By Ann Marie Foley - 18 August, 2018
Former “Artane boy” Danny Ellis has no problem having a song he wrote and performed featured on a special music CD released for the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to Ireland.
The CD includes his song “When Tommy Bonnar Sang”, which evokes the moment a young Mr Ellis heard a boy sing the Kyrie at Mass in Artane Industrial School, where he faced frequent violent beatings by the Christian Brothers.
“He would say that he had a tough time in there, but hearing this guy sing the Kyrie at Mass led him to find music, and that music was his salvation,” said Paul O’Reilly, managing director of Dolphin Records, which produced the CD.
“I wasn’t too sure whether he wanted to be on the album or not because of his experiences in Artane, and he said, ‘No, I want to be on the album’.”
Hearing the Kyrie prompted Mr Ellis to join the Artane Boys’ Band and discover his own talent, which he called his “saving grace”. He became a musician, singing with the Miami and Nevada showbands and with Dickie Rock.
He now lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where he went through a period of recalling and reliving his Artane experience. He wrote about it in songs which featured in his album 800 Voices. It was painful for him to relive the hurt of those eight years. His mother, who found it difficult to cope when his father went to America to work, placed him in Artane, promising to come back at Christmas. But she never came back. No one even thought to tell him that his own brothers were also in Artane.
Writing songs about this period of his life helped him begin healing. Once the songs went public he was contacted by many former Artane boys, and those who have suffered similar violence. He was also reunited with Tommy Bonnar who attended one of his concerts 50 years after they first met.
On the new CD the Tommy Bonnar song is immediately after a Gregorian chant, “Salve Regina”, which is sung by the Palestrina choir and ends on a Kyrie. “I just put it there because the boys in the Palestrina Choir would be the same age as Danny was when he was at Mass, listening to Tommy sing,” Mr O’Reilly said.
The album is already among the top selling Irish albums in Ireland, according to Mr O’Reilly.
The double CD is titled Pope Francis – An Irish Welcome. It includes several leading and inspirational Irish artists chosen specially for the visit of Pope Francis.
“I remember there was an album for Pope John Paul II,” Mr O’Reilly said. “When I read that Pope Francis was coming I said, ‘I must get an album out’.”
When he went into his local church for a quiet moment he was struck by the WMOF 2018 banner and the smiling Pope Francis and sought permission to use the image of Pope Francis on the CD cover. Next came the process of collecting the songs for the album. There are hymns as well as popular songs, all of which are inspirational and family-oriented.
The CD features “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, sung by The O’Neill Sisters; “Dance with My Father” by Robert Mizzell; John Lennon’s “Grow Old Along with Me”, sung by Tony Kenny and Catherine Coates; as well as two Leonard Cohen songs. Hymns include “Pie Jesu”, sung by The Priests; “Ave Maria” by Celtic Woman; and “Panis Angelicus” by Finbar Wright.
“It is a lovely mix of music. It’s not in your face religious, it is very broad and it’s inspirational and it’s what I feel about the Pope. I got very emotional when I finished it. I spent a lot of time picking tracks,” said Mr O’Reilly.
Three acts on the CD will also sing at the festival of families: The Priests, Palestrina Choir and The O’Neill sisters. Other artists include The Vard Sisters, Red Hurley, Finbar Wright, Tony Kenny, and Jack L. Mr O’Reilly said that all were enthusiastic about being on a CD associated with the Pope’s visit.
The album has been produced by Dolphin Records, which is very much a family business. It was founded by Mr O’Reilly’s father, and now includes Mr O’Reilly’s three children –Michael, Jenny and Eva. His wife is singing in the choir for key WMOF events. He will spend the day of the Papal Mass with his mother who is unwell at the moment.
Tony Bolger of CatholicIreland said the CD was now on sale through the CatholicIreland website. “I am pleased to collaborate with Dolphin Records in distributing this CD of good and uplifting music and songs from great artists, through the website online shop,” Mr Bolger said.
For further details see: https://www.catholicireland.net/pope-francis-irish-welcome/
To purchase the CD visit https://www.catholicireland.net/product/pope-francis-irish-welcome-2-cds/