Take that, you old piano

As kids, my brothers and I usually spent part of the  school holidays with our cousins at Old Greenhills, Triabunna. The property was nestled along the rugged east coast of Tasmania, where our grandparents lived on a farm. It was a rustic and remote place, about 20 km from the main road with the closest neighbouring property at least 30 kms away. Here, in this tranquil setting, our grandparents lived off the land. They relied on their own power generator, cultivating their own fruit and vegetables, while also raising their own livestock for meat. 

The entertainment

Despite the isolation, there was never any lack of entertainment. In the evenings, after tea, we were always treated to performances by Nanna on the old wooden frame piano. She really gave that piano a workout, attacking its once ivory keys that  had become tinged with the hue of nicotine from Grandfather’s ever present  cigarette smoke.  She had a unique style of playing that was loud and lusty.  With her left hand, she  thumped out the accompaniments in a rhythmic frenzy: octave, chord,  octave, chord,  while her right hand bumped out the melodies. 

The music

The covers of her sheet music were colourful and adorned with line drawings, almost cartoon-like, of charming  images that illustrated the songs she played. One of my favourites  was ‘Whispering”. It was Nanna’s favourite too and usually the first piece she played each night. The cover depicted two little girls with ringlets and bows in their hair. One was facing the front while the other had her head turned to the side with her hand covering her mouth as she whispered in the ear of the other little girl.

Unleashing the first song

As Nanna placed the sheet music on the piano stand that was flanked by  brass candleholders on either side, she began to clear her throat with five “ahems” before poising her fingers on the keys. Then she was ready to unleash the song with fervour. Not only did she play, but she also sang, filling  the room with the full force of her soprano voice.  


“Whispering while you cuddle near me

Whispering so no one can hear me

Each little whisper seems to cheer me ….”

Take that, you old piano

She showed no mercy to the piano. As the first tune of her nightly repertoire, the piano seemed to come alive. The ornaments and framed photos sitting on the top of the piano started vibrating in response and tumbling off one by one. Yet, undeterred, Nanna continued to play while seeming oblivious to we kids scurrying around the base of the piano while items fell to the floor. .

 And that was my first memory of music. 

Image: Thankyou to Michal Franczak – Unsplash for the image



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