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Words From Adelaide: Music Lessons

When the ebullient John Powell decides to again try his hand at musicianship, you are guaranteed a chuckle with every drum beat.

Well, the neighbours are looking for me to shoot me or, at least, string me up by my toe nails, or tie me down for the kangaroos to have me for breakfast. You see, I had a sudden rush of blood to the head, dashed out to a music shop and bought a musical keyboard. I was playing it for hours last night until somebody threw a brick at my front door. It was only midnight and, after all, I wasn’t playing any music, only trying out the 12 different drum beats..

What brought on this musical madness? You may well ask; so may the neighbours. Years ago, when I was about ten, our piano at home was in the room above the Waiting Room of Dad’s surgery. Waiting Rooms of surgeries are such dismal places, wouldn’t you agree? To cheers them up I used to sit at the piano upstairs, directly above the poor souls and belt out swing and boogie, rather inexpertly, admittedly; but the kind thought was there. The effect was that everyone seemed to feel well again and left the Waiting Room. Cleared like magic it did. Dad was delighted as he could put his feet on the desk and read the paper, I expect.

Mum was so impressed with my talent and (like all Mums with their offsprings) had dreams of me becoming a world-famous pianist and able to buy her a huge castle on the pine-covered hills of the River Rhine. Overjoyed at the unquestionable talents of her offspring she decided that I should have lessons to learn the piano properly. I was incensed at the ‘properly’ part but acquiesced.

The teacher intrigued me right from the start; with the fast blinking of his eyes I found it hard to concentrate on the lesson. In retrospect he was obviously a very, very nervous teacher and so it was bad policy to give me to him as his pupil. It wasn’t fair. He wasn’t ready for it. Thus I spent most of the time, open-mouthed gaping at him. At this his eyes increased their flutter-beat; there was almost a draught.

His hands started shaking as well when I couldn’t quite grasp what he meant when he explained for the fifth time that a quaver had the same time value of an eighth of a semibreve. To a ten-year old that was riveting information. Puzzled, I asked what the colour of a semibreve was. He left my first lesson very early for some reason.

The second lesson, started badly due to a little misdemeanour on my part when I manipulated his metronome to oscillate so fast that its movement became such a fascinating blur, that he was unable to stop it, cutting his finger in the attempt, until it stopped itself by seizing up and jammed completely. It wasn’t my entire fault. The thing obviously needed maintenance and some oil maybe. My explanation so enraged him that his blinking eyes looked like windscreen wipers at full blast.

The second lesson was of even shorter duration than the first.

The third lesson started rather badly I am afraid, when I picked up his music satchel to hand it to him. I thought this very polite but, unfortunately I had taken it up upside down and all the sheets of music showered over the floor. Helping him pick them up he shouted at me that I was mixing up all his Beethoven’s with his Tchaikovsky’s then screamed at me, asking where I had put his ‘Liebesfreud’. I’d no idea what his friend, Liebesfreud looked like and asked if he had a picture so I would know what I was looking for.

He, then panting heavily and red in the face, started to show me chords. I tried a few for a bit, then asked if he’d show me how to do a boogie-woogie base-fingering properly. At that moment Mum came in to see how I was progressing. Bad mistake! He erupted, rose to his feet and yelled that I was the only pupil he had ever met who, consistently, played four-finger discords instead of the simple two-finger cords that he had tried to demonstrate, for at least half an hour, time and time again. His fluttering eyes went berserk; tears came to his eyes and his voice rose hysterically as he grabbed his satchel and shouted, ‘I’ve had enough of this bloody little bastard,’ and fled, slamming the front door..

‘Well, I do think he was rude.’ Mum observed, and then added ‘Oh, look, he has left a bit of sheet music there, under the piano.’ She picked it up, ‘It is ‘Liebesfreud’; he must have forgotten it.’

That’s why I bought the musical keyboard. I must get that boogie-beat properly.


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