SUNKEN TREA­SURE

Sis­ter Irene O’Con­nor - ‘Fire of God’s Love’

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - NEWS - Donal Di­neen

We are so bom­barded with mu­sic from cer­tain direc­tions which all sounds pretty much the same that it is more sur­pris­ing when some­thing unique turns up and re­minds us that making mu­sic is an urge that pays no at­ten­tion to bar­ri­ers of any sort.

It’s a sad fact of me­dia op­er­a­tions that the mu­sic we hear on the ra­dio in par­tic­u­lar is so nar­rowly fo­cused on clas­sic hits or the vac­u­ous pop of the day. All that rep­e­ti­tion dulls the senses and di­min­ishes our taste for bet­ter things. So when some­thing truly orig­i­nal and brilliant turns up it feels like a bless­ing. In the case of Sis­ter Irene O Con­nor’s haunt­ing songs of faith and de­vo­tion it’s bonus time. Bless­ings within a bless­ing.

Mu­sic as un­com­monly charm­ing as this more of­ten than not tends to have an un­usual back­story where the pen­du­lum swung just the right way at ex­actly the right time.

In Sis­ter Irene’s case, it was a chance meet­ing with Sis­ter Marimil Lo­bre­gat in South East Asia in the 1960s. The two were on their way to dif­fer­ent mis­sions and only spent a short time to­gether but it was enough to es­tab­lish a strong bond over a shared de­vo­tion to mu­sic. God was not their only love. They went their sep­a­rate ways with­out any plans to meet in the fu­ture but fate in­ter­vened and the two were re­united at Syd­ney’s Point Piper con­vent in 1976.

Sis­ter Irene had been record­ing her songs in Sin­ga­pore through­out the pre­vi­ous decade with lim­ited means and lit­tle suc­cess. In Sis­ter Marimil she found the per­fect part­ner to make real the mu­si­cal as­pi­ra­tions that were still very much alive in her.

Sis­ter Marimil was work­ing as a record­ing tech­ni­cian in Home­bush at the Catholic Audio Vis­ual Cen­tre. To­gether they built a makeshift stu­dio and on a se­ries of Sun­day af­ter­noons co­cooned them­selves from the world at large and went about their ex­tra­or­di­nary jour­neys into sound. I love both what they did and the way they went about it. The eerie sound of the record­ings adds mys­tery and magic to the mix. The calm­ness it ex­udes is a balm for weary trav­ellers and trou­bled souls.

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