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2004-11-23 Death row prisoner inspires tenor song

SligoWeekender

 

A song composed by Sligo Weekender columnist James Nelson about a death-row prisoner was released as the b-side to the new Celtic Tenors' single on Friday last. James has been writing to Eric Nance in Jefferson County, Arkansas for the past ten years, a year after Eric's conviction for murder in 1996. During that time, Eric has sent James a number of poems and paintings. James composed music for one of those poems and called it "Eric's Song". The song is a b-side to the Celtic Tenors' new single "You Raise Me Up" which they recorded with pop starlet Samantha Mumba earlier this year. Both songs are included in the band's new album due out in February of next year. It is the first time that a song composed by one of the three tenors - James, Niall Morris and Matthew Gilsenan - has been included on an album. Speaking on the day his new single hit the shops, James told the Sligo Weekender about how he first got in contact with his death-row pen pal. "I'm a member of Amnesty International and a friend of mine from Scotland put me in touch with this group, Lifelines, a branch of Amnesty International who write to death-row prisoners. "I was always anti-death penalty so I joined them. "We write to prisoners who are rather controversial, not serial killers, but people who have pleaded their innocence. "Eric has always maintained his innocence. He had two appeals and the second one is ongoing. I've been writing to him for ten years. He's been on death row for eleven years which is also unusual. "I wrote "Eric's Song" back in 1997. He used to send me poetry and I took one of his poems and put music to it." The resulting song was recorded with the help of the string section of the RTE Concert Orchestra during the summer and the results can be heard on their new single. The collaboration with Irish pop star and actress Samantha Mumba is more straightforward and came about through the Celtic Tenors manager, Pat Egan. With their version of "You Raise Me Up" the tenors were after a gospel style sound and sexy young starlet Samantha was up to the task of matching their musical vision. Samantha is one of a number of guests performers to be included in the Tenors' new album. Other collaborators included Belfast star Brian Kennedy and American prog rock group Air Supply.