The musical history of convocation

Arts

Convocation at KO has always been important to teachers and students alike. Each aspect of the graduation ceremony comes from an important history that extends as far back as the late 70s and early 80s. 

Prior to the special moment in which seniors walk down the center of the senior green, two bagpipe players lead the line. Although this is a relatively unusual tradition, it was started by former Headmaster Tyler Tingley sometime during the 80s. It is a charming and unique part of the ceremony, and convocation wouldn’t be complete without it. 

Another current and longstanding musical tradition is KO’s chorus, band, and orchestra coming together to perform “Hail Kingswood Oxford.” The piece was composed by Orchestra Director Richard Chiarappa and was first performed in 1981. In the first few years of performing the piece, it was just the chorus singing with Mr. Chiarappa, who accompanied them on the piano. In 1991, however, Mr. Chiarappa arranged the piece for a full orchestra and band, keeping in mind that there would be years that KO didn’t have people to play certain parts.  

“Initially, we didn’t have a big orchestra, so I mostly relied on trumpets, clarinets, and other woodwinds to bring out the melody,” Mr. Chiarappa said. As KO’s orchestra grew, the complexity of the sound developed a considerable amount from the first year that “Hail Kingswood Oxford” was performed. 

Mr. Chiarappa started teaching at KO in 1979. At the time, there was a Kingswood School song and two Oxford School songs. Wanting to reflect the unity of the schools in his piece, Mr. Chiarappa combined the lyrics from all three original songs and wrote the music for it. 

“I knew I wanted it to be a short march and something memorable musically,” he said. “I used a lot of repetition so the chorus, which begins ‘Hail Kingswood Oxford, Wyverns forever’ comes back so many times throughout the piece.”

History teacher and KO alumni David Baker recalls learning and performing “Hail Kingswood Oxford.” 

“It was the first song that KO ever had that included aspects of both schools, so I think that it is a very important part of our history,” he said.  

Currently, students in Forms Three through Five who are a part of the chorus stand on risers adjacent to the orchestra and band, who accompany them. Mr. Chiarappa conducts the piece and the seniors normally face the faculty while the song is performed. “When you talk to alumni, they speak to their memories at KO, especially involving the faculty who make this place very special,” Mr. Baker said. 

The last verse of the piece is altered specifically for the graduation ceremony to acknowledge the fact that although the seniors will be leaving, they will always hold memories of KO near and dear to their hearts. The notion of “Wyverns forever” is a sentiment shared by many. With graduation around the corner and the last days of school approaching for seniors, the history and the meaning behind convocation becomes more important than ever. Although plans for the future are uncertain, we will hold this year’s seniors in our hearts, and they will truly be Wyverns forever.

Link to video of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuvrpYWDUPk