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Johnian Society Centenary 2023

Posted on Oct 13

2 min read

Johnian Society News & Events

Around 300 Johnians and their guests gathered in College over the weekend of 23–24 September to celebrate the Johnian Society Centenary. The Committee designed a very special programme of activities to ensure Johnians could meet friends, both old and new, and once again experience the very special atmosphere that is uniquely St John’s.

Celebrations commenced on Saturday with Afternoon Tea in the Old Divinity School. The group then gathered in the Main Lecture Theatre, where Johnian Society Committee President Mark Wells (1981) introduced Stephanie Childress (2015), a violinist, conductor and one of today’s most compelling young musicians. She spoke about her childhood passion for the violin, how her love of opera inspired her to start conducting, and the ways in which conducting has changed in the last 200 years. (Gone are the staffs and white gloves!) A passionate advocate for amplifying the role of music within education, Stephanie also spoke about the importance of the arts and her work with the Tri-borough Music Hub. This was followed by a lively Q&A session where she shared advice on attracting young musicians to local orchestras and gave her opinion on the portrayal of conductors in films.

After the talk, Johnians enjoyed a Champagne reception before proceeding to a wonderful concert performed by past members of The Gentlemen of St John’s – known at this event as ‘Not the Gentlemen of St John’s’. The new Director of Music at St John’s, Christopher Gray, introduced the group and provided a brief overview of the College choirs. The choir, which had been organised by Andrew Rupp (1985), delivered an impressive and delightful concert. Two of their pieces can be enjoyed below.

Later, guests gathered for a sundown drinks reception in New Court Cloisters and a black tie dinner in Hall. Proceedings began as the Johnian Society Committee Chair, Claire Griffiths (1985), led the brief AGM, where the minutes of the last meeting were ratified by traditionally resounding cries of ‘aye’ from members. Business complete, Johnians settled down to enjoy some of the excellent food, for which the St John’s Catering Team is deservedly renowned, and the convivial company of old friends. Last year’s Johnian Society Committee President, Annamarie Phelps (1984), delivered an enjoyable speech, and the Master, Heather Hancock (1984) rounded off the event with a fitting review of some of the major changes that St John’s and its community have undergone over the hundred years now being celebrated by the Johnian Society.

On Sunday, after a leisurely start to the day including breakfast in the College’s new Buttery for those staying overnight, Johnians and their guests attended a Garden Party in the Fellows’ Garden. Entertainment included a jazz band, garden games, a bouncy castle, face painting and a colouring table. The Garden Party was made complete with scones, sandwiches, famous St John’s sausage rolls, Pimms and ice cream. College Punts were also available throughout the day for guests to enjoy.

Author Mark Wells (1981) treated the kids to a forest-setting story time, reading two original stories and offering a story scroll to take home.

The Centenary celebrations proved to be a joyous opportunity for Johnians to reunite with each other, introduce their families and friends and to reconnect with the College.

Browse through the full gallery of Centenary Weekend photos on Johnian Hub.
(Garden Party photography by JeanLuc Benazet)