Doris Keogh (1922-2012)

a personal tribute to my teacher

Doris KeoghIf I had travelled the world over, I would not have found a teacher like Doris Keogh. The first time we met in the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Westland Row, Dublin, Doris was dressed in black for that evening's opera performance in the Gaiety Theatre. I must have been about ten or eleven years old.

Doris's teaching came with this wonderful dynamic about live performance, the kernel of what music-making was all about: for people and with people – to be enjoyed. She had a rich background free-lancing in the Symphony Orchestra as many talented musicians from Europe came to Ireland after the war and brought exciting influences.

My introduction to live orchestral playing was in the organ room of the Academy when Doris took me under her wing to sit next to her when she played for Haydn's The Seven Last Words of Christ with Michael O'Higgins, the singing teacher. It was such a thrill to be in the midst of a big, organised sound and to feel her confidence and support.

Doris Keogh playing flute

At first, when I began my lessons with her, I thought she had countless children. I could not tell the difference between her students and her own children, of whom she had five; such was her caring manner towards each and every one of us. "Have you eaten? Are your shoes wet?" might have been her first questions as we arrived for lessons. I also hold the honour of being one of the founder members of the Capriol Consort and performed in the inaugural concert in The Taylors' Hall in the Liberties of Dublin in 1972.

What I think I loved the most was being invited to sit in on the lessons of other students. In this way, we all got to learn the repertoire – even the pieces the more advanced students were preparing. Doris actively encouraged this sharing and would often do some impromptu duets and trios if there were a few students in the room at the same time. How exciting it was to hear and be part of a flute trio or quartet, as well as, enjoy one's own lesson. This was a wonderful opportunity to learn the importance of sight-reading and to get plenty of practice at that.

Doris was a great blend of intensity and release – a perfectionist, a demanding, supportive mentor, sustained by a great sense of humour and well ahead of her time – one who lived life to the full. One of my abiding memories will be of all the laughter and all the fun we had in Room 21 in the early days.

Doris Keogh and Elizabeth Petcu

Related Links

» Flautist and music teacher with talent for drumming up enthusiasm – The Irish Times

» Doris – mixed media on canvas by Elizabeth Petcu