Friday 24 November 2017

The world needs more people like Joan

Piano woman: Joan Murphy was a patient piano teacher and a kind-hearted and giving friend
Piano woman: Joan Murphy was a patient piano teacher and a kind-hearted and giving friend
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Joan Murphy did not get an obituary in this paper. And most of you will never have heard of her. But for many, primarily in Cork, the recent news of Joan Murphy's death will have been greeted with great sadness, but also with a warm smile, as they remembered this extraordinary woman.

Everybody will have different stories of Joan and different versions of her. And all I can give you is sketches of the Joan I knew. But she is worth hearing about. Because in a time when we need more people like Joan, fewer of us are like Joan.

I never realised until recent years that Joan was actually not a very tall woman. Because if you had asked me when I was a kid I would have said she was huge. When we are kids we sometimes judge people's size by the size of their personalities and Joan was not only larger than life but formidable. I used to quake heading up there for my piano lessons. Mainly because I'd never practised, and Joan could see right through you. I think she realised early on she would never make a pianist out of me, the way she had with my brother Brian, but nonetheless we muddled along. And they weren't just piano lessons. These were interspersed with singing lessons, and there was a bit of elocution thrown in for good measure. And you could say it was a lifelong learning thing. Joan, unstinting in her commitment to her pupils, always had feedback about my speech on television and radio any time she saw me. I was doing great, she would say, and then she would enumerate a number of specific flaws in my diction.

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