Sunday, May 13, 2012


To hear an excerpt, click here
I grew up in a house where the piano was the biggest piece of furniture. It's presence dominated the livingroom and  someone could almost always be heard pounding at its keys.  My  mother taught piano lessons. Two of her four daughters learned to play and two did not.  I, unfortunately was one who did not.  Not for lack of interest, as I loved to fiddle with the keys and played a bit by ear.  But it is difficult to learn from a parent, too easy to say, 'not now' when told to practise.  I didn't feel the need to impress my mother, so I didn't try to.  The two sisters who did learn to play had other tutors besides my mother!

Sparky's Magic Piano was my favourite children's record as a child.  The piano selections included on the album are still fascinating to me -- especially The Flight of the Bumblebee.  If you would like to hear a bit of it, please click on the link.  I had mentioned this same album previously in my very first post as the flip side of the record is Sparky's Talking Train.

I've always liked to blame my mother for the reason I never had piano lessons. I wanted to have lessons from another piano teacher as my older sister did, but I wasn't allowed as they hadn't budgeted for two children to have lessons.  ... Fast forward many years....  Since I had always wanted to learn to play, when an opportunity to take Adult Piano Lessons presented itself a couple of years ago, I jumped at the chance and signed up.  It was a lot of fun, and I did learn quite a bit, but it also served to remind me that practising piano was not something that I was inclined to want to do.  This next video from Canada's National Film Board has always tickled my funny bone (as it perhaps reminds me a bit of myself?).

Getting Started / Richard Condie (NFB)

D.H. Lawrence "Piano"
Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

My mother had a love / hate relationship with the Canadian superstar of piano, Glenn Gould.  She hated his posture and his wild style of playing which was not the proper way to play in her book.  But of course, she enjoyed listening to him as he was a master pianist.  She owned a CD of his Bach Goldberg variations that I used to play for her when I visited the Seniors home where she now lives.  I could see how she enjoyed it. It seemed to relax her and she listened very intently.  Perhaps I played it too much and she got tired of it. I'm not sure, because one day I couldn't find it.  The case was there but not the disc. It had mysteriously disappeared.

Goldberg variations, 1981 / Glenn Gould


In the BBC's 2004 production of North and South, the character Fanny Thornton
appears heart broken at the Hales' lack of a piano.
"I wonder how you can exist without a piano?" Fanny agonizes.

 Here is a famous pioneer who refused to be parted from her piano even while venturing into the wilds of the Canadian frontier.

Canada Vignettes - Lady Frances Simpson / by the National Film Board of Canada

I wonder if anyone ever called her Fanny!

Piano playing was an important social skill in Jane Austen's time.
For a history of the pianoforte check out this link.

I came upon a wonderful video of Elizabeth Bennett's efforts at the piano in three different versions of Pride and Prejudice. Unfortunately I cannot embed the video, so please click here.

Billy Joel has some excellent piano songs but I think he says it all with this one!

Piano Man / Billy Joel

Some people might like to criticize the simplistic nature of this song, but I just love it.  I love the idea of it, I love Paul and Stevie and I especially like when the video shows them in minature sitting on the keys!

Ebony and Ivory / Paul McCartneyStevie Wonder

It is difficult to find a good video of Burton Cummings playing piano.  In particular I wished to highlight this song (with is piano theme).  This is a live recording which unfortunately cuts out before the end of the song.  What I enjoy most about this video is looking at the faces of the crowd who are watching him perform at lunchtime in a Toronto mall.

I Will Play a Rhapsody (Live) / Burton Cummings

Burton Cummings acted in a movie called Melanie in 1982.  He played a singer songwriter who falls in love with the girl in the title role (played by Glynnis O'Connor. Here he is in the movie, singing a song called Something Old, Something New.

Amazing what you can do when you are stuck in time with nothing better to do than practise.

Bill Murray's piano solo in Groundhog Day

This movie was based on the real life story of pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman.

The Pianist (2002)

And who can forget Holly Hunter's amazing performance in this movie?

The Piano (1993)

I saw Impromptu on Netflix recently and I recommend it highly.  It is about the very unusual author Georges Sand (wonderfully played by Judy Davis) and her romantic attachment to Frederic Chopin (Hugh Grant) whom she meets during a madcap weekend at a country house.  Also appearing in the movie is Franz Liszt (Julian Sands) who appears to be jealous of Chopin's genius. The rest of the star studded cast is terrific too. Emma Thompson, Bernadette Peters, Mandy Patinkin play their parts famously!

Impromptu (1991)

I think Mr. Armitage would do a great job in a biopic of Chopin!
The real Chopin
It works for me!

I couldn't resist including this little gem.

 Learning Piano to Get Laid (With Bo Burnham)  

Wait! Who is that sexy guy at the piano?
I am not sure that Richard Armitage plays the piano.  I have heard he can play the cello and possibly the flute.  He is definitely musically inclined.  Perhaps he can tinkle the keys a bit?

One of the many reasons the BBC production of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South was so memorable (besides the fact that Richard Armitage is starring in it) are the beautiful piano themes running through it.  Here is one fan's performance of the main theme (with a link to the sheet music from the Youtube page).

 I might be more inclined to practice if I had this picture to inspire me!
Now I know not to blame my poor Mother any more!
 I just didn't have my Muse back then!

Do you have any favourite piano-themed movies, or favourite piano pieces?


JeannieGisborne said...

I love your theme for today Phylly. I am a huge piano music lover and always wished that I had what it takes to learn piano. Alas, I too, lack the desire to practice, practice, practice. I really enjoy the pieces you chose. Billy Joel is a favorite of mine for his piano songs and I love Groundhog Day with Bill Murray having to live the same day over again and learning piano in the process. The North and South theme music has always attracted me because of the piano.
I think it's safe to say Richard could make a convincing Chopin! Maybe I'll put his picture on a piano and see what I can do. :)

phylly3 said...

Thanks Jeannie for your encouraging comment. There are so many piano greats I could have mentioned. I know I have barely scratched the surface in this post. But these were the selections that meant the most to me at this time. Anyway, it's always nice to hear from you!