If music be the food of love, and all that …

“Pa took his fiddle out of its box and began to play. That was the best time of all.” He played Yankee Doodle, Arkansas Travel, My Darling Nellie Gray, Buffalo Girls, Auld Lang Syne, Sweet By and By, There Is A Green Hill Far Away (Ma’s favorite), and too many to name.

I didn’t have to pretend to be like Laura when it came to music. My childhood home was filled with music. My Pa didn’t play an instrument like Laura’s Pa, but oh, what a voice he had. (Stand aside, Luciano Pavarotti (not really, but you get the picture!)) He had 3 brothers and they all had beautiful voices. In fact, all the family on my father’s side were musical and could sing and play some instrument of sorts. One of my favorite memories is when my uncle Andrew visited and my dad played his Pavarotti record. The two of them sang along to Donizetti’s
Ah Mes Amis from La Fille Du Regiment. I can’t remember if they hit the high C’s, all I remember is that it was beautiful.

The background sounds of my childhood – 90% classical I’d say. “Pop music” was a no no. No CD’s or DVD’s. Records and the radio. Before the days of television (TV came to South Africa in the late 70’s.) Saturday night – 2-hour long radio program of Classics (Your Own Choice). Sunday lunchtime – From The Belltower. Frida Boccara’s Cent Mille Chansons, Maria Callas, Perry Como’s And I Loved You So, Roger Whittaker’s If… I remember my first opera. Big affair in those days. The ladies dressed up in their best. My sister and I got our first long skirts and I felt so grand when I lifted it off the ground when I ascended the red-carpeted stairs to the auditorium. Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. It features the famous “O mio babbino caro” – Oh my beloved father.

Family gatherings around the piano. I played the piano, everyone else sang. Hymns, Afrikaans folk songs, you name it. We made beautiful music together and the Pavarotti voices soared and they stay in my memory to this day.

I started taking piano lessons when I was 9 and carried on through most of my school years, finishing up with Royal Schools Of Music Grade 6. I still ask myself today “why didn’t I finish all the exams?” Being the daughter of a church minister, I learnt to play the organ as well when I was about 14 and because I knew music theory, I started teaching the youngest children in Sunday School to read music and play a recorder. Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit. E G B D F. Right hand lines. Face. F A C E. Right hand spaces inbetween the lines. Easy, isn’t it? Some of the children in my little class play in large church orchestras today. One even went on to play a season for the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra.

I played on a pipe organ. Here’s a picture of those magnificent pipes -Dunrobin Congregation. I belong to the congregation’s facebook page and even though I haven’t been there in years and years, I see pictures of some of the children (now adults of course) who most likely are now teaching other children the meaning of “Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit” …

I stopped playing the organ after I got married and had my girls. (Another story). But I always had a piano in my home and whenever I had the urge, I’d sit down and play. Classical, regular tunes, hymns… all dictated by my mood. Selling my piano when I moved, was rather traumatic but it had to be done.

So I arrived in America and not long after a HUGE package was delivered (first of many to come) and joyous day, a digital piano. Keyboard same size as a regular piano. BUT it has pipe organ, regular organ, memory tunes and other instrument settings built in. So the “man of the house” (as Laura fondly called Almanzo in her writings) built me a beautiful stand for it, painted it black to match, and even built a little side-shelf for some books. I’ve acquired quite a collection since (of course). See pictures :

I’ve been playing my piano in my little house here in America for about 10 years. One day, while camping, I mentioned to my neighbor who happens to be a pastor in the Methodist Church that I used to play the organ and it turns out his 2 congregations were looking for an organist. I said “no”, he said “think about it”, I said “but I am no longer religious”, he said “it doesn’t matter, you don’t have to be religious to appreciate or make music”, I said “I’ll think about it”, he said “come and try it out one Sunday”, I did. Almost 5 months later, and I am now the organist for the UMC Johnsonville NY and for UMC Pittstown NY. My life has come full circle. Who would’ve thought. Best part is – I am enjoying it. And if an activity adds happiness, then I’m doing the right thing.

Oh Mio Babbino Caro – Oh My Beloved Father. How I miss you …

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