Piano playing relaxes me. I have an old, out of tune upright a friend gave me years ago from a house she had just bought. It was ‘smoked’ from years in a smoker’s household where it sat in a narrow hall between the kitchen and front door. From time to time I can smell the smoke that has permeated the dark wood and yellowed the keys. I have never bothered to get it tuned up to perfect pitch because it is just low enough for me to hit the high notes on some Broadway tunes. I love to play from collections of Carole King & Linda Ronstadt, singing my best impression of those two amazing women. Tapestry and Smack Water Jack, Blue Bayou and The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress. Remember Stone Pony? Linda was great! And what’s not to love about King’s Natural Woman. I am a child of the 60s and how I loved the Beatles. They came to the USA when I was thirteen and I was enthralled. Hey Jude, Michelle and Norwegian Wood spring to mind.
Music was a gift from my mother who had a lovely soprano voice and when she was a girl would charm her father’s customers in his garage down town. We were a family who sang, in church, on country drives, at the grange hall and in the evenings at home. Mom taught me to sing harmony by the time I was five to ‘In the Garden’ and ‘Ivory Palaces’ at church. A family of 6, we filled a pew and sang 3 and 4 part harmonies to old hymns like ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ and ‘Amazing Grace.’ When I was 9 she insisted my father fund piano lessons, when I was 10 I began cello lessons and sang in school and church. My brother learned guitar and my sisters sang as well. My dad didn’t read music but he had an ear for it and as long as he stood next to the other basses he could carry a credible tune.
So my piano lessons paid off mostly because I understood the language and loved to sight read any and every thing I could. That didn’t bode well for the actual lessons because I barely practiced what was assigned for that week. And I was terrible at memorizing pieces for recitals always stumbling through in fits and starts. Then as my cello playing progressed I was drafted into the local community orchestra at the age of 12. My cello instructor gave me lessons in exchange for babysitting his young children. I played in the Junior and Senior High School orchestras, earning an award for Best Orchestra Student the year I graduated from LHS. I played in the Grande Ronde Symphony until I left home at 19 to study on the other side of the state. There was something magical about experiencing great music from inside a symphony. I loved every minute of it.
So this afternoon with the spring sun warming my back I sat at the piano and played jazz – Take 5 and Black Coffee. Then Gershwin, Andrew Lloyd Webber, movie themes – Out of Africa and Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – Close Every Door. Luckily my upstairs neighbor is okay with my time spent on my piano, I can hear him playing the ukulele from time to time.
Suddenly I found myself playing a duet with my cat Gypsy Rose, a Maine Coon cross. Starting at the top she ran down the keyboard over my hands and turned around a few times on the bass keys. I was laughing and tried to keep playing. Eighteen months old, she has only lived with me for three weeks. She has been getting used to life with Black Jack, my 7 year old black cat. I had forgotten life with a young cat can be so entertaining. She loves to race through the house, mess with my crochet yarns (while I am crocheting) and antagonize Black Jack. She has explored the tops of cupboards, under the bed, all the window sills, and the piano but the keyboard was shut, so my playing must have made her curious. I realize now I hadn’t sat down to play since before she moved in. So Rhapsody in Blue with two hands and four paws is quite exciting and a bit unusual. She is not a cuddly cat and only allows a bit of stroking before going off to explore, but when I stopped playing and gave her some attention we had an extra long session of smoothing and scratching behind the ears. We will see what tomorrow brings when I sit down for some Beethoven and Bach.