Posted: 29th November 2013

The Elements Choir, along with their teachers Ms. Anne Conaghan and Ms Elizabeth Keighary, travelled to Co Louth on Wednesday, 20th November to take part in the Drogheda Youth Choral Festival, in an effort to return the Fr. O’Kelly Trophy to Clongowes Wood College, following the success of their Elemental predecessors in 2012. Ms Conaghan takes up the story…

An early morning rise and an early breakfast ensured that the boys were in their finest fettle and, after the ever-essential warm-up in Room 1, the boys embarked on their journey to Drogheda. This was a particularly special day for these boys, as it was their first time to represent Clongowes Wood College both in public and in uniform. Upon arrival at the Barbican Theatre in Drogheda, Co. Louth, the boys were swiftly and calmly led onto the stage by the very supportive and well-organised Festival Staff.

The choir presented two contrasting songs to the adjudicator and audience. The first of these was ‘The Glory Train’, by Grier and Lowell, which proved to be a very popular choice with this particular ensemble, no doubt due to its vibrancy, rhythmic speech passages and memorable melody. A particular challenge posed by this particular piece, was the necessity for each ‘voice’ to hold and sustain its own musical line, and thus presented emerging singers with a perfect first encounter with a more complex musical texture, in this case, an imitative, polyphonic style.

Our second musical offering was a two-part arrangement of the beautiful and haunting ‘Coventry Carol’, which dates from the 16th century. The arrangement of this carol was further refined by Ms. Conaghan to suit the voices in this particular ensemble. The carol refers to the Massacre of the Innocents, in which Herod ordered all male infants in Bethlehem under the age of two to be killed. The lyrics of this haunting carol represent a mother’s lament for her doomed child, and were most beautifully captured by the Elements choristers. The musical challenge in this arrangement demands a cantabile, sustained legato line, with appropriate breath control and intonation.

The adjudicator on the day was the internationally acclaimed composer, Mr. Michael Holohan, who awarded the choir with an astoundingly high score of 92%, ensuring the rightful return of the Fr. O’Kelly Trophy to Clongowes Wood College. The choir was praised for its tight control of entries of different parts, and for its highly rhythmic rendition of the ‘Glory Train’. Our accompanist, Ms. E. Keighary was also lauded by the adjudicator for the provision of a supportive piano accompaniment.

Ms. Anne Conaghan

If you missed them in Drogheda you might like to know that the boys are currently in the process of recording ‘The Coventry Carol’ as a submission for the RTE Lyric FM Choirs for Christmas competition, and will also perform their winning repertoire at the annual Christmas Concert in the Boys’ Chapel, on December 8th, at 6pm sharp. 

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