Miss Orban Sunday, Nov 2 2008 

Now, who is Miss Orban, you ask?  She was Auntie M’s piano teacher, from second through seventh grade, on and off.  And she deserves a blog named after her since she persevered with this recalcitrant student through all of those years.

Miss Orban was a typical spinster of the 50’s.  She had spider plants in the porch where her victim (I thought) waited my turn at the upright in her living room, listening as she patiently guided the student before me  stumbling through the latest etude/sontatina/march.  She always wore a pressed dress, with a linen hankie stuffed up one sleeve which she used to clean her glasses.  Her hair was permed in a crest of tight curls which never wavered.  Her house smelled old, like I thought she was, although now at my own lofty age, I realize she was probably about the lofty age I am now. Humph.

She also had small dark eyes which peered at me from behind her glasses.  And an uncanny ability to know whether I had really practiced my scales that week, or the piece I was learning.  I chafed at her choice of pieces.  Mozart, Chopin, Bach and Beethovan.  More dead people I’d never heard of, like Scarlatti, Pachelbel and Vivaldi.  Each year at Christmas she gave me a small white bust of some composer.

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Once I had the temerity to ask her if I could learn a modern song, something snazzy, something I might actually know from the radio.  “One day,” was her answer.  I never asked again.

After the lesson at the piano, I had to do the tough stuff: work through a paper lesson on music theory at the card table she kept set up during lessons at the foot of her stairs.  I spent more time staring at the stained glass window that was on her landing than focusing on her lessons, but I had to finish it to get out of there.

Years pass, I play a Christmas carol here, “Fur Elise” there for Doc, finally stop playing all together.  When our house burned down, I lost my composer heads (yes, I’d dragged them with me through a marriage and six other moves until we married.)

And then Doc got me this keyboard recently, and I’ve been practicing again.  And you know what?  I remember those lessons in theory and know what the timing, signs and signature mean.  I have a few ‘recognizable’ songs I’m learning, but they tend to be show tunes.  And the majority of what I’m playing?

Bach, Mozart, Beethovan and Chopin.  I’m re-learning those very sonata’s and sonatina’s I loathed in my youth.  They sound familiar to me now, classical, enduring.  I’m happy when they sound like they should.  I’m thrilled I know how to read music.  I’m enjoying  playing for myself, and when I do, both dogs lie down and listen.  Either it hurts their ears or puts them to sleep, but they are quiet and leave me alone.  I’m practicing one of Doc’s favorite songs to surprise him with on Thanksgiving–can’t tell you what yet in case he peeks at this–but it’s from a Broadway show.  I’m fiddling with buttons that make my Bach sound like a harpsichord and my Pachelbel sound like a string ensemble.  I love it.  I love that I can do it.

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Paramedic son is having some surgery in a few weeks and will recup for a few days at our house postop so his wife can keep working.  He plays guitar, very well, but learned by ear and can’t read music.  He wants me to teach him to read music and to play my keyboard whilst he’s here.  I’ve ordered him a beginner’s book, the same one Miss Orban used to teach me, still in print.  I’ve also found a beginner’s version of “House of the Rising Sun,” which he’ll learn AFTER he learns an easy version of Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” as I realize it’s perfect for finger warmup and learning.

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Thank you Miss Orban.  I only wish I’d known to thank you sooner.

Beautiful Music Wednesday, Apr 23 2008 

Sunday found me and Doc sitting in the newly restored Turnage Theatre in downtown Little Washington (so-called to distinguish it from Washington DC). We were given the tickets from the featured writer at last week’s “Writers’ Read,” and met Jayne and her husband for an afternoon of Mozart and Tchaikovsky, performed by the Carolina Chamber Symphony.

It was pouring rain, but undaunted, we set out for our hour drive, only slightly guilty at leaving out two dogs in their pen. This very large pen features a nice sheltered dog house, and its steps lead into our screened-in porch, where there are old dog beds, bones, water, and a nice high view of the river, but this did not lessen my guilt at those two noses pressed against the wet screen as we drove away…not guilty enough to keep me home, though.

The music was everything I’d hoped. The director told us about the composers lives before waving his baton. I loved hearing about Mozart’s brief but productive life, although until that day I hadn’t known he’d produced SIX symphonies in the last year of his life! And I’d also never known that Tchaikovsky’ was a closet homosexual, and that this had haunted him all of his life and imbued his romantic pieces with its longing.

It had been a while since I’d attended a concert and this proved to be an energetic and enthusiastic group, from the director with his flying arms to the cellist whose face reflected the emotion in the music. The second violinist was perhaps my favorite, a man whose entire body swayed and moved with his bow as he ‘got into’ the romantic pieces. During the first offering, that nagging tickle I can get in my throat when I’m supposed to be quiet acted up. You know, the one that only bothers you in churches and concerts and funeral… but not to fear; I quietly whipped out one of the trusty cough drops I routinely carry around. As the music continued, so did my cough. And then my eyes started to tear, and my right nostril closed over…hmmm…

I was on my fourth cough drop when I leaned over and asked Jayne what perfume she was wearing. “Just something from the grocery store, cheap Gardenia something.” Aha! I’m allergic to gardenia’s. Quick solution at the interval: we switched seats so there was a husband on either side of me. Second half: only one cough drop for me, tears lessening, sinuses opening…but Jayne started to sneeze at her own perfume, and I found myself handing those suckers down the row to her. Seems her own perfume got to her, too.

Moral of the story: Carry your own cough drop supply, and sniff your neighbors deeply before settling into the quiet of a concert.

It was still a wonderful afternoon, and I can’t wait to go again–providing Jayne switches her scent of the day!

Lee Lofland

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S L Hollister, author

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The Graveyard Shift

S L Hollister, author

Welcome to Leeward

Liz Loves Books

The Wonderful World of Reading

The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

The Wickeds

Wicked Good Mysteries

John Bainbridge Writer

Indie Writer and Publisher

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews