I’m not sure I’d want to have a slow dance to Father Ray Kelly’s rendition of the Leonard Cohen classic “Hallelujah.” That’s not a comment on his singing -- it’s because I have memories of worried nuns telling us to keep our distance and “leave room for the Holy Spirit” as we slow jammed to “Stairway to Heaven.”
But Kelly, whose parish is in Oldcastle, Co. Meath, is fortunate to have legions of fans around the world, thanks to the viral video, “Original Big surprise for Bride and Groom...Chris and Leah O'Kane.”
The video has had 40 million views to date, which makes Kelly a bona fide internet sensation.
Now his U.S. fans will be able to savor his near-perfect pitch when his debut album, Where I Belong is released in the U.S. on March 9. The album has something for everyone (except, perhaps, Led Zeppelin fans). Billboard.com describes it as “a mix of originals, covers, Celtic songs and church hymns.”
The singing priest is weighing a U.S. promotional tour in the spring to support the album.
“I’m fortunate that my bishop has supported everything I do,” Kelly told Billboard. “It’s comforting to know that the people in my parish wouldn’t be without a priest.”
Among the songs on the album are Irish classics like “Danny Boy” plus covers of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” and Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.”
I am happy to report that “Hallelujah” -- complete with the church-appropriate lyrics -- made the cut, ensuring that we will hear it at every wedding ceremony / reception for years to come. Though I am disappointed that he skipped the R.E.M. classic “Losing My Religion.” Missed opportunity there.