Musical Development

J.T. Frankland

James began his musical studies with Maude Butler and took his first grades under her guidance. It soon became clear that his precocious talent required a more advanced teacher and J.T. Frankland, the organist in St. Columb’s Cathedral, was an obvious choice. Frankland had a reputation as a rather gruff and forbidding person but he and James struck up a friendship which saw his musical skills develop rapidly. Laurence Mc Cann, the cellist, assisted him with his theory work so that by his mid - teens he was quite an accomplished musician.

Any lingering doubts he might have had about his choice of career were dispelled when he got his first paid engagement at the age of fifteen. The concert in Bridge Street featured some of the best local talent, including Jack Collins, John Mc Cabe, Josie Hasson and Wee Willie Doherty. James accompanied them all and received five shillings as his fee.

Mrs E.H O’Doherty who was a neighbour and family friend was one of the foremost pianists and singing teachers in the town. She was a co - founder of the Derry Feis and trained many pupils who sang at both feiseanna. James was invited to assist her and it was now that his lifelong love of accompanying was forged. He also acquired a real understanding of the art of singing and how best to develop a singer’s true vocal potential.