Distinguished musician and dedicated teacher


Betty Barrett:BETTY BARRETT, who has died aged 89, was a musician and teacher, and taught at the Royal Irish Academy of Music for over a quarter of a century.

The pianist Hugh Tinney, a former cello pupil, remembers her as “one of life’s enthusiasts”. Recalling that she used to organise pre-exam rehearsals for pupils at her home in Glencullen, he said that afterwards she always served up a fine spread.

Fellow pianist Dearbhla Brosnan described her former teacher as a “wonderful, warm and giving person”, who was very supportive of pupils.

Born in Dublin in 1920, Betty Barrett was one of two daughters of Vere and Olive White. She was educated at Howells School in Wales, where she developed a passion for classical music and learned to play the piano and cello. Her introduction to chamber music at the age of 14 by the great-aunt of a future son-in-law had a major bearing on her musical development.

In the late 1930s she studied at the Royal College of Music, London, gaining her ARCM with distinction. She remembered it as the most exciting and stimulating time of her life.

However, the outbreak of the second World War forced her to return home. In 1940 she met and married Charlie Barrett, with whom she had five children. Having reared her family, she returned to music and was awarded her cello diploma by the Royal Irish Academy of Music.

She began teaching at the academy in 1960 and many of her pupils went on to enjoy successful careers as professional musicians. Others found fulfilment as amateur players.

It was said of her that “she did not just teach, she imparted a total musical education and artistic appreciation”. She looked after her pupils and many came to regard her as a second mother.

She made herself available to provide piano accompaniment to pupils undergoing string examinations, as well as to Feis Ceoil candidates. She also enjoyed coaching at Dublin Youth Orchestra rehearsals. She was a member of the Feis Ceoil committee for cello right up to July of this year.

She particularly enjoyed playing chamber music, and she played with both the St Ann’s Consort and the Merulius Ensemble. She also was leader of the cello section of the Dublin Orchestral Players.

She retired from the academy in 1986, but remained active and continued to privately teach pupils of all ages. She had even taken on a new pupil shortly before her death.

As a member of the Dublin Chamber Music Group, she was a co-founder of the bi-annual chamber music weekends hosted by the Irish Countrywomen’s Association at An Grianán, Termonfeckin, Co Louth. She last played there at the Golden Jubilee celebrations in October 2008.

Predeceased by her son Peter in 1994 and husband Charlie in 1999, she is survived by her daughters Elizabeth, Jean, Meriel and Naomi.

Elizabeth V. (Betty) Barrett: born July 22nd, 1920; died August 3rd, 2009