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Choir keeps it in family as little Emily makes it a quartet of songbirds

By George Jackson

It's a talent that runs through four generations of the one family.

Rosaleen O'Hagan (79) will be bursting with pride when she leads her daughter, granddaughter and great-grandaughter in the same choir at a Christmas carol service to raise charity funds.

And while she has sung for VIP guests in the past, she says nothing will beat performing with her family.

The family of singers are believed to be making musical history in Londonderry as it's believed no choir in the area has boasted four generations before.

Rosaleen will be joined by her daughter Marie Horton, her granddaughter Mary Rooney and her great-granddaughter Emily Rooney, who is five years old and a P2 pupil at St John's Primary School in the Creggan.

Indeed, the great-grandmother delayed her imminent singing retirement so she could join the unusual line-up.

They will form part of the award-winning Colmcille Choir which will perform a quartet of O Little Town Of Bethlehem during Sunday's performance in the Playhouse Theatre in Derry.

The performance will be in memory of the city's well-known Sister Aloysius and as a fundraiser for the Foyle Hospice, where she died.

"Sister Aloysius was the house artist for the Playhouse and she died in the Foyle Hospice on Christmas Day four years ago this year," Rosaleen said.

"This choir was founded in 1970 by the then Fr Edward Daly and I was a founder member of the choir.

"I had intended to retire this year but my great-granddaughter Emily said she wanted to sing with me in the choir, so I put off my retirement by one year to let it happen for her," she said.

Rosaleen has eight children, 21 grandchildren and 15 great- grandchildren.

She described her choral activities as "a bridge connecting generations".

"I love singing alongside my daughter, my granddaughter and my great-granddaughter. I decided to go for it because I may never get the opportunity again. I've sung for Popes and presidents, but nothing will give me more pleasure than singing with my daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter," she said.

Emily said she thought her great-grandmother was "a brilliant singer" and she loved rehearsing with her for Sunday night's performance.

"I told my great-grannie I wanted to sing with her in the choir and I can't wait for Sunday night.

"She's got a really good singing voice and I'm really looking forward to the four of us singing together," she said.

The choir's conductor, Sheila Carlin, said it would be the first time that four generations of the same family would participate in a public musical performance.

"I have conducted the Colmcille Choir containing three generations but never four," she said.

"Our choir has always been family-orientated and what will take place on Sunday night in the Playhouse will really highlight that mission.

"To mark the occasion there will be a four-generation family quartet during the performance, and I'm really looking forward to it."


Rosaleen O'Hagan is the head of a family of four generations which will sing together for the first time this Sunday. The 79-year-old delayed her retirement from the renowned choir so she could sing with her daughter, granddaughter and five-year-old great-granddaughter.

Belfast Telegraph


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