RTÉ Lyric FM Outreach Tour
The Transition year Social Outreach Programme (see below) was treated to a delightful musical interlude on Wednesday (October 3rd), when the Lyric FM Quartet arrived to sprinkle a little musical magic into our lives. While the visit itself was special, it was enhanced by the presence of cellist Gerry Kelly (OC’71), son of the late TC ‘Tommy’ Kelly, erstwhile music teacher in Clongowes until his retirement in 1983. Tommy is fondly remembered by generations of Old Clongownians as a teacher as well as further afield as a talented composer and arranger.
Gerry was accompanied on stage by his wife, flautist Evelyn Grant (she of ‘Weekend Drive’) and their daughter, harpist Jean Kelly, with Mary McCague on the violin. Appropriately, the entire ensemble was clad in Clongowes’ purple and white as they ran through a selection of ‘music for middlebrows’. The programme featured show tunes, music from the movies and the work of Handel and our own Turlough Carolan. We also learnt a little about the history of the music as well as the internal workings of the harp, courtesy of Jean Kelly.
The event was organised by our own Mr Philip Thomas (himself a pupil of Tommy Kelly’s) in conjunction with the RTÉ Lyric FM Outreach Tour, its new stream of outreach activity. The ‘Music for all Ages’ initiative features live music performances, taking place in educational and community settings just like Clongowes with the aim of encouaging life-long learning through listening, engaging and enjoying music.
The performance finished with some audience involvement as Evelyn and Gerry led the crowd in a rendition of ‘Do-Re-Mi’ from The Sound of Music. This led into a vain effort to divide and conquer as one half of the audience was pitted against the other in a ‘battle of the choirs’. The tune was a ‘tonic solfa’ version of the Lyric FM theme tune but – in truth – honours were even in a good humoured contest that sent the audience away with a nice warm feeling.
The Social Outreach Programme is a key part of the Transition Year Programme in Clongowes. Its aim is to explore ways that young people in a school setting can create a more inclusive environment for other young people with Special Needs. At the moment we have 35-40 people with needs such as Down Syndrome, Autism, Epilepsy, Asperger’s Syndrome and other learning difficulties and they engage with Transition Years every Tuesday afternoon.
The Social Outreach Programme aims to make the students aware of those less fortunate than them, be it in terms of economic need or a need than is often more difficult to accommodate such as that of one with a disability. Transition Year boys are at a stage where they are open to growth in this area and open to explore their own creativity for the service of others. For our guests, coming to Clongowes once a week stimulates them and provides a change from their routine.
Some Clongowes boys have cared for a relative or friend, who has special needs and are acutely aware of the challenge. involved For those who have not had that experience the programme Teaches respect for all people and patience with those who are struggling with basic skills and an awareness of hidden talents that our guests may possess. Indeed the boys comment on particular skills they have identified in people with special needs and are quite fascinated to observe how some of them are so talented in particular areas.
Even though the modules are enjoyable, they are also challenging as the students have to face their own fears regarding what to do when guest may struggle to communicate his or her needs to them. It is all a learning process and in that there is a lot of fun and laughter with both student and guest realising the richness of the interaction between them. At the end of the day the students feel that they have done something valuable and – most importantly – that they have made another person feel special!