1915 - 2000
Joan Trimble was born in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh (now Northern Ireland), a daughter of William Egbert Trimble, the proprietor of one of Ulster's best-known regional newspapers, and Marie Dowse from Dublin. Joan grew up in an intensely musical household: her mother was a distinguished solo violinist from a famous Dublin family of musicians, from which all eleven children had attended the Royal Irish Academy of Music, and her father was a talented musician, a fine bass-baritone and a noted collector of folksong. She attended Enniskillen Royal School for Girls and was the school's first Head Girl. In 1931, Joan and her sister Valerie, commenced studies at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin.
Joan studied composition with John F. Larchet and won a scholarship to the University of Dublin, from where she graduated with a BA degree in 1936. She was awarded piano, violin and composition scholarships and studied piano with Annie Lord and music at Trinity College Dublin. In 1936, the tenor John McCormack chose her to play piano solos during one of his tours. She moved to London and joined her sister at the Royal College of Music, where her mentor was the Australian composer and pianist Arthur Benjamin, and where she studied composition with two of England's leading composers, Herbert Howells and Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Joan composed a total of twenty-four works in a creative career of twenty years, sixteen of them in the period 1937-1943, including Buttermilk Point (1938), settings of Irish folksong (1939-40), and the Sonatina for Two Pianos (1940); and a further six, including The Heather Glen (1949) and a Suite for Strings (1951), in the period 1949-1953. Her Phantasy for Piano trio (1940), which she wrote at the suggestion of Vaughan Williams, won the Cobbett Prize for chamber music and the Sullivan Prize for composition. The County Mayo (1949) was an unusual combination of two pianos and baritone voice which had been suggested by the singer Robert Irwin. Commissions for the BBC included Ulster Airs (1939–40) for the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra, and Erin Go Bragh, a march-rhapsody for brass band (1943). Her setting for voice and orchestra, How Dear to Me the Hour, won the Radio Éireann Centenary Prize in 1953.
In 1957, the BBC commissioned an opera from her, and she chose the 1924 Blind Raftery by Donn Byrne, the story of a wandering Irish bard set in the west of Ireland in the 17th century. She asked Cedric Cliffe, who had worked with Arthur Benjamin, to write the libretto. It was the second opera commissioned by the BBC for television, the first having been the one-act Manana in 1956 by Benjamin, Trimble's piano teacher at the Royal College of Music; and it was the first television opera written by a female composer.
Between 1959 and 1977 Trimble was professor of accompaniment and musicianship at the Royal College of Music, for ten years after 1967 commuting between London and Enniskillen.
Biography taken from Wikipedia.
Photo: Pat Lunny