I was delivered to the house of my first piano teacher. I can’t remember her name, but I do remember she had an amazingly small waist – I mean really small. I overheard adults talking about her saying she had had Polio.
Over the years I had various teachers. They ranged in style from gentle to gestapo-like. My whole family were involved in music somehow and it was just normal to learn an instrument of some kind.
An unrecognised influence
However, without realising it, my brother Lindsay (guitarist, drummer and a bit of a singer) used to play Elvis Presley and Beatles cassettes in his room at night when he was supposed to be doing his homework. The bedroom which I shared with both my sisters was right next to his, and many nights I lay in bed while going to sleep to the strains of Norwegian Wood and In the Ghetto. I heard him playing his guitar. Lindsay had a good sense of rhythm and played great chords. He became – and remains – the standard for all rhythm guitar in my estimation.
Music in Hobart
When I was 21 I moved to Hobart on my own. I bought a piano, found a good teacher from the Conservatorium and found a degree of self-discipline somewhere within that found me getting out of bed in cold mornings to do an hour of scales before work in the morning, then another hour of practice in the evenings. I did very well in that exam and felt a great sense of achievement because I’d set a goal for myself and achieved it. No one had chosen it for me – it was mine.
Music in church
I was heavily involved in music at the church which hosted a beautiful black, Yamaha baby grand piano. My favourite thing was to jazz up hymns with nice chords and modern rhythms. A group of other musos gravitated to this church and we enjoyed many hours of music together.
Sadly this time ended unhappily. Muso types are a curious breed – sensitive and expressive – and their creative streak means they don’t always respond well to the concept of team. Add to this the idea that church mosos are intended to be servants rather than minor-celebrities, and you threaten the very culture in which you live. The harsh treatment I experienced from good Christian folk left me shocked and gutted. I rarely speak about this. Something happened inside me which left me grieving and was a significant factor in our decision to leave.
For a time I had no musical outlet. I missed it like hell. All the songs I knew came from a time which was unbearable to re-visit. Music had been fused and associated with that unhappy time in church where pain and grief were. So for a time, there was a gaping hole with no music. So I preferred nothing. For a time.
But after a time, I joined the Southern Gospel Choir. I had never had to audition before. A new experience. New music. New people. A new outlet. It was fantastic. Click here and listen to these guys. Please. This was a healing time for me, to be part of such fabulous, top-quality music.
And the uke
Since arriving in Newcastle I have settled into learning / playing a ukulele – my first stringed instrument. And I am proudly part of the Ukastle Ukestra. I don’t need performance, or exams now. I enjoy learning new songs – songs I like. I love the beautiful singing tones of my new Maton uke, and gain pleasure from making it sing in my hands. I love it’s social aspect. The fact that the uke lends itself to someone singing along with it. And I love meeting with other uke players where I get new songs, new ideas and enjoy playing music together.
There is nothing else like music that can cause people to gather, and coordinate and dance. It expresses emotion without the use of words and has the ability to touch
people me deeply. I love to play it. Because in reality, it plays me.