Posted: 17th June 2015

From the first tentative arrival of the shades of Fr Peter Kenney and James McLorinan to the last exultant beat of the impish David Dudeney’s drum the National Concert Hall resounded to the music, song and words that helped give a flavour of the cultural legacy bequeathed by the pupils, alumni and staff of Ireland’s premier Boarding School. For one night only on Tuesday 24th March current pupils, past pupils and staff experienced the smell of the greasepaint and roar of the crowd as they became brothers in music in a Gala Concert that marked the Clongowes Bicentenary. Tribute was also paid to our rich theatrical tradition in the shape of several vignettes, which peppered the evening’s entertainment and added spice to a joyous celebration. Our man of many talents, Richard McElwee managed to blag a ticket and filed this report…

Rock and classical. Purple lights. Smiles. Cúpla focal as gaeilge. Can Can lines of clapping parents. Philip Thomas’ clenched fist rising up out of his cloak as if bestowing the sword of Excalibur on Clongowes musicians. The perfect celebration.

As Fr. Leonard Moloney took the microphone at the conclusion of the Clongowes Bicentenary Concert, nobody could begrudge him the clear feeling of pride that was etched across his face. Meanwhile, there was a palpable sense of relief and pride sweeping across the stage behind him as months of preparation were finally borne out in the most memorable of occasions.

One of Ireland’s principal music venues, the National Concert Hall has played host to many renowned performers on both domestic and international fronts. Clongowes too has seen an assortment of talent pass through its doors. Appropriately, many of those who played such prominent roles in the Christmas and Summer Concerts of yesteryear returned as comrades in music on Tuesday night.

Esteemed musicians in their own right, Kieran Quinn (OC’98) and Aaron Doyle (OC’14) were at hand make stirring individual contributions, while several more familiar faces popped up in various choral and orchestral guises. There was also a nod to Clongowes’ musical heritage with the Kelly brothers, sons of composer and former Clongowes teacher T.C. Kelly, paying a moving tribute to their father by taking to the stage together after the interval. In being preceded by the Thomas boys, Richard (OC’13) and Mark (Rhetoric), the evening’s programme gave us a tangible illustration of Clongowes’ generational influence.

However the highlights of the evening belonged to the incumbent students. When the vastly talented class of 2014 said goodbye at last May, many lamented the loss of such huge musical ability. However the likes of Mark Thomas, Cathal Duffy, Matthew Gibbons and GC Dude, have seen Rhetoric 2015 take Clongowes music to another level.

Following a recent summer spent in California, Duffy took to music to reflect upon his time. Alongside his ensemble, he brought his experiences to his audience in his original piece ‘Unforgotten’. Later, iTunes veterans GC Dude (comprising Gareth Campbell and David Dudeney), had the audience swooning with an emotion-packed rendition of their debut single ‘What is A Woman to You?’ Mark Thomas and Matthew Gibbons were typically mesmerising on the violin and piano respectively. Special mention must also be made of Luke Clohessy (Grammar) who emerged from the lively Trad Group to give a haunting rendition of ‘The Parting Glass’. So good was the Senior Choir’s rendition of ‘Dulaman’ that the composer Michael McGlynn (he of Anúna) told Ms Keighary that it was ‘easily the best I have heard by an Irish choir!’

It almost feels unfair to have singled out anyone such was the collective effort on Tuesday night. The Choir’s version of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was particularly notable. Incidentally, when the Elements choir merged with their senior counterparts at the finish, 22 years of Clongowes singers were represented in the group. Furthermore, ahead of their impending trip to Madrid (they left at silly o’clock this morning – Ed), the Orchestra flexed their musical muscle and in so doing could have been mistaken for any symphony ensemble that had gone before them in the venue.

Words don’t do Tuesday evening justice. It really was the perfect celebration.

Well done to all involved!

Highlights of the night are available here.

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