Sunday 4 December 2016

It's 'Sister Act 4' as choir gets parishioners in the gospel habit

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

Published 14/11/2011 | 05:00

Brendan Keeley, founder of Tullamore Gospel Choir, shares the mic with Charley Moore after she wanders to the front
of the church in Tullamore, Co Offaly
Brendan Keeley, founder of Tullamore Gospel Choir, shares the mic with Charley Moore after she wanders to the front of the church in Tullamore, Co Offaly

A GOSPEL choir inspired by the movie 'Sister Act' is boosting Mass attendances for a midlands church.

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Parishioners aged between seven and 70 are keeping the faith by singing their hearts out in their local church as members of the Tullamore Gospel Choir.

Some of the choir members hadn't been inside the Church of the Assumption in Tullamore for years, but nowadays, they can't be kept away.

The group launched a new album in Tullamore, Co Offaly, last night, entitled 'When God Made Me'. It's their second album, and it features 10 songs -- seven of which are penned by the choir's own musical director, Brendan Keeley.

Choir member Geraldine Grennan said the idea for the group first came about when young people approached then parish priest, Fr Willie Cleary, and said: "Wouldn't it be great if Mass was like Sister Act?"

Mr Keeley travelled to schools throughout Tullamore and workshops were held to encourage adults to join.

The Tullamore Gospel Choir was born in 2003 and today it boasts the biggest membership in the country, with over 70 involved and a waiting list of 40.

The biggest crowd to attend a single Mass in the history of the parish -- more than 3,500 people -- was there for the choir's first public performance on Easter Sunday, 2003. Since then, there's been a steady increase in Mass attendances.

"When we started, we had a girl who joined the choir who hadn't been at Mass in 10 years. Our joke was that she was in it more with the choir than she had ever been," said Ms Grennan.

The choir singers are "no Holy Joes", but Ms Grennan said they try to bring meaning to the liturgy.

Although their renditions of popular artists are not allowed at Mass, they put special significance into the prayers with their performances.

Ms Grennan works part-time and finds it a "monumental struggle" to go to choir practice at times.

"But the fun and friendship and the craic is brilliant once you get there, I absolutely love it. You're walking on air when you come out," she said.

Irish Independent

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