The Feis Ceoil returned to the RDS after a covid enforced hiatus and our musicians took enormous pride in representing their school at the largest and most prestigious music competition in Ireland. There was both individual and collective success for College musicians, including the top prize for Emily McCarthy in the Girls’ Vocal Solo (A) and the Cailíní A (U18 Girls, ag canadh as Gaeilge) and, in the Alice Yoakley Quirk Cup for school choirs, the College’s Veritas choir (pictured above) were ‘Very Highly Commended’, finishing in joint 3rd place.
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At St. Columba’s, we have always celebrated the sporty types and being awarded one’s ‘Sports Colours’ is an accolade to which many aspire but only a few achieve. They are awarded not just for excellence but also for commitment and overall positive contribution. In the past, however, in my opinion, we have not given the same recognition to those who excel in the cultural life of the College and I have thought it is time to change that. ‘Colours’ are usually seen as a sporting idea, so, being a classicist, I have introduced a Musarum Comes, or MC, which translates as a Companion of the Muses. In ancient Greek mythology, the Muses were the spirits which inspired great art and music and dance … in fact, there were nine of them. OK, so it is a slightly pretentious concept, but I like it!
Next term I will present the first batch of MCs with their awards, a tie for the boys and a silver medallion for the girls. However, at assembly this morning I decided to award one in advance to Emily McCarthy, who has made an enormous contribution to the artistic life of the school for the last six years. She is a fine actress, who has had a few lead roles, but her regular contributions to the choir and her readiness to sing solos in Chapel and elsewhere, have been a treat for all of us. This week she won the Under 18 girls’ vocal cup and the Under 18 Cailíní Cup, for singing in Irish, at the Feis Coeil, to add to her win at the Wesley Feis three weeks ago. That is an outstanding achievement and hence the decision to single her out to be the first recipient of this award.
We are very proud that she has been awarded a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London for next year. As for the Musarum Comes, we hope it will become as prized and sought after as Sports Colours. Congratulations to Emily for being the first and thank you for all of the memories.
Emily McCarthy – 1st Place Herbert Pembrey Cup, Solo Singing Classical.
Rachel Shaw – 2nd Place Strings.
Lauren Ng -2nd Place Classical Singing.
Lauren Ng – 2nd Place Piano Solo.
Matilde Matera – 2nd Popular Singing.
Lauren Ng – 3rd Popular Singing.
St. Columba’s College Chamber Orchestra – Highly Commended.
Steven Kou – Highly Commended, Cello
CoCo Xu – Highly Commended Piano Solo.
Liam Campbell – Highly Commended Strings.
Yesterday afternoon, two Carol Services took place for the pupils and staff. While there was no congregational singing this year, those in attendance were treated to some wonderful performances from the various College choirs and musicians. A musical ensemble, Joshua Chan, Monty Walsh and Liam Campbell, played two beautiful instrumental pieces to open up the services which were followed by the Chamber Choir performing the haunting Irish carol Suantraí. The Sine Nomine choir sang a beautiful arrangement of the Coventry Carol along with a more traditional rendition of Joy to the World, while the Chapel Choir sang Three Kings. Finally, there was an organ solo (Il Dulci Jubilo) from Harry Powell, Form III.
You can watch the recording of the service below. Merry Christmas!
The College Virtual Choir launch their performance of Bob Marley’s ‘One Love’ tomorrow morning at 11:30am. Be sure to check it out on FireFly here or by watching below (when it goes live).
Science teacher (and closet musical theatre fan) Humphrey Jones reviews last weekend’s performance of Grease.
I turned forty a few months back. Almost exactly one year earlier the movie Grease reached a similar milestone: it has aged far better than I have. The music still remains as catchy as ever and the dialogue is still relevant (to all audiences); it remains witty, more than a little bit rude, cheeky and full of innuendo. I have particularly fond memories of watching Grease as a young lad and aspiring to be as cool as Danny Zuko. I never was (and sadly never will be). The prospect of watching a school performance of this well-loved musical, I must admit, made me a tad nervous. How would a young cast, from Forms I right through to VI, do the classic songs, dialogue and dance routines any sort of justice? However, as it turned out, there was no need to doubt them.
The College production of Grease delighted and entertained. Performed over three cold November nights the young cast brought huge enthusiasm and energy to the stage. They sang their hearts out, danced with gusto and delivered their lines with perfect dramatic and comedic timing. As a full cast, they did remarkably well. My biggest disappointment with the original movie was that some of the characters were almost too cool, too gritty and were old beyond their years (the actors, of course, were much older than the characters they portrayed). The younger cast in this production softened the story a little which, in my opinion, was a good thing. I’m not sure if that was deliberate or not but deserved credit to the team of directors (Ronan Swift, Geraldine Malone Brady and Tristan Clarke) for nurturing the clearly natural talent of the young cast.
And what talent! The lead actors, Emily McCarthy (Sandy) and Marcus O’Connor (Danny), were both excellent. Emily’s powerful yet melodic voice perfectly suited the role and her performance of ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ was memorable. Marcus’s performance was natural and nuanced and it was clear he had studied Travolta’s Danny. They worked really well together, particularly as a singing partnership. It was hard to believe that they’re in Form III and IV respectively. No doubt we will see them on stage again in the coming years.
Jack Hayes (Kenickie), Abigail O’Brien (Rizzo), Songyon Oh (Marty), Peter Taylor (Doody), Leo Moreau (Sonny) and Sakhile Khumalo (Roger) were all perfectly cast and gave brilliant vocal performances. Imogen Casey (Frenchy) caught the naivety of her character superbly while Stella Jacobs (Jan) was energetic throughout (she even managed to do some cartwheels during the final number). Phoebe Grennell (Patty) was cast in her role just two weeks before the first performance but you would have never guessed; she was convincing and confident whenever she was on stage. Oscar Yan (Teen Angel) brought the house down with his rendition of ‘Beauty School Dropout’ (I still love the line “Missed your midterms and flunked shampoo”). The surprise packages were Alex Hinde (Eugene) and Nelly Ploner (Cha-Cha) who momentarily commanded the stage during their “dance” number (some say Alex may never recover). Nelly, it must be said, took a relatively minor character in the original production and brought her front and centre. As a whole, the school dance scene was brilliantly done and huge credit to Fearghal Curtis and Edel Shannon too for their clever and tight choreography of the hand-jive (and other dance numbers). All these young actors, it must be said, were supported by a strong ensemble of would-be ‘Pink Ladies’ and ‘T-Birds’. The whole cast performed with zest and without inhibition – again credit to the team of directors in facilitating this.
The cast were accompanied by an extremely slick live band and looked every bit the part thanks to Karen Hennessey and her team in the costume room. The set design was minimal with the colourful digital backdrops, projected onto the large screen behind the stage, more than adequately setting the scenes. The Art Department, in particular Lynn Murphy and her pupils, prepared some additional props including the famous Grease Lightning car. There were many more individuals involved in the production, far too numerous to mention here.
All in all, everyone involved in Grease should be extremely proud of their efforts. They took a challenging musical, with challenging themes, and more than did it justice. Everything about Grease was excellent: the music, the dancing, the singing, the acting. There have been some unforgettable College musicals in recent years (Oklahoma and Guys & Dolls come to mind) but Grease will live long in the memory for me, for many reasons. Vince Fontaine (played by Guy Fitzgibbon) famously says in Grease “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s what you do with your dancin’ shoes”. This young cast clearly worked those dancin’ shoes: they were all winners!
Humphrey Jones (Teacher & closet musical theatre fan)
The Art and Music Prize events took place over the weekend, on Saturday and Sunday nights respectively. These events traditionally bring to a close our annual Arts Week.
On Saturday evening we welcomed artist and Old Columban Conrad Frankel to speak with the whole school on his journey as an artist and, of course, to judge the entries for the prize. After a fascinating and humorous talk, Conrad announced the winners in each category. The prizes went to Jeanne Levesque (Senior Art), Tania Stokes (Senior Craft), Verlaine Bolger (Photography, one of her photos featured above), Emma Hinde (Junior Art) and Isabel Warnock (Junior Craft).
The Music Prizes Concert was held on Sunday, March 30th; the adjudicator was Mr Jonathan Browner. He is currently headmaster in Educate Together School in Bray, but was previously Director of Music in Sandford Park School. It was a very entertaining evening with performers from 1st to 6th Form. He gave a very good adjudication and especially praised the high standard of singing in the College. Prizes were awarded to Harry Oke Osanyitolu, Toby Green, Alexandra Murray Donaldson, Alex Russell, Andre Stokes and Songyon Oh.
Well done to everyone involved in a hugely entertaining and engaging weekend, but especially to the prize winners!
The Wesley Interschools Music Festival took place over the weekend with St. Columba’s pupils competing in a wide range of events, both as soloists and in groups. The big success came on Friday night when the senior chamber choir, Sine Nomine, took home the William J Watson Cup for Best Four-Part Choir. Sakhile Khumalo came second while Songyon Oh was ‘Highly Commended’ in the Popular Song prize. In addition, Oscar Yan, Imogen Casey, André Stokes and Tania Stokes were all awarded ‘Highly Commended’ in their respective competitions.
On Friday, December 14th 2018 forty-five pupils, from Forms II to VI, along with six members of staff will head off to Copenhagen for the weekend on a short choir trip. The party consists of 27 girls and 18 boys, singing in a four-part choir.
The highlight of the trip will be a concert performance in St. Ansgar’s Cathedral on
The trip will also include a Canal Tour of Copenhagen, a visit and dinner at the famous Tivoli Gardens, and a visit to the renowned National Aquarium. There will also be time to savour the atmosphere of the Christmas Markets in Copenhagen. The choir have been rehearsing very hard since September, and we hope it will be a memorable trip!