St. Henry Catholic Church in Belle Meade will be playing host to a free special musical performance by Celtic pop-rock band Ceili Rain this month, thanks to a generous donation by one of its parishioners.
It’s been nearly a decade since lead singer and songwriter Bob Halligan Jr. last visited Nashville. He lived in the city for eight years, but moved back to his hometown of Syracuse, New York, after reaching the peak of his career. His last time in town was as a panelist teaching songwriting for a Christian music seminar in Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee.
But he is returning on July 29 with his five bandmates from across the country to play for a kind parishioner at St. Henry who wanted to bring their music back to Nashville – at no cost to the parish.
Ceili Rain has been together for more than 28 years, playing in major venues like Reliant Stadium, the RCA Dome, and the Georgia Dome, playing festivals, and having recorded more than 200 songs, with nine gold and platinum records. In recent years, the band tours far less than before but still gets together one to three times per year for public appearances when they are requested.
“We aren’t touring a lot anymore. I’ve reached a certain age with a zero at the end of it – you can guess what the first digit is – and there’s less demand as we age,” Halligan said. “We’re not in vogue, but we’re in vogue with Nashville’s parishioners. They wanted the show to happen, and through the generosity of a St. Henry parishioner, we made it happen. We’re going to make it a nice party for any family willing to join us.”
Discussions for the concert began several months ago between Ceili Rain and St. Henry. Much coordination needed to happen to make sure that there would be an ideal summer date that was best for the parish and where all of the band members were available. Two members live in Syracuse, one in Cincinnati, one in Baltimore, and one in Roanoke. Guitarist Raymond Arias thankfully already lives in Nashville.
“It was a many-headed monster that needed to be corralled to make this happen, but praise God it has come together,” said Halligan. “We’re all very excited.”
St. Henry is excited for the opportunity to host Ceili Rain and sees the concert as a way to evangelize to the community and serve its parishioners.
“Last year, St. Henry went through an eight month process for a five-year strategic plan involving the church and school with ministries, staff, and parishioners,” said Claire Hall, St. Henry’s director of administration. “Our initiative is building a Christ Centered Community serving others. In addition to enhancing formation, social action, and supporting growth, St. Henry is wanting to increase evangelization to our families.”
Halligan has always been Catholic, but he did not always have the opportunity to serve Christ through his career, he said. Initially, he just wanted to record new records and work in the music business. He is thankful that he now gets to more publicly express his faith with his band, and regularly having the opportunity to perform for Catholic churches.
“I was always a cradle-to-grave Catholic – a choir boy, altar boy, and lector. My Irish nuns wanted me to be a priest,” Halligan said.
“In 1982, a good friend of mine, Nashville resident Rick Cua, got a music deal with a Protestant contemporary Christian label in Nashville with 10 albums that I was highly involved in. It made me aware that there was a way to incorporate my faith and music and blend my Catholicism with my career,” he added.
“Eventually the faith took over.
“Our band is a highly faith-filled endeavor,” Halligan said. “It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. I’m performing in a duo with our fiddler Joe Davoli at a Catholic church in Syracuse next week. Wherever folks invite us, we’ll show up – and it’s more churches than anything else.”
Guests can expect the concert to be “a party for kids from three to 93,” Halligan said. Ceili Rain’s concerts tend to feature dancing, smiling, singing along, and enjoying uplifting and faithful music, he said.
“It’s Chuck Berry, The Beatles, and the Chieftains amalgamated, leaning into the joyous elements of all three and drawing from the longing and heart of Celtic Irish music with pop sensibilities,” Halligan said. “But everything is prayerful and can be viewed as a prayer.”
Ceili Rain will perform on Saturday, July 29, at the St. Henry Fellowship Hall. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the show begins at 7 p.m. Admission is free and attendees are welcome to bring a picnic and enjoy the live music.