Music: the piano, the fiddle/violin

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The piano, continued

The Bontempi did its job in proving that I was prepared to stick with it and so, in April of 1984 I traded it in and bought a Wurltizer 2860 43” console piano. On the right is a photo of my piano shortly after it was delivered.

In 1997 Jacquie and I retired and moved to Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia and in August of 1998 we moved into our new house. One of my retirement projects was to take up piano lessons again, continuing the classical route and doing exams. As soon as the piano arrived, I looked around for a teacher and decided on Jo Skinner in Lunenburg, about a 25-minute drive away. Since one can enter the exam system at any level, we decided I would start in at the Grade 8 level. It did mean, though that I had to catch up on the theory.

In December 1998, Jo hosted her annual Christmas student recital in her house. This is a private recital for students and friends. Using Jo’s grand piano, each student plays a solo piece and a duet with Jo. I played Sleigh Ride as my solo piece and Joy To The World as my duet with Jo.

In June 1999, Jo hosted a summer student recital. I played two solo pieces: Mysterious Summer’s Night (a grade 8 piece) and Send In The Clowns. My duet was last on the programme and was a surprise digression from the normal procedure: Jacquie had also taken piano lessons as a child and she joined me instead of Jo as we played Boogie Woogie Bill.

Music theory interests me and so I tackled it with some gusto. I took my Rudiments exam on August 7th 1999 and got the results in October – I had passed with a score of 100%. This was enough to get my picture in the local paper, the Bulletin & Progress Enterprise, as shown on the left. The image is too small for the print to be read but, as for nearly all images on my website, if you click on the image you can see a larger version. When viewing the larger version you can also click to see the colour photo that was used for the black and white newspaper picture.

The practical part of playing, that is playing the required grade 8 pieces, was a wealth of material and, by starting in at grade 8, I had a lot of catching up to do. There were numerous scales, exercises, studies and pieces to practice. I managed to practice for an hour a day and made slow progress.

Another six months went by and it was time for Jo’s 1999 Christmas student recital. I played Gesu Bambino; I had committed it to memory and was able to play it without the music. Jacquie and I did a repeat performance for the duet, this time playing O Come All Ye Faithful. On the right is a photo of Jacquie and me performing our duet.

By the end of the year, though, I had come to the conclusion that practicing an hour a day of my Grade 8 material was becoming a chore and I was no longer enjoying it. I decided that a chore was not what I wanted in my retirement. Therefore, in December 1999 I decided to take a rest and return to playing material that I found more enjoyable. I had taken lessons with Josephine for fifteen months.

For the next year I continued playing but doing my own thing. During this time I got the idea that it would be useful to be able to sing while playing so I decided to take some singing lessons with a local voice coach and musician, Reid Campbell. It didn’t take long to find that this was not my forté and so I switched my lessons to include learning to play from a fake book. I had a lesson every two weeks over a period of three months before I went back to doing my own thing.

It wasn’t until the fall of 2007 that I took some more lessons. That summer, Jacquie and I attended a June 21st “longest day” celebration at a local plant nursery where entertainment was provided by a group called Flat Fifth. The group was led by Paul Buchanan on keyboard and I was very impressed by his dexterity and skill. I spoke to him during the break and found that he gave lessons so I decided to sign up, starting in the fall. I took lessons from November 2007 through to May 2008, Paul teaching me to play jazz piano. Paul knew his jazz theory and I learned a lot. I liked the rhythm of jazz but found the 7th chords a little unpleasant.

After a summer break, I took another set of lessons, again with Paul, from September 2008 to April 2009, this time switching to guitar. I have already covered those guitar lessons on the previous page.

The fiddle/violin

After another summer break I decided to take up the fiddle. I have always been fascinated by the fiddle since the notes are constructed on the finger board without frets. That seemed to me to be an impossible task and yet I see all manner of tiny tots handling it successfully. It was time to try it myself. Paul’s wife, Eilidh Campbell, taught fiddle and so I signed up with her, starting in September 2009. I took lessons for four months and surprised myself how well I got on with it. However I had a big problem: I found it uncomfortable to hold the violin under my chin where it rested on my collar bone. I tried all sorts of remedies from cloths and pads to shoulder rests. Nothing solved the problem for me and so, after the four months, I decided to call it quits.


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