Rathmines Folk Group - History
The Folk Mass in Rathmines was started in October 1972 by the priests of the parish, Michael Walsh, Brendan Quinlan, Joe Madden, Bert Moore, and Tommy Randles, with the support of the parish priest, Canon Pearse. Mick Walsh was at that time the chaplain of the local St. Louis convent, and it was from this school that the original members came. A few weeks later, the first three males joined the group, having been discovered by Mick while entertaining at an old folks' party. That outstanding team of priests and young people laid the foundations for many years of music and prayer at the 6 o'clock Folk Mass.
Since then over 200 people have been members of the Folk Group, and more than 25 priests have been involved from the Parish.
From its beginning in 1972, the folk mass has continued every single Sunday of every year, without a break.
In addition to singing at this Mass, the group have been regularly asked to sing in other parishes, or at fund-raising events, as well as television appearances. In 1997 the Group was presented with a Papal Blessing for its contribution to the Parish.
In the early days, the music was mostly simple folk melodies. As time went by, horizons broadened, and more sophisticated music was added, including secular songs which contribute to the relevance and interest of the theme of the mass. Currently a wide range of songs is sung, from folk through country to gospel. Whatever the origin or style of the songs, they are chosen for their appropriateness and relevance to the Mass.
Rathmines has traditionally been an area where newcomers to Dublin find accommodation. Over the years a student population has meant a comparatively young congregation. In more recent years, flat-dwellers arriving from outside Ireland have brought a welcome international contribution to the Parish and to the Folk Mass. The Folk Group has been happy to host the Rathmines International Folk Mass pioneered by the Parish Priest, Richard Sheehy, in recent years.
Special events the group has taken part in over the years include:
- RTE TV Masses and Services, starting with the RTE Christmas TV Mass, 1974;
- Eurovision Masses - broadcast live from Rathmines Church by RTE throughout Europe - 2005 and 2008;
- Masses in prisons - St Patricks, Wheatfield and Mountjoy (male and female);
- Interdenominational Services in St Patrick's Cathedral in memory of victims of AIDS/drugs;
- Light up a Life ceremony in Harold's Cross Hospice;
- Ecumenical Service in St Patrick's Cathedral during the visit of Pope John Paul II.
Visiting celebrants or preachers have included Jean Vanier, Helen Prejean, Peter McVerry, and Denis Faul.
The congregation is encouraged to sing along with the songs at Mass, using the leaflet which is printed each week, and available in advance on the website.
In consultation with the celebrant, specific themes are selected for the Mass on a regular basis which reflect not only the type of parish we are in but life in general. For example, the central theme may be flatdwellers/loneliness, or AIDS, homelessness or drugs. The songs and discussed and prepared at the weekly practice, and the music given a final polish before the Mass on Sunday.
As well as all this hard work, the group finds time for an active social life, including nights out and weekends away. Many good friendships have been made in the group, not to mention a number of marriages.