Larchet, John Francis (1884–1967), musician, was born 13 July 1884 at Sandymount, Dublin, son of John Edward Larchet, manager of a wine business, and his wife Isabella Emily (née Farmar). Educated at the Catholic University School in Leeson St., Dublin, Larchet subsequently commenced study under Michele Esposito (qv) at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin, winning many prizes for composition, theory, harmony, and counterpoint from 1903 to 1912. As a student at TCD he obtained his B.Mus. (1915) and D.Mus. (1917) and came to dominate the music profession in Dublin over the next forty years, moulding the composers, teachers, and conductors of the next generation, while developing an Irish school of music based on folk tradition but writing in the modern idiom. A senior professor at the RIAM by 1920, the following year he was appointed professor of music at UCD, where he was to remain until 1958, successfully establishing music as a serious discipline within the university. He was director of music examinations for Irish secondary schools (1907–34) and succeeded in raising standards of teaching, particularly with regard to rectifying weakness in the teaching of the theory of music.
Along with Aloys Fleischmann (qv) and composer Frederick May (qv), Larchet kept discourse on music in the public domain during the 1930s and 1940s, frequently addressing the need for a national school of music and a system of music education that would raise standards of musical appreciation and nurture a school of Irish composers. Appointed director of music at the Abbey Theatre (1907), he was closely associated with Lady Gregory (qv) and W. B. Yeats (qv), establishing a tradition of music at the theatre that delighted critics, with popular myth recording that there were some who would leave the theatre during the acts and return to enjoy Larchet's music during the intervals. Appointed musical adviser to the army (1923), Larchet introduced a new philharmonic pitch, and served as president of the Dublin Grand Opera Society for many years. A fellow of the RIAM, he also conducted the Dublin Amateur Orchestra Society, was choir master of the Jesuit church in Gardiner St., Dublin, and organised annual orchestral concerts at the RDS, as well as being involved in preparing a report for the commission on vocational organisation on behalf of the Musical Association of Ireland. The products of his own creative endeavour were mostly orchestral and choral works including ‘An Ardglass boat song’, ‘Pádraic the fiddler’, and ‘Diarmuid's lament’.
Perhaps the main challenge facing Larchet in the 1920–50 period was the divide between ‘colonial’ and ‘native’ which had characterised the history of music in Ireland. A gentle-mannered, kindly man who was acutely aware of the lack of a national policy for music, he was a persuasive advocate of the European aesthetic and his main aim was said to have been ‘a reconciliation between the cultural chauvinism of Ireland as an emergent nation state and the central value (artistic as well as educational) of music as a vital dynamic in Irish cultural affairs’ (Devine & White, 8). Although it could be argued that he was not possessed of a uniquely original voice, with his authority coming rather from his enormous work load and his essential contribution as a teacher, it is no exaggeration to claim that the majority of Irish composers who emerged in the decades after the 1940s were influenced by his guidance, including Frank Harrison (qv), Frederick May, Joan Trimble (qv), and Brian Boydell (qv). As well as receiving an honorary D.Mus. from the NUI (1953), he was made a commendatore of the Italian republic. He died 10 August 1967 in Dublin, survived by his wife Madeleine Moore, a well-known musician, and their two daughters and son, also musicians.