Do you know who Dr Veronica Dunne is? If you’re Irish, and you rack your brains a little, you have probably seen her on the Late Late Show, or heard her on the radio. “Ronnie” Dunne is Ireland’s most famous teacher of classical singing and I would say that the majority of internationally renowned Irish opera singers have passed through her care. Aged 87 (I think, she is slightly cagey about this) she is going strong with about a dozen students and working about 40 hours a week.
On Sunday night, Ronnie was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Concert Hall, and I went along, just for the crack. Now, I want to make it clear that Ronnie Dunne and I have never shared air-space before, and I am a listener, not a performer, of opera.
Very pleasant evening, great music, lots of jokes, some of the best Irish voices flew in from all over the world to sing for Ronnie and thank her for her guidance. Talking about mega stars like Celine Byrne, Tara Erraught, Anthony Kearns and Miriam Murphy. Talking about rising stars like Gemma Ni Bhriain.
So what, if anything, does this have to do with me, or my blog?
Well……. I am an avid reader of novels who for some reason has decided to try my hand as a short story writer. Some of my stories are really pretty good and some have been short-listed for prizes, so what next? Well, obviously, bung them all into a collection and start looking for a publisher. I have sent it out to a few places and the response is always the same…. some good stories but what about number one? Jeepers, it’s awful. Scrap it.
Scrap number one? Scrap Holding the baby? You must be mad! So I take Holding the baby and I tweak it. sometimes it ends up longer, sometimes shorter, but always the same, cherished, lovingly crafted tale. And then I send the collection back out.
On Sunday, Tara Erraught, currently engaged with Bavarian National opera, sang for us. She dazzled, sparkled and soared effortlessly over the massed sound of the National Symphony Orchestra. Then she sat down and told us a story about being approached by the School of Opera at La Scala in Milan. “I rushed to Ronnie and I screamed “La Scala!” and she replied “Absolutely no way” and I cried for a week.”
And I realised that after a full fifteen years of dedicated effort and endless training, with a God-given voice and a self-driven work ethic, Tara hadn’t said, well,I know better and I’m going to give it a lash anyway, she had sat down and cried for a week and then got over it and went back to work. She trusted in the professional guidance she was given.
I sat down today and took a new folder and dumped Holding the baby into it, and maybe it’ll never come back out again. I started writing 2 years ago, for a laugh, with no training other than a lot of reading under my belt. Time and again, I read articles saying, kill your darlings and I thought, oh yes, great advice, but I don’t think they’re talking about ME!
Now to have a good, hard look at the other twenty stories….. hand me a Kleenex. Sniff.