Chopin, Nocturnes,Sheet Music Part 2 – The Power of Memory

In which we pursue our dream of mastering the piano without the aid of the Brownies and without a piano

Family legend has it that one of my great uncles – inevitably on my father’s side, for it was my paternal grandmother who boasted the mad inventor father and 13 siblings – was so talented a pianist that despite him being entirely self-taught (there’s a fiercely independant streak that runs through our family) he was accomplished enough to be asked to play for the entertainment of a certain Sultan back in the days of colonial Britain.

Having sadly relinquished the five minute weekly use of a battered old piano in the first part of this story, whilst at the same time bidding a gleeful goodbye to the fairy troop of the local Brownie pack, I consoled myself with the notion that I would one day surely be able to emulate my famous great-uncle and teach myself the mysteries of piano-playing.  At the age of seven I had a number of other thrilling career options to pursue;  astronaut, archeologist, timetraveller, private detective and international figure-skating champion being amongst the alternatives.  The lack of a physical piano did not deter me one iota, determination and dedication must certainly count for something I reckoned.

 

An actual piano finally turned up when I was 16 and we moved to a larger house with a sitting room big enough to accommodate my father’s retirement project, a baby grand piano. Having learnt to play in his youth as so many youngsters of his generation did, my father was determined to brush up his skills sufficiently that he might spend his evenings in retirement serenading my mother either vocally with his renditions of Nessum Dorma or tinkling the ivories with a dash of Chopin.  It always astounded me that after nearly forty years without a piano he was able to sit down the day the baby grand arrived and belt out a perfectly recognisable version of Musetta’s Waltz from La Bohème.  Für Elise, inevitably followed and even a bar or three from the Warsaw Concerto.  I think my father was quite surprised himself, but all that early learning and repetition had somehow hidden themselves in the recesses of his memory to be recalled intuitively when he was ready.

My own attempts at learning were sporadic and interrupted by the demands of studies, exams, sporting activities and boys. It was not until I moved into my own first home, a tiny Victorian terraced house with barely enough room for a guitar let alone a traditional piano that I finally decided to enrol in a course of proper piano lessons.  I purchased a rather splendid digital instrument which could be taken apart and carried up the miniscule staircase to its’ space on the landing between the 2 foot square bathroom and the airing cupboard.  In true family tradition I was determined and ambitious. I already knew the pieces I wanted to play and in a fairly short time I had arrived at a certain level of playing which allowed me to enjoy the interpretation of some favourite pieces.  What I lacked in technical precision I made up for in feeling and a passion for playing.  And then came Chopin.  I had always dreamed of playing the Nocturnes and Opus 9 No.1 was a particular goal.  Because the piano was digital but with a real keyboard I could plug in my headphones in the wee small hours of the morning and practise away to my heart’s content and the neighbours’  happy ignorance.  For days on end I played the descending and ascending trills and runs, slowly at first but gradually faster and then faster still, until one magical night, probably at around 2 o’clock in the morning ( I’m an insomniac as well as very, very determined) , when I watched my fingers racing up and down the keyboard with no notion of how they were doing what they were doing but remembering my father and Musetta’s waltz and loving the music and the thrilling sensation of it all…………………..

ALL PHOTOS © JANE MORLEY

26 Comments Add yours

  1. My French Heaven says:

    What a lovely post! I love the pictures. The color scheme is beautiful and makes for a perfect new header…

    Like

    1. Thankyou Stéphane! Really pleased you like them 🙂

      Like

  2. west517 says:

    These are fabulous!! I especially like the music sheets tied with the worn string– I think it really accents the aged/vintage music sheets nicely. Gorgeous! … another favorite is slightly torn cover of the Chopin piece- and of course the antique photos — you have such a great eye and talent for “staging” a photo… I wish I had that. 🐻 ⭐ ❤ 😀

    Like

    1. Thanks a milllion west517! 🙂 I really appreciate your comments and I’m so glad you like them! I love vintage and have collected a number of bits and bobs over the years which are ideal ‘props’! The photos are my grandparents (Dad’s side) and my grandmother (Mum’s) ! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. west517 says:

        🙂 Beautiful! 😀 The fact that they are your grandparents makes the whole post even better!

        Like

      2. 🙂 I thought my Grandmother (in the photo with Grandpa) might appreciate it if she’s looking down from somewhere! She’s the one with the mad inventor father and all the brothers and sisters! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. west517 says:

        Hahaha — 😀 Sounds like my grandmother ~ ❤

        Like

  3. arttart4 says:

    Another pearl of delight : )

    Like

    1. Why thankyou most kindly Madame 🙂

      Like

  4. Fab…….The string clinches it for me 🙂
    But…… this post is crying out for a soundtrack….Can’t we have a video? ‘Madame de Morlaise Plays Songs from The Shows’ or summat of that ilk?

    Like

    1. Ha ha! I thought you might just like that little adaptation 🙂 😉 As for a soundtrack, it’s so long since I played anything, reckon I’d be hardpressed to manage Chopsticks at the moment, but writing this piece has rather made me want to dash off a few scales and brush up my arpeggios 😀

      Like

      1. Isn’t that how one prepares a mackerel?

        Like

      2. Prepares it for what? 😮
        I’m afraid I don’t like eating things that are looking at me so I steer clear of small fish at all times, I’m having horrible visions of whitebait as I write…. o_O

        Like

      3. So I’m guessing you wouldn’t like my Istanbul sheeps head anecdote?
        I’ve never seen anything on crockery look quite so pissed off.
        Shame really…but very VERY tender.
        👿

        Like

      4. Go on, you’ll be telling me about the monkeys’ brains next – I’m immune I tell you – I’ve seen that Indiana Jones movie :/ o_O

        Like

      5. No..No chimps thinking gear…..
        (But I did succumb to not one, but two, deep fried spiders, in Cambodia…….surprisingly unpleasant! I had the second just to make sure.)
        :-p

        Like

      6. I can’t tell you how pleasant that thought is just after breakfast o_O I prefer a smoothie and a bowl of branflakes myself 😕

        Like

      7. Surprisingly similar texturally….Crunchy with a hint of goo!
        😦

        Like

      8. Now that’s only if you have a smoothie and branflakes in a bowl together, which would be equally disgusting 😦 I’m looking for a vomiting smilie but there isn’t one) :/

        Like

      9. Branflakes with yoghourt are rather ‘dans le vent’,
        and crunchy spideresque into the bargain….
        Cambodian families would still prefer the real thing though….They like to get a leg each.
        o_O

        Like

      10. I suspect that it is one that is rather ‘dans le vent’ after yoghurt AND branflakes as opposed to the dish itself? I’m only surmising of course :/ o_O

        Like

      11. Now you’re just being rude……tut.

        Like

  5. Jane, what a beautiful tale! I can picture every minute of your efforts and success. Our tenacious Jane, unflinching, unfaltering and unwavering in her determination.
    When I was a teenager and studying in conservatory away from home, I called up my dad and asked him if he would please send me a taped recording of all the Chopin Nocturnes, for that was what I was studying for the semester. Ever the educator and prankster, he sent me the tape a week later, but in between each Nocturne was a Leon Redbone song. Here’s a little sample in case you’re unfamiliar with the fellow. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZqJ5ogLIGk
    My dad wanted to make sure my musical education was “well-rounded.”
    😛

    Like

    1. Your dad sounds terrific! Loved the Leon Redbone link! I had certainly heard of him but forgotten over the years. What a great combination, Chopin and jazz classics, must have been a delightful tape! 🙂

      Like

Please feel free to leave me a note!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s