The School Musicals
The Magic of Music – Drámaí, Draíocht Agus Ceol
As I struggle to download images through a kaleidoscope of curtain calls, greasepaint and lighting gels, I begin to realise what a vast treasure store of memories lies hidden in Rathcoole Community School’s theatrical past. The burning cloak that made an unexpected but more than dramatic entrance for the King of the Fairies, the unsolicited, progressively plunging necklines of the female floosies in Mrs Brady’s sheebeen, that rehearsal when the electricity went off and we sang in the candlelight, and those dance routines, oh those dance routines, in rehearsal for the spotlight in RTE. I recall stumbling blocks, protracted hangings, controversial newspaper articles, post-production send-ups in many a spontaneous after-show party and just terrific fun.
When I arrived in Rathcoole as a youngish impresario (indeed!), Holy Family Community School had already staged their Christmas Concert to great acclaim, under the directorship of the then Deputy Principal, John Walsh assisted by Ms Maureen Nugent. What could I do? Well from there on it was just a trail of talent, imagination, practice and wonderful teamwork.
The years of music theatre in Holy Family Community School saw the talents of hundreds of students, teachers, caretakers and God knows who else, being showcased to great acclaim and indeed often to howls of laughter. We had The Ugly Duckling, complete with all makes of farm-yard costumes; Requiem for Julie, the story of a troubled teenager; The Apprentice, (Winning Streak) all cigars and shades; Shadowlands (Aisling) the tragic story set in the Famine; The Moth And The Flame, a story set in the Troubles; The Raven Beckons, a modern story of family break-up; The Boy From the Far Side of the Moon, a story of prejudice and Kamiano, the story of Damien the leper priest which toured this side of the country with a cast of two hundred in association with the Kill Musical Society.
A number of these shows went on to be produced successfully on the professional stage but without any of that same spontaneous energy and excitement that fed the original school productions.
We also staged a number of musical presentations of The Passion, which may perhaps buy those who participated, a few plenary indulgences (if anybody remembers what they are) despite the scorch marks left in the aisles.
There were intermittent forays into mainstream musical theatre and drama including appearances of The Bull McCabe, Da, Captain Boyle and excerpts from Cats, Les Misérables, Evita and many more.
Quite a number of our past pupils went on to make a name in the entertainment field and I’m sure the seeds were sown on many a cold rehearsal day as the cast tried to compete with the noise of Charlie Hill’s jig saw or Christy Morrin’s grinder. We fostered and nourished the careers of costume makers, stage designers, lighting and sound engineers, painters, musicians, scaffolding experts, caterers and a myriad more.
I have moved away from both Rathcoole and my involvement in musicals but I am still taken aback, when I meet past pupils, by the fondness of how they remember those times. As a staff we grew up together through this theatrical journey, which in many ways became a metaphor for those times. It was simply a case of being in the right place at the right time and I feel a certain frisson, that famous “Rathcoole Buzz” as I now recall those images. Maybe there’ll be a chance of “a session” inspired by this anniversary celebration.
The school choir was started in 1993. There are two choirs in the school: a choir with students from First, Second and Fifth Year and the Senior Chamber Choir with students from Transition, Fifth and Sixth Year. Both choirs take part in various activities during the school year. These include carol services for Concern, the Society of St.Vincent de Paul anmusic.jpgd the Christmas Carol Service. Our choirs have enjoyed success in many competitions. In 1994 it had its first major performance when it participated in a Sunday morning mass on RTE television to honour the Beatification of Father Damien de Veuster, better known as Damien of Molokai, the leper priest. Every Wednesday, a bunch of enthusiastic and dedicated young students gather in the music room for a session of choral training. All students have the opportunity to be part of this group, which consists of 1st to 6th years.
There is always an event to prepare for and each one is greeted with excitement: carol services, soirées musicales, cabaret nights, masses, workshops and graduation nights.
Every year the choir teams up with the Ardee Community School Choir to perform in both Ardee’s Bohemian Centre and Rathcoole. The two choirs were lucky to take part in a workshop given recently on RTE television by Peter Hunt (Author of Voiceworks).
In December 2005, the choir entered Lyric FM Choir-For-Christmas competition and was chosen to perform on air. The choir members spent an enjoyable day in Beech Park recording studios preparing for this.
The choir gives students the opportunity to have fun together while sharing a talent they all enjoy.
The Soirée Musicale
The first Soirée Musicale was held in 1994 and it has become an annual event. Every year the wonderful talent of H.F.C.S. is given the opportunity to blossom in this showpiece. Students from the music classes, striving for a high standard of excellence, perform on this night.
Parents, happy to support the hard work and commitment, are invited to enjoy the fruits of weeks of practice. Senior students eager to impress, help foster interest and commitment among the younger students. Performances, inclusive of all years, can range from solo saxophone to recorder quintet.
The highlight in recent years, the culmination of months of preparation by teachers and students, was our 2004 “Celebration of Music ” in the Riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge. Students were given the opportunity to perform in this exciting venue and the programme featured thrilling renditions of showstoppers ranging from the musical Chicago to the music of Gershwin. The Choir ended the night with Queen’s “Don’t stop me now” , a fitting piece to bring the curtain down on a very successful night.
Emma Ryan, Music Teacher.