In Tune with the Holy Spirit - Article on Peter Kearney. Written by Tracey Edstein for a 2019 edition of the 'Australian Catholics' magazine. 566 KB

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ABOUT Peter Kearney

Songwriter, singer and recording artist. Peter's songs were first published in 1966. 'Fill My House' and 'The Beatitudes' became internationally known and are still widely sung today. In 1982, music became Peter's full time occupation and in the thirty-five years since, he has toured extensively through Australia, also in Ireland and the UK.

Peter's recordings are mainly acoustic, featuring fine musicians to accompany his voice and guitar. Female vocalists Claire Parkhill, Helen Archer, Louise Cassidy, Claire Michael and Catherine Mahony are sometimes featured in his songs. The lyrics are always important in Peter's songs. Many of his songs tell stories people worth remembering and celebrating. Fifteen collections of Peter's songs have been published, with a wide range of material including folk-hymns, justice ballads, fun songs for children. A musical-narrative 'Good Morning Good People' on the life of St. Francis of Assisi is his major-work and is available on double CD.

Peter Kearney was born in 1947 in Sydney, the eldest of seven children. His parents Peter and Marie Kearney traced their family origins back to Ireland. Peter grew up in Sans Souci, a southern suburb of Sydney on the shores of Botany Bay. Peter completed an Arts Degree and Diploma of Education at Sydney University. It was there in 1966 that he met Fr. Ted Kennedy, the University Chaplain at that time. After hearing a couple of Peter's earliest songs, Ted encouraged him to write some folk hymns. Fourteen songs were written over the next six weeks. Later that year, publishers J. Albert & Son published the songs in a music book 'Songs of Brotherhood' - probably the first of its kind by an Australian writer. There was no recording, but by recommendation and word-of-mouth the songs spread throughout Australia and were popular in the the USA and the UK within four years. Fifty years later, 'Fill My House' and 'The Beatitudes' are among the enduring songs from that period .


In 1969, Peter left Australia and travelled 'overland' through Asia, the Middle East and Europe eventually arriving in England where he lived for the next thirteen years, developing his musical skills, also teaching in Secondary and Special-Education Schools. In 1970, he wrote a new set of folk hymns, eventually recorded and published in 1985 under the title 'Where Is Your Song, My Lord?'. In the same year, Peter read a book about St. Francis of Assisi. He was inspired to write, first the title song and then, over the years, many other songs to tell the life of St. Francis. Peter and his Irish wife, Madge O'Brien were married in 1974.

Peter returned to Australia in 1982, with Madge and two children Jason and Niamh. They settled in Mittagong in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. At this stage Peter began to make music his full-time work. Inspired once again by his association with Fr. Ted Kennedy and the Redfern Parish in Sydney he set about writing new songs which gave expression to the Gospel message of liberation and social justice. These songs were published in 1984 as 'Turn It All Around'. Then, having equipped himself with van and PA system, Peter became the troubadour and started regular tours to various regions of Australia, city and bush, giving community based concerts for and with schools, parishes, peace and justice groups. New song collections followed 'Signs of Hope' (1986) and 'Celebration' (1987) 'his first album of songs for children, which soon became widely used in Australian Catholic schools, many adopting 'This Is Our School' as their school song. In 1988, with his family, Peter undertook a 13,000km tour through outback Australia and in the same year released an album of reflections on Australian history and identity- 'The Year Of God's Favour?' One of these songs 'The Deaths Go On', about Aboriginal deaths in custody, won the Declan Affley Memorial Award as the best new song at the Australian National Folk Festival.

Peter and Madge travelled again in 1989, this time to the northern hemisphere. Peter presented 17 concerts in Ireland and the United Kingdom including one in which he sang with Sydney Carter, composer of 'Lord of the Dance'. On return to Australia in 1990, a series of concerts at major venues with his group 'Crossover' led to the release of an 'in concert' album 'Live . . . in the Land of Australia'. A studio-made album 'The Common Good' followed in 1993.

Peter's 'major work' on the life of St. Francis of Assisi had continued to unfold over 24 years. In 1994, with the help of grants from various individuals and organisations including the Mercy Foundation, Peter was able to take a year off from touring to complete choir and instrumental scores for Good Morning Good People!'. This two hour 'journey in song', involving over sixty singers and musicians from his own area premiered with great success in November 1994 and was later performed in Newcastle and Sydney and at the National Folk Festival in Canberra.

Peter continued to write and record. New albums included collections for children 'All The World Is Sacred' (1996) and 'Growing in God' (2003) and a Christmas/ Advent collection 'How Far to Bethlehem?' (1999). New adult collections 'Islands of the Heart ' (2001) and 'A Gift of Song' (2007) featured contributions on keyboard and accordion the highly respected Australian jazz musician, Kevin Hunt.

Then in 2004-5 and 2007-8, Peter and Madge lived and worked in Ireland, Madge's homeland. In this period Peter toured a small scale version of 'Good Morning Good People' through Ireland, England and Scotland. There were over forty performances of this work. In several of these concerts Peter was joined by Australia flautist Roma Dix. Peter also enjoyed presenting workshops and concerts in over a hundred Irish National Primary Schools. 'Celebrate Me Day', a song he wrote for 'Rainbows Ireland', became popular with thousands of Irish children.

While living overseas, Peter commissioned a new guitar from Scottish luthier, Bill Kelday. This guitar was played on all tracks of his most recent CD 'Easter Carols'.

Since returning from Ireland, Peter has toured extensively through Australia, giving concerts in all states and territories except the Northern Territory. He has been invited to many parishes to offer his 'Ashes to Easter' concert-reflection during Lenten seasons.

In recent years Peter has developed a keen interest in photography and has produced a series of audio-visual presentations. One of these is 'Surprising Ireland - Deeper Home' and two others are about walking the Camino, the ancient pilgrimage path to Santiago de Compostela in NW Spain. Peter has walked two 700+km sections of this path. His DVDs 'Walking the Camino' (Spain) and 'Ultreia - a Camino in France' featuring his photographs and narration accompanied by appropriate music have been popular. Peter has also done many public presentations of these audio-visual sequences, providing live commentary while images and music are played from a large-screen television.

These days, Peter is not touring much, but does various concerts in the Sydney/Canberra & Wollongong region, with occasional trips further afield. It all depends on invitations. Among the concerts offered by Peter are: 'Ashes to Easter' during Lent; The Beatitudes in Story and Song at any time of the year. Signs of Hope, People of Faith - anytime; Christmas Family Concerts with primary schools. 

In recent years, Peter has put a lot of time into improving his online presence. He has a Facebook Page, this new website hosted by Host Baby and an Online Store hosted by Newcart. This is where you can buy physical CDs, CD-Roms & DVDs . Several of his albums are available for digital downloads via CD Baby, iTunes and so on.