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Pupils in rehearsal's at Knockanean National School. Photograph by John Kelly

Knockanean are champions of the National Concert Hall

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“WE’RE floating on air,” says Knockanean National School teacher Amy McEnnis as the school was named winners in this year’s Walton’s RTÉ Lyric Music for Schools Competition after wowing the judges with a performance in the National Concert Hall.
Knockanean National School’s entry in the contest, one of Ireland’s foremost student music competitions, scooped first prize in the primary school category this week.
The winning group, made up of members of the school’s music club and choir, arrived back at the school after their performance on Monday to a heroes’ welcome. “There were lights flashing from people’s camera phones and the school grounds were crowded, we felt like superstars. It was just so beautiful and we were really moved,” said a delighted Ms McEnnis.
Knockanean NS was one of just six primary schools chosen from entries across the country to taken part in the grand finals of the competition in Dublin.
To enter the competition the students, with the help of teachers Ms McEnnis, Conor O’Loughlin, Tina Gavin and Louise Conheady, created a five minute long music video titled ‘Stepping Through the River of Sound’ based on the competition’s theme ‘Music Moves’.
That performance was re-created on the stage of the National Concert Hall for the finals with the Knockanean students showcasing their multiple talents in dance, music and song.
Ms McEnnis explains the students wanted to bring people on a musical journey with their entry which featured diverse genres including modern contemporary, trad, rap and jazz.
It was an early start for the youngsters who headed off to Dublin from Knockanean at 7am on Monday with Ms McEnnis telling us there was a real sense of excitement amongst the children about performing on the stage of the National Concert Hall.
Recalling the experience she says, “It’s hard to explain the feeling of being there and playing and the beautiful atmosphere that was created for the event. All of the schools were amazing. And you just got a real sense of joy, that is the word I would put for the whole day. It was joyous from start to finish. Everyone was there with each other. It didn’t feel like a competition, it just felt like a gathering of all these amazing young people.
“As we began the piece and then started to play through it, you could just feel the audience becoming involved. They were clapping along, they were singing with us. And as they did, I could feel the energy of our own children onstage just lift.
It was like those nerves you might have on a big stage they just left and the children just enjoyed every minute of it. They were just smiling from the heart. It is really hard to put into words just how amazing it was. We are so proud of each and every one of them. We just can’t compliment them enough for the way they managed the whole enormity of it, it’s a big stage and a huge audience and they were just amazing.”
The announcement by presenter Evelyn Grant that Knockanean NS were the winners in the primary school category was met with uproarious applause at the National Concert Hall.
“It was like being in a dream. We’ve been working on this since January and the last number of weeks we had to keep rehearsing. The children even came in over the Easter holidays four times over the break to keep going. To hear our name was just amazing but a little surreal and we were kind of in shock. It was just fantastic”.
This isn’t the first success for the school in this prestigious competition. Under the guidance of now retired teacher Joan McNamara the school qualified for the finals in 2012, 2013 and 2014, taking the overall title in the final year. This was Knockanean NS’s first time re-entering since their 2014 win.
Knockanean’s win has secured them €2,000 worth of instruments which Ms McEnnis says will be of enormous benefit in fostering the school’s rich musical tradition.
“This is such a gift because schools don’t get that type of funding every year. We are very grateful to be given this opportunity, it’s been an amazing journey from start to finish.”
She concluded by recalling the words of competition judge Liam Ó Maonlaí who spoke about the power of music during times of great turmoil in the world, and described how he was “moved” by each performance of the day.
“What he said was very apt. In the concert hall yesterday there was just such joy and happiness and spirit. Music sometimes is a salvation, it’s what people turn to in times of sadness and joy.
“And that is what the culmination of yesterday was. It was so lovely. We all celebrated together, there were no winners really. We were all winners in the sense that every school was just incredible and we felt so privileged to be amongst all of them”.
Founded in 2012, the Walton’s RTÉ Lyric Music for Schools Competition is a non-profit national event celebrating and supporting music in schools right across Ireland.
The competition’s objective is to promote the enormous benefits of creative music making for young people in Ireland.
There was a huge response from schools around the country when this year’s competition was announced last December, with a deluge of primary, post-primary and special school entries coming in from 19 different counties.
Six primary and six post-primary groups were chosen to perform in the 2024 Music for Schools Competition Finalists Concert where adjudicators Zoë Conway and Liam Ó Maonlaí, as well as one of the competition co-directors, selected the overall winners for this year.
The finalists were selected based on several criteria, including musicality, originality, inclusiveness and how effectively and creatively they addressed this year’s Competition theme, ‘Music Moves’.
Speaking to the audience at the National Concert Hall before the announcement of the winners Ms Conway complemented the “wonderful performances” which had “blown away” the judges.
“The energy and enthusiasm going into the performances were just incredible and a credit to everyone. How the students interpreted the theme of Music Moves was absolutely astounding,” she said.
She also urged all participating students to “Make sure you bring this creativity into your adult life and have it with you for your whole life because it really will enrich it.
“It is such a magical thing. So do hold on to it.”

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