A Divine Comedy: Few music groups, with the possible exception of ‘Temperance Seven’ or ‘The Bonzo Dog Do Da Band’, can claim the level of quirkiness achieved by ‘The Divine Comedy’. No relation to the same named Italian narrative poem by Dante, The Divine Comedy are a chamber pop band from Northern Ireland formed in 1989 and fronted by Neil Hannon. Hannon has been the only constant member of the group, playing, in some instances, all of the non-orchestral instrumentation except drums.
To date, twelve studio albums have been released under the Divine Comedy name. Between 1996 and 1999, the band released nine singles that made the UK Top 40, including the top-ten hit, "National Express”. The song was based on Neil Hannon's observations of life from the window of a National Express coach! Still going strong, perhaps their song ’outside’ is most pertinent to our present lockdown situation.(You can stream at https://youtu.be/-TvOIT4dLLo).
Incredibly, this secular band also play a superb rendition of one of our most popular traditional hymns. Appearing on a BBC Northern Island TV show, ‘Across The Line’’, Neil Hannon surprises the audience with his version of ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’. OK, the musical purist may pick up that he fluffs a couple of notes (possibly on purpose) but I have never heard this hymn given such raw energy, depth, and meaning. The audience were stunned. Personally, I was stunned because it is one of the very few renditions that captures this hymn as it was intended.