Cross-party singing group bridges troubled waters to help suicide charity


Fine Gael’s Peter Mathews seemed the best candidate for the mantle of Bono

THE SCENE before showtime was strained. Performers sitting around in a circle of apprehension, like nervous dental patients awaiting the dreaded call to surgery.

Normally, the same people would go rigid with excitement at the sight of a camera. Stick a voice recorder under their noses and they’ll talk forever. But on Saturday, the prospect of standing in front of a microphone while cameras rolled had the politicians in a state of high anxiety.

One by one, they were summoned before trudging next door to the darkened studio, while those colleagues left behind called out encouragement.

Then, a few minutes later, the door would burst open to reveal the nervous lamb, now smiling broadly and walking with a bit of a rock star swagger. “Did it!”

The TDs and Senators in Ballyfermot College of Education on Saturday morning found themselves way outside their comfort zone when they gathered – Band-Aid style – to record their version of Bridge Over Troubled Waterfor Pieta House, the suicide awareness organisation.

There were no tantrums. The only slight note of discord came from the men, all of whom wanted to be Bono. In the end, it might be Fine Gael’s Peter Mathews who fits that bill with his stand-out mellow bass contribution.

The cross-party singing group numbered almost 20, and most of them managed to make their date with their musical destiny.

Those who couldn’t – including Joan Burton, Simon Coveney, Michael Ring and Eamon Coghlan – are recording their bits of Bridge Over Troubled Waterin Leinster House this week and will be spliced into the video later.

We so wanted to hear Joan sing, but she was busy on Saturday, what with the Labour Women’s conference and then a television chatshow appearance in the evening.

Back in Ballyer, we hadn’t seen Minister of State Lucinda Creighton look so worried since the heave against Enda.

Senator Averil Power admitted her only singing experience was The Green Fields of Franceat three in the morning.

“I’m doing a [charity] boxing match in two weeks’ time and I’m less nervous about that,” she pointed out.

Musical director Jim Sheridan called the politicians to the stage individually and then in groups. Mick Wallace arrived late and with his arm in a new sling, having injured it again when he prematurely removed the sling he had been wearing for a previous injury.

The Independent TD isn’t the sweetest of singers, it must be said. He explained his robust style comes from years of singing at football matches – whereupon he burst into a noisy rendition of Molly Malone.

Music producer Dave Kearney, who is behind the project along with Fine Gael TD Derek Keating, buried his head in his hands. “It’s not the right song, but who cares,” he sighed.

Finian McGrath produced his guitar and the politicians had a rowdy cross-party sing-song.

Then Mick confessed he hadn’t learned his lines.

Meath East TD Regina Doherty brought along her daughter Grace (who’ll be 10 next month), who said she would love to be a famous singer. More than a politician, like her mum? “I’d rather be a politician,” she said loyally.

Stephen Donnelly (Ind) and Robert Troy (FF) clustered around the microphone with Finian and Lucinda, clutching their headphones the way the big stars do and warbling with all their might.

Peter Mathews was in his element. “Do you want me to go lower,” he asked the control room, his voice already down in the basement.

The musical director was impressed. “Peter has a lovely deep voice and I think any musical society would want to recruit him,” said Jim Sheridan, who also singled out Sinn Féin’s Pádraig Mac Lochlainn for honourable mention.

Deputy Terence Flanagan (FG) took it in his stride. But then, the deputy for Dublin North East is used to big musical occasions, having played side drum with the Artane Band on All-Ireland final day.

His colleague Frank Feighan was flushed with success, having managed to sing a song other than his party piece, Oh, What a Beautiful Morning, which will come as a relief to his weary party colleagues.

In Minister Burton’s absence, Senator Lorraine Higgins kept the red flag flying.

The politicians were kept on track by two gospel choirs in full gowned regalia, and the wonders of audio/visual technology will do the rest.

“This isn’t costing us a penny to produce,” said Dave Kearney. “Jim, who is the Late Late Showmusical director, is giving his services free, as is everyone else working on the track. Ballyfermot College have given us full use of their facilities, and the students came in to work on the filming.” RTÉ’s Mooney Showwill be promoting the song, while distribution network Indi entertainment will distribute it on six different worldwide platforms, including iTunes.