Friday 24 November 2017

Father who would have been great family man

Being made to choose between serving God and a family life seems too hard a decision, says Joseph O'Connor

Back in the medieval era, when I was aged about nine or 10, I had a teacher named Jarlath Dowling. He taught music in the school I attended in Dublin at the time.

He was a big man physically, ruddy-faced and cheerful, and he was big in his emotions also. Puccini could make him weep. Mozart made him laugh out loud with delight. His beloved recording of The Dubliners singing McAlpine's Fusiliers would have him punching the air at the chorus. He'd play a record to us in class and conduct the imaginary orchestra with his toothbrush. He'd mime trumpets or tubas or spangling banjos. He was passionate about music, all sorts of music. He'd get excited as he spoke about it. When he played it, his face changed. A boyishness illuminated his shy, intelligent eyes.

He'd say to us: "This is one of the reasons for being alive." Bach or the Beatles, Chopin or Shostakovich, Fats Waller or Louis Armstrong or Jimmy Durante, the genre made little difference. I remember him once making a remark we barely understood at the time: "There's no sadder person in the world than the person who never loved music. Music is what makes life sweet."

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