Global Gospel Spotlight on the Dublin Gospel Choir
Gospel music’s popularity is spreading around the globe. While we know this to be true, it was still a surprise to receive an email from Mary Cardiff of the Dublin Gospel Choir. Mary’s email introduced Detroit Gospel.com to the music of the Dublin Gospel Choir, which is based on contemporary Gospel music and delivered with style, energy and enthusiasm. The Choir, established in 2002, is now a leading group in their native Ireland. Best known for their “Nights of Soul” (a series of evenings of Gospel held throughout Ireland), they have recorded a CD by that name and have hopes of touring the U.S. and learning from gospel choirs and musicians around the world.
Brother Richard Hendrick is a Priest Friar of the Capuchin Franciscan Order and a co-founder of the Dublin Gospel Choir. He has been working with young people through Gospel Music for the past ten years.
In the Dublin Gospel Choir’s promotional material, Brother Richard writes:
“A Gospel Choir! In Ireland! Are you joking? That was the response I met almost ten years ago when I first began to be involved with Gospel Music in Dublin…But as an explosion of Gospel Music takes our country by storm it seems to be an idea whose time has come.”
Detroit Gospel.com was more than a little curious about the Dublin Gospel Choir and how it got its start. The following is our e-mail interview with Brother Richard:
DG.com: In the U.S., “Gospel music” has traditionally been the genre of black artists while “Christian Contemporary” has been the genre of white artists. More and more the lines are blurring, as artists such as Crystal Lewis, Martha Munizzi, and CeCe Winans transcend racial boundaries and simply sing beautifully (in whatever genre) to the glory of God. From the samples on the Dublin Gospel Choir website, it is clear that the choir is also transcending traditional racial boundaries and ministering through true gospel music to Ireland. How did the Dublin Gospel Choir get started doing gospel music and is gospel music growing in Ireland?
Dublin Gospel Choir: We started over two years ago in the Franciscan-run inner-city Church of St. Mary of the Angels, building on the foundation of an earlier choir, The St. Mary of the Angels Gospel Choir that had run for nearly eight years. It was Ireland’s first Gospel Choir. We really became aware of Gospel through the “Sister Act” movies, which interestingly situated Black Gospel Music in a Catholic context, (Monks and Nuns!). The local young people asked for this kind of music, as they were bored with the more traditional Christian music they were hearing in Church. Gospel sounded to them far more like the music they were listening to anyway, (Soul, R&B, Hip -Hop) so they could identify with praising God in this way. This has led to an explosion of Gospel Choirs in Ireland. Gospel, in its emergence from the Black community’s often tragic history in the USA, also strikes an historical and cultural chord with the Irish in that our history was one of domination and oppression until quite recently.
DG.com: Who were the founders of the choir and how were they led to start the choir?
Dublin Gospel Choir: The Choir was founded by five people. Brother Richard, a Capuchin Franciscan Monk (Pastor to the DGC and one of the founders of the original Choir), Ms. Fran Douglas our Musical Director, Ms. Sharon Murphy, Mr. John Crofton and Ms. Orla McGowan, all of whom had been members of the original Choir’s management, who were determined not to let the inspiration of the original choir die, and also felt ready to take Gospel music in Ireland to the next level, trying to reach as many people as possible with our music.
DG.com: Does the Dublin Gospel Choir look to any particular gospel artists for inspiration?
Dublin Gospel Choir: While singing across the full range of Gospel, we are most influenced by some of the most contemporary artists around today: Kirk Franklin, Fred Hammond, Hezekiah Walker, and Donnie McClurkin. In Europe we have received huge support from Bazil Meade of the London Community Gospel Choir.
[Editor’s Note: look for DG.com’s interview with Bazil Meade coming soon.]
DG.com: To whom does the Dublin Gospel Choir hope to reach through its music?
Dublin Gospel Choir: All people! Of any faith (and none) who are open to the message behind the music. We believe that Gospel Music is a way of proclaiming the message that doesn’t have to be confined to Church, but which can reach out, especially to young people, right where they are in all the troubles of their lives. After all that’s where Jesus is!
Editor’s Note: Detroit Gospel.com would like to thank the Dublin Gospel Choir for contacting us and letting us know about their unique and inspiring ministry. It is our hope that we can work together to share the joy of Gospel Music with the world.
More from Brother Richard (taken from Dublin Gospel Choir promotional materials):
PAX ET BONUM! Peace and Joy! This is the motto of the Franciscan Order. And according to St. Francis these should be the effects of the Gospel in our lives when it is preached from the heart. Since the beginning of the Dublin Gospel Choir I have seen an outbreak of Pax et Bonum wherever the choir have gone. At a time when Christian witness is weakened hugely in Ireland the Choir have packed out Churches with crowds of young people anxious to hear the message of Gospel Peace and Joy they make so alive through their music. The secret of Gospel’s appeal is simple. It speaks straight to the heart and it caries the message of triumph of faith over doubt and love over hate. It’s a message that needs to be heard now more than ever.
The greatest joy of my life as a Capuchin Franciscan Friar is to be associated with the DGC and to have the great privilege of being both a servant to them and a preacher with them. Of course Gospel Music doesn’t just affect those who hear it! Those who sing it are just as open to being changed by its spirit and it has been wonderful to watch and support the DGC as its members grow and mature in faith and love through their encounter with Gospel.
In the 1200’s St. Francis found a new way to preach the Gospel to the people of his time. In a world that was in chaos he sang of peace and joy and asked his Brothers to do the same. Inspired by St. Francis the DGC still sing the song of Gospel Peace and Joy all we ask is that you open your heart to the message here tonight!
Peace to you!
Excerpt from Note Written by Fran Douglas, Musical Director (taken from DGC promotional materials):
Up to about 5 years ago, I would have told anyone who asked me, that I loved all kinds of music, and had no favourites. And then I joined a gospel choir. As the Reverend says in “Fighting Temptations,” “Once you go Gospel, you can never go back!” How true. Gospel music has been a powerful source for direction, inspiration, courage, love and laughter in my life ever since that day. It has brought me some of my closest friends, and has taught me so much about myself. It has challenged me to be a better person, to fight for what I believe, to judge no-one, to be what I sing about and in my darker hors, it kept me sane. In short, it has become my life.
<a ” name=”Highlights”>Some highlights for the Dublin Gospel Choir over the last year have been:
- Several television and radio appearances, including the “Late, Late Show” with the “Hot House Flowers” on whose latest album the Choir provided all the backing vocals.
- Performed with the “Hot House Flowers” at major Dublin music stores during the launch of their CD and also backed them in the Olympia Theatre, Dublin.
- Performed at the closing gala concert for the Special Olympics at Croke Park
- Release of first CD, “Nights of Soul”
- Headline group at Ireland’s first ever Gospel Festival.
- Provided backing for London Community Gospel Choir during their sellout Dublin season.
To find out more about the Dublin Gospel Choir, to listen to CD tracks, or to purchase their “Nights of Soul” CD go to their website at:
“Nights of Soul” CD Tracks
- Lean On Me [Franklin-Bucks Music Ltd]
- Unconditional [Halkins/Franklin-Bucks Music Ltd]
- Our Father [Fran Douglas]
- Jesus, O What A Wonderful Child [Carey/Afanasieff/Holland-Sony/ATV Publishing UK]
- Happy Day [Rimbault/Doddridge/Arr Hawkins-EMI Partnership Ltd]
Produced by Gerry Culloty
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