Belfast Telegraph

Singer Carlin who lost mum at Christmas hoping to bring joy to Derry

By Leona O'Neill

A Londonderry singer who lost his beloved mother at Christmas when he was a teenager will bring some festive joy to the city this week in the form of a massive musical celebration of peace, faith and love.

Joseph Carlin (32) is a quarter of the I Am worship band, who describe themselves as "a Northern Irish band exploring faith, life and harmonies, singing songs of hope and love to lift your heart and soul".

On Sunday, I Am - made up of Joseph, Marie Therese Martin, and singing sisters Bethany and Lauren Doherty - will lift the roof of St Columb's Hall in their second annual Christmas concert as they bring a US-style spectacle of worship, music, stunning visuals and song to Derry.

Joseph said it will help people "forget their woes and just be present in the moment" this festive season.

"Our Christmas concert is called I Am Present," said Joseph.

"What we want to create is a space that people can come in, surround themselves with beautiful music, get a lovely sense of the Christmas they know with some classic festive songs, and hear the beautiful story of Christmas through the most incredible hymns and songs that we know through our background of growing up in faith. It's an authentic celebration of Christmas, it's amazing." Joseph said the event is somewhere people can come and lose themselves, forget about material things and leave the stress and worries that Christmas can bring at the door - something the Derry man unfortunately knows much of himself. "Our event is about spending time, about bringing family and friends together and about faith, hope and light," Joseph said.

"My mum Sarah died when I was 15 years old, eight days before Christmas. It was very sudden - she had an aneurysm.

"I have a sister and two brothers. Us kids and our father found ourselves looking at each other on Christmas morning, not knowing what to do.

"My mum loved to cook. There was no dinner on Christmas Day.

"She had managed to buy us some presents before she had died so we all opened our very last present from her, which was incredible. She bought me my first mobile phone.

"Christmas Day was also her birthday. Everything became completely different after mum died and we had to actually redefine Christmas as a family, which took years.

"But then I realised that Christmas is exactly what you make it - it is exactly what you want it to be.

"I don't think it needs to be a certain idea, or fitting in.

"I just love making Christmas whatever I want it to be, I don't set any traditions. I just make it of that time. I am present.

"And that is what I love about the Christmas concert. It is bringing people together in the spirit of love.

"People say that they forget things that are troubling them when they come through the doors.

"We want people to be present in the moment, listen to the music, listen to the message that runs through every song.

"It's not about who is missing on Christmas Day, it's not about what you can't afford, it's about who is around you, the greatness within you and how blessed you are. It's beautiful."

I Am will perform at St Columb's Hall on Sunday, December 17, at 8pm. Tickets are available to purchase at Veritas on Shipquay Street or online at

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph