Hallelujah for Kelley Mooney

While lifting weights, or balancing on one foot, or twisting to touch my lifted knees to opposite elbows in exercise classes at the gym, I never noticed Leonard Cohen’s lyrics to “Hallelujah”, a CD our instructor occasionally played.  When I heard it in church recently, the words sung were clear and beautiful.  I noticed that the writers included a female name.  Until then, I just knew it was an intoxicatingly beautiful melody and included the word “Hallelujah” over and over.  Apparently Kelley Mooney’s parish priest in Prince Edward Island, Canada was similarly intrigued and misled.  He asked Kelley, a great singer, if she would perform it at Mass.  After all, how can you go wrong with the Hebrew word for “Praise Ye the Lord” over and over?   Kelley said she’d consider it.  When she looked up the lyrics, however, she realized that Cohen’s lyrics were definitely inappropriate for Mass.  Kelley, born in Boston, but raised in Canada, is a talented singer/songwriter in the country style by night and a Canadian government worker by day.  So in her spare time, she worked up new lyrics covering the story of Christ’s passion and resurrection while retaining the repeated “hallelujah” refrain.  It was her version, not Cohen’s, that I heard in church.  It took two years for her to get permission from Cohen to perform her alteration of the lyrics to a more religious message.  But finally in 2008 she got the rights.    When she performed her version with a choir in 2010, her cousin put it up on YouTube.  The performance can put chills down the spine.  The recording went viral and was posted on GodTube just before Easter weekend.    Kelley has her own website, www.kelleymooney.com, and the website hosting company’s server crashed from all the traffic to see and hear the video.  In 2011, she released her CD, “Tomorrow”.  The CD was mainly country, but she did include a couple of inspirational works, including “Hallelujah”.  After that release, she won the 2012 Music PEI Country Recording of the Year.  Sometimes it takes several years to become an overnight success.  By spring of 2014, “Hallelujah” was number 3 on Billboard’s digital downloads chart.  Kelley hopes one day to be able to be a full time musician.  Meanwhile, she lives with her husband and step daughter in Charlottetown P.E.I. and keeps on making music part time.

One thought on “Hallelujah for Kelley Mooney

  1. Resa says:

    What a great story, Lesley! When I heard the familiar beginnings of this song at church, I was a little worried someone had made a serious misstep! I love Cohen’s song — but definitely not church material. The revision was beautiful as well, and I’m so glad to know about it’s existence! Thanks for sharing the background 🙂

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