After all they have been through, it was a blessing, deserved and earned, that the Class of 2022 were able to celebrate their time at St. Conleth’s in a fitting finale: face-to-face, hand-in-hand and in full voice. Master of Ceremonies Ms. NiAonghusa presided over a beautiful ceremony which mixed prayers, music, words of wit and wisdom and a considerable amount of style. Some of the boys have been at the school since First Form, while the girls, for the first time at graduation, and a sign of our completed coeducational transformation, have been with us for a full six years. All involved seemed full of bittersweet emotions at leaving a place which for them had very much become a second home. Mr. Gallagher ‘s opening liturgy once again reminded us all of the ethos which helps make St. Conleth’s such a welcoming place, and the speeches and awards which followed both recalled the good times of the past and the promising deeds of the future.
Of course, this being St. Conleth’s where we are never at a loss for words, the musical challenge, detailed below, was met on the rhetorical front by Captain Rory Clarke, who added a new word, ‘randomer’, to the Conlethian lexicon; Vice Captain Hannah O’Sullivan, the eloquent embodiment of the success of coeducation Vice Captain Evan Power, who somehow channelled both Kevin McAleer and Oscar Wilde in his folksy, avant-garde performance; and Eva Stylianides, a shining example of both Conlethian legacy and unquenchable spirit. We can honestly say they were the best graduate speeches we can remember, as they avoided the easy cliché and, instead, tickled our funny bones as well as tugging on our heart-strings. And Principal Donal ODulaing, CEO Tony Kilcommons and PPU President Peter O’Neill matched the youngsters in oratorical innovation, showing that there is some spirit and fight yet left in the ‘old randomers’. All the speeches captured perfectly the nostalgic nature of the evening and Adam Rafter carefully composed (and re-composed) slideshow provided the perfect backdrop for their musings.
The speechifiers, however, had to share the stage with the other stars of the ceremony: the singers and musicians. Anyone wandering down Clyde Road last Friday evening very well might have thought that they were passing by a performing arts school at No. 28, such was the quality of sounds emanating from the sweetly reverberating edifice of the KD Kelleher Wing. Music is now at the heart of everything we do at St. Conleth’s, and in both the religious ceremony and the speeches and awards event that followed, with maestros Ms. McGuinness and Mr. O’Neill pulling the strings, it was the perfect accompaniment for the prayers, thoughts and memories.
The Show Pt.1
From the opening chords of There She Goes, played by the familiar Sixth Year combo of Anna Downey, Rory Clarke, James Moriarty-Smith, Ignacio Sadofschi and Anthony Steyn and the haunting strains of Rita Kelleher’s exquisite version of Clair de Lune, we knew early on that this night was going to more than match the impressive musical legacy already laid down by graduating classes past. The plaintive sounds of Mei Isobel Finnie’s string duet Wildest Dreams were the perfect accompaniment to the seven-tongued Prayers of the Faithful and, then, a musical performance that even with a notoriously dodgy memory, we can confidently say has never graced our graduation before: a stunning, mesmerising rendition of Shima Uta (Island Song) by Emilie Ogawa-Boostrom on the sanshin, a traditional Okinawan instrument. Emilie, radiant in her kimono, brought down the house with the haunting melody, bringing a fitting end to a three year stay at St. Conleth’s, which she enriched with her impeccable scholarship, infectious enthusiasm and warmth.
The Show Pt. 2
A hard act to follow, but no better man than James Moriarty-Smyth, who has served for years now as the latest edition of a Conlethian tradition: The Music Man. Part sound engineer, part musical promoter, part professional session drummer, part dodger-of-class-to-‘go set up the hall’… James joins legends such as Evan Kennedy and Joe Gallagher in the St. Conleth’s Roadie Hall of Fame. James dropped the drumsticks (briefly), picked up his guitar and, after a pleasant music hall-type seguée, performed a stunning solo piece: Before the Lavendar House, a show-stopper in its own right.
A raucous version of The 4 Non Blondes’ What’s up? followed, with Rory and James backing Eva Stylianides, Eliza Flynn, Julia Huckfeldt: the inseparable and irrepressible Gryffindor Gang. In stark contrast to those gleaming songstresses, the members Barbershop Quartet then took the stage. Oisín Power, Ryan MacDonnell, Seamus Joyce and Anthony Steyn looked as if they have logged as many miles, whiskies and women as Willie and Waylon, but we have to admit that their anti-pro-war OG rap was hilarious and delivered with precision and aplomb. The Sixth Year Band came back to the stage for their penultimate performance, with Anna’s hypnotic voice doing justice to the Cranberries’ Dreams and they were joined on stage by the rest of the Music Class for Iris, showcasing all their musical talents, and the leadership and dedication of Ms. McGuinness. And Captain Rory Clarke, a true Renaissance man, put aside his emblems of office with a sense of relief and of accomplishment of a job very well done, and picked up his guitar for a very sweet rendition of The A-Team.
The Awards Pt. 1
Aside from music and oratory, the main business of the evening is the presentation of awards, academic and otherwise: an impossibly difficult task with a group of such talented individuals. But until distinction is equated with discrimination, perhaps not far away, we will continue to salute the best of us in a time-honoured tradition. First to receive their crystal were our Student Officers: Captain Rory Clarke, Vice Captains Hannah O’Sullivan and Evan Power (photos 1-3) and our Auditor/rix/es of Debates, Oisín Power (4). Then, the Sports Captains (we don’t just play rugby and cricket, nowadays!): Ava O’Mahony (Hockey), Ryan MacDonnell and Emilie Ogawa-Boostrom (Tennis) (5); Hannah O’Sullivan (Athletics) (6); Matthew McKeown (Golf), Daniel Weatherley (Rugby) and Adam Rafter (Basketball) (7). And then, with considerable more drama, the academic awards were presented. Louis Cullen (8,9) was in the running for several awards but his expertise in our native tongue earned him the Liam Doran Irish Award (presented by the man himself in a secret AOH-type ceremony!). Ignacio Sadofschi (10) won the Art Prize for six years of stunning creations. Oisín Thornton (11) took home the impressive looking, and impressively earned in a large class, Geography Prize. Caraíosa O’Farrell (12) excelled in Biology, Physics and Chemistry, earning the Galileo’s Thermometer Science Award. Luca Saroli (13)edged out some keen competition to win the Hamilton History Award for his meticulously composed Research Study Report. James Moriarty-Smyth (14) won the prize that is harder to get than a Grammy: the St. Conleth’s Music Award (see reasons above). Evan Power’s (15) enthusiasm for grammar, both the useful and the arcane, in Irish, French, Spanish and Latin secured him the Linguist Award. Cael Cartes O’Shea (16) never met a number he did not like, even the imaginary ones, and this passion, added to a lot of hard work, equalled his going home with the AIB Maths Award. Conor Hyland (17) does not like to shake hands: he prefers to crush torsos; and this fearless aggression enabled him to grab the Sports Award for himself. And no-one dared say anything. It may seem that with all of Eva Stylianides’s (18) stage time, she would not have the time for any nerd stuff, but when the spotlights do finally dim, this diva devotes as much talent and energy to her studies. To seize the John Kelly Award from two powerful Augustan chroniclers (Oisín and Evan), Eva somehow breathed life into the notoriously moribund Richter Greek Art text, and the sculptures within. Emilie Ogawa-Boostrom (19) had already amazed us with her sanshin: her winning of the Woods Bowl with her five-layered lino overprint on the legacy of the Irish Japanese enthusiast, Lafcadio Hearne, proved that she is as talented in the visual arts. Evan Power (20) had stepped out for a constitutional, a brisk walk from Elgin Road to Appian Way, but he returned in time to accept the Cicero Medal for Classical Trivia. Oisín Power (21) may have been narrowly edged out for the Hamilton History and John Kelly awards, but his hold on the Gardner Debating Cup was secure and deserved, after serving, like Socrates, as the eminent and eloquent gadfly of this state. It was Oisín’s close friend, Yancheng ‘Jeff’ An (22) , however, who stunned us into a moment of silence and then thunderous applause, for Yancheng beat the bookies, and the immensely talented field, to romp home with the biggest prize of all: The Bank of Ireland Student of the Year Award. It was one of those moments when something seems surprising for a second, but upon reflection, makes perfect sense for Yancheng conquered us all with his warmth and sincerity, one smile, and one snap, at a time.
The Awards Pt. 2
The evening culminated in the rousing whole-class rendition of Stand By Me. And then it was outside for the graduation class photo on the immortalised steps of No. 28 and on to the Donnybrook Gastropub for a classy dinner for the graduates and their guest teachers and, surely, some further classy activities afterwards at A. Sixth Year’s gaff. For specifics of those nocturnal celebrations you must, carefully, check social media, but for pics of the ceremony look above and below. And here is the Graduation Booklet, with the full running order of the ceremony and the history and context of each award, and a testament to the hard work put in by Ms. NiAonghusa, Mr. Coleman, Ms. McGuinness, Mr. Gallagher, Mr. O’Neill and Ms. Hopkins. Well done to them and the Class of 2022!