Mildred Rainey: A seminal figure in the development of Northern Ireland music

Sunday 22nd March 2015

Tony Cummings talked to MILDRED RAINEY about her five decades of Christian music ministry

Continued from page 1

Remembered Mildred, "'Born To Die' was an Easter musical and I wrote the whole lot. The songs came so quickly in many ways. It just came from an idea of literally telling the Easter story with Bible readings taken from the four Gospels. There would have been a song that would illustrate that. Taking it from just before the crucifixion right through to the resurrection, but very much making it personal. There's a song 'Betrayed By A Kiss For A Handful Of Silver'. There was a narrator, Ronnie McVeigh. I had three other soloists with me. The singers changed, but David Simpson would have been with me most of the time. We went to various churches every Easter - eight to 10 bookings, all over the place. We saw folk coming to know Jesus, trusting the Lord, every single time. We had a guy - his name has slipped my mind - who put together a series of slides illustrating it as we went along. Tom Crummy, a photographer, came with us all the time; he got a back projection screen - cutting edge stuff then. We took that round so many churches, and we must have done for 10 years and more. We saw so many folk coming to the Lord, every night, because you summed it up and gave an opportunity. My theory was none of us can spend any time at the Cross without being changed. If we take time to just begin to think and slowly go through exactly what the Cross means, we can't not be changed. The Lord so graciously honoured that every night, which was wonderful."

The stream of recording sessions and cassette releases put out through Olivet provided the Rainey family with a living. Explained Mildred, "In most cases it worked, and in some it didn't. The theory was the artists paid us back as they sold their cassettes. It was chicken and egg, because we had to commit totally to get the thing out there, otherwise there was no product to sell. Then we started copying our own, and that made a difference."

Mildred Rainey: A seminal figure in the development of Northern Ireland music

In 1985 a cassette album by The Rainey Children was released. Said Mildred, "All the children were on the first one, 'Thank You, God'. Mark was very small at that point, and we wanted him to be involved. I had written a song for the girls - 'Jesus Loves Me'. Kathryn sang 'Jesus loves me', then Ruth sang 'And me', Janet sang 'And me too'; it went on to say 'Jesus loves us', 'Jesus loves you'. Right at the end of that song we got Mark to say, 'And he loves me too'. He's been plagued by that ever since! People will say, 'I've got a cassette of you as a baby saying, "And he loves me too" in a thick Northern Ireland accent.' The children sang from when they were tiny, and they sang in harmony. People said, 'You must spend hours teaching them,' and I said, 'No, they do that themselves'. I wouldn't touch something they do naturally, because you'd spoil it. Kathryn was writing songs from when she was about nine or 10. I taught them piano, and they went from there."

In 1986 The Rainey Children's 'Shine For Him' was released while Mildred herself released 'God Loves You' and the following year, 'I Believe'. In 1987 Roy Rainey was to record and produce what he today considers his best ever work. Kathryn Rainey's 'Shadows Falling' showed that his daughter had developed into a hugely talented singer/songwriter. Olivet's sessions and releases continued unabated and in 1989 Mildred had her 'Whispering Hope' album as well as two Christmas projects, 'Thinking Of You This Christmas' and the unusual 'Accordion Christmas', issued. Reminisced Mildred, "The accordion was something that we had got to use on some of the recordings. I've never played it properly, using the left hand. It was a piano-accordion, so it was just a matter of turning the keyboard sideways and playing. I would be part of Kathryn's worship band in church; we'd use the accordion there - which I loved doing - with the bass and electric guitar."

By 1990 Mildred's music was changing again with the release of the 'Wings Of The Morning' cassette - all songs written by Mildred accompanied by her deft keyboard-playing helped by some neat guitar work from Ian Bartholomew. More releases followed with 1991's 'Sing A New Song' and 'What Is Christmas' and 1992's 'Praise Him'. By now Mildred's musical approach was changing again. Speaking about the changes in her vocal approach she was particularly candid. "I was trained classically. My first album 'Happiness' was sung very properly, and I haven't listened to it for years because I would cringe. There is such a crossover now from classical through to pop, but in those days it was very defined - you were one thing or the other. Singing in churches, my heart was to communicate, so my style changed as I started to write my own songs. Then as I got involved in worship the style evolved again. But the overriding factor was always to communicate God's love and my heart of love for him."

Olivet had changed its name to Upstream Recordings and its productions became increasingly sophisticated. Mildred's music followed suit and by 1995 she was releasing 'Time In The Secret Place' and in 2000 'Christ Died For You'. As the years rolled on Mildred's releases became more infrequent though 2003's 'Into Tomorrow', 2006's 'Dream Again' and 2009's 'Unending Love' showed she'd lost none of her musical vibrancy. One of the events she in which she has been regularly involved is Keswick in Portstewart. She commented, "I have been involved in leading the worship there for the past five years. I'm very conscious that this past year may be the last one - simply because I don't want to become a monument. They were very keen to develop praise in at Portstewart - move it on, introduce some more worship and so on. We have a worship band very gently introducing the more traditional hymn-singing folk into modern worship."

I asked Mildred whether she had ever sung her daughter's "Hungry" anthem at Keswick, Portstewart? "No, not because I don't like it - I do. It just felt as if it wouldn't fit in. We have been ministering to some very traditional folk. Young people are starting to come, but they're coming from very traditional backgrounds; I would hate for anybody not to like it. That's me protecting Kathryn! I'm very proud of Kathryn. I'm proud of them all. We have a great family; they're all involved in music in one way or another; they're a great bunch. God is just so good." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.

Showing page 2 of 2

1 2

Reader Comments

Posted by Richard Underwood @ 09:22 on Mar 8 2017

Can you tell me please if Mildred Rainey has a biography thanks Richard Underwood

Posted by ruth davis in canberra australia @ 11:39 on Aug 1 2016

i was hoping you could send me some information on eric black.. i googled his name and your info came up. we have a video of his with lovely songs i got it several years ago from our christian radio station who were playing songs from it. he apparently toured in australia and worked with an arthur hill. i believe eric blac has died but no nothing else. would love to know more. your name is not familiar to me but perhaps you could help me with some information. i;d be very grateful regards ruth davis

Posted by JAMES STRAHAN in BROUGHSHANE @ 16:09 on May 17 2016


Posted by Maureen Ballantine in Ballymena @ 16:26 on Mar 22 2015

oh Mildred don't be packing in Keswick @ Portstewart. Hubby and I are the 'older lot' but we love your approach, old and new. Many yrs since I first heard you at youth and CE rallies around the town. You sound as dedicated and fresh as ever. May the Lord keep blessing you both in your service for Him.

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

Add your comment

We welcome your opinions but libellous and abusive comments are not allowed.

We are committed to protecting your privacy. By clicking 'Send comment' you consent to Cross Rhythms storing and processing your personal data. For more information about how we care for your data please see our privacy policy.


Connect with Cross Rhythms by signing up to our email mailing list

A Step Change...
Cross Rhythms Media Training Centre
Artists & DJs A-Z
# A B C D E F G H I J K L M
N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #
Or keyword search


Intercession Room
Care for other people and shake heaven in our Intercession Room