309. Sitting at my piano…

“For Pete’s sake, look at the time!”

It’s been a leisurely start to the day (like every other day, in fact).  I’m eating porridge while idly scrolling through my phone – I’ve fallen in love with one @HenryRothwell on Twitter who shares works of art: landscape paintings, largely, which are pretty much the only way of stepping outside right now.  Like this one of Scarborough, painted by Carl Herman in 1930.  Isn’t it wonderful?

Carl Herman 1930

To be able to paint water that looks like water is a skill pretty much beyond my comprehension – that alone wins me over. But also it’s set me off remembering some wonderful trips to Scarborough.  Just over a year ago, for instance, DearHeart and I saw John Finnemore at the Spa – that was a real treat.  And then there was a brilliant Alan Ayckbourn revival on his home turf – the Stephen Joseph Theatre. Particularly nice ice-creams, I seem to remember.  And the whole thing live and for real – not a screen in sight… which is also rapidly becoming beyond my comprehension. 

Hey, let me show you another. 

Keeley Halswelle 1860

More wonderful sea – this time painted by Keeley Halswelle in 1860.  Last summer, we had a few days Staying Alert at Dear Heart’s new home on the South Coast and while we were walking along the …  Oh bear with, ActorLaddie wants something.

“Do you have a piano lesson today?” 

“No, it’s on Tuesday.”  Now, as I was saying …

“It is Tuesday.”

It is?  I check the calendar on my phone.  Not only is it Tuesday but now I remember bringing the time of the lesson forwards to fit in with my new meds regime.  I jump up.

“For Pete’s sake, look at the time!  I’ve got a lesson in fifteen minutes and I’m still lounging around in my dressing gown.  Could you possibly make me some coffee while I get dressed?”

ActorLaddie pauses the cricket highlights.  “Well, I will make you some coffee but there isn’t actually any big rush, is there?  What with the piano being just in the next room.  And as Holly can’t see you, it doesn’t matter whether you’re sitting at the piano dressed as Elton John or undressed as Terry Jones or even, in fact, still wearing your dressing gown.  She’d never know.”

Oh, but she would.

Now, my piano teacher, Holly, doesn’t do Zoom or Skype or Facetime.  She doesn’t, so far as I know, actually possess a mobile phone.  (She does have a church organ in her front room, so I guess in cases of real emergency, she could attract attention by pulling out all the stops and belting out a fugue.)  My piano lessons at the moment take place over the phone – and I do mean phone, as in yer actual landline  – with the handset cunningly balanced on the piano lid propped against a vase.  I ought to be able to get away with all sorts of musical misdeeds.

And yet.

 I am playing down a scale of Ab major, and go over with the fourth finger of my right hand rather than the third when approaching the Eb (don’t give me that look – we’ve all been there).  Holly pounces, kindly, on my mis-fingering and prescribes some penitential exercises.

I am struggling with a corner of the Rondo.  It looks simple on the page but keeps going slightly askew. The trouble is, Holly tells me, that I’m squashing up my fingers of my right hand instead of maintaining a five fingered position which would put my fourth finger in the correct position.  I do what she says and it works.

The Purcell would sound better if I raised my fingers slightly more before going into the trill at the end, she says.  My fingers are already slightly raised but I raise them a little more and yes, of course, it sounds better.

I’ve got beyond wondering how she knows where my fingers are in time and space, she just does.  Perhaps there’s some sort of supersonic bat-like thing going on which helps her gauge distance. (A thought – is this linked to the church organ?) 

Mine is not to reason why.  It is as much beyond my comprehension as being able to take a canvas and oil paints and produce the insanely brilliant Pond below.  I just accept that if I turned up for my lesson in my dressing gown, she’d know from – oh, the extra weight on my wrists, or the muffled quality of the surrounding air – and I would be sent out to get changed.  She might even tell my mum.  Really not worth the risk.  

Edmund Chamberlain 2014

4 responses

  1. How funny. Have you always played the piano or is this a new thing? Reason I’m asking is that, having never played the piano in my life I recently decided that I was going to learn, so I bought myself a cheap keyboard and I’ve been trying to learn on my own by watching YouTube videos – probably not very effective but definitely fun.
    My theory is that the more stuff you do that is actually challenging, the better for your brain…

    1. I agree completely! Here’s my blog about taking up the piano: https://wp.me/p2QPBZ-1gc

  2. Knowing Holly, I think you are absolutely right – she would somehow know what you were wearing!
    How she can pick up the details of fingering beats me. I suppose it’s because she’s been giving piano lessons for so many years.
    I take my hat off to her for giving lessons over the phone.
    Keep practising – Holly will know!

  3. Henry Rothwell has a new follower, thanks to your blog. As for Holly – if i were a cat (with the requisite nine lives) I would certainly spend one of them learning the piano – and Holly sounds as good a bet as any for a teacher.

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