Some moons ago a dinner discussion with Beautiful Boyfriend touched upon the matter of artistic aptitude and my former piano-playing prowess was mentioned. I had triumphantly achieved Grade 6 in practice and theory, foolishly giving up when my teacher refused to allow jazz into my repertoire.
Wouldn’t it be lovely I murmured, to play again?
Reader, never underestimate the seduction of a murmur for in the week prior to that Christmas a long and slender box arrived at my door, its clunky black and white illustration announcing the arrival of a Sanyo keyboard. The first flush of excitement metamorphosed swiftly into sheer terror (be careful what you wish for).
Slender Box dwarfed our tiny Christmas tree. It winked playfully every time I passed by. Once opened and placed in situ however things seemed less friendly; at a loss to know where to start I realised that my former prowess had dissolved into mere PR. I may have been good once but now that memory declined to decipher anything more complex than the Scale of C … I was nothing.
Determination prevailed and I turned to my address book for help. Barney Green: the name pressed a key or few and I recalled that he played a superbly jazzy Happy Birthday for my sister’s 50th. He is also a sought-after and accomplished teacher of music to a host of local schools and leading light of several excellent bands.
An e-mail was sent: Dear Barney. Might you have the patience to nurture a middle aged woman’s musical ineptitude? Within two weeks my lessons began.
For just a year now, almost every two weeks Barney puts me through my paces, pieces and preludes. Scales are scaled and melodies memorised. Or so it should be for I found that despite having achieved a reasonably advanced standard aged 16 not a note had remained with me. I started from scratch and scratchy indeed it has been. Barney has the patience of a saint.
My determination arrives in fits and starts; there are weeks where practice is the highlight of my day and others where I pretend the piano does not exist. One day the keys may be lightly enticed into joyful tunery and others when my fingers cannot differentiate a black key from a white or a major from minor. Barney has introduced me to the stringent exercises of Schmitt, repetitive riffs that encourage the coordination and discipline much needed here.
Things are improving and some early pieces whilst clunky and amateur, have allowed me to reconnect with the keys and derive huge enjoyment from achieving a semblance of melody and mood. Right now I am working on Albumblat, the unusual central section being the most challenging and delightful. I determine to nudge perfection on this before my next lesson for I must move on; my sights are set on more magical music, pieces to conjure memories of my Mother and her ineffable ability to play by heart her favourite pieces, the theme tunes of my childhood: Moonlight Sonata, Lara’s Theme and of course, Air on a G String.
Thank you BB and thank you Barney; I am slow and far from perfect but this PianoForte will prevail. I promise.
© Giovanna Forte