“I don’t know if you know but… I play on Gary Barlow’s piano” (Tashie 2005)
Famous last words.
I used to be a, not so avid, piano player in my youthful days. Every Tuesday night saw my electric piano in all its glory as I rapidly tapped away at the keys (for all of you who don’t play piano, you’re not supposed to tap the keys, but I never cut my nails so they tapped. I told you I wasn’t an avid player!). In turn, Wednesday evening saw my piano teachers piano – previously owned by Gary Barlow – being less rapidly tapped away whilst I hunched over the black and white keys below me, trying to work out why it wasn’t a B flat but a B natural.
I wasn’t very good at piano and I never really enjoyed it. I definitely went through phases. Despite that fact, I made it to Grade 5 before having to retire from the keys in order to attend university. I miss it from time to time. If I see an old piano in the corner of a pub, sat there, begging for somebody to allow it to sing, I want to get up and play. But the one thing about me and piano playing is that I am highly unconfident. I was never a natural, I was mechanical instead. I knew what I had to play and how to play it, I just didn’t put myself into the music like Mozart or Beethoven did back in the day. It’s a shame, but I wouldn’t say that the hundreds of pounds spent on my tuition was a waste. It is a great skill to have, even if I don’t utilise it.
Since my move to the Big Smoke I have been surrounded by piano playing in the shape of Angus. Angus is the boy who lives in my house. He is 3 years younger than me and ironically three grades higher than me. (Again, for non-piano players, he is the best grade there is to reach, Grade 8) He’s very talented. He can do what I always wished I could do, sit at the piano and play without justification, without incentive, just to play.
The other day, I was home alone and something inspired me to sit at the piano and try to play. I started with the easy stuff, Kum Ba Yah and little jingles like that. I was proud of myself. I could play with both hands, though not in the correct rhythm, I still managed to play the correct notes. With this new found cockiness I took to the more complex stuff. A book I used to love – The Pirates of the Caribbean. I didn’t love it on this day. I was terrible at it, I shouldn’t have been because I used to play this virtually with my eyes shut. But nope, I was terrible.
I was down but I wasn’t quite out.
I flicked through the pages and pages of sheet music Angus kept stashed next to the piano and found a simplified version of The Bear Necessities, The Jungle Book. I knew I had played this in the past to perfection so a sea of nervousness washed over me again. But this time, I wasn’t so bad. I managed to play two hands at a time, but definitely not to a very good standard. It was frustrating, it would take time.
Anyway the whole point of this aimless musical rant was to, in a way, inspire you all. I know that by going back to something I used to do and actually finding enjoyment in it despite my lack of skill, made me want to do it more. It inspired me to get lessons again. Maybe not now, but when I have a disposable income. I know I will have a piano again one day. And I know that I want my children to play. It’s little reflections like this that lead people into the crazy hobbies they have, or that one random friend they met whilst on an exploration of themselves. The things we did, are the things we are today. The fact I played on Gary Barlow’s piano for 6 years of my life will never be forgotten and I still use that as an “Interesting Fact About Yourself” fact. It always goes down a treat. And it did at the time. So I’ll never forget it, and I intend to embrace it for a lifetime.