When The Priests embark on their North American tour this month, they will have something absent from their previous visit: the tour bus experience.
“This will be a novel experience for us being out on the tour bus,” Rev. David Delargy said. “We’re kind of looking forward to it, but with a certain degree of trepidation to what it might involve. Whether we’re going to get cabin fever in the coach and whether somebody snores and keeps everybody else awake. That kind of thing. The gloss could wear off fairly quickly if you weren’t getting a good night sleep. So we’ll just have to wait and see.”
With many of the cities they are visiting within driving distance, they will not have to fly each location as they did last year — a schedule that left them exhausted, he said. This year the classical music trio — comprised of Roman Catholic priests Delargy and Revs. Eugene and Martin O’Hagan, who are brothers — will visit 18 cities in the United States and Canada. They kick off their tour with a performance Nov. 9 at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet.
The record-setting group will perform a lot of the favorite, sacred music pieces that people would be very familiar with, and also a little bit of Irish music, musical theater selections and contemporary music, Delargy said by phone from Northern Ireland.
“And some surprises along the way. We’re doing some music that people might think ‘Oh, I didn’t expect to hear The Priests sing that,’” he said. “But I’m not going to give the secret away. I’ll let the surprise be a surprise.”
Surprise is the emotion Delargy said they felt five years ago. The three, who have known each other since 1974 and sang together in school and community choir groups, signed a record deal in 2008.
“It certainly brought a lot of changes over the last five years. It came so unexpectedly, the opportunity to record and travel,” Delargy said. “We hadn’t been seeking that opportunity, it kind of came to us. We were in the right place at the right time.”
Their debut album, “The Priests,” set the Guinness World Record for the fastest selling UK debut for a classical act. The album, which was partially recorded inside St. Peter’s Basilica, also went platinum and gold in several countries.
The response, Delargy said, was “way beyond any hopes or expectations that we might have had. And it’s taken us, and everybody else, I suppose, by surprise.”
Delargy and Martin O’Hagan, both 50, and Eugene O’Hagan, 54, had to be careful before making a commitment to a record label, Delargy said. After all, they still have to fulfill their duties to their respective churches and the Diocese of Down and Connor.
“Because we have already got our commitments and our obligations and our responsibilities here at home in our parishes and in the diocese. We couldn’t simply run off with the band, you know,” he said. “We had to be very careful of what we could and couldn’t commit to. After a lot of thought we hope we have found the right balance at least, for us, that allows us to continue to be priests working full-time in our diocese, and yet to take some time off during the year to take our music to a wider audience.”
They followed up the success of their first album with 2009’s “Harmony” and the Christmas album “Noel” in 2010, as well as a tour. Proceeds from the album sales are placed in The Priests Charitable Trust, which provides grants to organizations including those for the homeless and blind, along with education programs in Uganda, Cambodia and Thailand.
“People who are supporting us and supporting The Priests through our music and so on are contributing in some way to improve other people’s lives,” Delargy said.
Delargy said with The Priests success, he has “come to appreciate more fully how music, particularly sacred music, is a valid and effective form of ministry that’s very compatible with our identity, our role, our ministry, our lives as priests.
“I guess it’s a way of proclaiming some good news for people through a musical medium,” he said. “It’s a different medium, but the same message by and large.”
He calls it a way of spreading the Gospel “in the most gentle and non-threatening way.”
And also spreading a little bit of hope and joy and goodness into people’s lives.
“Going by our experiences over the last five years, there is a hunger for that,” he said.