There have been many pianos in my life, beginning with this one, with which I was so enthralled at the age of two that I wasn’t even interested in the fact that there was a picture being taken (and usually when anyone got a camera out, I was front and center, ready to be immortalized on film.)
That was only the beginning, however…
When I was seven, a good flax crop allowed my parents to purchase a piano. It was supposed to be a surprise for me, being delivered while I was at school. Either no one had told my cousin Greg that it was to be a surprise, or he just couldn’t hold it in any longer, because he burst out, “You’re getting a piano today!” I began lessons the following year, and Greg made up for everything — I was a farm kid, unused to navigating my way around town by myself, and when it came time to walk to my piano teacher’s house at lunchtime, I didn’t remember where to go or how to get there. Greg walked me to the corner, and pointed me to the street one block over where my teacher lived. I’ve always said that if it weren’t for Greg, I might never have learned to play the piano! This photo was taken when I was nine or so.
My piano lessons evolved into half an hour lesson on the piano, and half an hour on the church organ, and I later became organist at a small church in another town, and eventually took over in our own church as well. I played the piano for the high school graduation Grand March a couple of years, then we moved to the city, and although I stopped taking lessons, I kept playing, becoming a kind of freelance substitute organist in various United Churches around the city.
I moved to another city for three years, and rented an old upright piano for that time, moving it with me to the three different apartments I lived in while there.
Then I moved to Winnipeg and got a job at a music store — and began taking piano lessons again, with one of the teachers at the store. But, I had no piano! I started going in to work an hour before I opened the store, to practice on one of the studio pianos. I arranged to practice at a friend’s home one evening a week.
I was taking voice lessons as well, from Dorothy Lawson, the wonderful singing teacher who had taught my mother and my uncle in days gone by. She invited me to practice at her place, on the “little piano” — an upright Heintzmann in the back bedroom. I would go there on Saturday mornings, and other days as well. Later, I shared the house with Dorothy, living on the upper floor. It was a wonderful experience to hear voice lessons going on at all hours of day or evening — some of her students were very accomplished.
Two of my favorite memories of playing that piano were 1) while I was practicing a Kuhlau Sonatina, she came into the room and said, “You’re missing a G sharp in that run, and you might as well correct it before it becomes a habit,” (what an ear for music!) and 2) once we were looking after her daughter’s cat, Rudolf, who loved to sit on the top of the piano. Once I started playing, and Rudolf jumped down, pawed the door open, and left abruptly. Ellie was a much more accomplished pianist than I, and Rudolf had a discerning ear!
It was always a delight, and an honor, when Dorothy would come into the back room and say, “Why don’t you come out and play that on the big piano?” The “big piano” was a Petrof grand with a glorious tone, that I loved to play whenever I had the chance.
In April 1984, I moved into an apartment — and immediately missed the ready access to the piano that I’d had at Dorothy’s. In May, taking advantage of a Mother’s Day special, and going a bit beyond my means, I made a down payment on a piano. It was delivered on May 12, 1984. Note the chrysanthemum plant on the floor to the right of the piano — that was delivered with it, as part of the Mother’s Day special. This piano has enhanced my life in many ways ever since. So, happy 29th anniversary, Redmond! Thank you for all the music.