I started to learn the piano at age 5. I went through the usual child/teenager practice angst, of course. Much as I hated practicing, I loved the fact that I could play an instrument, and the fact that as the years went on, I was pretty good. At age 18 I passed my Grade 8 ABRSM. And then off I went to university, leaving my piano behind at home.
As time went on, my fingers forgot the melodies I’d known so well. After graduating, and even in our first, second and third rented homes, I still couldn’t bring my piano to live with me. I regretted it but pushed it to the back of my mind, trying to convince myself that even after many years break, I’d still be just as good. Whenever I went home to my mum’s house, I tried to play. But the muscles had wasted and my hands just couldn’t keep up with the speed my eyes still read the notes. I started to forget key signatures, harmonies, terms. Eventually I started to realise that a musician was something I used to be. I just couldn’t keep kidding myself any more.
And then, 10 years after I’d left home, my mum finally let me move my piano out and over the Pennines to its new home. In our fourth house I became reacquainted with the keys, that familiar chip in the ivory on high C, the fact that the top two keys sound the same note, the soft pedal that’s never worked, the erratic tuning meaning the whole piano is a semitone out of key. I will get it tuned. One day.
Our fifth house is where we live today. It’s the first house we bought, a jumble of a stone cottage, 2 houses knocked through into one and wired in an ever-surprising manner. My piano lives in the sitting room, piles of old music arranged on the lid, the way all pianos should be. My husband bought me a new piano stool, which I promptly overstuffed with more music, inherited from a good friend’s father. I work through the pile, loving a new challenge, so thankful.
I took the plunge and started having lessons again at the beginning of this year. I’d had a 13 year break in total.
It took a while to brush the cobwebs off the pathways created in my brain all those years ago. I was frustrated that my fingers wouldn’t move at the speed I’d previously been able to play. But slowly, I started to remember things I never even knew I’d forgotten. My muscles began to respond once more, fingers speeding up, sharps and flats and 3/4 and 4/4. I reached, and then slowly started to surpass my Grade 8 standard. The biggest surprise is that now I love practicing piano and play every chance I get. I’ve still a long way to go but being able to tackle pieces I once thought impossible is an absolute joy to me.
I love my piano. It’s got heart and soul and part of it is my soul too. I remember the deep, deep love I have for music, lost over the intervening years and rediscovered 10 times over.
We’ve been through a lot, this blend of ivory, ebony, mahogany and me. I can’t wait for the adventures awaiting us, stretching out ahead.