A friend on FaceBook recently posted a photo of his childhood piano and the Steinway he has in his recording studio that has been tuned and ready to amaze – it reminded me of the Steinway I had played several times and in particular the final time.
I was in my mid-teens and had already successfully completed several theory and practical musical exams as well as a local music competitions and a few recitals. As I was approaching my O levels I took the decision to stop lessons, exams and performances. Thus it came about that I would have a final performance.
My piano teacher put together a recital two or three times a year in aid of the local churches [she was the organist at two of them]. I had been practising my piece over and over. I get so nervous before these things. I would rehearse until I could effectively play the piece with my eyes closed knowing that on the night I could follow the music and that my fingers had a memory of their own I could rely on [hopefully].
At the previous recital it had been my honour to perform the national anthem and it can be quite a freaky sensation as you strike the first chord and feel the whole room stand up in silence! It is quite a pressure.
Fates conspired on the night, my Dad had been delayed at work and we were waiting for as late as possible before we left the house, in the end we had to make our own way and Dad came straight from work. I was flustered and nervous, my place was last [as one of the eldest performers that night], I sat patiently through the other performers, a mix of soloists, duets, clarinetists, violinists. Finally it came my time, I approached the cushioned stool, my music on the stand, the tab ready for my page turner [yes I had someone to turn my pages].
My piece was Beethoven’s MoonLight Sonata .. a beautiful, emotional piece. I trusted my fingers, which was just as well as page turner was late. I remember the sound travelling around the grand ballroom, the flicker of yellow light reflected in the enormous mirrors and the crackle of the logs on the open fires.
As I came to the closing bars, gently softly playing the final chord, I remember the total and complete moment of silence, followed by the sound of the applause. I vividly remember the physical wall of sound striking me, startling me, I wanted to tuck my head down and scurry away.
Afterwards during the drinks and nibbles Lady Somerleyton approached and quietly congratulated me on a beautiful rendition.