My Grand Passion and Love is the Piano and as I now do not have one, anytime I see a piano anywhere I invariably find someone to ask whether I can play it.
Almost always the answer is ‘Of course you can. It has not been played for a while now and we would love to have you play for us…”
It is sad that piano playing is a dead art or one that is not practiced much anymore.
My childhood was spent hanging onto the piano where my Aunt Bernice, recently deceased, would play song after song, and everyone would listen and singalong with her. I loved her playing and the songs she played and these songs are now my repertoire.
My father too was a marvelous pianist. Aunt Bernice played properly. She was a trained musician. Father played chords which he accompanied with his voice. He loved to sing, especially after a few wines, and I also have his lively repertoire added to mine. He also had a Banjo he strummed to and sang with. I wanted that banjo desperately, but after he died, my mother gave it to someone and I never knew who. I hope they enjoyed it as much as Dad did and that I would have. She did leave me her piano which she made me play every time I visited her, with those songs added to my repertoire. I have no idea where the piano went after the house was cleared after her death.
My Aunty Claribel also had a piano which she insisted I play every time I visited her. She would stand by the piano and love the music. When Aunt was in a home, I visited her regularly and played the piano for her and the others who came to sing by the piano. After Aunty went, I started playing the piano at other Old Homes and Hostels for the Aged, one in Manjimup and the other Ranfurley House in New Zealand, as they love my old time songs and music and enjoyed the singalongs by the piano.
Its not surprising that my music is now well dated and out of sync with modern songs and modern sound. Every time I get to a piano, it is the older people who come near and say, ‘Dear…Can you play…?’ and its always an old song that I know, which then sets me off on my known and loved repertoire of songs from the past. I play Irish songs including ‘Danny Boy‘ and “You take the high road and I’ll take the Low road‘ , love songs from the 40’s, ‘Kiss me Goodnight Sergeant Major‘ and ‘Moonlight Bay‘ from my mothers memories and ‘Golden Earrings’ and ‘Gypsy’s Warning’ and ‘Home on the Range‘ from Aunt Bernice’s Time. I have added my own favorites…Memories, Music of the Night, Bobby McGee and The Rose. I also have a huge repertoire of Country and Western Songs from my guitar playing. I also have 3 songs that I wrote that Frank Traynor wrote the music for…one day I will do something with my songs. I used to play piano with Frank Traynor of ‘Jazzmen’ fame in the 80’s and with an ex- College Jazz Group called ‘The Green Onions’ for which I was more Female personality than Piano, but which gave me a great style following a sometimes drunken band trying to keep up with ever changing chords which they sometimes forgot to give me the keys for me to change with the times.
I remember once I was playing the piano in a hotel somewhere, and a friend found me. She said she followed the music, for as soon as she heard the piano and the style she knew it was me and came to find me…I played at the Hilton Piano Bar in the 80’s and often took over the grand piano at a Hungarian Restaurant in Glenferrie Road where I had a small business in those times. I had my Upright Baby Grand in my shop where I played in the days that I was setting up the business. As it got busier, the piano was put in the back room and covered with boxes of stock. That piano was to get heat damage in a house fire, was sent to Box Hill to get fixed and I never saw it again. It was a Moore and Moore, upright baby Grand, made specially for me when I was three years old, made in London, sent to Sri Lanka and then brought to Australia when we migrated in 1957. I lost it in 1992 and my dream is that one day it will find its way back to me to play again. There would be only one of these in existence in Australia.
The last time I played the piano was in Vietnam last year. The hotel I stayed at had a Grand piano in the Foyer and one day while waiting for the tour bus to collect me I asked if I could play. They set up the piano and I played and played. I played every morning for an hour after breakfast and before the tour bus collected me. On the last day I asked the doorman to take a photo of me playing the piano and also a short video.
I loved playing the piano at Holiday Inn in Hefei China where I was teaching. The Grand Piano was in the breakfast room and they had it on automatic play. After Breakfast I would play that for at least an hour every time I stayed there which was most weekends as my escape from the Dormitory I was living at while teaching in Hefei.
I also loved playing the grand piano at Jimmy’s Bar in Daejeon in Korea and would go there weekends and play the piano. I had my friends come drink there and Sam would sing with the piano. I would play and play and simply loved the tone of this piano. Jimmy would play sometimes but he mostly ran the bar. Sam took this photo of me after one of our singalongs….It was grand times at Jimmy’s Bar on Saturday Night after Dinner with Charlie eating Korean Barbecue at a small cafe nearby.
I have walked the streets here visiting hotel after hotel searching for a piano. The Hotels now do not have pianos, or rather ones that play, and there is no interest in live music. I have purchased 3 keyboards, the third is an electronic piano that is the closest to a piano, but not the same. I yearn a Grand piano to play on but there just isn’t one for me to play in Australia, until I buy one which I will one day.
I will have to travel overseas to play a Grand piano again. The Music stores will not let me play for long, and I guiltily keep buying more music in return for them letting me play the piano, and the last music session I had here was at Hervey Bay playing a piano the Rubbish Dump Shop was selling for a song I did not have the money to pay. I went and sat there and played a few times before I left the locality. In the meantime I should use the latest electronic keyboard I bought and wait till I can get my very own Grand Piano.