I make no bones about it—I am not a pianist by any stretch of the imagination. You may remember that I quit taking piano lessons in eighth grade to take up the organ and I’ve never looked back. I know I’m in good company when I call myself a “washed up pianist” as I know other organists who feel the same as I do.
Yet what have I been doing the last week since I’ve been in California? Not only to hold my new grandson who was born last week, but also I have been playing piano duets with my sister, who happens to be a professional piano accompanist. In fact in anticipation of our playing together, I ordered several piano duets and had the music sent directly to her house.
We have been playing some four-hand arrangements of Tschaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, John Williams’ Star Wars, and contemporary hymn arrangements by Mark Hayes. We also read through Bach Concerto in C for two keyboards, and even though it seemed really long, it was the style with which I was the most comfortable.
It’s funny, these days we eagerly look forward to practicing together, but I can still remember back to my childhood days when I had to be nagged to practice. In those days I sightread all my lessons.
I must admit that since my husband Carl died, I don’t feel as intimidated playing the piano since he’s not around. You see, since he had a college degree in piano performance, I could never measure up. I’ve been an organist too many years to go back to take piano lessons again, but I admit it’s fun playing duets.
We’ve been practicing the four-hand version of The dance of the sugar plum fairy in preparation for doing it at Christmas and it has a lot of passages where our hands are actually crossed. Many times we “crash,” but as time goes on, we learn to move out of the way.
I guess the reason I’m finding it so fun is that the usual practice life of an organist is pretty lonely. One is always by oneself in the (usually) darkened church. So when you hear yourself making music and you are only playing half the notes that are sounding, it’s pretty cool!