Thursday 8 December 2016

Saoirse Ronan masters sonata by Beethoven in 12 weeks – and she can’t play piano

Published 22/11/2011 | 06:00

Saoirse Ronan
modelling an Elvery's ISPCC
beanie hat yesterday
Saoirse Ronan modelling an Elvery's ISPCC beanie hat yesterday
Composer Beethoven
The actress's piano teacher Yvonne Collier

SAOIRSE Ronan is scaling new heights with noteperfect preparations for her latest role.

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The young star has confounded musical experts by learning to play a complicated Beethoven piano sonata in just 12 weeks, despite having never played the instrument before.

The 17-year-old also stunned director Neil Jordan and left him “speechless” with her grasp of a difficult piece that even accomplished pianists find tricky.

Ms Ronan had never had a piano lesson in her life when Mr Jordan cast her as a music-loving vampire in his upcoming movie ‘Byzantine’.

The actress will play one half of a mother and daughter duo who arrive in a small English town in the movie, which co-stars Gemma Arterton and begins shooting in the UK and Bray’s Ardmore Studios next month.

“There's this scene in the film where my vampire characters sits down to play an old piano and entrances everyone with her playing,” Ms Ronan revealed yesterday.

Mr Jordan had expected the Co Carlow teenager to mime her way through Beethoven's ‘Piano Sonata Opus 2, No 3’.

Lessons

But he’d underestimated the iron will of ‘The Lovely Bones’ star, who immediately went in search of sheet music for the movement and enlisted the help of classically trained pianist and teacher Yvonne Collier, based in Bunclody, Co Wexford.

“My vampire Eleanor is 200 years old in the film and had been playing piano that long, so there was a bit of pressure but I wanted it to look real,” she added.

Ms Ronan rented a baby grand piano and began lessons, putting in two hours a day to get the complicated fingerwork just right. And her progress was simply “miraculous”, said Ms Collier, who watched her young protege in amazement as she got to grips with the difficult piece.

“I started teaching Saoirse the piano with little exercises so she could learn the notes,” Ms Collier said.

“Then we did lots of Lady GaGa pieces before moving on to Beethoven. Since her very first piano lesson it is truly remarkable what Saoirse can now do on the piano.

“The E minor middle section of the piece involves the left hand crossing over the right; a technique very difficult to master even with years of experience but one that Saoirse has mastered within a few weeks,” she said.

Ms Collier said she was encouraging the young actress to continue with the musical studies she’d shown such an aptitude for. “She can master anything she puts her mind to,” Ms Collier added.

Conor Linehan, piano teacher at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, said: “Beethoven's ‘Piano Sonata Opus 2, No 3’ is real virtuoso piece.

Beethoven composed it as a young man and it's a show-off piece. The idea that anyone could manage to play any part of that in just 12 or so weeks is absolutely incredible,” said Mr Linehan.

Saoirse’s proud dad Paul Ronan said: “She is such a perfectionist, she wouldn't let me watch her practising until she got it just right.” Mr Ronan was so impressed with his daughter's progress he ordered a new piano for her to practise on at the family home in Co Carlow.

“I filmed Saoirse playing on my iPhone and when I showed the clip to Neil (Jordan), he was speechless, absolutely speechless. Then he went off and found this Russian piece, ‘Shostakovich Prelude No 2’, in a minor which he also wants Saoirse to play in the film,” said Mr Ronan.

But all the piano scales could be having an adverse effect on the teenager’s social life.

Asked if she had a boyfriend yesterday, Ms Ronan joked: “I have a romantic relationship with my piano.”

Ms Ronan was speaking as she launched the sale of ISPCC beanie hats in Elverys Stores with rugby star Jamie Heaslip.

Priced at €3.99, Elverys will donate €2 of the selling price to the ISPCC.

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