purcell on Louise's remark that these priests are great singers. I agree they are an excellent trio, but I also wonder if these singers are great priests. I hope so. I can't imagine that SONY did not do some background checks on the trio to make sure there were no small ticking packages hidden away in the past before handing over a million pounds to the men. but with three men of the cloth once again in the limelight, you can bet there will be much digging in the dirt, looking for muck to sling.
If this album sparks any comment in the Great Church Music Debate, it will be to prove the point of each side. For those who long for a return to Latin music and the older hymns, this cd proves that this is what the people long for, and what they yearn to hear, and wonder why isn't this stuff more available at Mass? For those who are against such a return, the album proves that the true place for such music is on cd's and in the concert hall. In that respect little will change as a result of this album.
I hope to hear more from these priests. I hope that another album is in store, and perhaps they will take a chance or two on it, perhaps some acapella, or minimal accompaniment. I would like to see that.