Music and moving tales

Brendan O’Regan hears some impressive interviews

One of the most appealing interviews I’ve heard in a while was with John McAreavey, on the Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) last Friday morning.

He showed an impressive level of inner strength as he spoke movingly about the loss of his wife Michaela when she was murdered on their honeymoon in Mauritius, and how his faith in God was the number one factor in helping him to cope. It was clear that the Faith was still a powerful motivation for him and he continues to work with the Michaela Foundation that runs camps and retreats for young people. He believed Michaela was in Heaven and therefore couldn’t be happier, and so he had no reservations now about moving on and having a new girlfriend. Through it all he appreciated the support of his own family, Michaela’s family and the wider ‘GAA family’ he was so involved with. He had some touching reflections on the nature of the marriage relationship and in relation to the still unresolved murder case cautioned that we shouldn’t give too much of our time and attention to those who cause us grief.

Another interview that impressed last week was with the new Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown, who was a guest on Sunday Sequence, Radio Ulster’s ‘religious and ethical news’ programme. It’s a meaty show, nearly two hours long, which allows host Mark Patterson to tease out a wide variety of items in detail. Bishop McKeown came across as very personable, enthusiastic about the Gospel and obviously inspired by Pope Francis – he quoted Francis’ comment urging the clergy not to be ‘sourpusses’! He was filled with the hope of springtime, and applied this outlook in particular to political controversies in the North of Ireland – he suggested we should be creating hope rather than being ‘prisoners of the past’.

The main item on the show was coverage of the current controversy about the ‘on the runs’, people who had controversially been told they were no longer wanted by the police, and related matters having to do with the Troubles and ongoing issues in the North.

With the anniversary of World War I upon us this year there was a short but interesting item on the ethical side of it, featuring a Black Adder clip, with sly digs at British imperialism. Another topical item explored the reasons behind the controversial new anti-homosexuality law in Uganda. Poet Pádraig O Tuama found it a “bleak piece of legislation”, a justification of violence, invoking hatred and fear. He thought part of the story was about Uganda asserting its independence from colonial Western powers. He accused Catholic and Anglican leaders in Uganda of contributing to this and saw US evangelical influence also. The interview could have been more challenging.

There were some worthwhile interviews on last Sunday’s Songs of Praise (BBC1) from Bradford, probably Britain’s longest running religious show, and one that conveys a comfortable kind of religion rooted in tradition and general niceness. The show started with a timely introduction to the themes and practices of Lent, but it was significant though that the congregation was mainly made up of middle aged or older people. The choirs featured many young children, but the absence of teens and young adults was striking. It was also a sign of changing times that the ‘Calendar Girls’ story was positively covered, complete with mildly saucy pictures! The woman who spearheaded the charity calendar spoke about her strong religious faith and the death of her husband from cancer. Polly Meynell, a textile artist demonstrated her tapestry on the liturgical seasons, quite a striking work, while Liz Firth was an “interfaith worker”, a woman who helped develop good relationships between the different religious faiths in Bradford.

I thought the best performance on the show was from US singer songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman, whose husband was another to die from cancer. She wrote many songs around that experience, including the touching I Find Your Love that she sang on the show. (Chapman will be touring Ireland in April/May – watch out for her, she’s a super performer, warm and spiritual, but with a great sense of fun). 

The choral work and congregational singing was fine as well, and there was a particular seasonal song Forty Days and Forty Nights that I hadn’t heard before. There aren’t too many songs specifically about Lent.


Pick of the Week



RTÉ 1 Sun March 9, 9.30pm

A Would You Believe? investigation of Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado, former head of the Legionnaires of Christ.



BBC 4 Sun March 9, 10.30pm

(2011) Italian comedy-drama. The Church is thrown into a state of secret turmoil, when a newly elected pope has a panic attack and refuses to appear.



EWTN Tues March 11, 7.30am

Prof Ralph McInerny discusses the famous English author Hillarie Belloc.