Friday, November 5, 2010

The piano

     When I was a little girl there were times when I walked inside the house after coming home from school or playing outside and I would hear the piano being played.  I could hear my Nan singing along to her simple chords of "Jesus Loves Me" while she sat at the piano in our living room.

"Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes Jesus loves me, 
The  Bible tells me so."

    I would come stand next to her and I think she was a bit embarrassed to be found singing.  Sometimes I would sit next to her but she usually didn't stay playing once she had an audience observing her.  She would stop and ask me about what I was doing.

     Her book of church songs would be open on the piano stand.   I would sing along with her if it was one I knew from Sunday school.  Jesus Loves Me being the one I remembered singing along to.

"Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
they are weak but He is strong."

    Most of the time I just listened to her softly sing her hymns.  She never preformed for us that I recall.  It seemed to be her time privately when we weren't at home that she would sit on the bench enjoying herself.   All her songs seemed to have been hymns which thinking about it now, I wonder why she didn't come to church with us.  I think she must of come every once in awhile for Easter or Christmas but otherwise she stayed home.  Maybe her piano time was her church time.  

    That piano now sits in my brother's home in his living room.  I should ask if in the piano bench are any of Nan's piano hymn books.  My mom kindly shipped it out to him many years ago when she decided a stand up piano wasn't the right look for her grand home.  She needed a shiny black baby grand even though she did not play herself.  It sits there like a fine piece of furniture dusted and well taken care of to the eye.  I doubt that it has been tuned in ages sadly as it deserves to be due to it's expense.  Occasionally one of my daughters has played on it while we visited but otherwise it sits lonely with it's white ivory keys shut tight beneath the black lid.

    The piano my Nan played had a life.  My brother took lessons and I tried to take lessons but gave up.  Sometimes I would  use some of the books my brother had or just plucked out some notes, but most of the time I played the tune "Chopsticks" along with "Heart and Soul"  with my girlfriends.   My brother's oldest son took lessons and played away on it beautifully.  It was used and isn't that what a piano should have happen?  To be played?

     In my home, we were given an old depression era baby grand by dear A. and C. before they moved to Seattle.  It's finish is worn and crackled, faded out of the black coat it had to a fine brown shade in the sunlight.  That piano has had much life in our house.  Our daughters loved banging on the keys to made up songs and then when two took lessons such lovely music came from it.  How much we enjoyed having a 'concert' given to us.  I loved to open the lid, prop it up, and have the sound come out so rich and loud when it was being played!   It needs restoration work but I cherish it because it was given to us just the way it is.  My oldest daughter sat at this piano with A. when just a little one, smiling with joy at the sound it made.  In fact A. is whom that piano is for me.  She may not live near me but the piano is a vivid memory of our times together at her home long ago.   

 1991 Erin on the piano from Ellen F. on Vimeo.

     At my parent's second home near us, they bought a player piano.  What a lot of fun that piano was!  It had all types of music scrolls that ranged from Christmas music, to old time music, to classical pieces.  I loved watching the music scroll down on songs we could sing along to as the words were right there easy to see.  Yet the best part was watching the keys play without a hand on them.  I think it felt like a ghost playing.  I don't know why my parents gave that piano away to some friends of theirs.  It sits in their family room at their vacation home in the mountains.  At least this family loves pianos and the husband plays splendidly.  In fact they have a grand piano there dominating the living room of that home  with special humidifiers to protect them from the dryness of the mountain air.  Sometimes  I want to ask them if they ever don't want it to please let me know.  I would find a place for that piano in our home just to have those good memories of singing around it as it played.  I would love to put one of the many scrolls in and listen to it. 

     A piano with a story, a song, fingers playing effortlessly, fingers, struggling to grasp the sharps and flats of a song.  Pedals for depth in a song, or the pedals hard to reach with young legs or not used at all.  I loved to push the pedal that sustained the notes.  The song "The Chimes" being a favorite song of mine to play just for that purpose, making me feel like I was in church with the echo of the lofty ceilings and high walls around me.  


The Piano from Ellen F. on Vimeo.


1 comment:

My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

loved this...i play piano too...or at least try to...been playing xmas music already..well, to tell you the truth i started playing it in the summer...

i see you live in Danville. I have a cousin who lives there..we love to visit and ride BART into the city..such fun...

happy too see you today at Farmhouse...



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