Linda Kenny tells Colette Sheridan about her upcoming singalong show of classic hymns.
A night of nostalgia and beautiful singing is how soprano Linda Kenny describes her forthcoming concert, Alleluia, at the Everyman in Cork. The concert, which also features tenor Ryan Morgan, with musical arrangements by director Cathal McCabe, will comprise familiar hymns such as ‘We Stand for God’, ‘Faith of Our Fathers’ and ‘Hail Queen of Heaven’.
Like the Sunday Songbook that Kenny regularly performs at the Everyman, the audience will be invited to sing along at the concert with the words of the hymns projected onto the stage.
Kenny has been thinking about the idea for Alleluia for about five years. “Since we started working on this, I’ve heard that several concerts with sacred themes are going on around the country. The Welsh tenor, Aled Jones has brought out an album of sacred music.”
Also, this year is the 20th anniversary of the best-selling album, Faith of Our Fathers.
“Our unique selling point is that we’re concentrating on those hymns that were part and parcel of the church. They’re hymns that appeal to everyone and bring up memories, transporting you to your childhood. I’ve always loved old hymns and congregational singing. Memories evoked by these hymns include the smell of incense.”
Kenny observes that life has become so complicated. “We’re assailed every day in the media by so much negativity. Maybe the whole renewed interest in sacred singing is a yearning for a simpler time.
"It’s a coincidence that we’re doing the concert on the 20th anniversary of the Faith of Our Fathers album which was such a phenomenon.”
The concert will include a little narrative with uplifting quotes from John O’Donoghue (author of Anam Cara), Barack Obama and Mother Teresa.
Kenny says that in her church in Innishannon, the local choir is a big draw.
“On the Sundays when we don’t have the choir, Fr Finbar Crowley leads the congregation, starting off with just one line before everyone joins in. Irish people have a penchant for singing and I think it all dates back to being in church.
"My nine year old son, Calum, who would have no knowledge of the old hymns because he’s learning modern ones at school, is now singing ‘The Bells of the Angelus’ and ‘As I Kneel Before You’, simply because he has absorbed them almost by osmosis.”
For author and Innishannon native, Alice Taylor, the old hymns evoke memories of her childhood. “My job every Saturday night, from the moment I was able, was to polish the shoes for the entire family before Mass. Children love ceremony and ritual and there was a great sense of occasion about Mass, the dressing up, the processions, the singing. It linked us back along.”
Bucking the national trend, Kenny says there seems to be an increase in the amount of people attending Sunday Mass in her local church. “It’s like what I grew up with. Obviously, everyone went to Mass back then. There was a sense of obligation about it. But there was also a comfort in that routine. I particularly loved the Easter ceremonies, the sacredness of it all.”
‘Queen of the May’ has a special resonance for Kenny. It was the hymn her maternal grandmother loved.
“She passed away, too early, at the age of 56 and for decades, my mother would leave the church in tears when it was sung. Even now, thinking of it makes me emotional for my grandmother whom I never met and for my mum who loved her so much. It links all three generations of us women together and I will sing it proudly for us all.”
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