Last Saturday at the Holland Performing Arts Center was a rare experience for area music lovers, The Priests made their Omaha debut to a full audience in the Kiewit Concert Hall.Members of this group are three Irish priests who began to sing together about forty years ago when they were in school together. For the past four years Frs. Martin O'Hagan, Eugene O'Hagan, and David Delargy have joined to share their musical gifts with the world. Although well-known in Europe and Australia, this was their first exposure to America with Omaha being their last stop before returning to Ireland.
The first part of the program featured classically religious music such as "How Great Thou Art", Schubert's "Ave Maria", Franck's "Panis Angelicus", Karl Jenkins' “Ave Verum” and Vivaldi's "Laudamus Te". A new selection which was written by a friend of the three, "Ring Out Your Praise" was sung and enthusiastically received. The second half of the program focused on Christmas favorites including "O Holy Night" as well as "Silent Night" which unquestionably showcased how well these three voices beautifully blended into one and even a few secular selections such as "White Christmas" and "Silver Bells".
What makes The Priests special is their beautifully blended voices. Even though each voice has its own personal texture in tonal quality, together these voices blended as one with perfect diction, unified breathing, and artistic expression.
Also singing was Council Bluffs' resident and U.N.O. professor, Shelby VanNordstrand. She sang four selections focusing on her outstanding talents as a leading soprano in this metropolitan area.Accompanying both were Keith Plenert and Jeffrey King playing violins, Thomas Kluge with viola, Gregory Clinton playing cello, and Stacie Haneline on keyboard with The Priests' musical director playing the piano. Alone, this group played "Nocturne" which won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1995 by Secret Garden. This selection was wonderfully hypnotic.
Part of the formula that made their songs so outstanding were the written arrangements and the musicians who were the background foundation. These arrangements were a little unusual in that the two violin parts did not just harmonize with each other, but actually were playing counterpoint to each other and to the singers. This created more depth and interest with each selection.
The Priests presented a program of music featuring those well-loved songs of the classical religious tradition mixed with the Christmas melodies of old.