Our family came to be given a piano well over 20 years ago, before I had even had my first child. The mother of the stepfather of my then husband, a gentile lady residing in the Lake District, had bought herself a new electric piano to replace her traditional upright Monington and Weston. The reason behind this was that she did not want to disturb the neighbours with her playing and the electric piano came with a volume control. I confess I never heard her play but it seemed a bit overly considerate to me. However, it did mean that there was a perfectly good piano (perfectly good apart from the fact that the soft pedal had worn out from her attempts to mute the volume) up for grabs. Such was the generosity of my ex-step-grandmother- in-law, she even paid to have the instrument shipped to our home in Somerset.
I loved having a piano but despite my ex-husband's claims that he could play and in fact had passed examinations, I never saw any evidence of that. I had learned to play the clarinet at school and could play a few chords on the guitar but having to use two hands independently and reading two staves of music at the same time, the treble and the bass, was quite simply beyond any music prowess I could lay claim to. So in between various attempts to teach myself, the piano remained largely decorative.
After the first of my children were born, the piano took on a new role as a musical toy. They did love to explore the sounds they could make from pressing and banging the keys. The piano had a lovely tone which made the disharmonic sounds actually quite bearable.
The piano had moved house with us three times before my two oldest girls began actual piano lessons. We had a lovely piano teacher come to our house to give the girls tuition. She was young and blonde and fun and the girls loved her. She placed a strong emphasis on creativity and would give them 'homework' challenges to write their own compositions. The girls progressed very quickly and soon took their first exam which they both passed.
Two more house moves, a new teacher and several exams later, I have four daughters who are all competent musicians. When my first husband and I divorced, I kept the piano in the settlement. We also have an electric piano, a selection of guitars and a drum kit.
I am immensely proud of my 'in-house' band. I love that they all bring something different to the mix. I love that they do cover versions that I prefer to the originals. I love that they shake things up by switching instruments and vocalists. But most of all I love that they are fearless.
With collaboration from their immensely talented cousin, they provided the entertainment at my wedding earlier this year. When they got a new set together to perform at a party I held just before giving birth to my latest baby, I was amazed at how much they had all grown in confidence and performance skills. And now they have been given their greatest challenge to date.
The final stage of the Superhero competition is nearly upon us. We have to video document preparations for a surprise party on Saturday culminating in a film crew taking a fly on the wall look at last minute preparations and the big surprise reveal. The organisers are keen for the band to feature but because of copyright regulations, no cover versions are permitted - not even 'Happy Birthday'. The girls have had to come up with some completely original new material.
We have totally rearranged our house to accommodate the band set up in our living room and the girls got together yesterday to brainstorm. It was such an honour to witness their creativity taking on a life of its own. By the close of business, they had come up with a four song set of sheer genius. The opening song 'Life is Just a Movie' was recycled from their Summer Musical project, but it was so apt it would have been criminal not to use it. Plus it has a vey jolly tune which puts you in a party mood - perfect. The second and third songs on the playlist are intrinsic to the 'surprise' element so I will leave them with a veil of secrecy. The final song was penned by Liberty.
Liberty was always a prolific songwriter. As I was going through the difficult breakdown of my marriage and my re-emergence into a new happy relationship, Liberty wrote songs that exactly reflected my life and my emotions. It was quite uncanny how she seemed to get inside my head and my heart. The song that she wrote for the party was very much holding a mirror up to her own life. It was beautiful - honest and poignant. It was amazing to watch the process of putting the lyrics to music and then bringing in the arrangement. The finished song was superb.
It is hard to put into words how it moves me when my beautiful, talented, accomplished daughters (and not forgetting niece) perform - the goosebumps and the tears speak far more eloquently.