Video Clips
Blog Entries July-Dec 2012

Cool date or what! Happy and Holy Christmas to all vistors to the blog. I was winding down today in school with some Christmas prayer services. As I was in the Prayer Room playing 'Once in Royal David's City' by Mary Chapin Carpenter I thought what a great job! Getting paid to do this! At the end I played James Taylor's great version of 'Go Tell It on the Mountain' from his wonderful Christmas album (would make a great present). I was pleased to hear some students singing it all the way back to the classroom. You can hear these songs and more on my Christmas playlist, on the bottom of this page.

In Leaving Cert English classes I'm doing the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins - religious but hardly seasonal, and so much angst! I'll add something soon to the blog about that. Have a lot of notes on his LC poetry if anyone's interested - just request by email. In the meantime I hope you're all getting to some Christmas concerts or carol services. Earlier in the month I was lucky enough to be at a performance of Honegger's Christmas Cantata in St Michael's Church Blackrock in Cork - the Fleischman Choir, the Cork School of Music Junior Choir and the CSM Orchestra filled the Church with beautiful Christmas music. Later that evening I managed to get to a Christmas concert with the Carrigaline Choral Group in Fota House. Great music and great mince pies!
Will elaborate and stick pics on the blog when I get the time. Finally, a bumper crop of Christmas programmes coming up over the next two weeks see previews page. Best film: On the Waterfront, RTE 1 Wed 2 Jan 3.45 pm - great scenes for social justice and the role of the priest.

We had our Open Night in school last Thursday - a treasure trail leads the prospective students into every room and the clue for the Prayer Room seems to always focus on the Advent Wreath, so I had to grab my well worn couloured candles and a few evergreen branches from the school trees. Of course I was glad of a chance to start playing my Christmas music in the background as students and parents rambled around.

I thought I'd recommend again some of my favourite Christmas albums for use in school prayer services - I get to use them from Advent to a review of the feast of the Three Wise Men after we come back in January. James Taylor's Christmas album (recently re-released with new tracks) is excellent. The mellow performances perfectly suit Prayer Room reflection - I've used his 'Go Tell it on the Mountain' several times. Mary Chapin Carpenter's Christmas album has the most gorgeous version of 'Once in Royal David's City'. and some wonderful originals. Any of Amy Grant's Christas albums are fine, while for sheer genuine spirituality John Michael Talbot's album is a treat. One of the best modern albums is Real Christmas by Kim Hill - great voice, great arrangments. The only new one I've picked up this year is Joy by Steven Curtis Chapman, which has a contemporary feel to it, featuring mostly Christmas standards with some good originals. Last year I was impressed by Phil Wickham's Songs for Christmas - excellent contemporary versions of Christmas classics. Worth a look also Christmas albums by Liam Lawton, Josh Groban, L'Angelus. Please send any more recommedations! Finally, a treat for the jaded ear - Jennifer Warnes has never released a full Christmas album, but her website jukebox is playing some gorgeous Christmas material at the moment - Also for a fuller treatment of Advent and Christmas Resources check out my Advent and Christmas page where you can watch videos hear songs and see all my resource recommendations.

Went today on a school trip to see Macbeth in the Helix. There is much in Macbeth that's useful in RE class - especially that conscience speech (Act I Sc vii) as Macbeth wonders if he'll kill the king. He pretty much goes through all the stages of moral development in one speech - 'If it were done when 'tis done .... '. Just type that phrase into YouTube and you'll get quite a number of versions.

Got to Berlin last weekend - on the Sunday went to an 8 am Mass in St Hedwig's Cathedral - a full sung High Mass at that hour of the morning!! They sure take their Church music seriously. The art and design of the Cathedral was most striking, with a sunken mini-church in the middle of the main Cathedral (see pic), and a massive dome. Check it out here.

Great to meet RE teachers at yesterday's Inservice on RE and IT in the Cork Education Centre. I think the day went well, and thanks for the kind comments on the evaluation forms.

I notice that Pope Benedict has been speaking about liturgical music to a gathering in Italy of various 'Scholae Cantorum'. Read the full address here.


Last night I went to see Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in the O2 in Dublin - it was on a giant screen with full orchestra and choirs onstage providing a live soundtrack. As you got absorbed in the film it was easy to forget that the music was live, and every now and then I looked at the musicians and singers to remind myself that they were present - might have been easier to be aware of that if I hadn't been so far back in the venue! I was reminded of how the scenes with Gollum/Smeagol so well captured the conflict between good and evil in all of us - thiough normally it's not so dramatic. There are several scenes where this character, so damaged by his pursuit of earthly power symbolised by the Ring, engages in this inner conflict, torn between being loyal to the good Hobbits and wanting to kill them for selfish reasons.

I'm glad to see the following paragraph in the document issued after the recently concluded Synod on the New Evangelisation in Rome: "We also want to thank men and women involved in another expression of the human genius, art in its various forms, from the most ancient to the most recent. We recognize in works of art a particularly meaningful way of expressing spirituality inasmuch as they strive to embody humanity’s attraction to beauty. We are grateful when artists through their beautiful creations bring out the beauty of God’s face and that of his creatures. The way of beauty is a particularly effective path of the new evangelization."

I've been at a few low key events to mark the Year of Faith which srted over a week ago, and was wondering about initiativs to introduce the idea into the classroom. Might try a prayer service to officially launch it. Hopefully students will also be taking part in a local parish event - a Bible Quiz with attractive prizes. I've been trying to think of songs about faith that I can use - "I Believe in the Sun" by Carey Landry springs to mind (clip on left), as well as "We Believe in God" by Amy Grant from the album Songs From The Loft. Other suggestions would be welcome.

I really enjoyed doing an inservice workshop on using film in RE classes with RE teachers in Kerry last week. I thought I'd mention here some of the clips I used, clips I find useful myself in RE classes - The sermon scene (about the harm gossip does) from Doubt; the last interrogation from Sophie Scholl (great for classes on conscience), the arrival at the cathedral from The Way (great sense of awe and wonder); the Baptism scene (how not to do it!) from Nacho Libre; the confession scene in the zoo from There Be Dragons; the slave ship scene (useful for a class on justice or slavery) from Amazing Grace; Jesus meeting the woman at the well from The Gospel of John. Sometime I'll put together a fuller list of great scenes.

Happy Teachers' Day! I hope some of you celebrated in school. We had our school mass for the opening of the school year, with our students singing music they learned at last year's Emmanuel event. The knock-on effect in schools in regard to providing singers and music for school liturgies etc is one of the great successes of Emmanuel. Schools have already been circulated with details of Emmanurel 2013, which will take place in the Helix Theatre DCU 26/27/28 February. Workshops for teachers are coming up in October. Today 5th Oct was the deadline for applying but Grainne Clinton in the Emmanuel office tells me they will accept applications next week, but get them in soon so they'll know how many CDs and books to order. Gráinne can be contacted at 087-2961181, 01-8087554, or at . It's a great experience for students, highly recommended. Also, hope to see some of you at the Inservice for RE teachers in Kerry Diocese next Friday. I'll be dealing with the use of film in RE.

Those of you in an ERST school will probably have received the Autumn 2012 edition of the Síol Newsletter - look out for an article, with impressive visuals, by Annette Hickey about a stained glass window project for the Prayer Room in CBS High School in Clonmel.

Yikes, hadn't realised I'd left it so long to write up the blog. Still, I'm on holidays from school! However I got to do my Spirit Radio slot last Friday on the Rojo in the Morning show. Apart from flagging some upcoming events (see News page) I mentioned and previewed tracks from two albums. From Gethsemani to Galway is a live album by the Notre Dame Folk Choir who will be back in Dublin on Sept 1st to provide the music for a Mass in Dublin Castle grounds (see News page) - There are 17 tracks on the album and it features many of their most popular songs - the one I used on the show was the Latin flavoured Escucha! Put it in Your Heart. The One is an album by the Candle Factory Band. It's a quirky, indie flavoured spritual album, and the track used was "Corner Café".

Last Monday I hosted a concert in Arklow with the Macrae Sisters an old-time/bluegrass trio from Oregon USA. As expected they included some gospel songs in their excellent performance, and the turnout was quite respectable. I hope to post some video of the event on YouTube soon.


On my Spirit Radio slot last Friday I flagged two particularly good CDs - Drowning in the Shallow is the latest release from Andy Flanagan, a singer-songwriter from Northern Ireland but based in London. This a fine album - the lyrics deal with issues of brokenness, relationships, superficiality, with a subtle spiritual theme and a social conscience in many of the songs. The title track gives a good indication of the style and content, while "The Reason" is a catchy commercial song. Throughout the singing is clear and confident, while the musical backing and harmony vocals perfectly complement the words.
The second album I reviewed was Redemption by American gospel singer Trish Standley. I'm not a great fan of the rap and dance tracks, but "Cheer Up" is an excellent scriptural song, while "Here I Am" is a beatiful ballad style hymn. What's im pressive about her album is the variety of styles, all performed with committment and professionalism.