Tuesday 6 December 2016

Irishman's homeless choir to sing for Obama and family at White House

David Kearns

Published 26/11/2015 | 10:21

The Atlanta Homeward Choir will sing at the White House Open Night event in December 21 Credit: Atlanta Homeward Choir
The Atlanta Homeward Choir will sing at the White House Open Night event in December 21 Credit: Atlanta Homeward Choir

A homeless choir founded by an Irishman living in the United States has been invited to sing for President Obama and his family at the White House this Christmas.

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Donal Noonan, from Kilcock County Kildare, said he received the invitation just a few weeks ago after he joked earlier this year that the White House would be the only way to top the group’s most recent performance.

“During our last concert season, I jokingly said the ‘singing at the White House’ when someone asked how we’d top it,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“Little did I think that it would come true… a very good friend of mine who works in the area of civil rights got in touch with our congressman here in Atlanta who got us in touch with the White House.”

Mr Noonan, who started the Atlanta’s Homeward Choir three years ago, said that there had been months of silence following the earlier discussions, and that the arrival of the invitation had come as a “big surprise”.

““Honestly to god, it was amazing,” he said.

“It was crickets for a few months then all of a sudden we got this invitation in the post.

“I nearly died with shock,” he added.

The Atlanta’s Homeward Choir has 26 members from the city’s Central Night Shelter and was founded by Mr Noonan as “a way to get these men in from the cold”.

The choir, supported by two Atlanta churches, is now raising funds to cover the cost of the trip to the White House on December 21.

So far $10,000 has been collected, and on Wednesday the group announced that Southwest Airlines had pleaded to provide complimentary round trip tickets to the entire choir.

The group has 26 members now Credit: Atlanta Homeward Choir
The group has 26 members now Credit: Atlanta Homeward Choir

“When we started, the choir was met with a lot of scepticism but the guys came in and gave it a ago we found out they were having a laugh and were actually pretty good,” Mr Noonan said.

“It has been all about introducing these people again to the community.

“These guys live very solitary lives - often when a homeless person living in the shelter in here leaves in the morning, they will have spoken to no one else by the time they come back at night.”

The choir practises in the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta, a church that was protected from destruction during the American Civil War by the actions of a Cavan-born priest, Fr Thomas O'Reilly, which now offers shelter each night to 40 homeless men.

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