Everyone has a song to which they can relate and mine has to be
“Music” by John Miles.
The lyrics are so simple, yet the way they are repeated in different musical formats building up to that final crescendo is so ‘Me’.
The picture above shows an F octave and I play in F#, which is the black notes for those of you not musically savvy (no disrespect).
Music IS my first love and it will probably be my last because it will be with me until I die. Apparently my maternal grandmother played by what they called in the day “soh fah te”. Mum can read music, but Dad played by ear. My sister had lessons and every Saturday would get on the bus and go to the teacher’s house. Sometimes, I’d go too. I loved it, as every room had a piano and I was left to my own devices as Sis struggled with Fleur de Lys or whatever else she was learning to play. I’d manage to pick out the melody with little difficulty practically every time and made up the rest. It was never in the right key, but hey, you could recognise what I was playing… ish. Sis thus decided piano wasn’t her forte (excuse pun) and took up the cello instead. This was soon discarded as it was too awkward and replaced by a guitar, but that was given up on too and she doesn’t play anything at all now. I remember a wonderful Christmas in the ’60s with Dad on the piano, me and a cousin on recorders, Sis on her cello, and my brother beating hell out a biscuit tin with knitting needles. We were playing our version of Silent Night, the likes of which have never been heard since.
I had lessons myself when I was 12, but my tutor gave up on me because he finally worked out why I always asked him to play my new piece first. I played what I heard, not what was written. He wasn’t exactly angry, telling my father I had a natural gift, and if forced, I would grow to hate it, so that was the end of that. The lessons weren’t wasted though, as I learnt about timing and not letting my left hand race my right to the finish.
I like most kinds of music, but it has to have a definite melody, not what I call bungalow music which is all bass and nothing on top. My music of the past and future is no surprise, being from old musicals like Showboat, Carousel and South Pacific to some of the classic modernday ballads. I do a pretty fair rendition of Yesterday, Imagine, Nights in White Satin, If, Wild Horses, My Heart Will Go On, Don’t Cry for Me Argentina, Vincent, Mad World, and Wind Beneath My Wings to name just a few. I once played for over four hours and didn’t duplicate anything, and have played unofficially at weddings, in pubs and restaurants, in church (chopsticks did not go down very well with the vicar) and an old people’s home. My husband’s favourite is my version of The Terminator theme, and many in my repertoire remind me of someone in particular, Danny Boy especially.
It was 1970, Elvis was top of the charts with The Wonder of You, and I was staying with Grandad prior to a cousin’s wedding. I even remember the dress I had to wear, and I wasn’t even a bridesmaid! It was bright yellow, with a huge white daisy collar and made of crimplene material. Yellow is definitely NOT my colour, and I looked like an anaemic daffodil in a field of rice. Anyway, the service over, food eaten and speeches underway, yours truly was bored to tears and had noticed a baby grand on the stage in another room. I asked politely if I could play it, and once they checked my hands were clean and I’d promised not to make a ring with my glass of lemonade, I got myself comfy and played away to my heart’s content. I have no idea of how long I was there, but suddenly I needed the loo. Imagine my horror to find the wedding party was now in the ’empty’ room with me, and my grandad was beaming ‘That’s my granddaughter” at everyone. It turned out the guy behind the bar had turned on the microphones and my music, bum notes and all, had been broadcast throughout the hotel. Gramps apparently had no idea before that day that I could play, and the following afternoon I was dragged to every pub in the area that had a piano to play Danny Boy to his chums. At fourteen, it was a bit of a feat to get a recognisable tune out of any instrument where every third note either rattles with it’s own guitar twang or doesn’t work at all. Happy days.
Living without my music would be almost unbearable as it’s my safety valve, and has seen me through some very difficult, lonely and traumatic times. My parents always knew when something was on my mind as it would come out in my music. I could express myself through the keyboard, finding peace by getting lost in my own little world where nothing could hurt me.
Things were not going well for me in the 80s, and I took solace in music. The household weren’t music lovers apart from Top of the Pops, so I never played when they were around. The piano I had at the time was a Yamaha Clavinova 7, a wonderful machine that played umpteen rhythms, voices and fancy twiddly bits all at the touch of a button. You could even plug in a music book and it would teach you to play a tune by lighting up the relevant keys and waiting for you to strike them. I played it as a piano though and it had the added advantage of HEADPHONES. This came in handy when at my lowest ebb, I found myself playing hymns at four o’clock in the morning. I am not a religious person, but saying that, I do not knock anyone’s faith or beliefs. I just felt so despondent and unhappy, but that night, something touched me. It wasn’t a nudge, but a gentle total envelopment of warmth and security and I no longer felt alone. I can’t explain what happened, but shortly afterwards, I decided I could rebuild my life, turn the bad episode on its head and learn from it. It took time and wasn’t easy, but I got through it. I left the area, got a new job within days, met my husband, and a year later, we held a little ceremony as we flushed all my medication down the toilet because I no longer needed it.
So there you have it. John Miles said it all. Sadly though, I don’t play as often as I’d like as the arthritis in my fingers makes it difficult. But I still have my moments. Did you know that “My Grandfather’s Clock” and “Ode to Joy” are brilliant exercises instead of boring scales!