Sunday, August 12, 2018

Playing The Piano... Throwback

The school year had just begun. And my mom shared with us a conversation that occurred in the staff room that day. My mum's fellow teachers were discussing our musical talents and then raised a pertinent question to my mum, "Your kids are so talented, they all sing so well... but how come you haven't encouraged them to play any instruments?" The music teacher of the primary section was within earshot... and made an offer that couldn't be refused... She said "Send one and I'll teach a second one for free!" 

What's today called the classic #Buy1Get1 offer in a completely different setting. I was nominated to avail of this offer along with my sister, a couple of years younger than me. My two older siblings had gotten their opportunity to learn the guitar, and they were in high school (Xth and VIIIth respectively). Was that the reason? Or did it have something to do with the fact that the music that played on the cassette player at home often had me squatting on the floor playing the sofa-piano. (Not quite an air-guitar, but I'd often pretend like the black rexine sofa was a piano, and move my fingers on it with great expression).








And so the piano classes began... With lessons about the staff and the clefs, I was introduced to a whole new vocabulary including breve, semibreve, minim, crotchet, quavers and more... 

Different types of musical notes

Every Thursday morning and Saturday evening, my sister and I would walk over the 10 minutes to the music lessons. A few months later, when we got a cycle, I would ride and my sister would be running behind.... What a hilarious sight that would have been. That wasn't anything like this Bicycle Piano.

While one of us was at our class, the other just sat there reading comic books mostly from Disney including the Mickey Mouse and Donald Ducks... and a host of other stuff. Piano and Cartoons... do they have anything in common?


Over the next two years I moved through the music books from John Thompson's Modern Course for the Piano... but there was one little challenge... where to practice? We did not own a piano at home... nor could we afford one. The closest we got to hiring one, turned out to be a disaster, when we could hardly get the piano out of the house of the person renting it... let alone the challenge of possibly getting it up two floors in our narrow stairway. And that was it....

But then we spotted this... the piano in a case... owned by one of our young keyboardist around... who carried it along for all the events in the school and the parish.... the Yamaha Portasound PS3.

Image result for yamaha portasound ps 3

We acquired one with the support of a family friend working in the Gulf who purchased it on our behalf when he came down to celebrate Christmas with his family. In the mood of the season, I tried learning this Christmas Carol from the little sheet that accompanied it.... Silent Night.


While I discontinued piano lessons in Std. IX, I continued my fascination with the instrument and continued to work out songs on my little keyboard. And I just loved to hear people play the piano at our local parish zonals and then on the college stage - especially at the Malhar (at St. Xaviers College, Bombay). That's where I was enthralled by some fantastic piano pieces from the Classical Masters and also Jazz and original compositions from students like myself including some of these songs and pieces that I never knew the names of. 


As I progressed through college, the airwaves of Akashwani came calling over, where I joined a group of singers from R.A. Podar College to perform for the youth show, YuvVani that gave way to more opportunities at the station including the role of an RJ and many more Youth Shows - including a Christmas Special with the Wedding Choir I was part of with friends from St. Joseph's Parish Wadala and even one with my family... That's when I could not be satisfied with just the guitar... cause my fingers were itching to play on the Grand Piano there...


While I've never mastered the piano to play anything like the pieces I've included here, I've always looked for the chance to work out my music. The couple of years in the Bombay Band circuit exposed me to a wider repertoire of music, and more songs to work out. Though I was just a crooner in the band, I'd continue to try to work out the music on my personal time. Being the only person playing an instrument among my siblings posed the challenge to work out the difficult songs they often chose... all of which contributed to expanding my musical horizons. But the public stage for my musical skills came at the weddings of each of my siblings when it came to working out music for the choir. 


But my knowledge of music especially theory saw new light after I moved to Dubai. My first real investment was in music.... The Yamaha PSR740, which got me started on music programming on the keyboard itself, and subsequently on the Cakewalk Music Creator getting midi files ready for performances as a one-man band at many events there. Also participation in the choir and subsequent charge of the children's choir at St. Michael's Church, Sharjah gave me the opportunity to move my music to a new level. 

While being grateful to God and family for the gift of music, I have a special prayer for the kind music teacher I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post. Every time - over the past four years that I've been back in Chembur (Mumbai) - when she was in church while I played on the keyboard, was a proud moment indeed for me.   



As I attended the funeral Mass of Mrs. Sheila Britto earlier today, I thanked the Lord for the gift of this kind and gentle lady who nurtured the the talent of music in my life. As we sang 'Thank You For The Music", I was truly thankful for the first teacher who taught me to play music. Here's a little tribute to her in music. 


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