Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Piano Lessons

In the comments on my post about Suicide Tennis Tracey mentioned that she hadn't liked her piano lessons. Well we had to take those as well, and it wasn't a happy story either.

The piano arrived when we were about 9. Mum had recently been widowed, and this piano was a huge expense, even though it was aquired from an estate sale. Mum had wanted to learn to play piano since she was a small child, and now, we were going to live her dream. There was never ANY question of her learning at the ripe old age of 47; she wouldn't contemplate it.

So we were packed off each Tuesday lunchtime to a nearby Catholic high school for lessons with the nuns. To get to the music room we had to walk the whole length of the school, under the scrutiny of the enlightened young misses who attended that Christian community. May they rot in Hell.

It took only a few weeks for them to conspire to make our life a misery. All of them (around 120) would line the path to jeer and sneer and taunt and even spit at us. The only safety was the music room, and there we had to endure whichever nun was assigned to teach us the mysteries of music that week. We were perhaps not in the right frame of mind, knowing that we had to run the gauntlet on the way back, and that there would be no time to eat lunch that day, after we'd biked back to our own school. And like as not get into trouble for being late for the afternoon classes. Tuesdays were nightmare material. Music was so not worth it.

I suppose we were an easy target. There were two of us and we were absolutely identical. We were tiny, tiny children, always the smallest by far in our age group. And we followed Mum's advice of how to deal with the torment by putting our little noses in the air and marching on, side by side, regardless. It was hysterical to watch apparently. We endured that every Tuesday for two years. And no, Mum would not let us give up music lessons either. It would enrich us....

When we went to High School we went to the Convent for our lessons. No more evil tormentors, but a different class of nun. These were strange, elderly, embittered, lonely women, with nothing left of their vocation. They used a bamboo cane on unwary knuckles, scolded instead of praised, seethed with impatience and sourness. The door slammed on our retreating backs after the lesson, and Meredith and I would look at each other and feel that we were returning to the land of the living. And not another music lesson for 6 days and 23 hours!!

Because we were twins we had to play Duets. Nobody bothered to explain to us the concept of a Duet, so we discovered by accident that it sounded better if we synchronised our parts the way they were meant to be played. No more starting off at different times and hammering to the finish independently. Then we were enlisted to play at various church and school functions, and we were a great hit. We developed a Chopsticks routine that brought the house down, starting slowly, working through 8 variations with increasing speed and ending with a crashing, lightning fast climax. It was so popular we often had to play an encore. Bugger!

We had never heard of the concept of passive-aggressive behaviour, but we practiced it to a fine art. And eventually, after 6 years of fruitless endevour we made Mum throw her hands up in disgust and agree that we could stop the lessons. She was very strongwilled, our Mum, but she couldn't make us want what she had so desperately wanted. Sad state of affairs. If she had offered us riding lessons, or singing lessons, we could have done that with a glad heart. But they weren't her dream. Which we ruined for her.

I am glad to have some musical knowledge. Once when I was singing in the church choir a practice was going to have to be cancelled because the pianist hadn't showed up. I volunteered to play and the look on my DD's face was utterly priceless; 'How do YOU know how to play piano??!!' she demanded. There's a lot she doesn't know about her mother. But I still can't sit at a piano without a feeling of loathing.

4 comments:

meggie 6:19 PM  

I just loved this story!
I would have almost killed to be able to learn the piano... but my mother's dream had been to learn ballet!

Believe me, you got by far the lesser of the 2 evils. Although at least I didnt have to suffer the nuns... just the Awful Miss Fitch! True name, & you can guess what we called her.
I still loathe ballet to this day too!

Laura 9:44 AM  

Keryn - great story! I too had to go through the piano lesson routine, but nothing like what you went through!

mereth 5:49 PM  

Still can't really see the funny side of this experience! It's never become one of those "Look back and laugh" things.
This is why I always waited for my boys to express an interest before we signed up for the TaiKwonDo, the soccer, the aussie rules footy,violin, guitar,singing lessons, school band etc etc.

Shelina 10:28 AM  

What a funny, interesting, and sad story. Times were so different then. I guess what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And since you volunteered to play the piano, it looks like your scars are healing.

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