The Piano

Maybe it’s me or maybe it’s just because it’s a Sunday but i think we’ve now hit the period where Christmas is only just over a week away and yet it feels like it’s been going on forever, whilst the anticipation for it to arrive is about to reach it’s zenith. It’s so cold you can’t go outside without turning into a snowman and I still haven’t done my Christmas shopping… Yes… The Christmas blues have begun. But there is a cure for most things so you would think that there has to be a cure for the Christmas blues. I usually find that doing something creative helps to ease normal depression and it may even cure the Christmas blues, like learning to play something challenging on the piano for instance.

However, the last few days, in order the combat the burgeoning Christmas blues, I’ve been trying to learn ‘Do You Hear The People Sing.’

Now that really is a challenge considering that it just so happens to be an opera march… Not the easiest things to play at the best of times but when you’re working from a USB keyboard with only two of each key and you need to go ‘up the scale’ it becomes very difficult indeed. But it’s a challenge I was prepared to undertake and in less than a day i managed to get the rhythm and most of the notes. I’m almost there at the moment… Just not quite. Anything can be played with a bit of practice… My current repertoire includes:

  • The Battle Hymn of the Republic,
  • The Above mentioned (Almost),
  • The Can-Can,
  • The opening bars of Torreador,
  • Greensleeves,
  • The wheels on the Bus,
  • The adapted ‘Charlie Fuller’ version of the wheels on the bus which purports to be the song’s origin (Entitled ‘the Willy in the Jilly,’ naturally)
  • Something that sounds a bit like the Pokemon Theme but isn’t quite what it purports to be…

Many years ago when I first learned the piano i could manage Twinkle Twinkle little Star, Ode to Joy Don’t cry for me Argentina (Which is mostly As, if I recall… Repeated over and over again…) But I’ve long since forgotten them owing to the fact I didn’t bother re-starting to learn the piano (Look… Piano and Keyboard are the same thing, stop being pedantic!) until I took a random one and a half mile walk to PC World  and ended up buying this USB Music-Keyboard for about £80 (That’s around $129.) Which is quite expensive for something that I really just bought on the spur of the moment and had no real need for.

But then I started to play around with it and I got back into actually playing again. And I found that I actually liked playing it. I have tried to play the guitar in the past but I’ve found that I’m just not that into it. The keyboard actually came in useful as I used it to help create extra sound effects for the Dark Legend radio drama. I composed Harris’s Theme on there, for instance. These days I also use it for pre-recorded radio inserts… Say, for instance, when I want to just introduce some random can-can dancers.

Some of you may not know this but I do actually suffer from a mild form of manic depression and what I’ve found is that something like learning to play a tune on the piano actually helps to relive the symptoms somewhat, particularly when I’m at a really low ebb (Usually I’ll also write a rant on here about how much I hate something like the Daily Mail or things like that.) It’s weird but it really helps. In fact, any music seems to have this cooling, calming effect, particularly if it’s really loud and something that get’s the blood pumping.

‘Do You Hear the People Sing?’ is actually really good for doing just that. ‘One Day More’ (Also from Les Miserables) is also really good for getting the blood pumping. I think it’s something to do with the fact that they both come from an opera that has disguised itself as a successful musical (How have they got away with that one when most musicals are basically Cheddar cheese topped with Stilton and sandwiched between two slices of brie? Look at Hairspray…) I can’t explain it but looking around other people have experienced similar things (Not necessarily with opera music but…) Music has a curious effect on the brain. I’ve spoken before about how it has appeared in every civilisation that has ever existed and it seems that it creates some deep-rooted, primitive response somewhere very deep in the grey matter. And even just creating music can do that. There may be some truth to the phrase ‘music soothes the savage beast’ after all. It certainly cures the Christmas blues.


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