Belfast Telegraph

Irish priest to pay tribute to late sister in BGT semi-final - 'It will be emotional'

Britain's Got Talent airs on ITV on Friday at 7.30pm.

Father Ray Kelly during the audition stage for ITV1’s talent show, Britain’s Got Talent (Tom Dymond/Syco/Thames/PA)
Father Ray Kelly during the audition stage for ITV1’s talent show, Britain’s Got Talent (Tom Dymond/Syco/Thames/PA)

By Aoife Kelly

Fr Ray Kelly has revealed that the song he will sing on Friday's Britain's Got Talent semi-final will be a tribute to his late sister Regina McMahon.

Regina passed away from oesophageal cancer in 2016 at the age of just 59, and Fr Kelly says he learned the song shortly after her death.

While he can't reveal the song's title he tells that he hopes it is one that many people will relate to, much like REM's Everybody Hurts, which he sang for his first audition.

He said: "Regina was very special and very close to me and her family as well.  I learned it after she died and I used to sing it in church for other people going through bereavement as well.

"Everybody has been affected by cancer or the death of a family member, or loss. It will be emotional and I will need to get in touch with my emotions for it to come across."

Fr Kelly (65), who is a priest in Oldcastle, Co Meath, thrilled the judges, audience and viewers with his stunning first audition, which Simon Cowell said was one of his favourite auditions ever.

"I was really, really shocked by the reaction," he said.  "When I decided to go on Britain’s Got Talent I kind of thought maybe I would be embarrassed and told to get off, thanks very much for coming blah, blah, blah.

"That was my biggest fear but then I said you know I’ll go in with the attitude of I’m not going to beat myself up if something negative happens.

"I have another life and I’m 65 years of age so I’ve been around the block a little bit.  I’m not a teenager thinking, ‘this is my life’.  I love to sing and I love to perform but I have my life here in Oldcastle too.

"So I was pretty relaxed going in to audition.  I was not expecting that reaction."

Of Simon's assessment of his performance he added: "Simon is the ‘god’ of judges isn’t he really?  He was amazing.  I couldn’t believe it when he stood up and led the cheering and said it was one of his favourite auditions ever."

While the first audition was pre-recorded, Friday's semi-final audition is live in front of 4,000 people at London's Hammersmith Apollo, but Fr Kelly does not feel any extra pressure in that regard.

"I’m not going in with the attitude that I have to be better [than my first audition].  I’m going to give it my best and whatever happens happens.  It’s a beautiful song to sing with a lovely message," he says.

“I’m the second last act of the night on the last night so it’s a really good position to be in.  I’m basically 39 out of 40 so hopefully people will remember me.”

Although there is a high standard of singers this year, with several making it through to the final already, Fr Kelly says he has not been paying much heed to the competition unfolding over the last number of weeks.

“I was at at home working with my normal life going on in Oldcastle, usual parish life.  I’ve been in the parish bringing the old folks holy communion," he said.

He flew over to the UK on Thursday ahead of an interview with Christine Bleakley on Lorraine.  He's hoping the viewers, particularly Irish viewers, will get behind him and vote him through to the final tonight.

Fr Kelly has become something of a celebrity since a clip of him singing Hallelujah in church in 2014 went viral. He landed a record deal on the back of it, but that ended after two albums and 12 months.

Now he's hoping to reignite his recording career on the back of his BGT success, although he says his attitude is more 'grounded' this time around.

"If there was an album that came out of all this it would be a great plus for me.  I love to go into the studio to sing so hopefully that will happen," he said.

"I suppose the music business is such a difficult business.  You’re up today and then back down tomorrow.  I suppose having experienced that with the Hallelujah story I’m very grounded by this story."

Whatever happens, he has the unwavering support of his parishioners in Oldcastle, who gave him a standing ovation at mass after his first audition aired.  The town, he says, is covered in posters and signs of congratulations and good luck ahead of his semi-final performance.

Irish Independent


From Belfast Telegraph