We couldn’t afford a piano, so I asked my parents for a recorder. I received the recorder shortly before Christmas, along with an instruction book.
The famous Dolmetsch make of recorders. Even now, the name evokes shivers of anticipation.
I was a quick learner, despite previous educational setbacks. Within an hour, I’d mastered the left hand notes and some of the right, as well as much of the musical notation.
However, keen to learn everything at once, I ended up confused and frustrated, and had to relearn the lot a week or so later. It was worth it, though.
When I finally mastered recorder basics, news of my musical abilities spread through St Paul’s, generating interest. On Friday mornings, a teacher would set aside a short period for recorder ensemble practice.
Before class, I’d stand in the school playground, entertaining my peers with my playing, and they’d watch and make requests. I’d always enjoyed learning new things and I loved playing music. And now, for the first time in my life, I found I could impress others my age. The knowledge I could do something better than everyone else in my class proved important for me as I continued to overcome earlier educational and behavioural issues.
Despite the pleasure the recorder, it was not enough. I wanted to play the piano.
The Piano At School
The opportunity came one afternoon as I spoke to the teacher who played the piano during the school assemblies.
‘Which note do you learn first?’ I said. ‘The top or bottom one?’
‘Neither. It’s not like the recorder. You start with middle C.’
We were standing just a few metres away from the upright piano in the school hall. She showed me where middle C and all the other C’s were situated, C being any key that sits at the bottom of two adjacent black notes.
‘So F comes whenever there’s three black notes,’ I said, looking up and down the keys. ‘Can I play something?’
I placed my right hand on the keys and allowed my musical ear to guide me, playing a couple of phrases of a favourite hymn and making just one mistake. When I tried again, I got each note right.
‘You have a very musical ear,’ the teacher said.
I left the hall, brimming with joy, and even more determined now to learn the piano.