Wednesday, April 17, 2013


File:Playing the piano.jpg

It’s funny how a little trigger can bring loads of memories flooding back. I was driving to work this week listening to a classical radio station when they started playing the violin piece ‘Reiley’, which was the theme for the tv series Reiliy Ace of Spies. In an instant my mind was flooded with memories of practicing this piece on the piano in my bedroom years ago, (yes I had a piano in my bedroom), sun streaming through the windows, French doors throw open to let in a breeze, as my Mum sat on the bed listening and nodding in time to the music. That right there sums up my most vivid memories of piano playing throughout my childhood and into my teens; I must have played for literally thousands of hours when I took lessons from the ages of 7 to 17, yet looking back that is the moment I remember most. Probably because it was repeated so often: Mum loves the piano and was my biggest (actually only) fan. She would sit for as long as I would play in silent encouragement. Occasionally she would offer advice, usually when I was galloping through a piece at 60 km an hour and killing every nuance the original composer had carefully written in (“slow down, Joanne”), but I recall being very prickly to criticism,  and so she usually didn’t say much, just sat and patiently listened to encourage me to practice. It is entirely because of her that I persevered with piano, and while I was never going to be brilliant, I still love playing. A few years ago I shipped that old piano which had lived in my bedroom over to Holland, and had it fully restored. There’s not a single time when I play it that I don’t think of my Mum.
Today my Mum is still the only person I’ll really play for; the boys are having lessons now and Holger isn’t musical, so I wait until the house has cleared (Wednesday evening when the kids are at judo is a regular time), and then I play.
So today I dug out my dusty old sheet music that hasn’t been played in years, pushed aside my Cold Play  and Popular Classics books and dived into my past. Tunes I had completely forgotten about revealed themselves once more, faded and a bit worse for wear after at least ten years of neglect, but I guess I could say the same about myself.
And you know the funny thing? Even though I couldn’t remember some of the tunes, my fingers did. I would tentatively start on the opening bars and suddenly it all came flooding back. The Entertainer, Sweet Bye and Bye, Fur Elise….and pieces that were hot way back when! Hello from Lionel Richie, USA for Africa, To All the girls I’ve Loved Before. Even that old Richard Clayderman piece ‘Ballade pour Adeline’, which for a very brief moment in history made mainstream music lovers think classical pianists could be hot! Even my high school friends thought Clayderman was sexy and would ask me to play that piece when they came over. By the time I was half way through the pile it was time to call it a day. I flicked to the end and discovered one last piece, called appropriately enough ‘That’s What God Made Mothers For’.  Yes, I guess it is.

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