Singing priest Father Ray Kelly before his YouTube fame (VIDEOS)

Singing priest Fr. Ray Kelly sings "New York, New York" at a talent competition in 1993.

Father Ray Kelly shot to stardom with his surprise rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” now viewed close to 33 million times on YouTube. He has a New York concert and meetings with record companies lined up in the very near future.

His new fans are, of course, very excited, but his oldest fans from his local parish are saying it’s about time. The singing priest didn’t just start singing yesterday, after all!

Fr. Kelly, who will be celebrating his 25th year in the priesthood this year, has been a local treasure for decades.

A new video of a young Fr. Kelly bringing down the house at a 1993 talent show has emerged. (Thanks to Francis Dunne.)

“Tonight, from Tyrrelspass, County Westmeath, we have Fr. Ray Kelly. Here he is!” the emcee announces, and the crowd goes wild. Please note the color-changing bubble lamp in the background.

Watch below for his exceptionally soulful performances of “Summertime” and “Wind Beneath My Wings,” and a rollicking rendition of “New York, New York,” before which he assures the audience, “If you feel like clapping your hands and stomping your feet, or rattling your false teeth, or shaking your jewelry or your handbags, you go ahead!”

We hope he’ll be bringing those dance moves and that stage banter with him to New York on May 13!

While Fr. Kelly has definitely made the wedding “Hallelujah” his own, he didn’t pen the altered lyrics. As he shared with Ryan Tubridy on the “Late Late Show,” credit for the lyrics goes to a young girl named Lucy O’Connor from Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh. She wrote them at just 10 years of age for a relative’s wedding in 2010, over which Fr. Kelly officiated.

This next video shows Fr. Kelly at the wedding while Lucy sings her “Hallelujah” rendition.

Right after Fr. Kelly’s video went viral, IrishCentral learned that he is known to put on an exceptionally good Christmas mass at his parish in Oldcastle, Co. Meath. Here’s a video of him singing “Oh Holy Night” just this past Christmas at his annual benefit concert for local charities. The church will probably be standing room only next year. (Hat-tip to Paul Connors.)

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