Tickling the Ivories
Monday, December 09, 2019
|Olena at the Chickering|
I do not know how to play the piano.
The piano appeared in my life when I was 8 and my parents
took me to a concert at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. It was to be a performance
by Arthur Rubinstein.
He appeared on stage. Faced us and smiled. He turned
around, fusses with his tuxedo’s tails and sat down. It was a Buenos Aires
winter in August.
People began to cough. Rubinstein waited. They coughed.
He turned around and stood up. He came to the edge of the stage and pulled a
pen or pencil from his pocket. In perfect Spanish he told us, “Todos juntos,
tosan!” (all together cough) and conducted. He turned around and sat down to
play. It was awful as he was drunk. He left the stage as the audience was
throwing coins at him in disapproval.
We waited. Perhaps half an hour later he came back and
Except for Buenos Aires, there was always a piano in our
home. In Buenos Aires my mother and I would take tram 35 to downtown to my
abuelita’s flat. There we would meet with my Uncle Tony (a fine tenor), my Aunt
Dolly (a so-so violinist) and my Abuelita who had a lovely coloratura voice. My
mother at the piano would play. I was bored but something of the magic of the
piano remained and I cannot ever listen to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata without
thinking of her.
In the American Smelting and Refining two room
schoolhouse in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila, I was in the 8th grade and my
mother taught us and the 7th and 6th grade. At the piano
we would clamour tp her to play our favourite sing-along the US Marine Corps
In 1972 when we were so broke that Rosemary and I could
not pay the rent, my mother sold her Bechstein piano to help. It broke my
When our across-the-street neighbour in Kerrisdale sold
us her 100-year-old Chickering baby grand for $400 I had the idea (because of
my guilt) of eventually having it restored. This happened when we moved to our
present Kitsilano home. The splendidly restored Chickering is in its very own
piano room. When my friend come for a visit they play it. Portland bassist
Curtis Daily plays an exquisite La Danza de la Mosa Donosa by Ginastera that
pleases me to no end.
And of course the chickering is now one of fave props for
photographs. In the photos below that almost related instrument, the harpsichord is also present.
to this one but I could not resist doing it again.
|My mother at the piano|
|Michael Jarvis, Paul Luchkow, Lauren and Rebecca Steward|
|Deuphine at the Chickering|
|Photograph by Richard Avedon|
|John Eliot Gardiner|
|Los Dos Amigos|
|Alex Weimann and Reginald Mobley|
|Alexander Weimann & Bramwel Tovey|
|Nicole Scriabin at the Chickering|
|Alexander Weiman |
|Olean with Chickering behind her|
|Owen Underhill and Lauri Stallings|
|Corey Hamm and Nicole Ge Li|
|My Rosemary at the Chickering|
|Ian Parker & Edmund Kilpatrick|
|Illustration by Graham Walker|
|Peggy Lee, Jane Hays, François Houle & Marc Destrubé - Quartet for the End of Time|
|Rebeca at the Chickering|
|Milton Glasser pianist and dentist (he is the one who said, " I have been tickling the ivories for years.") with my daughter Ale in Mexico City in the early 70sAdd caption|