Friday, 14 February 2014

The Piano

My dad, aunty and uncle, all played the piano. Their dad (my Grandad, although I never knew him as he died tragically early at fifty five) was able to play by ear. Although not classically trained he used to entertain audiences at the local club, whilst my Grandma read music and would quietly pick out classical pieces at home. The front room of their modest terrace was dominated by their shiny black piano. Mum and Dad remember times when they would be invited around for Sunday dinner - when it came to the washing up Mum and Grandma would busy themselves in the kitchen and Grandad would softly play some favourite tunes in the background.Needless to say Dad followed suit, but with the benefit of lessons he achieved first class at advanced senior level. The next step would have taken him to 'cap and gown' but at the age of seventeen the army beckoned and his studies took a different turn. At the age of twenty four he married my mum and they moved in to the house next door to his parents. By some long forgotten turn of events Dad ended up with his Grandmas piano. This was a posh one - it had candlesticks and everything!

A bit like this one!
But in the true spirit of the sixties Dad removed these and plugged the holes with matchsticks for a cleaner effect ( I know!) Worse was to come. After returning from work one day he noticed the room was considerably larger. There was a lovely space just where his piano had been. Mum had seen it as a bit of a dust gatherer and, as you can perhaps understand when space was so limited, sold it to a friend for  (gulp) £5. Now even by today's prices that's very, very cheap! 

So my childhood was piano- less but there must have been some residue of interest in my genes as at a very young age Mum and I would mime grand piano duets on the low 1970's coffee table. Weekly visits to my Aunty Queenie in Liverpool would see my brother playing with my older cousins (usually something based on the war in which - when I was allowed to join in -  I would be shot during the first few minutes and have to lie very quiet and still!), and me retreat to their front room and pick out tunes from the Sound of Music. I could read the right hand but struggled with the left so usually made up the oddest harmonies. I swore to myself that when I grew up my house would have dogs, plants, books and a piano (sorry girls - you weren't a priority at the time!)

When Mr K and I married a piano was the obvious choice for a gift. Mum and Dad bought us a lovely old metal framed one and I promised myself that one day I would play. Then along came family life. My pregnancy with Big Sis started as a rocky one and I had romantic visions of playing Mozart quietly to my bump in order to calm the constant whirling and churning - but I ended up feeling way too sick. Then Little Sis came along and life was far too busy. I did find the odd pocket of time to sit and experiment, I even got quite good at Clair de Lune, but was always dragged away by some other distraction. We moved house a couple of times and the piano came with us, providing us with a lovely surface for family pictures and the odd plant. 

To the girls the piano was just another piece of furniture and occasionally they would show a bit of interest and pick out a tune, or they would sit with their Grandma who would teach them little ditties. When Big Sis was about five a new neighbour arrived and asked who could play. Of course all the excuses and 'one days' came tumbling out and she immediately offered to give some lessons. In return for the odd chore (and the magic of Fanny Waterman) she was happy to teach Big Sis the basics of the keyboard.

 From that point on there was no looking back. Big Sis took to it like a duck to water and went on to transfer her interest to all manner of musical endeavours - culminating in her forming her own band when she was sixteen (now defunct I might add!) Little Sis followed suit. For me to have live music being played in your house is such a gift. When Big Sis would turn up with her mates for an impromptu jamming session the house felt alive. When she left for university the house slowly quietened. Little Sis would occasionally pick out a piece but always had more pressing things to be getting on with. Then recently she came across the most beautiful piece of music in a game she was playing. She was able to print it out and is currently working her way through until it is note perfect.

Press here for full version Ib: Memory

The next part is quite difficult to put in to words. To both Big and Little Sis this probably won't mean much at all. But for someone who always dreamed of being able to play I couldn't have imagined what a joy it would be for my children to have such a love of music. I know mum and dad feel the same. Dad's arthritis mean that his fingers won't quite let him tackle the same old flourishes that they used to, so to hear his grandchildren play is such a treat. I haven't given up on learning  - never say never - but when we were given that piano twenty odd years ago I couldn't have imagined what pleasure it would bring, and what wonderful memories it would make.

Little Sis playing Ib



  1. I love to hear live piano music and can see your family has some talented piano players. I don't play but like to listen. 5 pounds for the piano, wow, someone got a bargain!

  2. ahhhh thats lovely! to be able to play music is a truly magical gift.
    I have heard it can skip generations?
    d x

  3. What a lovely story. We like listening to music in our family but not playing it, we are too busy making and inventing things! Jo x

  4. I too nurtured the dream that I'd play a musical instrument too but alas it has never happened. I suppose I could put in the time and effort but realistically I'd only get to mediocre. I suppose it will be a bit like my machine sewing or decorating in that I have much higher standards than my own talent allows! Thank you for sharing your lovely story so beautifully as it is lovely to hear/read.

  5. This post is so heartfelt, dear Jane, and I completely understand where you're coming from! I've always wanted to play the piano, but we didn't have one in the house, so I started singing instead. That has continued to this day, but oh how happy I was to marry someone who plays piano, and even better, to watch my eldest learning, too! I feel like you do with the children playing - somehow everything seems complete...more than complete, actually, and we are so lucky for it! Chrissie x

  6. Lovely Jane your story sounds very similar to mine - in Liverpool we always had a piano and my wonderful Dad could play by ear and it was always my wish to play. My Mother wouldn't allow lessons saying they were a waste of money and it is my biggest regret that I didn't take lessons later on in life but pregnancies, children, work all take time and toll - if only we could have our time again. None of my children played an instrument so I am happy that your story has such a nice ending. Your post brought back many memories for me Jane, thank you. Have a wonderful weekend. Loves and hugs

  7. To play music would be so very lovely.

  8. I love this story. I grew up with a piano in my home, I took lessons as a young child and more as an adult, it is not too late for you to learn, go ahead and give it a try.

  9. What a wondeful post to read Jane and such a heartfelt one too. I think I'm close to tears if I'm honest. Not sure if that's a mixture of reliving a little of my own life and the fact that as we speak my childhood piano which was my mums is being shipped over to the UK and hopefully it will make it to the next generation or hey maybe it will be sold for £50. You must feel so proud and how blessed were you to have such a kind and giving neighbour. Thanks for sharing this story I thoroughly enjoyed it!! Xxx

  10. I grew up with a piano at home as my Mum could play, although never did, and as neither my brothers or I had any interest in Playing ,My parents sold it. On the day it was being taken away my Mum sat there for hours playing old favourites from her childhood. Now I so wished I had learnt to play when I had the chance.

  11. What a truly beautiful post, Jane - thanks for sharing this story. My family is a musical one too (my hubby sometimes refers to us as the Von Trapps because we love to just burst into song!) and my dad at 81 still plays regularly. Music is such a lovely gift to have and I hope that your girls pass on their love of it to the next generation too.
    Have a happy weekend,

  12. that's lovely. I love the piano, I can't play, my Mum could. We have the piano, which now needs repairing as a mouse was living in it! I must get it fixed. I can't imagine life without the piano! Heather x

  13. How proud you must be that the gift of music has been handed down through your family, the love and support plays a big part too, I have just listened to the beautiful haunting music, I would love to hear it wafting around my home..such a wonderful gift
    We had a pianola in my family home and although I could not read music I use to love to play tunes on it..I do miss it
    Thea xx

  14. Ah, lovely post. I wish we had room for a piano, but none of us play. xx


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