Joseph Schofield was born in Leeds in 1886 and his name is first mentioned in The Musical Times of 1899 in a list of scholarship winners from the Guildhall School of Music, London. The thirteen year old cellist was awarded the Baron Johann Knoop scholarship, valued at £75 per annum. He studied with well-known masters, Chevalier, Ernest de Munck and Hans Brousil.
In 1914, Schofield arrived from England to take up a post as cello teacher at the Leinster School of Music in Dublin, continuing to teach there until he joined the Radio Éireann Station Orchestra. An advertisement in the Irish Times that year, placed by the Leinster School of Music, announced that cello had been added to the prospectus:
‘Mr Schofield comes to Dublin from celebrated musical centres, with the most up-to-date methods, and the remarkable success which he has attained as a performer should secure him a prominent place amongst the leading musicians in Ireland.’
The up-to-date methods mentioned here may refer to his teaching publications, of which the most popular is a practical and organised method for beginners. This method was published in London in both English and French. (The score of Schofield’s Method for Violoncello can be viewed in the RIAM Library).
In 1920, Schofield joined the cello faculty of the RIAM and taught there until 1929. Illness struck him at about this time and, nine years later, his death occurred in Windy Arbour, Dundrum; he is buried in Deans Grange Cemetery. During his time in Ireland, numerous reviews attest to the large number of performances Schofield played. Many of these events were chamber music events where he played with most of the well-known musicians in Dublin at this time, including Esposito and Twelvetrees who were teaching colleagues at the Academy, and his wife, mezzo-soprano, Miss Mary Maguire. At the ‘Mater’ concerts on January 16th and 23rd 1921, a review in The Musical Times describes Schofield’s new compositions as being of ‘uncommon ability’ and ‘showing promise of even better things to come.’ The review continues with a description of his newly composed Lament for cello and piano as follows: ‘His tone-poem Lament is based on an old Irish theme, worked out on unconventional lines.’
Schofield’s Irish Lament is the only originally composed work in the set of Irish Airs for cello and piano, published in 1923. It is a short but expressive work, using rich chromatic harmony throughout. It is interesting to note the use of the dorian mode in the initial theme which is often used in slow Irish airs. The other four pieces in the set are arrangements of the well-known songs Eileen Aroon, Tá mo Chomnuighe ar an Talamh Fuar, Tá an Samhradh ag Teacht and An Crúiscín Lán. In the two slow songs, Schofield uses the best ‘singing’ register on the cello, mute gives added colour in Tá mo Chomnuighe ar an Talamh Fuar, and dynamic details and exact tempo markings facilitate an effective performance of An Crúiscín Lán. Ornamentation is marked only in Tá an Samhradh ag Teacht, but the performer can readily insert extra added variations on the second verse of most of these pieces.