A group of Gaelic football players swapped their cleats for sheets – as in sheet music, to entertain elderly residents of St. Patrick’s Home of Ottawa with a rousing round of Christmas carols on Sunday afternoon.
Men, women and children from the Ottawa Gaels sang all the classic holiday hits while stationed in the courtyard area of the Larry Kelly Family Garden. Residents were seen listening and watching from inside the long-term care home, located on Riverside Drive. The carollers were such good sports. Not only were they wearing face masks and keeping their distance from their remote audience, but they did so while temperatures dropped faster than Santa’s chimney descent.
Scott Smith, co-owner of Quality Entertainment, set up the microphones and sound equipment for the singing.
“We want everyone to be able to hear,” explained Meg Friedman, executive director of the St. Patrick’s Home of Ottawa Foundation. “It’s really more about spreading good cheer than it is about being pitch-perfect.”
Ottawa businessman Pat Kelly had previously reached out to St. Pat’s to see how the club could get their younger athletes engaged in a good deed ahead of the holidays, said Friedman.
Kelly is a long-time supporter of St. Pat’s. He also had a big hand in establishing the Ottawa Gaels in 1975 with his fellow Irish-born business partner Larry Bradley of Bradley-Kelly Construction and the Heart & Crown Irish Pubs. Kelly serves as the club's liaison officer.
Gaelic football is a popular Irish team sport that falls somewhere between soccer and rugby. The Ottawa club is made up of more than 60 members but, like many organized sports, has seen its practices and games impacted by the COVID pandemic’s health and safety rules and regulations.
The club is led by Ottawa lawyer and community leader Lisa Langevin, a partner at Kelly Santini LLP. The past Forty Under 40 recipient has been a player with the club for more than 25 years and is currently its chairperson. She made OBJ headlines back in 2018 when she and Daphne Ballard, who's currently the Gaels' vice-chair, were the first women to duke it out at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation’s white-collar Fight for the Cure boxing event.
Langevin said the club has been working with the Irish embassy to put together and distribute care packages to seniors in the Ottawa Irish community.
“We can’t do as much community involvement as we normally do, so we have to come up with strategic ways to do different things to help,” she told OBJ.social.
Such as bring joy to others through song. Music plays a big role at St. Pat’s, especially around the holidays.
“Our social calendar is usually filled with singing groups throughout the month,” said Friedman. “It’s almost a daily thing.”
Unfortunately, the pandemic has meant a reduction in live music. There are a couple of entertainers who continue to visit but are required to take weekly COVID tests. The long-term 24-hour care facility, one of the oldest homes for the aged in Ontario, provides assisted living and respite care.
It was agreed Gaels could help by having players of all ages come and sing carols outside the building.
“I’m going to be in the back, mouthing,” Kelly told OBJ.social in advance. “If you want everybody to leave in a hurry, just ask me to sing.”
Kelly wasn't kidding; he did stand behind the others, pretending to sing.
Jarlath Connaughton, who’s one of the more senior players with the Ottawa Gaels, brought his voice and guitar. As well, seventeen-year-old Ryan Mortimer, a student at Merivale High School, treated everyone to his song and guitar performance of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
Earlier, residents listened to the opening act, the Ottawa Social Singers.
Jo-Anne Miner, a PSW at St. Pat's, was the first person in Ottawa to receive the vaccine this morning. The home has been allocated up to 200 doses of the initial round of 1,500 for Ottawa. They will be administered today through Friday, said Friedman.