Tag Archives: piano

Weekend Coffee Share 26th March, 2027.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

You’ve struck it lucky this week. After weeks and weeks of torrential rain, today I can finally offer you a cup of sunshine, which, when you’d been deprived of sun for so long, is pure gold and way better than a measly tea or coffee.

The sun is shining. So, why on earth am I sitting inside on my laptop when I should be outside seizing the rays?

It’s okay. I’m working on it. I’m still waking up and trying to psyche myself up for my “twenty minute walk”. Now that the rain’s stopped, I’ve run out of excuses for the physio. So, I’ve gotta: “Move it! Move it! Move it!” I almost feel like praying for rain. And for all of you motivation types, I know I’ll enjoy it once I get started and that it’s about time I went and checked out the beach before Winter sets in, but the power of the couch is very alluring.

I am finally starting to get a bit of direction and focus at last.

About a month ago, I received a rather generous assistance package through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). This included a physio, Occupational Therapy and psychology combo as well as a personal mentor, 9 hours of cleaning and a budget to really Spring clean the house and get it back in order. Ten years of chronic illness have truly swamped the place!! So, at the moment we’re getting started. Friday, I began the dreaded process of sorting through about 5 in trays, hoping that by now, all that paperwork was well and truly redundant and headed straight for the WPB (waste paper bin AKA recycling).

Woy Woy March 20

Taken on one of my recent “ten minute walks”.

The other advantage of getting rid of this excess paperwork, is that it distracts the mentor from culling my collections. After all, if anything is well into that endangered category of “not being used for the last 6 months and collecting dust”, it’s my collection of antique and vintage tea cups. Moreover, even I have to admit there’s considerable “excess”. However, before I do the hard yards sorting through my beloved “old ladies”, I’d much rather throw out the old school notes.

1936 Eunice in London

Meanwhile, I’ve been head down tail up transposing newspaper articles about my grandmother’s career as an international concert pianist. These started going online the week of her funeral, which was rather freaky at the time when articles from 1935 suddenly started rising to the surface. I am viewing her career through a much broader social context, which is much more time consuming but has created a much more interesting story line. For example, there was a review of a London performance which she’d kept as a clipping in her scrapbook. However, when I found it online this week, I read the full article which mentioned the arrival of Sudeten Jews in London in 1938 and how Jewish children were being adopted by English families. It’s fascinating reading history forward instead of reverse, which, of course, is how it was experienced.

One thing which has been quite interesting about researching my grandmother’s journey, is that I am reading all these facts, stories etc as her grand-daughter, a writer-storyteller and researcher and NOT primarily as a musician. I read the list of her performance pieces like a shopping list, yet without the  recognition. I’ve been ploughing through the articles and trying to get through them all and so stopping to listen to the music itself hasn’t been a priority. However, I finally Googled Beethoven’s Waldstein and a few others, and they were as familiar to me as breathing. They were such a part of my childhood and I remember falling to sleep to them on my parents’ laps. It’s so precious to relive these moments, even if it is through the exceptionally humble speakers on my laptop. So, I am inspired to listen to these more and to get the stereo operational. That is, if that thing is still called a stereo!

Meanwhile, real life realities always beckon me back from the joys of research and discovery. I’m finalising my daughter’s application for the local high school, while we wait on the results of the selective schools’ test. This involves an academic test for selective class and three auditions for the CAPA or performing arts stream. These auditions are filling me with dread. STRESS x 3 is not something to look forward to and I am becoming quite an adept motivational coach as she does various auditions. It’s just lucky that I’m a natural performer. It’s just an ironic twist that I don’t have an act, unless you include stand-up comedy after my latest trip.

dancer box

Just as well I have my own creative and stress outlet. Tomorrow night, I have my last contemporary/jazz dance class for this term. I am truly going to miss these classes. We have so much fun. Not only with the dancing, but with the hilarious commentary, my pink satin ballet shoes with ribbons attached and the way so many of us seemingly “breathe out” during these classes. I know this sounds like a paradox, because learning dance as an adult sounds very intense and it’s such a perfectionist thing, but we’re not trying be prima donnas. We’re wanting to stretch ourselves physically, psychologically and philosophically and laugh from head to toe. It’s magic…even if my dancing has a way to go!

I have cut back on writing on my blog this year. However, I am still enjoying writing my weekly flash fiction for Friday Fictioneers. You can read this week’s effort here.

So, how has your week been? I hope it’s been great and that the week ahead goes well for you too!

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Nerd In the Brain. You can join in the  Linky.

Xx Rowena

Musical Reflections 1941…

In March 1941, while London was in the throws of “The Blitz”, my grandmother was performing in Newcastle, a regional city North of Sydney. She was a concert pianist and after studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London, she returned to Australia in 1940 to tour with famed conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham…and no doubt to escape the bombs!

Fast forwarding to 2017, and I’m meticulously going through old newspapers online, transcribing text and pasting articles about her into word documents by year. It’s taken me years to come up with this approach for compiling all these bits and pieces, especially as filing isn’t exactly my forte.

An interesting aspect of my grandmother’s career, at least from the perspective of a storyteller, is that she lived through an extremely turbulent, yet fascinating, period of history. That included: the Great Depression, WWII, “women’s lib”  and also the Cold War when she actually performed behind the “Iron Curtain” in East Germany and Soviet Russia (the latter being quite an “interesting” thing for Grannie to do and she even brought back some Russian coins which was not allowed!!)

So, when I stumbled across this little discussion in the Newcastle paper about the conflict between classical music and Jazz, I thought of a few bloggers who’d find this interesting and I’ll be popping round to “your place” and dropping off a link. You never know when little historical snippets like this could come in handy:

So, here goes:

“WORDS CONTINUE, like pebbles, to be thrown into the stream of controversy that races between followers of jazz and the classics. One writer, who attempts an impartial summing up of the question suggests: “The highbrow’s error is to suppose himself a different creature from the low brow. He loathes himself if he is betrayed into humming a tune that all the world is singing or into tapping his feet in time with the band. And failing to recognise or contemptuously rejecting these instincts in himself he has nothing but scorn for their manifestation in other people. To him the lowbrow is the person who likes ‘that kind of music.’ How much better if we realised that there are occasions when we all like ‘that kind of music” when our superior faculties are enjoying a rest. “This problem must be giving the B.B.C. a headache in compiling its feature programme. ‘Music while you work,’ since obviously there must be some who would prefer to make a bullet or put an engine together to the accompaniment of a Beethoven sonata than to ‘Roll Out the Barrel.’ “Germany, if reports are true, is producing special music to aid the war effort. Soldiers now march to tunes which automatically control their breathing to enable them to go longer distances without becoming exhausted.”

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) , Friday 21 March 1941, page 18

This tension between classical and contemporary music, rings bells for me back at school, even in the 1980’s.

As if being a teenager wasn’t confusing enough, while the rest of the teenage universe was into  pop/rock/punk etc, my best friend was into classical and drew me under her spell. In retrospect, she was one of “those kids”. Their family only watched the ABC and she never ate junk food. Indeed, she didn’t even know what a Mars Bar was. That should have been a warning in itself, but your best friend is your best friend. Sink or swim, you do it together…even if you do die a social death.

So, if I could speak to my 13 year old self, I’d tell her that she should stand on her own two feet. That before you publicly declare you love classical music, remember you played Grease at your slumber party, which was anything but. Anyone who is your true friend, can accept a difference of opinion and give you the space and freedom to be yourself. You don’t have to be clones. Also, if you decide to go against the flow, make sure it’s for something you strongly believe in and that you’re prepared to cop the fallout. Otherwise, it’s just not worth it.

These are life lessons I’m now trying to pass onto my kids. Navigating your way through high school is a veritable minefield and hopefully they can learn from my mistakes and make different ones of their own.

Meanwhile, getting back to the tension between different styles of music, I’m sensing that this has eased up over the years and we enjoy much more of a smorgasbord of styles these days. That we can be wonderfully eclectic. Is that your take as well? I’d love to read your reflections.

xx Rowena

 

Lost & Found in Newcastle.

On Monday, I had the joy of being lost and found in Newcastle, finding out what it’s like to go off the grid and follow my senses. See where they’d take me.

Have you tried this yourself lately?

Letting yourself go, casting your goals, focus, and planning all to the wind and seeing what happens? Rather than planning your life down to the millisecond, shifting gears and exploring the spaces in between the lines and finding out where you end up?

As much as we might ignore the space in between the lines, the gaps between numbers and words, they’re there for a reason. After all, without these spaces, nothing makes sense. So, you could say that space is just as important as the words and all the stuff we cram into each day.

While you probably feel “too busy” to go off the grid, maybe you’re too busy not to. Perhaps, it’s long past time to stop the clock! Not unsurprisingly, if you’re living for work, you can end up struggling to live.Yet, what does it take for us to change?

Personally, driving Mum’s Taxi often takes me off the grid, launching me into all sorts of adventures. Adventures more along the lines of catastrophe, drama, and nail-biting stress as I get lost, run late and also have to round up recalcitrant kids. I’ve definitely had easier jobs…including brain surgery but I was the patient, not the surgeon.

However, taxi driving has its rewards.

On Monday, taxi duties took me up Newcastle. My daughter had a 3 hour rehearsal at The Junction Public School, which left me free to explore. Although I have friends and family in Newcastle, I didn’t get my act together and decided to wing it. Let adventure find me.

Well, after loads of “adventure” trying to find the school, I parked the car and set out on foot. I had directions on how to walk to the beach but spotted a cafe across the road. It was love at first sight. The way you feel when you spot your one true love across a crowded room and know they’re the one, as you share that stolen glance. Yet, at this stage, I didn’t know why. That connection is beyond explanation…almost spiritual. Meant to be.

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Just like those crowded room experiences, my cafe radar has let me down before and I hate paying for food I could’ve cooked better myself at home. I’m particularly fussy about my pet fave, chocolate cake, conducting full length interviews trying to find “the one”. Quite often, I bow out and order something else. I know what I like. There is no compromise! I’m a chocolate cake connoisseur!

So while I was checking out the shops, I decided to ask a local where to go. They confirmed my suspicions and recommended I go to  Talulah, which it turns out, is Mum’s cousin’s restaurant. What a coincidence! I’ve heard about Talulah at family weddings right from conception to birth and now, we were about to meet for the very first time. How exciting!

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The view from my table.

 

Is that what guided my footsteps there? Some sense of family? I don’t know. It’s on a corner block and there’s a soldier standing right out the front, which certainly commands wistful attention. Yet, how did I know from across the road, without even seeing inside, that this place would be so very me? Me… in such a personal way, before I even stepped in?

This happens to me a lot. That sixth sense, and a feeling of being led somewhere by forces unknown. Be that a guardian angel, God, subliminal messaging or plain good business. After all, if you want a restaurant to succeed, you’ve got to get them through the door. Food is secondary.

I walk through a series of cosy outdoor lounges heading out to the bathroom before I find a seat. This is when my camera finger first starts to switch as I spot two vintage ballet pictures on the wall. After my first adult ballet class last week, these stand out like neon signs. As crazy as it sounds, I have to take a photo. It’s like I’ve just walked in and found my own personal secret hanging on the wall and it feels so uncanny. How did they know?

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Dancing in My Dreams.

By the way, if word gets out that I’m taking photos in toilets, I’ll soon be heading off on an entirely different journey off to the psychiatrist! This will make particular sense if you’ve read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion!  That said, being creative I’d soon slip through that legal loophole and be back out on the streets. Not guilty!

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Anyway, I set up camp with a short story magazine, my notebook and a cappuccino. It’s a gloriously sunny, Winter’s day and I’m captivated by the autumn leaves still falling from the skeletal tree out the front. Deciduous trees can have it rough in parts of Australia better suited to native evergreens. The poor tree’s brain tells it to lose its leaves, yet their thermostat fights back. So instead of naked tree skeletons during Winter, these poor confused trees are still losing leaves in Spring.

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The Piano

That’s when I noticed the old piano sitting in the corner. We have an old piano at home, which I’m finding out is something of a museum piece. These days, you can’t even give an old piano away. This piano is even older than ours with brass candle sticks on the front and ornate detailing in the wood. While it feels like murder and an act of cruel betrayal, I’m getting to the point where we’ll be sending our piano to the tip. Throwing out even a mediocre piano, feels like murder. I come from a family of pianists where pianos were precious. Yet, I’m almost as fussy about pianos as I am about chocolate cake. It needs to make way for the new.

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Anyway, this piano starts speaking to me and I’m writing a macabre short story about a piano left outside beside the road. The candles are flickering on and off in the morning mists. A crow lands on the candle stick, turning it into a perch and it goes on from there.

I don’t usually write fiction so I was pretty stoked and thought this cafe made the perfect writer’s den…very inspiring!

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Being so engrossed in the piano, falling leaves and the soldier, time was slipping away. I was waiting for the lunch menu to start but before I knew it, I was needing to rush and only had time for a main, missing out on my much wanted dessert. I ordered sweet potato falafel with salad. I love falafel and sweet potato and was interested to try this twist on a familiar dish. It was great and also came with a salad I really liked.

By the way, I apologise if you were wanting a more detailed interpretation of the meal. I always struggle with that. Writing about food is incredibly difficult without sounding like a wanker (excuse the French) and I’m better at describing how it made me feel, than the taste. All I’ll say is that this complex mix of beautiful flavours more than exceeded my expectations and I’d love to take the chef/cook home. I’d graciously resign.

By the way, I’d even let them drive Mum’s Taxi. Aren’t I nice?!!

Meanwhile, I’d exit stage left and put my feet up. Putting your feet up can be incredibly difficult but someone’s got to do it.

It might as well be me!

Have you been to Newcastle and have any favourite spots? Or, have you discovered any fascinating nooks and crannies lately? I’d love to hear your tales!

Meanwhile, it’s time for me to pick up my daughter and head home. You can read about my efforts navigating through Newcastle here: Driving To Newcastle: Mum’s Taxi Seeks Gold.

xx Rowena

Telulah is located at 52 Glebe Road,The Junction, Newcastle (corner of Kenrick Street and Glebe Road).

Off With Her Fingernails!

Just as well my violin teacher is nice. After all, if she was anything like the Queen of Hearts, she would’ve cut my fingernails off with a guillotine weeks ago. Too bad if she also took off my fingertips! The Queen of Hearts doesn’t care about little details like that! If you refuse to cut your own nails, you pay the price.

All this is rather new to me. Although I am heading down the other side of 40+, I’ve only been playing the violin for a few years. Indeed, I only took it up after sitting in on my 5 year old daughter’s lessons. After she quit mid-term, I kept going. That was four years ago.

What nobody tells you about taking up an instrument is that so many of them require you to cut your nails. Seriously, cut your nails so there’s no clicketty clack all over the piano keys and if you’re playing any stringed instrument, so you can play the notes. Trust me! You want to play in tune and that means no nails. Not even the hint of a fingernail.

There is no middle ground.

So, even if you’re half-serious about playing the violin, you need short nails…especially on your left hand. It’s the same with the guitar.

That’s just the price you have to pay.

When you‘re a serious musician, you don’t even think about cutting off all those precious fingernails. No regrets. You just want to make music.

Of course, if you have crappy nails, it doesn’t matter either. You have nothing to lose.

However, when you finally have beautiful, long, strong nails for the very first time in your life, you hang onto them for as long as you possibly can. Cutting them off almost feels like murder.

So, despite being back at violin lessons for three weeks, I still haven’t trimmed my nails. I’m still hanging on!

It’s not that I’m vain or even fancy myself as a bit of a Princess. I’d just like to pretend I was Sweet 16 again. Be pretty!

Surely, there’s nothing wrong with that?!!

Yet, there comes that point where things no longer compute. You can’t call yourself a violinist when you can’t hit a note and you’re playing out of tune.

When your violin is how your express the inner beatings of your heart and those notes are infused with such emotion, even the best set of fingernails can’t stand in the way forever. They have to go. They might look good but if you’ve ever heard fingernails scraping down a blackboard, you know they can’t sing!

However, while I can sort of justify the long nails and dreadful playing to myself, it’s quite another thing to face up for yet another lesson with super long nails and painful playing. After all, I’m paying for these lessons and they don’t come cheap.

Either I shape up, or I ship out.

Deferring the inevitable only makes it worse.

So, it’s off with my nails!

If only that’s all it took to make it all the way to the Opera House!

xx Rowena

 

Lungs, Lunch and Violin…Just An Ordinary Day in Paradise.

Yesterday, Geoff and I drove down to Sydney for what turned out to be: lungs, lunch and violin.

Well, that’s quite an over-simplication. Or, what you could call: “the bare bones”.

Starting with the lungs…

Lungs

Every three months, I have routine lung function tests followed by an appointment with my lung specialist to monitor the spread of fibrosis in my lungs and to manage infection and any other lung nasties. While my lungs aren’t great and I have about 60% lung volume at the best of times, the fibrosis has been pretty stable for the last two years and I even get the odd improvement. So, these appointments aren’t all doom and gloom and we usually have a few laughs with my specialist.

However, there is no denying the reality of these appointments. My lungs are my weakest link and so we’re pretty much staring straight into the face of fear, eye-to-eye, without so much as a blink. We are probing the depths, trouble-shooting and coming up with a detailed defense strategy. This is very sensible and naturally the more you know about your enemy and yourself, the greater your chance of victory. However, at times, these conversations hit a nerve and it’s like plunging a knife in a very raw wound and it’s not surprising that I completely freak out and leap out of my skin. Who wouldn’t?!!

Although I’m tougher than I used to be and am somewhat resilient, I’m not made of stone. I crumble and fall apart just like anyone else and wish I could cry. Cry buckets of tears but the well has run dry.

The key outcome of this appointment is that I need to start dropping my prednisone further. This is supposedly good news. I keep telling myself this is good news. That means that I’m doing well. The disease is being managed and the risks posed by the medication outweigh the likelihood of the disease flaring up. This is what I want.

I can say that more than 24 hours later when the dust has settled. However, yesterday I was beyond terrified and wanted to boot some poor innocent hermit crab out of it’s shell and move in. Lock myself away and shut the door. Never come out. I really had to remind myself of all those things you need to do when your journey hits a snag and the wind goes out of your sails ie walk, get some sun, play my violin. EAT CHOCOLATE!!

We are now getting pretty close to that invisible line where the disease starts to reclaim lost ground and if it isn’t managed like the precarious house of cards that it is, I could literally come falling down. Have a flare. Of course, this possibility terrifies me and for good reason and I feel like I’m about to drive a car over the edge of a very steep cliff and the waves down below are just waiting to wrap around me. Pull me under.

I don’t know how likely it is to go pear-shaped but my doctors seem reasonably confident. This would suggest that all my flapping around is mere “catastrophising”, even though I still see it as healthy self-preservation. I should be right dropping 1-2mg gradually over a few months but then the real test is on. They’re trying to get me down to 5mg. At this point, I’m very inclined to quote Darryl Kerrigan from the classic Australian movie: The Castle:

But sometimes, you need other people to have a bit of faith in what you can do and what is possible. Sometimes, you need that outside reminder and jolt that your dreams really can come true.

So, it seems, I have to swallow my own medicine and take a deep breath and swing from the chandelier!

However, our day was not all doom and gloom!

Lunch!

After dealing with the lung monster, Geoff and I headed down to Sydney Harbour for lunch at The Kirribilli Club in Lavender Bay. This was the perfect antidote. I chose this place due to its sweeping views over Lavender Bay, Luna Park and the back of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. We could see the planes coming in to land in the distance and the ferries chugging their way through the harbour to places like Manly, Balmain and Kirribilli. It was so incredibly relaxing and the perfect antidote for a stressful morning. I still felt agitated inside, way too much like a churning washing machine but I could also feel that calming salve mounting a counter-offensive and could almost relax. Watching the water is so good for that and so incredibly therapeutic!

By the way, I should mention that it was unseasonably cold and the wind was whirling around, slapping us in the face. Yes, it hurt!

I was mighty glad I hadn’t got around to packing up my Winter clothes because woollens are back on. Indeed, where are my thermals?

After lunch, we went up to my parents’ place to pick up the kids and have dinner.

My beloved violin.

My beloved violin.

Violin

I’d packed my violin and decided to have a bit of a jam with my Mum who is an accomplished pianist. She’s taught the piano for many years and now that she’s retired, plays in The Lyric Trio with a singer, clarinet and her on piano. They play at Nursing Homes and retirement Villages, pretty much out o the kindness of their hearts.

Playing with my Mum was a huge step for me. While it sounds simple and natural enough, I’ve only been playing for 3 years and for the last 12 months, I’ve been struggling to keep up with my practice, especially given the ups and down with my health. The violin is a very demanding instrument and it’s not easy for anyone to develop good bowing techniques and get those awkward, uncooperative fingers to behave and find exactly the right spot every time. When you mix these difficulties with someone else playing the  piano, my mistakes become horribly magnified…especially to a trained ear!! These mistakes aren’t anywhere near as fatal when I’m playing alone. Sure, I know it doesn’t quite sound right but there isn’t that discordant clang, which is almost as painful as fingernails scraped down a chalkboard.

Just to exacerbate my violin battles even further, my bifocals were struggling to read the notes and I was making more and more mistakes. This infuriates me, of course, these mistakes aren’t “me”. Or, at least, not a true reflection on my playing.

I’m sure I can hear you pondering about me and the bifocals and wondering  how they fit in since I don’t wear glasses but is a sin of omission ie taking my glasses off for photos really such an unforgivable sin?

I think I’ve just stumbled into another post.

xx Rowena

Twinkling The Keys.

Coming from a “piano family”, looking at these photos, I could well stand accused of getting my children interested in playing the piano from an extremely young age.

However, as a swarming member of the paparazzi, the piano was merely a fabulous prop and, for once, I was lucky that my subjects “performed”.

These were taken on Easter 2007, when Mister was 3 and Miss was only a year old.

Aren’t they just adorable and hasn’t time flown! Our son starts high school next year and is now on the cusp of becoming a teen.

Good, grief, Charlie Brown!

xx Rowena

My Turn...Big Brother Seeks the Stage.

My Turn…Big Brother Seeks the Stage.

Look at Me!

Look at Me!

Mummy and Miss.

Mummy and Miss.

Goodbye, Farewell, Auf Widersehen...Goodnight!

Goodbye, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen…Goodnight!

The House Is Alive With The Sound of Music…

The house is alive with the sound of “Do-Re-Mi”, “so long farewell auf wiedersehen” and even the voice of the lonely goatherd: “lay-ee o-dl layee o-dl-o”!

If you’ve read my last post, then you’ll know that on Monday, our daughter will be auditioning for the role of Marta in Andrew Lloyd Webbers’s Sydney production of The Sound of Music. Marta is the second youngest of the Von Trapp children and our daughter actually looks very similar to the original movie version.

You can read it here:https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/climb-every-mountain-singing-towards-her-dream/

 

Miss on Stage Performing Marta with her Musical Theatre Class.

Miss on Stage Performing Marta with her Musical Theatre Class.

Miss closely resembles Marta, aside from the fringe.

Miss closely resembles Marta, aside from the fringe.

While looking the part and being the right height is all well and good, that’s just the beginning. The first stage of the audition process is singing. If she makes it through, then she’ll be back on Wednesday for the dance and drama auditions.

So, she needs to be able to sing and sing well. Even if she doesn’t get the part, we still want her to give a respectable performance, which reinforces her love of singing and doesn’t see her running for the hills. After all, we are all quite philosophical about her chances of getting the role.

However, when I mentioned that the audition was a competition and she said she was just doing it “for fun”, while this was good in a way, I also reminded her that getting to the audition was going to be an effort and she needed to take it seriously.

This was when the fun began.

Rewinding to Sunday, I decided that practicing on the keyboard would help etch in the notes without wearing out her voice. She has had trouble with vocal nodules and so we’re handling her voice with kid gloves. Naturally, we don’t want her to burn out beforehand.

Also, I have only recently come to appreciate that learning to sing is as much about training your ears and, of course, your breathing, as it is to use your voice and I was sure playing the songs on the keyboard would really help develop her ear.

However, just because I’d made these realisations, that doesn’t mean my daughter was on board.

Indeed, she wasn’t even at the bus stop.

I also wanted to see if she could learn to read music in time. We’ve had multiple half-baked attempts in the past but the audition swung me into action. You see my mother accompanies a singer and once he learnt to read music, it really improved his voice. It was definitely worth a shot.

So, armed with this awareness and the same sort of determination which encouraged my daughter to apply for the role in the first place, I transformed myself into a mean and nasty tiger parent and prepared for battle.

However, despite my best intentions, things back fire big time around here and our place is a veritable Faulty Towers. Somehow, things just don’t seem to run like clockwork and quickly blow-up in my face.

You could say this makes me a hero. After all, heroes need a quest, come up against obstacles and have the inevitable car chase before it all comes good at the end.

However, I don’t feel like the all-conquering hero. I’m much more of a Paddington Bear and should either have a sign saying: “Please Take Care of This Bear” or “Warning! Bear about to self-destruct!”

Miss playing my mother's grand piano, aged 1.

Miss playing my mother’s grand piano, aged 1.

In the case of preparing for the audition, the drama all centred on the piano. Our current piano is old and out of tune. I’ve actually given it away but they can’t seem to pick it up and time’s dragged on so we still haven’t moved up my mother’s Yamaha upright, which would be absolutely perfect right now. As far as I’m concerned, you need a piano to sing well. You need to know and feel those notes. I might be a bit rigid but I come from a family of seriously gifted pianists, myself excluded.

As usual, as much as we tried to have all our ducks lined up, someone must’ve thrown a rock at them because all our good intentions scatter to the four winds and have a very long, circuitous journey home. That’s if they ever come back!

Yet, we persevered.

My daughter has a pretty good keyboard and I thought that would do the job.

At least, it would if we could find the power cable.

Unfortunately, that was buried underneath layers and layers of “filing” in the office. I had been somewhat on top of this never-ending tide of clutter but things came up and I found it all too easy to ignore it until it gave birth. Now, the mess is constantly breeding like over-fertile rabbits and will soon start flying out through the chimney!

So, when it came to the piano front, you could say we were well and truly “stonkered” (that’s a great word plucked from my Dad’s vernacular).

Take 2 or is this Take 3?

So, without a power cable, I had to resort to a roll-up keyboard mat thingy, which I’d bought at a fete. I’d thought it was quite clever at the time and used it to teach the kids some basic keyboard skills but it was hardly the tool for this job. It seemed to play every note twice and was quite annoying.

I started to think about all those kids with the perfect lives yet again and were already accomplished on the piano and felt so inadequate. Yet, at least, I was trying.

Next, I had to get Miss to actually sit down at the keyboard. This process was like trying to catch and restrain a wild brumby. She couldn’t see what singing had to do with playing the keyboard. I tried explaining that singers are usually accompanied on the piano but that didn’t register…even when I reminded her that Grandma accompanies a singer on the piano. I asked her if she was the only singer who didn’t need piano accompaniment. When that didn’t work, I even resorted to the:

“How old are you? “

“Nine. “

“I am 46. Do you think I might know something you don’t know?”

A younger Miss with attitude.

A younger Miss with attitude.

Humph. She was in a thunderous mood with mighty bolts of lightning flying between furrowed eyebrows. I didn’t need to be Einstein to see all these arguments were going nowhere and yet I didn’t give up. Boldly marching where angels fear to tread, I persevered:

Perceptions of Knowledge

Perceptions of Knowledge

“There’s what you know. What you know you don’t know but over here there’s what you don’t know you don’t know and this is what you have to watch out for. Just because you don’t know what you don’t know, that doesn’t mean other people don’t know what you don’t know. “

I know it made sense to me but to her young ears, it must have been gibberish. I’d finally crossed that line into madness.

Persevering with the keyboard while on the nebuliser. I only need it a few times a day so not a big deal.

Mummy & Miss

I was stumbling for words. Remember that I have a severe lung infection and all of these words are being forced out in between violent coughing spasms. I could see some things which would really improve her chances but she just couldn’t see the same picture. She was only 9 and I couldn’t expect her to have walked in my shoes but why couldn’t she recognise hard won pearls of wisdom when she heard them? Why wouldn’t she open up? The keyboard remained a square peg. It just didn’t fit into her understanding of singing, dancing and drama and she wanted to evict it completely.

However, for every Drama Princess, there is also a Drama Queen!

Or, perhaps all that ranting and raving finally made a bit of sense. At last, I sensed some microscopic progress. That maybe, just maybe, I was starting to get a nibble, even if I didn’t have a bite.

The funny thing was that as frustrating as she was, I saw a mirror image of myself as a young child when my mother was trying to teach me the piano. I remember sitting at that baby grand swinging my legs from the stool and hating it. I wanted to destroy it. Indeed, I think I might even have scratched writing onto the ivories. ..just maybe. I’d fought my own mother with the same fierce intensity but I wasn’t going to capitulate. This process was all too much like childbirth. You don’t want to go through the pain but at the end, there’s your beautiful, little bundle of joy. Indeed, I continued to learn the piano with my own teacher until I was around grade 6 so I wasn’t a lost cause after all.

I went on and ordered the sheet music online and started writing it out for her so she could practice it and we were slowly, ever so slowly making progress.

Converting the musical score into

Converting the musical score into “Miss-Speak”.

Then, we found the power cable for the keyboard and we were in business. I started practicing the songs, scraping the rust off years of piano neglect.

Yet again, I marvelled at how the dreams and visions of my children have swept me right out of my comfort zone, learning new skills or dusting off old ones. They have stretched and pulled me in so many different directions that I’ve almost become flexible. Quite an achievement really as it’s all too easy to get set in your ways and limit yourself to what you love and know best.

After all, I could easily just write all day every day.

And then just when I thought this whole drama was never going to reach Act IV, the battle is over and she’s been at the keyboard playing the songs one handed from my notes. She is even playing C Major scale two octaves one-handed and learning to move “Sneaky Tom” (her thumb) underneath without detection. I also taught her that her hand was a fairy table and she had to hold her hand properly or their tea set would go flying. My much-loved piano teacher taught me that and now I passed it onto Miss and smiled. She was only just young enough to still appreciate it.

So our preparations continue.

Saturday night, Geoff and the kids are off camping in the Scout Hall overnight for Father’s Day and on Sunday they’ll be teaching him how to catch a fish.

Miss on a Cub Scout Camp.

Miss on a Cub Scout Camp.

This will be a good break from her musical practice and I kind of like the idea that she’ll be spending her weekend in between her musical theatre class and being out on the water fishing, kayaking, roasting marshmallows round a campfire, camping and simply being a knock-about kid.

After all, she’s not only auditioning for a children’s part. She’s still a child.

xx Rowena