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Ireland and beyond

Music | Faith of Our Fathers celebrates a religious heritage

Issue: "Northern light," Sept. 20, 2008

In January 1997, some of Ireland's finest musicians and singers-from operatic soloists to chanting monks and a children's choir-gathered at the Point Theatre in Dublin to celebrate Ireland's Catholic heritage. In the ensuing decade the results have gone on to become bestsellers in both audio and video formats.

The latest DVD edition, Faith of Our Fathers: Classic Religious Anthems of Ireland (Enigma Ireland Video), has already begun racking up positive customer reviews at various online stores, many of which begin something like, "As someone of Irish-Catholic descent myself. . . ."

Such endorsements might understandably leave those with a different faith and different fathers thinking that the 78-minute production might leave them cold. And it might. If it's the rare non-Irishman who can take vicarious pride in "Hail Glorious St. Patrick," it's the even rarer Protestant who can take vicarious spiritual succor from "Salve Regina," "Ave Maria," and "Regina Coeli." And the three Gaelic songs could've used English subtitles.

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Those objections aside, however, there is much about Faith of Our Fathers that transcends both nationality and denomination. The camera work, for instance, while hardly imaginative even by 1997 standards, is never less than competent in its capturing of the event's elegance, and the singing ranges from charming (the younger performers) to breathtaking (Regina Nathan, the late Frank Patterson).

But what will most strike the contemporary American viewer is the very nature of the proceedings themselves. At a time when to describe America as a Christian, or even a Judeo-Christian, nation is enough to induce salivation among ACLU members, the spectacle of seeing a country unapologetically celebrating its religious heritage with songs such as "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name," "Sweet Heart of Jesus," and "We Stand for God" is akin to watching a lost episode of The Twilight Zone.


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