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Music lies beyond the veil

ERICA DONALD
Last updated 05:00 20/06/2014
Pauline Grogan

SING-A-LONG: Pauline singing to the audience of Pinehurst teachers and their parents, who joined in.

Pauline Grogan
LIFE SONGS: Pauline uses different hats for each of her songs which represent different occasions and emotions in her life.

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A former nun who re-entered the secular world after being sexually abused by a priest is now trying her hand at singing, songwriting and recording.

Pauline Grogan, 69, performed her first 10-song concert on June 2 at Pinehurst School on Auckland's North Shore where she still does some relief teaching and hopes to have her CD, Songs of Life, ready for sale by the end of the year.

Grogan is no stranger to diversity - working as a teacher and marriage celebrant; once touring the country with her one woman play and still pulling in big audiences as a motivational speaker.

She is also the author of Beyond the Veil, an autobiography documenting her years as a novice and nun from the age of 17; her sexual abuse at the hands of a catholic priest, and the new life she made for herself after leaving the convent when she was 29.

The mother of four says her interest in music kicked off two years ago when she attended a health retreat and was told by her personal trainer that she needed long and short-term goals.

She was recovering from knee replacement surgery at the time and says she was still struggling a little with mobility.

Grogan told the trainer her short-term goal was to walk the Auckland Quarter Marathon in a month's time.

"It was mad when I look back. He said he thought it was a bit tough and I said 'no, I'll do it'."

"So I walked and I walked and it was while I was walking, and thinking about life, that these songs just came out of me."

Grogan shared some of the tunes with music teacher and jazz player Ben Fernandez who helped her with backing tracks.

She then got some vocal lessons with Suzanne Lynch - a former back up singer for British recording star Cat Stevens and one half of the 60s singing duo, The Chicks.

This month's concert was performed with Fernandez and drummer Jason Orme.

It was part of a community-building initiative at the school with staff and parents invited to attend.

"It's wonderful learning at this stage in life," Grogan says. "Having all of this flowing out of me now is just magical.

"At 50 I had published two books, at 60 I was doing a one-woman play, at 70 I'm singing my Songs of Life and, who knows, at 80 I might be belly dancing."

Grogan has a few words of advice for anyone wanting to try something new:

"Take the risk. If there's something you've ever wanted to do - do it. It's not the result which matters, it's making it happen."

LIFE AFTER ABUSE

Grogan says her abuser fled the country after she reported him to church leaders and has since left the priesthood.

She became a teacher and tried to forget her past until she met James Lynch - a man who'd spent 29 years lying paralysed in a hospital bed since being electrocuted at the age of 14.

The pair clicked and Lynch became a mentor figure until his death in 2001.

He encouraged Grogan to confront her past and write the book that was published by Penguin in 1996.

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- North Harbour News

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