Eileen Joyce CMG 1908-1991

Eileen Joyce

Eileen Joyce

Joyce farewelled the concert stage in 1960, though she participated in a charity concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1967 and two years later duetted with Geoffrey Parsons at Australia House at a fundraiser for the Australian Musical Association.

In 1981 she was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) for her services to music.

She died in East Surrey Hospital on 25 March 1991.

 

He concert schedule was gruelling – France, Germany, Italy, the United States, South Africa, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, South America, New Zealand, the USSR, Yugoslavia, India, Hong Kong – so it was appropriate that Wherever She Goes should be chosen as the title for the film based on the book Prelude. Shot in Sydney in 1951, Wherever She Goes featured a talented 11-year-old Sydney girl, Suzanne Parrett, as Eileen. Muriel Steinbeck and Nigel Lovell played her parents and comedian George Wallace had a brief cameo as a flustered stage manager. Joyce was seen at the beginning and end of the film playing the Grieg piano concerto. Although it failed to attract audiences, it was the springboard for several radio serialisations.

Joyce farewelled the concert stage in 1960, though she participated in a charity concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1967 and two years later duetted with Geoffrey Parsons at Australia House at a fundraiser for the Australian Musical Association. In 1971 Joyce was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music from Cambridge University. She received a similar honour from the University of Western Australia in 1979. In 1981 she was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) for her services to music.

Joyce returned to Australia in 1985 to judge the Sydney International Piano Competition. She was back again, noticeably frail, in 1989, for an ABC concert in her honour. Her health continued to deteriorate and she died in East Surrey Hospital on 25 March 1991.

‘Once you stop playing,’ she had once said, ‘you are forgotten.’ Perhaps that was why, in the late 1970s, she donated $37,000 to the University of Western Australia. Though she had lived and worked most of her life in England, Joyce was a strong and active supporter of young Western Australian musicians. The donation – her personal contribution to the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the state’s foundation – financed The Eileen Joyce Music Fund. This supports the development of music in the state and, especially, assists students, as Eileen Joyce Music Scholars, to obtain keyboard experience outside Western Australia. In 1990 she gave her personal archives to the University’s Callaway Centre. Spanning 1926 to 1989, the collection includes private and career-related correspondence, concert diaries, programs, newspaper clippings and unreleased concert recordings. She also provided funds for the construction of the University’s Eileen Joyce Studio, an intimate venue for recitals and chamber music which also houses a collection of early keyboard instruments.

And in Zeehan, where her story began, a commemorative public park has been created on the site of her family’s tiny cottage.

Frank Van Straten, 2007

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Biographical references

Richard Davis: Eileen Joyce – A Portrait, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2001
Cyrus Meher-Homji: ‘Eileen Joyce’, in The Oxford Companion to Australian Music, Oxford University Press, 1997