Joseph Groocock: Obituary

This obituary was originally published in New Music News, September 1997.

THE The death has occurred in Dublin of the composer, teacher and conductor Joseph Groocock. Born in Croydon, he attended St Michael's, Tenbury as a choral scholar and later read classics and music at Christ Church, Oxford. He came to Ireland in 1935 and taught at St Columba's College for four decades. From 1970 to 1981 he taught in the Music Department of Trinity College Dublin where, with his longtime friend Brian Boydell, he was in at the start of the Honours School of Music, doing a great deal of the work in the background in his usual selfeffacing manner. Upon retirement, he immediately returned to Trinity and continued to lecture in fugue and counterpoint, being recognised as simply the best in this field. He also started teaching at the Dublin College of Music and the Royal Irish Academy of Music, while continuing as organist of Sandford Parish, Ranelagh and being busier than ever before. His self prophecy was, 'I die in harness', which he did.

His crowning achievement, in his own view, was the leadership of the Dublin University Choral Society which he loved and through which he touched hundreds of lives. He was active as broadcaster, adjudicator, accompanist and organist and his services to music in Ireland were recognised in 1964 by the award of an Doctorate in Music, honoris causa, from the University of Dublin. Except in his role as teacher, Joseph Groocock never suffered fools gladly. There were two qualities which he simply could not abide in anyone: charlatanism and pretentiousness. Nothing smacking of either of these could ever get past him.

A former student, the composer Fergus Johnston, is one of many who remember with affection his harmony, counterpoint and composition classes.

'I cannot think of my formative musical years without thinking of you. My first pieces by Bach I heard when my father played bits of the English Suites at the piano, which you had taught him. My first music lessons were from your wife Dorene, and one of my first performances with a real keyboard accompaniment was in your house. As a harmony teacher you never marked any of our more adventurous forays into unwitting atonality as wrong; instead you praised for being brave and adventurous and then quoted Lewis Carroll in support of your arguments. Your music was unashamedly romantic. You approved of Oscar Wilde's dictum, "It's not a good idea to be too modern: one goes out of fashion so terribly quickly".

'Thank you for so much, so gladly and generously given. We'll miss you.'