Friday, 28 January 2011

Musical Notes

My Irish grandmother - who inspired a character in my novel Karoo Plainsong - passed her musical talent on to her elder daughter.

My aunt swept through her piano grades at school in Cradock, then went to the University of Cape Town in the 1920s to do a B. Mus. A Licentiate followed, and then a debut as piano soloist with the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra. But although she was classically trained, she loved all kinds of music - jazz, swing...

Sadly, her playing days were numbered. The tragic death of her own equally talented daughter so distressed her that she gave up the piano entirely from that day on.

Although I never heard her play, I have a strong sense of her joy at the piano. Not from attempting the classics she must have mastered, but rather from some 1920s sheet music that I inherited from her. My favourite has a cover drawing which shows a young woman in flapper dress, jewelled headband and with cupid's bow mouth, swooning beneath a rose-strewn bower. The lyrics go like this:
When my sugar walks down the street
All the little birdies go tweet, tweet, tweet...

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