Musings and Amusings

How many of you have taken piano lessons?

Do you remember Song of the Volga Boatmen – the plodding tune by Russian burlaks (barge haulers) who hand-pulled barges full of merchandise up river, against the current, from one village to the next?

“Yo, yo heave ho!

Oh, yo, yo heave ho!

So pull together;

Forward still we go.”

Published in book of Russian folk songs in 1866

Little did I know, when I picked ‘Cadence’ as my 2015 inspirational word, how that folk song – full of cadence – would emerge from my fingers once again.

You see, for Christmas I asked for – and Hub gave me – a keyboard.

Fifty-six years after I last touched a piano – or any other musical instrument – I got a hankering to make music. And fifty-six years after my last piano lesson, Song of the Volga Boatmen is STILL in the beginner books as the first lesson for learning minor key.

Taking piano lessons in third grade was not my idea of after-school fun. One year – at Mom’s insistence – of bi-weekly treks to Mrs. Hall’s for an hour of finger drills, when I yearned to be one house over, staring at identical twins Paula and Patty Bunning.

Being half of an identical duo held far more allure than striking half notes on the upright.

Why now – after all these years – did I decide to re-visit piano?

Art by Sammy D

Art by Sammy D

Blogging is the key.

  • The key to cadence
  • The key to keyboard

Writing – for me – has been about finding rhythm in my words.

When my writing flows, I can tap a tale; jazz up an anecdote; pirouette my way through a puzzling muse. There’s cadence in my dance.

If I could still attend dance classes, I would. My joints have said “enough”’.

If I could begin singing lessons, I would. My jaw says “not a chance”.

But I hear beats and music all around me. Outside me, it’s choirs singing through your words and artistry. Inside me, it’s piano tunes whenever I tap out another blog post on the computer keys.

The final nudge was hearing that Raqi had to learn notes on a keyboard for her singing lessons.

Is it possible I can play simple duets with my beloved granddaughter?

To Mrs. Hall’s credit, I retained far more of her teaching than I expected, and I’ve already made decent progress with beginner tunes.

As for the keyboard itself, there are so many buttons to press and dials to twist, I don’t have enough years left to learn how to use them all effectively. Keep in mind, I was born before the ‘what’s–this-button-let’s-press-it-and-see-what-happens’ generation.

No sweat – either Raqi will press them or I’ll hire a keyboard mentor.

Right now, I’m filled to the brim with righteous cadence whenever I read the notes correctly, co-ordinate my fingers, press the ivories and Music Happens!

Yo, yo heave ho!

volga boatmen

Barge Haulers on the Volga; Oil by Ilya Repin


Comments on: "Cadence Meets Keyboard in 2015" (41)

  1. Absolutely wonderful that you have undertaken and revived the gift of music that, for you, has been silent all these years! Strike up the band……making music makes us live….

    • Thank you for your enthusiasm!! I was disappointed to accept that singing lessons aren’t feasible, but I truly am enjoying this new venture. My Dad told me to keep learning new things as I age to take away the sting of what I can no longer do. He is a wise man.

  2. I always thought that was the song the guards were singing at the witch’s castle in the Wizard of Oz. Apparently it’s not, but that probably wouldn’t make much of a duet for you and your granddaughter anyway. I never took music lessons of any sort. Every now and then I have the thought, but it’s fleeting. For now, I still have to learn new programming languages. No time to learn how to read music. Good luck, I think this is a great thing to be pursuing.

    • That movie had lots of crazy sounds and music, but no barge music 😊 i do feel ‘retirement guilt’ when I have so much ‘me’ time and many of you are still working or raising children. I remind myself I paid my dues 😊. Plus I hope I can show the positive ways to accept what we can no longer do and how to ‘birth’ new ventures. I have no doubt you have a bright retirement future !

      • I was going to tell you not to feel guity. You earned this. I have a ways to go, not too long, but I don’t plan on feeling guity. Enjoy every bit of life.

  3. What a fabulous analogy, Sammy. Writing, music, cadence, rhythm – all goes hand in hand. Your enthusiasm is contagious. Enjoy! 😀 (P.S. I remember those piano lessons, and the Volga boatman too.)

    • Thanks, Debbie. It truly is remarkable how one creative effort unlocks other desires. I am truly enjoying practicing the ‘old time’ songs.

    • Thanks, Debbie. I am having trouble eith Word Press’s new notification update so I don’t know if you’ve already received my response that got sent but not posted!! Anyway thank you😋 i love playing Volga boatmen sing and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. They really take me back to my childhood!

  4. How exciting. I look forward with interest to hearing how you get on … I’m teaching myself to play the piano so we’ll have to compare progress!

    • Eileen – i am so happy to hear I have friends in this activity. I love playing even though I’m still struggling to read the left hand notes. Such fun when it clicks. Thanks so much for sharing😊

  5. How lovely to revisit the keyboard! keep us posted on your progress, I would have loved to learn an instrument but I’m totally tone deaf (as my neighbours can confirm, lol!) 😉

  6. Wow – we received the same Christmas gift this year! Our hubbies must have been in cahoots! 😉 Mine is a full 88-key electric piano, but it doesn’t have a ton of bells and whistles and buttons… which is just want I wanted. Here’s to revisiting – and going further than – the lessons of our childhood. Yay!

  7. This is so wonderful, Sammy!! Being able to play the piano is something I have always admired, but I don’t think I’d have much luck in such things. Please keep us posted on your progress ❤

    • Thank you for being here, Dani 😊 i think we all have music and rhythm; sometimes it’s buried very deeply or stifled by overriding life issues. Don’t give up. You write so beautifully that I KNOW you have a hidden cache of musicality!

  8. Awesome! I think your writing has a wonderful cadence, Sammy !
    I got an electric piano a number of years ago because I got roped into subbing for the piano player at church from time to time, and now I use it mostly for my own amusement and for accompanying my young flute student. I think it’s great that you’re getting back into it. I’m sure your teacher would be proud 🙂
    Your granddaughter is a lucky girl to be able to play duets with you!

    • Thank you, Kelli. One of the nudges toward keyboard I got this year was hearing your beautiful playing on the dulcimer. It really triggered something in me. I keep hoping you’ll post some encore videos. (Hint)

  9. Good for you! I took piano lessons when I was young. I loved practicing which was weird. I don’t play it nearly enough anymore. In fact, I neglect my dear piano. But it’s amazing how those fingers remember where to go. Mostly. 😉

    • Carrie – dust off that piano bench and flex your fingers 😊 i would have liked a real piano but couldn’t justify cost or space. I plan to order a foot pedal for my keyboard because I find my foot constantly pressing the phantom pedal.

  10. Good for you! Not being musically inclined myself, I’ve always been so impressed by people who are. A good friend of mine took up drumming several years ago. At age 74, she’s still at it (albeit on a drum pad, not a drum set). My brother took up guitar when he retired. How wonderful that you can accompany your granddaughter! Maybe you can also hand make your costumes when you take your duet on the road!

  11. I discovered a long time ago that I’m musically challenged … an appalling sense of rhythm. Can’t sing, can’t dance, can’t play an instrument … and not from lack of trying and considerable amounts of money spent in lessons.

    How lucky are you to have your grand-daughter to help you rediscover your cadence in life 🙂

    • Thanks, Joanne. I’m sorry to hear it’s a challenge for you. Hub is the same way. I guess it makes sense when we see some babies naturally bop to music and others not react, but I think we all have it even if it’s deeply buried. Nothing wrong with dancing to your own tune and callng it improvisational jazz 😋

  12. Arlee Bird said:

    Interesting correlation concerning blogging. I took violin lessons when I was a kid. “Song of the Volga Boatman” was never an official part of my lessons, but it was in some of the music books I had and since it was easy to play I learned to play it. Plodding is a good description. Much prefer the up-tempo big band version.

    Tossing It Out

    • Thanks, Lee, for visiting and commenting. If I had enough time, I’d try violin too. That’ll have to wait for re-incarnation. After posting this, I found an interesting essay in a book on creative non-fiction that discussed how rhythmic writing makes music out of words. I love the many ways we find connections to people and concepts through blogging.

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