Friday, 14 March 2008

More musical musings

The problem with being stuck in bed (as I think I have mentioned before) is it severely limits your view of the world (mine being limited to a few square metres of sky outside my bedroom window and the garden if I actually get out of bed!). This leads, inevitably, to introspection. I was thinking about music yesterday, and I am continuing to think about music today.

My first serious musical experiences were at Primary School. There I learnt (like a lot of people, I dare say) the recorder, taught by one of the class teachers in a lunch hour; not, I think, the ideal way to learn. Played nicely on a quality instrument (preferably fashioned from wood) the recorder can be a beautiful instrument. Played badly on a fairly cheap plastic instrument it is torture. I never had much love for the recorder, or much aptitude. My recorder suffered irreparable damage from being thrown at the wall in a fit of temper.

Around the same time I started learning the guitar. Again I didn’t show much natural aptitude; and the classes took place in groups which meant that we all progressed at the pace of the slowest (probably, me).

My next musical endeavour was the piano. When I started secondary school I started the piano (which is very late in life to begin learning an instrument). My piano teacher was a fierce Scottish lady employed at the public school in the town near where I grew up. It was a very old fashioned music school with two doors fixed to every room to provide sound insulation. I can still remember the noises as I walked up and down the corridor of different instruments coming from the practice rooms.

Some time later I started taking my piano lessons from a teacher at the school this having the added advantage that I no longer needed to be fetched and carried from my music lessons as they conveniently took place during the day thus exempting one from class! I stayed with this teacher even after he left the school; taking lessons at his new school and finally at his home. I stopped taking lessons when at the age of 15 I failed my grade 6 exam twice; and my teacher and I decided that I probably wasn’t giving the piano the time that it deserved. A fantastic by-product of years of piano playing is that I found it immensely easy to learn to touch type as my fingers were used to working away whilst my eyes followed something else!

I carried on playing the guitar after my first piano teacher taught me to play chords to accompany myself singing. I showed much more aptitude for this than ‘classical’ guitar playing and it has on occasion, been a useful social skill!

Sometime in secondary school I also started taking singing lessons. My singing teacher was (quite amazingly) at school with my grandmother. Sadly (but not surprisingly) she retired before my singing education was complete. My next teacher was married to a teacher at my brother’s school; which was quite a strange coincidence. Voice lessons were the only thing I continued after I left school, during my yeat spent at university studying music. My singing teacher was a vibrant woman who began every lesson with physical exercise. I’d return from my lesson quite exhausted, much to the amusement of my neighbours in halls! If we’re talking of singing, I really ought mention my choir mistress, who also gave lessons to us choristers to enable us to pass the exams for various awards from the Diocese and the Royal School of Church Music.

Lastly, but definitely by no means least, is my violin teacher. When I was 15 or so my music teacher at school set us a summer assignment which was coincidentally a competition. I completed the questions and entered the competition, and to my surprise, was a winner. The prize was to go to a rehearsal and concert being given by Nigel Kennedy. For some years, I’d been convinced that I wanted to learn the ‘cello; I now decided that I’d much rather learn the fiddle. As violins are smaller and easier to come by, my wish was granted. Fortunately the most amazing lady - an accomplished violinist and pianist; (who also taught me theory of music) lived opposite me when I was growing up; and I'd run across for my lesson in sandals, or sometimes, even, to her horror, barefooted. We'd wait for our lessons whilst the pupil before finished in her conservatory - where grapes were harvested in the autumn.

I still have my guitar which I play infrequently; so infrequently that it usually leads to sore finger tips from fretting the strings and a blister on my thumb from strumming. I also have my violin although the lack of practice over the years means that I’m only allowed to play it when everyone else is out! I also finally have a piano again. My parents sold my childhood piano when they moved house (the living/dining room was too small for a three piece suite, dining table and a piano, the table and sofa were deemed of more use). I bought one a couple of years ago, not an upright, but a modern electric piano which sounds and feels like the real thing.

Much of my leisure time over the years has been devoted to making music, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone.