Saturday, May 2, 2015

Saturday Morning Interlude

I had the house to myself this morning and, even with a long list of things to get done, I managed to get entirely sidetracked. 

Yesterday, we finally got rid of the mammoth 60" projection screen television that has been hogging the front room for several years. Three frat boys, all very nice and polite to the middle-aged lady, got it into the back of their truck, headed for the chapter house about 5:00 yesterday. Within 30 minutes, I had reclaimed the "sitting room" in a configuration where people can actually face one another and have a conversation. 

Bru wants in on the convo.

That meant that the piano would finally return to its space along the wall instead of blocking the window. As I set about doing more than superficially dusting it, I tried my hand at playing a few things I vaguely remembered in my youth. Nothing came easily and I had dinner to start, so I left it there.

This morning, though, with the sun streaming in and coffee in hand, I cracked open the piano bench to see what I could find. Such memories! There are my four years of recital trophies. Three white, and one spray painted gold. Gold guy is Mozart. Haydn, Schubert, and Brahms are the white "satisfactory" prizes. Only the best, hardest working students were presented with the gold ones. Somehow, I scored a gold Mozart on my last year. I set my guys up on the top of the piano and kept digging.

There's the first beginner book, it's cover gone long before I was born. This was one of my parent's books from their piano lesson days. I distinctly remember using it to pick around on the piano when I was about 6 on Sunday afternoon. Dad asked me that day if I'd be interested in taking lessons. So that second book below is circa 1976, when I began.

The Thompson Modern Course books were next. Mom's First Grade Book was still intact, so I used that one until graduating to the Second Grade, when I got my own, shinier edition. By the way, the price had doubled in a generation.

In the back, Mom's Certificates of Merit are dated June 9, 1958.
She would have been turning 10 the following month.

The first book has notes from both piano teachers, with mom's teacher writing in pen. 
She gets "perfect" written on it when she's done. 
I don't. I get a lot of "count!" notes.

As soon as I played the first bars of the Fairies' Harp, it came rushing back. 
At 8 or 9 years old, I loved those broken chords.

Some of the last pieces in the first book that we both learned:

Besides the books, there are a few early recital pieces tucked away. As I read some of the liner notes, I realized I was never taught music theory. 

On the Token piece, "based on quartal and quintal harmony, the absence of a key signature permits the composer to freely move from one tonal implication to another. Vertical sonorities are exploited for the coloristic effect rather than simply a limited function within a fixed key."

No one ever went over those explanations with me. You just sat down and ground through the fingering of each piece without any concept of how it all fit together. Rote memorization and nothing more. I wish I'd gotten a better foundation.

There were half a dozen pop tunes I'd bought myself after I was done with lessons. 
All schmaltzy love ballads circa 1985.

Then it got a bit eclectic. 

And some of the last stuff I ever played around with

So I crack open the Sonata in C sheets and something very weird happens. As I'm focusing on the notes in front of me instead of looking at my hands, which sort of find their way to the right spot without a glance, I realize that's the missing link. It's not perfect, but it's almost entirely whole as I play through it, as though whatever little section of my brain was storing this stuff needed to see the sheet music, with its little "excellent" sticker awarded after months of practice, to be able to do it again. I mean, I'm even hitting the foot pedal at exactly the right spots.

Photobombing Mozart approves.

As a test, I put close the sheet music and try again. Nope. Not happening. I stumble and get stuck very quickly. Amazing. 

Underneath the piano stuff were oboe books as well as Nick's 6th grade beginner trumpet book. That gets to me wondering if the old cornet will still play. So I dig that out. (No, nothing else got done this morning.)

There she is. I bought her on ebay when Nick was going to start beginner band, which required all the horn players to start on the cornet. He moved to the french horn, which we had to rent, the following year. This poor baby hasn't been given any attention in over a decade. I didn't want to rent the cornet when I could find a sturdier one on ebay for way less than the monthly fees, so that's how we ended up with this Holton, in its original case. She needs some polishing for sure, but her valves still slide reasonably well to tinker around. 

Out of curiosity, I decided to look up the serial number on the horn, whose bell indicated the model #29

If I'm reading this right, she's nearing 70 years old! This was a surprise. I didn't realize she was as much of an antique as she is. Her serial number puts her build square in the early months of 1947:

and Model 29 was still being sold in the 1948 catalog:

Sometimes a sidetracked, solitary Saturday is simply spectacular. 


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