Musical reflection – Paul Keenan

Musical reflection – Paul Keenan Fr Liam Lawton

Fr Liam Lawton’s journey in song reached a milestone in 2011. Paul Keenan reports

Within any chosen path, to be able to describe oneself as ”busy” after 20 years can only be what’s called ‘a good complaint’.

But busy is exactly what Fr Liam Lawton has continued to be through 2011, the 20th anniversary year of a singing odyssey which began with a musical commission for Trócaire. (In a twist, as Fr Liam settles in to speak with The Irish Catholic, he has just returned from Belfast where he helped celebrate Trócaire’s 25th celebrations of its office there.)

”Twenty years ago I never realised what I could have achieved in that time,” he admits as he recalls 12 albums and countless concert performances and musical projects. ”I’m very privileged, very blessed.”

Currently in rehearsal for a major nationwide tour, Liam states that the forthcoming event is shaping up to be the perfect retrospection.

”What I did was put out an invite to people I’m linked with via Facebook,” Liam explains, ”to find out what songs from all the albums would be the most popular. I got a great reaction from that.”

The result he says, will be a tour offering those requested songs, some new pieces, and, in keeping with the season, Christmas favourites.

The Advent and Christmas season will also another Liam Lawton project come to fruition. As the new Roman Missal comes into effect on the first weekend of Advent, Liam’s own musical reflection on that new reality will be available. (Indeed, immediately after the interview, Liam is Limerick-bound to deliver a workshop arising from that) Entitled The Glendalough Mass, the name is, Liam says, a deliberate referencing of the rich Christian heritage in Ireland made evident by that place-name. ”It is such a place of inspiration for me,” he says of a location he visits regularly. ”I hope the project will give an opportunity to talk about this heritage, and prompt us to think how we preserve it.”

Liam has already had expressions of interest in The Glendalough Mass from communities in Australia, Canada and America, and he speculates that, with the resurgence of emigration from Irish shores, it is the evocation of heritage which is finding favour with faithful among the diaspora.

It would not be the first time that a composition by Liam has touched a chord. Recently he was honoured by the chaplains of the US military for his 1997 song, The Cloud’s Veil, which entered the post-9/11 consciousness and whose lyrics were subsequently included on a prayer card carried by US troops in Afghanistan, comforting that: ”Even though the rain hides the stars, even though the mist swirls the hills, even when the dark clouds veil the sky, God is by my side.”

Such things must be personally pleasing to Liam, who says his intention has always been ”to make music which allows people to create a space in which to find God”. If that is what is achieved, he says, his job has been done well. ”Music,” he insists on this, ”is another language in itself where we might not have the ‘text’ for ourselves.”

After 20 years, then, a question hovers: will there be more music?

”I certainly hope so,” Liam says. ”My only consideration is where the next song will come from. I still have the passion for it, and only if I lose that will I give up.”

He assures, however, that this does not look likely anytime soon.

”I have songs in me yet.”

Liam Lawton’s 20th Anniversary Tour begin on November 27 at St Patrick’s Church, Lurgan. or on Facebook: Liam Lawton Music