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Sometime mid-July, our impending departure from Melbourne became real.  We’ve known it was coming (for 2 years now); it was bound to happen. 

The catalyst?  I listed my piano for sale.

The listing made the move real for me.  It was the first tangible step in a series of step that will culminate in us packing up our lives, shipping off our pets, and finding ourselves, once again, starting over.

I bought the piano shortly after arriving in Melbourne, and it’s been a great friend through my time in Melbourne.  Those cold Saturday mornings in the dead of dreary winter, those hot Saturday afternoons in the summer with only a scant breeze, those fleeting minutes when I’ve missed the 8:59am tram and manage to fit in just one more song before I catch then next one…

I had honestly forgotten how important music was in my life. How some days (maybe all days?) there’s really nothing I’d rather be doing.

Having trained in classical piano as a child, my second life in music has been an inspiration to try something new – music for the sake of music.  No lessons, no performances, no parental overlord reminding me to practice (helpful as that was, really it was!).  I’ve come to terms with the fact I will never be able to play those Chopin nocturnes again like I used to at 17 (unless I quit my job and magically find 2+ hours per day to practice).   

But I’ve found new enjoyment in less technical and more soulful playing.  In my first life as a pianist, I played strictly by reading or memorizing sheet music; I have never had an ear for playing as they say.  Slowly but surely, I’ve  re-learned the basics of chords and scales and how to  improvise. I play when I want to play, and most days, there just aren’t enough minutes in the day. 

So it is with great pride that I hammered out my very first “arrangement” a few weeks ago: a version of “Stay with Me”, a 1960s ballad originally performed by Lorraine Ellison.  After buying the sheet music, I realized it was in the wrong key for what I wanted to (and could) sing.  So I painstakingly, over the course of an entire Saturday, I readjusted the chords and handwrote the melody on blank sheet music.  It was a song I longed to sing, and felt I had to master. 

It is a ballad dedicated to my 1901 G. Schwechten.

And just as I perfect my pièce de résistance, just as I’ve grown comfortable in the simple key changes that seemed so daunting to hammer out by ear, just as I learn to slip away from carefully dotted notes and go wherever my fingers and vocal chords want to take me, just as I grasp one last time at the ivories… I find they’re slipping away.  

So if you find yourself walking the streets in Richmond, you’ll probably hear the refrain… Stay with me, baby.  Please stay, with me baby… 

at least, for a few more weeks…

Since I first resolved to re-learn the piano, and brought my beautiful G Schwechten home as a first step to realizing that aim, I’ve had a hard time evaluating when to declare this particular resolution complete.

I briefly considered success to be achievement of my previous playing level. This goal was promptly abandoned when I flipped through the pages of my Chopin nocturnes and realized I could barely read the tightly packed stanzas, much less contort my early-onset-carpal-tunnel fingers into the right technical positions. Honestly, 9 months later at the “re-learning” effort and I am amazed that I was ever able to perform such a feat, which I chalk up to youthful zeal and a phenomenal and patient teacher.

I then considered, particularly given my remote location, recordation of a tune as evidence of my accomplishment. After all, concerts are a necessary part of any pupil’s repertoire and it would be the only way for the parents and grams back home to nostalgically reminisce of Sunday afternoons spent in the Andover public library.

I set out to record The Long Day is Over, both because my determination to re-learn piano was partially fueled by a desire to find an outlet for my passion for singing (other than shower karaoke) and I relate to this song on a particularly deep level. It is of the melodic romantic style my musical soul has always craved, and a particularly poignant commentary on my current lifestyle. But try as I did, and despite my sweet husband’s assertions that I play it as good as ol’ Nora, my perfectionism has not yet let the slight blemishes in my every attempt escape into the public domain.

At last, I have decided to judge this re-kindled passion of mine by the same token as my culinary leanings.  For the last few weekends, despite my zombie like state from 60+ hour work weeks, all I yearn to do on Saturday mornings is sit and play.  It looks at me longingly in the morning as I run for the tram, remembering mornings of a less stressful time when I would sit and play a few songs before catching the 9:15. I long back, waiting for the lazy, sunny afternoon when we can spend hours together remembering old melodies.

So, in my heart at least if not in my fingers, I declare, resolution complete!

(p.s. Jody, this post is for you and you are right, long overdue)

It’s like I’m in a movie, and there’s this background “scene” music on as I go about my business.  Found this guy playing it on piano when I went to investigate the name of the tune. 

He’s quite good, so thought I would share (and find myself the sheet music!)

Today was a perfect day.

First, we woke up to sun streaming into our bedroom.  As you may have heard, most of southern Queensland was under 6-8 feet of water this week from rampant floods, and La Nina also brought gray rainy days to much of the East Coast.  So after 6 days of rain, the warm sun was much appreciated and just in time for the weekend.  We took Bentley on a long walk and basked in the sun with a few lattes.

Then, it was off to N. Melbourne to bring home my newest love and visit Queen Victoria Market along the way.  Buying heaps of fresh produce is always one of my favorite Saturday activities, but this market trip was made all the more perfect by the discovery of something I’ve been searching high and low for since we arrived – black beans!  I thanked the man profusely, to which he said, “ya, you can’t get those anywhere in the city, eh?”  Eh indeed. In a city lacking authentic (i.e., West Coast U.S.) Mexican, I am a more than able cook now that I’ve found the most crucial ingredient!   

At home, my new beauty was torn apart, tuned up, then put back together.

Side note: the man who serviced her did a lovely job and made her sound even more rich and beautiful, but was totally off his rocker.  Topics of conversation while he tuned included the history of German pianos, Australian aboriginals, the move to a world government, his uncle’s funeral, blood alignment and homeopathic medicine, the use of “climate change” by the government to stick the man for carbon emissions, and his hatred for George W. Bush (which may have redeemed him and proved he was sane, just a bit off key).

We lounged in the heat for the rest of the afternoon, and I tested out the new ivories.  Serious perfection.