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Knockanean school’s CD takes flight

Knockanean National School musicians who are involved in a new CD launch entitled Starlings in conjunction with various well-known artists with proceeds in aid of the school’s building fund. Front, Rachel Hayes and Caoimhe Roughan, Gemma Brady and Ciara Murphy, kneeling. (Back from left) Katie Brogan, Tom O’Brien, Anna Courtney, Edward Purcell and Morgan McGovern-Woulfe. Photograph by John Kelly

THE Knockanean National School Building Project has raised over €50,000 in just over six months, it has been announced in the run-up to the launch of the school’s new fundraising CD.
The school has been granted planning permission for a four-classroom extension, however, a grant from the Department of Education will not fully cover the cost of the extension and the school’s fundraising committee has been hard at work in recent months coming up with ideas to raise additional funding.
While the figure of €50,000 is a massive achievement for the school, it is still half of the €100,000 needed for the extension.
The committee ishopeful that the launch of the CD Starlings, featuring over 100 children along with parents and guest musicians, will boost their fundraising even further.
According to Caroline Purcell of the fundraising committee, “Raising this much money in this space of time is just tremendous, people have been just fantastic supporting all of the events that we have done. There are only 175 families in the school and that’s a very small number to always have to go back to so it’s great that past parents and pupils along with the wider community have also been very supportive of all of our events. Businesses have also been fantastic in their support of different projects.
“We’ve had the buy-a-brick campaign, which is still ongoing, the dress sale, the Easter pamper, even the children have been getting involved with something as small as a few kids selling photo frames in their neighbourhood and making €20. Everybody has been getting on board with this. It’s been fantastic so far but it’s not over yet and we still have a way to go.”
The Starlings CD is the first recording by the school in their long history of music making. Some of Clare’s leading musicians such as Martin Hayes, Kevin Crawford, Manus McGuire, Kate Purcell and Blackie O’Connell performed for the recording. They were also joined by talented parents, Monica Kearney, Murty Ryan, Caroline O’Connor and Fèlim Ò Coileàin while some past pupils also performed.
Fifteen years ago, Joan McNamara set up a music club in the school, inviting all children who wanted to play music and learn new tunes to come along. Since then, the club has grown and grown, with the children giving up their lunch breaks to be involved.
Joan said, “When I first came to Knockanean, there were only four teachers but times have changed dramatically. We used to play music afterschool but now there is so much for the children to do that the music club is now at lunch time. The club is not a band, it’s for any child in the school who can play music in any form. The philosophy behind the club is its just about making music in a non-competitive way for the sheer enjoyment of it.”
She describes music as being “a very special aspect of the children’s experience in Knockanean”.
The school holds a yearly summer soiree and also take part in the annual School Bands’ Spectacular. “It should be as natural for children to walk into school with an instrument in one hand and their school bag in the other. And the one thing about the club is it’s not about the level of achievement that any child has, it’s about their commitment,” Joan explains.
Caroline recalled that this commitment was shown during the recording of the CD. “Matt Purcell facilitated the recording in the school which made it easier for the children and he was fantastic. The children were there for hours during different sessions, sitting on the floor because we have very little room in the school, but there were no complaints.”
The idea to have parents involved in the CD came about because of the summer soirees, which are held on midsummer’s evening. “They are a very spontaneous thing, with the parents coming up to perform with the children. I really wanted to involve the parents in this, I felt it would be a very special thing, and music making is cross generational.”
When it came to the special guests, Caroline says she was delighted with the response from these high-profile musicians. “They all agreed so readily to be involved and they were delighted to give their time. The recording was a very unique opportunity for the children to perform with these special guest musicians and their parents.”
The cover of the CD, designed by Edel Butler, captures the theme of Starlings. Joan explained where the title came from, “In Knockanean every evening, starlings gather from all over East Clare, it’s just an amazing visual experience. When the kids were playing music classes in the evening the sky would be filled with these magnificent displays and we would stop playing and go and look at them. And with the name Knockanean, we are synonymous with birds.”
The CD will be launched this Sunday in Cois na hAbhna from 7pm to 9pm. The concert will feature the young musicians and singers of Knockanean School, joined by some of their special guests performing pieces from the recording.
“This will be a free family event, open to everyone to enjoy and it should be a great evening,” said Caroline. The CD will be available on the night of the launch, and will be on sale in Custy’s, The Irish Shop and other venues, and from the school by contacting 083 1119470. 
Other fundraisers planned for the school in the future include a sponsored climb of Croagh Patrick on May 28 and a fun night for parents and teachers on June 18 in the Temple Gate Hotel featuring magic, music, finger food and prizes.

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