Thursday, March 30, 2006

well i've done it, i've just gone and done it

yesterday i bought a piano.

i have never bought a piano before in my life. i am very excited. princess starts lessons at school next tuesday and i am going to ask her teacher if she will give me classes.

i have always wanted to play the piano

you know how often people say that? it's like some magical, unobtainable thing, to be able to play the piano.

i got it from a tuner who restores and sells pianos. lois, an old friend of my mother's, recommended him. me and the kids drove down to carrum yesterday and len showed me three to choose from. he was in his fifties, had large and dirty hands, cause he has a workshop out the back. he puts new bits and pieces in the pianos and it has been a family business since 1912. he talks about them like they are alive. things like:

a piano does well with having its lid left open


a piano will just settle into any spot you pop it

he understood when i told him i wanted princess to love her piano, take it with her when she grows up and leaves home, that it will be an heirloom that she will have in her family long after i am gone. i also told him that i wanted to give her the opportunity to have what i didn't have, the potential to perhaps play gorgeously like him. to be able to sit down at an instrument and play.

i'm sure my mum asked if i wanted lessons.

nup, i probably said. ungrateful beast. i was all about netball and skateboards.

so there were three pianos in a little shed. he said they were all good instruments, all with iron frames and so sound they would all last another couple of generations at least.

1. a mendelsson from about 1918, made in america that a piano teacher had used for lessons. this was an upright grand, in a gorgeous cabinet with very special features, such as a gorgeous little key, a large music stand, and a practice pedal that you can use to mute the volume. superb burnished walnut i think he said.

2. a ronaldi piano, about the same vintage i think, in the teens, made in germany but after the name of an italian composer/musician. this had been used in a church. it had some brass features and a floral carving. it was cute but it didn't grab me. princess of course was drawn to this one.

3. a foster & co, made in america, around 1926. this was used for playing jazz. it's high and it's a darker wood, matt finish, like a solid oak or something, i really don't know my woods that well. this also has a large sheet music rest. grand and satisfying. with a history. it looks like a pilgrim's piano, i don't know why i think that. it is austere and imposing, yet with really simple lines - i loved it.

so number one was 4k and the others 3k. my budget stretched to 3, so the upright grand was out of the question. really, no truly. mmm...

so we were to choose between church and jazz. can you see where i'm going here?

len sat down, first at the mendelsson. he played a gorgeous piece, it was bright and airy.

the church piano he played amazing grace and i almost cried. he plays beautifully.

at the jazz piano of course he played a piece full of jazz riffs. i was sold. my dad is the jazz man incarnate, and even though i'm not sure if he still plays, he might have some sheet music and i really see myself learning to play. i can taste it.

so we stepped outside to talk business and the kids jumped on, one piano each.

sounds like a modern piece, muttered len with a smile.

so piano is arriving tomorrow afternoon, i am so so excited. my mum is coming around saturday morning with her classical sheet music to potter on it.

and i really won't mind if princess, as is her fickle way, decides piano is not for her. she can keep it and have it and i'm sure she will enjoy the luxury of just having a piano.


sublime-ation said...

Pianos are alive. You get it.

My old girl, Wertheim (Jeff Kennett's uncle, Channel 9 are in the old Wertheim building in Richmond, Dame Nellie Melba would only ever sing to a Wertheim), has been beaten to death by me.
We go way back to when I was twelve, and she's like my sister, except I kicked her round a bit more.
But she needs some new strings, tuning, ivories...I haven't played her in 2 months, since she got moved into my bedroom to make room for decks. It's the longest time I've ever gone without playing.

She needs to retire to an old whorehouse, where she'd be happy and fit in with her honkytonk ways.

Problem is, I think these days whorehouses have djs that play the latest MTV rnb slime.

I want a new piano.

Locket said...

Your post gave me the tinglies. 'Specially

"a piano will just settle into any spot you pop it"

My mum hunted down a beautiful pianola for my Dad's 50th birthday. He grew up with one but when money got tight they had to sell it.

When he got home from work she led him into the living room with his eyes shut.

When he opened them he began to cry.

Hope your 'yanno means as much to the Princess.

BEVIS said...

A $3K gift for nothing? What a Mum!

I'm glad your feelings towards anything church-related were at least forgotten when you nearly cried as you heard Amazing Grace. (Beautiful song, no matter what anyone says.)

< I don't mean that to sounds harsh - I only mean that we know your feelings in that regard, and you hinted at them yourself when you asked us if we could see where you were going with your choice. >

Anyway, my question is: What name will you give the piano? Jazz? Foster? Pilgrim? Matt? Austere? (Austin? Austere Foster?) John Wayne? (Pilgrim reference.) These are all words you used in your description of it, so I was wondering if any of those suited it. Do you think Princess or yourself might give it a name to suit its character or perhaps its value? How 'bout 3K? Has a nice ring to it, don't you think? :)

(And it'll remind Princess of how much you love her as she goes through life. If I bought my kid a three-thousand-dollar present, I'd want them to remember the price! ...)

You're an amazing woman, MG.

Now Clokeeeey has to buy the instruments for the rest of the jazz trio.

Chai said...

Lucky kid. I could handle a pianola.

Melba said...

sublime, you can come over and have a go on this one sometime. and help us name it. (still not sure if it's a girl or a boy).

when i told my mother it was a jazz chaneller in a previous life, she said something like "i hope it doesn't have a honkytonk sound".

so i rang len and he assured me it's a classic instrument, with a very refined sound. no honkytonk there, unless you PLAY honkytonk. get it?

and bevis i would buy the moon for my princess if i could, and if she wanted it. that's why she is Princess. you'll get what i'm on about in, oh 26.5 weeks? and about the church thing, i love churches themselves, it was more the contrast of smokey jazz club images versus sweetly-singing altar boys and minister images.

and locket. beautiful story about your parents. what a nice mum you have. gorgeous.

BEVIS said...

26.3, but who's counting??!


Dxxxx said...


Congrats on the new member of your family.

(I'm so glad you went with the jazz one. Just IMAGINE the stories he could tell)

Oops I just called it a he, but it's still gender neutral/confused to you... oh well.

elaine said...

I am so jealous. I'm like you, I always wanted to be able to play the piano, I'm still going to learn.

I played the flute for 6 years at school but it's not what I really wanted to learn. Mum and Dad couldn't afford and we had no room for a piano.

elaine said...

ps, What I'd really love is to be able to play Rachmaninov.

Ambitious much?

Riss said...

I just like being able to play what I want. I listen to the radio and note down the names of tracks that I like and then I can go looking for sheet music. I haven't had lessons in a while although I should probably go back even just for the discipline of playing at least once a week.

It helps with other things too. Because I could read music I had no trouble learning a second (or third, or fourth...) instrument - you only have to learn how to play it and how the notes match up with what you've already learnt.

My parents have bought me a Clavinova because I didn't have a piano of my own (they want to keep the family one and I can't get my hands on ones that belonged to great- and grandparents unless someone moves to a smaller house or my uncles don't want them any more) and I have to say that it really doesn't compare with the real thing.

It was hard to enforce the discipline in the early years (tears, tantrums) but if you persevere Princess will thank you.

sublime-ation said...

Thanks, MG, that'd be cool. Jazz is diff from honkytonk, honkytonk is more bluesy...I can play classical and blues, but not that great at jazz, which I think comes from my honkytonk Werthie.
I think all pianos are female.

Melba said...

sublime, i'm feeling she will be a she. i'm thinking of her like the "old girl" and the like. will work on a name, for she must have a name. she arrives this afternoon, which is very exciting. i have tidied my office, because she will have to come in here. there is nowhere else but i think it'll work out ok because i can sit at my desk when princess practises - p hates to be alone it might help her to do it regularly if i am in the room, doing something else.

i've mopped the hallway down which she will make her entrance. i have moved the day bed so she has a wall all to herself. i felt like i was preparing a nursery or something. odd? except she's not a baby, she's a grand old dame of 80 years, who's been around, and known many. but she aint easy.

sheet music, riss where do you get it? i had a look online, only really started to look, and there seems to be some. good idea about making a note of songs on the radio etc. i do the same, but it's for my next really big party which i'm going to have just don't know when.

darling dstah, what do you mean about a date? do you mean nuptially? may 26 next year so i have ages to get frazzled.

i've been thinking about the piano. what i am buying princess is something more than just an object. as we've agreed she's a new member of the family. but she's also going to become part of princess' history, from now on, and i hope a part of who she is. i have to say the money has come from her dad. i couldn't afford such a large item at the moment, and i don't want to make like the george costanza and not credit ali for funding the thing. the only thing is he doesn't know about it.

yuk yuk yuk.

so to names. i think i might do a search now and prepare a short list. when she arrives i will take photos of her, put them on the blog and ask for feedback re names.

is that a good idea?

and elaine you can come over too with sublime if you want. and we can listen to HER play! we can drink wine while we do that.

Riss said...

The best place, for me, was Allans in the city. Their website hasn't been the best for browsing, from memory, but if you know what you want then they can order it if they don't have it. There are a few links on the Camberwell Music junction website too if you're interested in the online stuff.

Melba said...

thanks riss. i'll check it out.

Tammiodo said...

I'm a piano teacher, and i have the parents of my students asking me ALL the time if they can have lessons... out of my 27 students i actually teach 4 of their parents!

I'm assuming the Len you're talking about could only be Len Waterson... he has been tuning my family's pianos (we had four of them at one stage) for 20 years... one of the loveliest people you could ever ask to have in your home for the morning while he works his magic on your piano.... I'm sure he helped you to choose well.

Congratulations on the new member of your family, may she bring you hours of musical happiness.

Melba said...

tammiodo wow. yes that is the len. what a fabulous man.

where do you live? i am looking for a teacher. my mum brought over her sheet music and we decided yesterday we are having a christmas concert despite the fact that she is the only one who can play, and she's rusty. princess has had exactly one lesson and i never have yet i'm working out the chords by counting the lines. tedious and slow? yes! gratifying? extremely when it sounds right.

so i figure i have 8 months to get a couple of songs ready. princess wants to sing silent night and i am going to play it.

once my thesis is in, in about 6 weeks, i want to take lessons.

and this is what is written on the back page of my music theory book from school in year 7:

what has doing this course helped you learn?

and i have written:

"Nothing. Absolutely nothing, don't even ask about it."

sad yes? but it's never too late. which is what len said.

oh and ps we've called her lola and already she has brought us all alot of happiness. just to see my mum sit down at her yesterday and see it coming back... all her gorgeous old sheet music. her teacher when she was a kid was bob rosenberg from the channel nine band. the name doesn't mean anything to me, but might to some of you. he didn't teach but my grandfather knew him, perhaps in a grand poobah type way, and asked him to teach my mum.

Tammiodo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tammiodo said...

Yes, yes he is wonderful. And his 12 children!!!!

I'm currently living in Middle Park with the parentals, but i teach everywhere from keilor and maribyrnong to Albert Park to Fitzroy to Eaglemont. All over the place really!!! Is Princess learning at school?

As with anything, you CAN learn to play it, and play it beautifully. The most important thing is consistency. Even if you only practice for 5 or 10 minutesm if you do it every day, you will improve! It is, of course, much harder for adults to learn than for children, especially because they expect to make everything sound perfect straight away.

One of the key things, I find, is listening: listen to a wide variety of music, but particularly listen to recordings of the music you are trying to learn... everything is much easier if you know what you're aiming for!!!

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