Not as famous as her sister, Enya, with whom she fronted the band Clannad, Maire Brennan's ethereal voice is nonetheless one of the chief reasons the world has been gobbling up the odd hybrid of New Age and pagan sound called "Celtic contemporary." After Clannad sold 15 million copies of 17 albums, these sisters from Donegal both headed for solo careers. Brennan's second solo effort, "Whisper to the Wild Water" has been nominated for a Grammy in the New Age category.

Brennan is an odd hybrid herself: it's hard to think of another devout Catholic with New Age albums. And there has never been a Catholic, nevermind one with a Grammy-nominated New Age album, released by Word records, a Christian label that usually deals with Protestant acts. Maire Brennan has made converts of them, so to speak, with "Whisper To The Wild Water."

With one of the warmest hearts in music, she shared with Beliefnet some of her passion for music, the reconciliation of the two Irelands, and the faith in God that leads her life.

Congratulations on your Grammy nomination.

Are you surprised to find yourself in the New Age category instead of the Gospel category?
I did wonder about it initially, I thought our music was more world music, or Christian music, or whatever. But I've been on the New Age charts on my last album "This Perfect Time" and then this album and I suppose in New Age they look at spirituality in the bigger sense, so we can fit in there. My music doesn't have a lot of chance to be nominated and the Christian and Gospel categories are so full of wonderful artists, that I think it would be quite hard to get in there.

Have you two ever talked about collaborating on something? I have not, but it's something, that, well, you know, if it is the right thing to happen. The last time I spoke with her I said that it would be good to get together to talk. I know she searches a lot spiritually, She knows where I am coming from, but we haven't really sat down and had that long discussion yet.

A discussion about faith?
I don't go out and attack, well, that might be the wrong word to use, but get on people and say this is what you have to do. People know where I come from and what I'm about, and a lot of people come to me and say: What is it about you, tell me about it. I prefer to do it that way as oppose to convince people or drive people away. The biggest thing I can give people is love, if then they want to know why I am content, how blessed I am, my life, my family, my marriage then people will ask.

Sinead has made some very beautiful music. It is interesting what she is looking towards. She is very much into Jesus' Mother and that aspect.

What do you think about that?
Well, she is blessed above all. Mary isn't something we should forget, or be afraid to mention. I mean we go the extent of mentioning Ruth, or Lydia, but don't mention Mary. We can learn from her gentleness and her commitment, and honesty, and the way she took to what God had for her.

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Did you ever have this clear a Christian message in Clannad?
No, not at all, my work has been more contemporary, Celtic contemporary, or folk contemporary, for 30 years. Only the last two albums have veered into the Celtic Christianity. It quite fascinated me. I had no idea I would be doing anything spiritual. I was a Christian, but I was not a Christian musician if you know what I mean--when I do concerts it's not only for Christians. It's where God has put me.

What led to these Christian albums?
It was just the timing. There has been a lot of interest in the Celtic culture, and the legends and mythologies. I love these stories too, because I grew up with them. It was interesting to learn about the great saints and scholars of Ireland going back for centuries and how God used Ireland in a very mighty way.

Were you raised in a Catholic or Protestant household?
I was raised very Catholic in a remote country area in a place called Donegal. My parents were musicians. Eventually my dad bought a pub, which is quite famous to this day, although he has never drunk or smoked in his life, and attends church every day. When I am home we all go there to sing. My Catholic upbringing was very important. We all go down different paths and think we know better, but it's so important to give kids a base. When you need help, you know where to turn to.

What's your feeling about the troubles in the North?
I have a big heart for reconciliation. A lot of people use the excuse of religion to fight, a lot of those people don't even go to church. It must make God really, really unhappy to see Christians fighting each other. It is important to look at the simplicity of the Christian life and not the baggage that surrounds the churches. We really must look inside our hearts and start respecting each other.

Worship is wonderful, but you have to do the other one, and that is where the Christian faith lies--to show respect, to stretch out your hand, and support each other.

Do you perform in the North?
There have been fantastic things happening in Northern Ireland, I have sung in Presbyterian churches in east Belfast and in Catholic churches on the road where the Orange order marches and the fighting starts. Here I was playing in this church with Protestants and Catholics crying together. It was so emotional. Before Christmas I was involved in this event called History Makers, with 5,000 Protestant and Catholic children from schools all over Northern Ireland. There are a lot a people in Northern Ireland who are working like that.

Sinead O'Connor has sung a lot about the North as well.

Yeah, in fact I know her quite well. Her daughter goes to school with my daughter.

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