My great, great, great cousin on my maternal side was a composer, famous in his time, but history has deleted him, although I can still find his dog-eared sheet music on Amazon. He is not remembered by anyone except for me and anyone who wonders about the origin of the road they named in his honour.
He conducted orchestras in Birmingham, was an accomplished violinist and was a residential composer near his hometown. That is the best anyone in this family could get and he is now long dead and forgotten. It’s much more than the rest of us could hope to achieve, but now his talents remain in the earth to stay.
From a young age I had an overwhelming urge to play the violin, I still do, but I’m too old now to learn anything sufficiently and I can’t read sheet music, I think I felt if I picked up the instrument I would be automatically brilliant, but I never touched one or have even been in the same room so I never found out if my beliefs were true. I didn’t learn of my distant relative until my teen years and somehow felt that this desire to play made sense.
First year of university I was struggling during a mid term break, I watched a movie which triggered a memory of a feeling of loss and hopelessness that I could not control. All of a sudden I was wailing hysterically because I didn’t know what to do with my life. There was piano music during the movie, it was a beautiful piece, I decided I needed to learn to play it and that it was important that I play it.
I’d never played an instrument in my life let alone owned one, so I searched for a keyboard online, I discovered a Yamaha Portable Grand Piano and parted with £200 to get it, just so I could learn something and discover if there is anything in the world that I could be considered good at for once.
My first touch of the keys was an amazing experience, I felt like I had always meant to play, I learnt simple things first, one handed, then dove into Beethovens Fur Elise, learning the first page at least and playing it over and over, I moved onto contemporary, all the time translating the notes into the alphabet so I could understand it.
I can’t remember feeling such happiness at any of my accomplishments or lack thereof, I was far from perfect but I was pressing keys and making music and that was all that I wanted. I started improvising, making up my own, volume cranked up blasting it though the halls of an empty house. I think I felt pride, but it wasn’t long before bad thoughts started coming back – you’ll never be as good as him.
I haven’t played in a while but the urge to is always there, I discovered a while after learning that I had forgotten how to play my favourites, a lot of my playing came from visual memory and I couldn’t remember the routine at which my hands danced along the keys.
I will learn again, and if I have children they will learn too, I will make sure that they will never be deprived of music as I was for so long.