Threads of culture – the 93rd Saint Patrick’s Society Annual Ball 2018

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The Saint Patrick’s Society of Selangor Annual Ball is already a long thread of a title for an event, yet the length and encompassing nature of the event title echoes the length of preparation, depth of support and diversity of a memorable night. While there were hundreds, near to a thousand in the foyer, the ball for me began with a chat with an exemplar of the continuity of the threads that bind Malaysia and Ireland. In the presence of Sister Enda, one senses and hears of all that makes for links between two cultures; an understanding of languages, with an s, and a commitment to sharing through learning and empowering values based on a genuine love for both countries. In education the links between Ireland and Malaysia have been woven together for many decades.

It is always fitting following the thread of continuity that the Ball really begins with the cultural twirl of Saint John’s Old Boys pipes. This musical start certainly is cultural threads interwoven. The procession symbolises the continuity of the society’s own strong cultural centeredness, as do Sister’s prayers in Irish and her customary ‘Selamat makan.” What a tasty makan it was with Shangri La’s chef and kitchen doing so well. One would not have tasted and thought of the delicacies as courses produced for nine hundred and forty. The mood was already turning very jovial in the earlier part of the evening when the President of the Society and the Ambassador reminded all of Ireland and Malaysia and the deep links which continue in varied threads of shared endeavours. Catherine rightly reminded all to “spare a thought for the committee who will be working non-stop right up to and during the Ball.” It’s a commitment to Saint Patricks Day which many can be grateful for.

The links within Ireland were clearly evident in the presentation of the Ballroom with all Counties heraldically represented, along with thematic colours woven into the programme and decoration. It was year of emerald and silver and once again one heard remarks of it keeps looking better each year. So many contributed to the night ending at the crack of dawn for some. Many gave time and energy with work, cash and kind from sponsors, energy from the finely honed community performers and hours of work by the dedicated committee. We will all certainly miss the choreography of Lynette Rock, whose young Irish dancers have grown from delight to dazzling emerald diversity. They start young, providing another thread of cultural continuity which Lynette’s successor is sure to pick up.  Another special aspect of the Ball is the community music performance and this year the performance wove through the formal to the more relaxed. Tuxedo talent indeed spun fine harmonies.

Tuxedos were loosened and some stilettos put aside after a band new to the Annual Ball and aptly dubbed “Newfoundland” landed the right tunes and rhythms. The lively style was perhaps more on the fusion side than earlier years’ providers of a good tune or three. As much as some may have wished with the earlier mention of Irishman Ed the singer he did not make an appearance this year.

The classic split of interests followed in the two smaller ballrooms. All chose their delights with more than few drams consumed, some with fine Irish cheese and all with much conversation. The Six Nation Rugby Union organisers clearly know their dates. Tuxedos, dominated the Grand Slam match of England versus Ireland with the truly unified agreement in the diverse tribal gathering being about when it was half-time and who won. In the other Ballroom, in amongst selfies and wefies “Newfoundland’ cranked the dancing up with everything from “Molly Malone’ to “Zombie.” The sets of music went beyond the stamina of some rugby lovers with joy rockin and rollin on.

There was joyous weaving going on, in dancing, prancing, talking and sharing in the special craic of Saint Patricks Day 2018. The Annual Ball continued and as the late night turned to earlier morning one can be reassured that in amongst the dancers and friends who came from all over, there were more than a dozen or two who said “See you next year.”

Stephen J Hall

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