Hi Father Ray, before we talk about your new album An Irish Christmas Blessing, can you tell me about what Christmas means to you.
I love the whole festivities. Christmas was always a special time, especially as child growing up from Santa Claus to the Christmas music and Christmas shopping. It is a special, magic time. It is also a bit of a family time and a time for telling people what they mean to you. It is a time of hope in a world that is so fragmented and broken, it is a time we can take out to express and feel all of that.
So it is a time of togetherness and reflection, a time to spread the message of love...
Exactly. The message of love. The Christian message as well. There is a nothing better way to share your love for your family than by getting together and sharing your life and gifts. It is that special time. It is magical as we don't do it often enough, but maybe if we did it too often it would become too familiar.
Can you tell us a little about the thought behind the album, An Irish
When it was decided that I would do a Christmas album, I wanted to do some of the Christmas songs that mean something to me - like O Holy Night, Silent Night and Come All Ye Faithful. Those songs resonate with people and bring a lot of memories of times gone by and loved ones that have now passed on from this life. I wanted to also include something a bit different like Joy Has Dawned and An Irish Christmas Blessing itself, which wouldn't be overly familiar to people.
Do you think the best Christmas songs are about the message or the
sense of nostalgia?
Once we hear Christmas music it does evoke memories for all of us, which resonates a hope for the future. It is positive future, it brings light into people's lives.
The album has a balance of religious and commercial songs. Do you think Christmas is about a balance of the religious and commercial aspects?
I think people will never get away from commercialism of Christmas. In Ireland now Christmas begins soon after Halloween. Christmas lights go up and people do their shopping earlier, but because of that Christmas is like an oasis in a desert. People want it a little longer. Then you ask yourself what they want, what is Christmas giving them? It gives that message of love, hope and peace. Those are wonderful gifts to experience and embrace.
How will you be spending Christmas this year?
I always spend a bit of time with family, which I don't get to do a lot of in the year. Christmas is short for me this year, as it is on a Friday and I am back working on Saturday and Sunday, so I am having a short stopover at home with my brother and sisters and their children and grandchildren. Spending time with them and sharing Christmas with them. Showing them what they mean to me.
Lastly, what is your favourite memory of Christmas?
Favourite memory was growing up and Santa coming to us. I think childhood memories are the ones that always come back to us. We would always head out to mass and almost wish mass would be over so we could head back to see what Santa had brought us. We'd open the presents and play with the toys. Those are wonderful memories. But as you grow up, those Christmas memories change. My parents are long dead, so Christmas memories are those special moments that I would share with them.
When we were recording the record with Nigel Wright, the producer, we were talking about what Christmas meant to me. He helped me when I was recording those songs to get those images into the songs. All those feelings from my own experience were with me when I was singing those songs.