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Italian singer Andrea Bocelli with Ennis' Colm Flynn in Italy

Clare priest lends voice to world-famous tenor!

A CLARE priest will be the voice of opera singer Andrea Bocelli to millions of people around the world this Christmas. However Fr Brendan Quinlivan, the parish priest of Tulla, won’t be striking a chord with his singing.

Instead, Fr Quinlivan has done the voice-over for a new radio Christmas special in which the multi-award winning Bocelli sits down with Ennis journalist and presenter Colm Flynn.

The programme, ‘Andrea Bocelli, Christmas Special’ will be broadcast on the ‘Heart & Soul show on the BBC World Service on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The show goes out to around 22 million listeners on the BBC radio network around the world and Colm had exclusive access to Bocelli for the interview in Florence, Italy.

Fr Quinlivan’s involvement with the programme came by chance, as he happened to be in Italy just as Colm was trying to find the ideal English speaking voice to dub over Bocelli’s Italian.

“The whole thing was fortuitous really. I was in Rome for a few days and I happened to meet with Colm and he was looking for somebody to do the voice-over for the interview.

“In the interview Andrea Bocelli spoke in Italian and because it was being broadcast on the BBC Colm was looking for somebody to voice-over a translation of what he had to say,” Fr Quinlivan explains.

“Colm asked if I would do it. We both go back a bit, as they say, from Colm’s days at Clare FM and I have been doing the religious broadcasting with the Beyond Belief team for some time. So I was happy to take a chance on doing it, with the strict instructions that if he wasn’t happy to leave it off. But it seems that he was happy enough with what I did,” he smiles.

He continues, “It was a privilege and it is an honour to be able to do this, without a shadow of a doubt.


“There is some really lovely material in the content of the interview with Bocelli about the real meaning and spirit of Christmas.”

Colm, who is based in Rome, told The Clare Champion, “Andrea does speak English but prefers to talk on TV and radio in Italian, so as a result, one of the hardest parts of making a programme like this is finding the right English voice to dub the programme.

“Essentially, who can we find that would be a great voice for Andrea Bocelli and sound really brilliant on air? There were a few people I had in mind that I’d used for other projects here in Rome but there was something missing.

“It just so happened that two good friends of mine, Fr Brendan Quinlivan and Fr Tom Ryan, were visiting Rome on retreat for a week! We were out for dinner one night and I was listening to Fr Brendan talking and I thought to myself, ‘That’s the voice!’.

“When I asked him to do it, and assured him it wasn’t the wine talking, he agreed and we recorded the following day. It worked out so well as Fr Brendan has such a clear speaking voice, which is so important for the BBC World Service as they broadcast into so many countries where English is not the first language.”

“He also has a theatrical background, and is used to being on-air with Clare FM, so he really was a perfect fit for the voice. I’m delighted with how it turned out!”

During the interview the singer talked about his memories of childhood at Christmas, how his love of singing developed and the reaction he got from his parents when he told them he wanted to be a singer, and his strong Catholic faith. 

Looking ahead to the broadcast, Colm says, “I’m really excited about this programme because I know Andrea Bocelli has such a universal appeal around the world, and his music is known and loved in almost every country.

“But he doesn’t do many interviews so, I think, for most of our listeners it will be a chance to hear him talk and tell his story for the first time.

“I think they’ll also discover a new side to Andrea that perhaps they didn’t know before, the fact that he is a strong Catholic and takes his faith seriously. He told me in the interview that it’s helped him navigate the challenges he’s faced, and given meaning to his life.”

He describes the experience of recording the interview as “very magical”.

“Andrea lives outside of Florence but wanted to be interviewed in his favourite hotel in the old part of Florence, so the team and I headed up from Rome the day before and stayed the night in the hotel.

“It was a stunning hotel and the perfect backdrop for Andrea’s interview. When he arrived the following day, the crew had set up all the lights and cameras, and we got to chat for a little while before we began to roll,” he says.

“We talked about Ireland and he told me he used to have an Irish girlfriend. He joked with me about not being able to speak Italian yet even though I’ve been here for a year!”

The show will be broadcast on the BBC world service at 4.32pm on Christmas Day and repeated on St Stephen’s Day at 10.32am. As well as the BBC radio programme, the BBC World News will be broadcasting a selection of snippets from the interview across Christmas Day while the full interview in video will be on the BBC Youtube channel and website.

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