Yesterday was piano exam day for my younger daughter (middle child), so it seems as good as reason as any to post a photo or two of our piano.
This time her exam was held in Ballynahinch, last time it was in North Belfast. It was much better for the following reasons :
- less stressful getting there, a pleasant journey through pleasant countryside to the small town of Ballynahinch, instead of the inevitable heavy traffic and delays getting to the Old Park Road in Belfasy
- held in modern church halls, with plenty of room to wait with a younger, ninendo playing son instead of a dark wood paneled church vestry with creaky chairs and loudly ticking clock
- actual exam room not within listening distance of the waiting room – this time I didn’t have to hold my breath as she played her pieces
She came out smiling, relieved it was over, and just a bit annoyed about mistakes in her Sight Reading.
It always brings back memories of my piano playing days….we learned to play on the same piano! I have shared some of these details before, a few years ago, but here is some of it again for my newer readers!
My brothers and I all learned to play the piano from an elderly spinster (maybe she was not that old, but to us she seem prehistoric!) who did not believe in positive praise, and I learned more through fear than through the love of music.
She taught in a small gloomy room crammed full of old victorian furniture and wilting house plants. There was an open coal fire which was always roaring throughout the year, whatever the weather! From time to time she would shovel on some “slack” on to the fire, and smoke would billow out and fill the room, making your eyes water and your throat sting.
She would write in our notebooks each week to report back to our parents of our progress:
Sight Reading – Fair
Scales – Very Fair
Minuet – has obviously NOT practiced this…..
On the very odd occasion you would get a “Reasonably Good” for a piece, but that was about it! I don’t think we were THAT bad, she just did not feel the need for excessive praise. The worst time would be if you made a mistake in a piece, and she would rap the piano keys with a ruler that she used to keep time. This would startle me so much, inevitably I would make yet another mistake.
It is a wonder I even stuck at it so long – I made it to Grade 5, but to this day still hate to play if anyone else is in the room! However I do love our piano – it has be passed down through the family.
When my parents were moving house about 20 years ago, they decided they did not really have room for it, and proposed getting rid of it. I protested, and asked they keep it until I had a house of my own, and it was duly delivered to our first home.
When the piano tuner was last here he was impressed by the lovely sound it produced (particularly when played by him!) and was able to tell me a little more about it. It was made in 1899 in Berlin, and is a Carl Otto piano. Amazingly everything is original, even the strings. I know it has been in my mother’s family for a long time and it was probably new when they purchased it. I love to imagine it being played by previous generations, and the family occasions it has “witnessed” over the last 110 years.
A few piano quotes for you:
‘Life is like a piano…what you get out of it depends on how you play it.’
‘There’s nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays by itself.’
Johann Sebastian Bach
So, my question for you is – did you ever learn to play a musical instrument? Do you still play it today?