Three Catholic priests from Northern Ireland have signed a recording contract worth nearly $2 million for the music giant Sony BMG.
Fathers Eugene O’Hagan, 48, his brother Martin, 45, and their old school friend David Delargy, 44, signed the deal near the steps of Westminster Cathedral. The three men, who call their trio "The Priests," said they would donate the money made from the music to charity.
The singing trio all hold parishes in the Northern Ireland diocese of Down and Connor.
The three priests developed their musical talent at St. MacNissi’s College in County Antrim. There, they were nicknamed "Holy Holy Holy" because of their shared aspirations to become priests.
According to the Daily Telegraph, they received singing tuition while studying at the Irish College in Rome, going on to perform in the Vatican choir.
Father Eugene said the signing of the one million British pound contract was breathtaking, saying the record deal may be "God's design".
Fr Eugene describes the group as having "very Catholic tastes". The group's debut album will include parts of the Latin Mass, traditional hymns like the Ave Maria and Panis Angelicus, and a selection of opera classics.
"Singing is very much what we do," Fr David said. "This is bringing it to a wider audience. We are singing sacred music, continuing what we have always been doing."
The group has a special exemption or "rider" in their contract that will allow them to break from promotional efforts to fulfill their pastoral duties, like presiding over weddings and funerals.
Fr Martin explained the exemption, saying, “Our work means a great deal to us. We are priests first and foremost. Our work will be at the heart of our plans.”
"Obviously they won't be available for TV appearances on Sunday mornings," said Nick Raphael, the Sony BMG executive and managing director of Epic Records who negotiated the signing.
Raphael lauded the group, saying, "Their voices are incredible. I'm extremely excited. They're going to be wonderful global superstars."
"The reaction has been incredible, huge. The quality of their singing is quite scary", Raphael said.
He told the Telegraph the priests were "quite shocked by our interest but very excited. We are unaware of any other priests who have become recording artists. The closest thing we can think of was the Singing Nun back in the 1960s."
Last year the priest were "discovered" by an Irish pop musician who asked them to make a demonstration recording, which he took to Sony BMG.
The priests' forthcoming record, which is as yet unnamed, is planned for release around November.
Singing Catholic priests sign £1m recording deal with Sony (Times Online, 25/4/08)