Drama in Clongowes
In 1548 the Jesuits opened their first school for lay students, Collegio di San Nicolò, in Messina, Italy. St. Ignatius had acceded to the request of the town’s leaders that the young society found a college where their sons would be educated in Christian virtue and humanistic learning. As well as being educated in the classics and sciences, the first school also ensured that drama became an integral part of the curriculum in a Jesuit school. Clongowes has a long and proud history of following this tradition with the production of both plays and musicals from the earliest days.
For many years now the Rhetoric class has produced a play for performance in November for the whole school as well as parents and staff. Productions have varied throughout the past decades. For example, in the 1960’s there was a strong emphasis on Shakespeare and his tragedies while newer productions became the bill of fare in the 1970’s and 80’s. Throughout the ‘90’s more contemporary and American drama was offered while more recent productions have focused on Irish drama. For example, in 2008 we had the Irish premiere of Allison Gregory’s ‘Burning Bridget Cleary’. More recent productions have seen Brian Friel’s ‘Philadelphia, Here I Come’ , and his lesser known ‘The Mundy Scheme’ , ‘Journeys End’ by R. C. Sheriff,  and ‘The Last Confession’ by Roger Crane’, 
Drama classes are also provided in Clongowes in conjunction with the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA). The classes take place on Friday evenings and focus on developing the students’ conversation, performance and creative skills; improving their ability to communicate with fluency and self-confidence which will expand their overall communication skills. Classes are lively and interactive with plenty of fun drama games and comedy improvisations. Students learn to make eye contact, to project their voices, to concentrate and to speak and act with conviction; useful skills both on stage and off.
Music is an integral part of life in Clongowes. There is a large number of music staff, in several different disciplines, with a wide and varied range of skills, qualifications and experience to encourage our young Clongownians in the pursuit of their musical development. Music is studied as an exam orientated subject as well as in the ‘play for pleasure’ mode.
- Music is a curricular and co-curricular subject.
Curriculum Music is studied as a formal class subject on the timetable from Elements to Rhetoric inclusive. It is a choice subject. There are Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate classes each year for those who take music as part of their Junior and Leaving Certificates. The results are a fine reflection of the Jesuit aspiration of ‘Striving for Excellence’. In Transition Year music is taken on a rotation basis, both in the classroom and in the computer room, for everyone in the year.
is studied through instrumental and vocal art/expression. Those students taking music for their Junior / Leaving Certificate must do a practical as part of their course and exam. This part of the course may be covered by studying an instrument and performing vocal or instrumental music solo or in a group for each exam. There is a vocal tutor for solo singing lessons who also works with the Senior and Elements choirs.
- Co-Curricular Music is showcased twice yearly at the Christmas and Summer Concerts.
A large portion of the school population studies at least one instrument with a good number studying two. The instruments are piano (usually between 80 -90 students), and a full range of orchestral instruments. There is a full symphony orchestra in the College with all instruments taught here on campus.
- There are 3 choirs in Clongowes. The Senior Choir comprises boys from 2nd – 6th year inclusive. This choir represents the College at concerts and festivals throughout the country with considerable successes over the years including Feis Ceoil Dublin, Wesley Interschools Festival, All Island Choir Competition and Cork and Sligo International Competitions. Directed by E. Keighary & C. Heslin.
- The 1st year – Elements Choir introduces the boys to choral singing and prepares them to join the Senior Choir. This choir has also returned with trophies to the College after Competitions. Directed by A. Conaghan & E. Keighary.
- Schola is the choir which sings at Masses and liturgies throughout the school year.
The instruments comprise those of a full Symphony Orchestra. The Orchestra has recently toured and given concerts in Germany. ……
The traditional Irish music group was set up six years ago by Ms Catherine Heslin. The group caters for already competent traditional musicians as there is no tuition time available on the timetable. We meet once a week at lunch time where tunes are learned and shared and at several times during the year, the group visits a local pub for an authentic setting. The ‘Trad’ group also performs twice yearly in the school concerts.
Amid the groves and fountains of an Athenian garden over 300 years before the birth of Christ, the great philosopher, Plato, gathered his disciples in the first meeting of The Academy. It had a long and famed existence for nearly 800 years. When at last the philosophers and scientists met there no more, it still served to inspire the foundation of many other Academies throughout the civilized world.
And so it was that in the early 1950s A.D. the inspiration came to Fr Hilary Lawton – the then Prefect of Studies [the Headmaster in to-day’s structure] – to set up a modern-day Academy in Clongowes. A room on the old Higher Line Gallery was designated ‘The Academy Room’ – and the first decuplet produced papers on a great variety of topics ranging from Samuel Pepys to The Spanish Civil War by way of The Atomic Theory in Modern Chemistry, Heraldry, Mount Everest and Julius Caesar
The Academy follows the voting system of l’Académie de France whereby the sitting members choose their new companions – as the Rhetoric Academicians prepare to pass through the Portals of Freedom. More often than not, the choice of paper will come from the Academician’s personal interest in a particular subject. Considerable research goes into the preparation of the papers – with each Academician relying on his own initiative with a minimum of direction.
To-day book-research is supplemented by the Internet – especially for visual support. This year the Academy celebrates its 62nd year and the topics are as varied as ever.
- Medical Marvels
- Shaka Zulu
- NIP – Neurolinguistic Programming
- Strings, carpets and roll of the dice
- Ancient Civilization
- Cataclysmic Collapse of Wall St Darling
- Repercussions of WWI
- The Hidden Life of the Bee
- The God-shaped Hole
The discussion which follows the paper often sees energetic exchanges from the audience – and, occasionally, agreement-to-agree-to-disagree!