Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Piano teacher

Gabe

Gabe has started giving piano lessons to the six or seven year old daughter of a local family. An initial try-out session was well-received and the young girl has 30 minutes tuition each Monday, for which Gabe is paid £5. Word has got around and an enquiry from the mother of another young primary school girl has arrived. Gabe is dismissive – “she can’t remember anything I’ve taught her” – but L assures me he is very gentle and doesn’t intimidate his pupil.

Robin

Robin’s first half-term at secondary school continues to be rocky. He received the invitation to have hot chocolate with the head teacher, but dropped his cup and spilled the drink in her office. He was picked for the school football team, but was played at left-back. He has made a couple of friends, although they only share a handful of classes. He’s more aware of the world, and terrified of what he hears about the news.

Eliza

Eliza, when not at school, is mostly ‘doing her own thing’. At home, she watches US TV series on Netflix, or pores over her phone in her room. But she’s just as likely to be out, visiting friends, going to a cafe in town, or in the park.

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Young Voices

Robin

‘Birdcage of my soul’ was an unlikely song to hear Robin singing, but They Might be Giants‘ craziness was part of the repertoire of over 20 songs that he learnt to take part in a Young Voices concert at the MEN Arena. There was an African chant, folk-tunes and hymns as well. Hundreds, maybe thousands of school kids took part, filling much of the arena. It has put Robin in the unusual position of having performed at Manchester’s two major music venues: MEN Arena and the Bridgewater Hall.

Gabe

Seven weeks after Christmas, Gabe and L got their present from me: a trip to London to see a National Theatre production of This House at the Garrick on Charing Cross Road. I had taken a chance that Gabe would enjoy the subject-matter – 1970s parliamentary politics. It turned out to be good guess as he was fully engaged by the tales of the two main parties’s whips offices, in the days of slim or no majority governments. The play was fast-paced – clearly influenced by TV production – amusing and full of swearing. All three factors probably played towards Gabe’s enjoyment.

Eliza

Eliza has been pondering and testing the notion of becoming a vegetarian. It seems to be part of her growing awareness of societal ills. Like many people in her situation, she has to overcome her partiality for meat – in particular chicken, but also sausages. Unlike many, though, the major barrier is that Eliza doesn’t like a lot of vegetarian staples. He compromise is that she has given up meat, apart from chicken and fish.

Birthday celebration: parts 1, 2 & 3

Eliza

Eliza became a teen two weeks ago, but has continued the celebrations. We had a family meal out on her birthday night. She had a visit to Manchester’s new trampoline centre and a sleepover with her best friend a few days later. Last Saturday she had a joint birthday meal and cinema trip with school friends. A further sleepover with school friends may yet occur.

The joint birthday event had a dramatic start. Lucy, whose birthday was also being celebrated, set her own hair on fire at the table in the restaurant by leaning too close to a small candle. L made ready to douse her in water, but Lucy’s Dad patted out the flames with his hands. He’s an anaesthetist and apparently quite used to doing this in theatre. Lucy, Eliza and their friends continued the evening, although Eliza did say the smell of burnt hair was horrible.

Robin

From YouTube clips, Robin has developed an interest in basketball and, more specifically, the NBA. He knows the names of a few of the stars and a few more of the teams. A primary school tournament has given him the chance to play competitively for the first time. Undefeated in their first afternoon’s games, his team qualified for the final. There they came out on top, completing a double of school football and basketball champions. Robin’s role was in defence, allowing him to take long-shots. ‘3-pointers,’ as he said, ‘even though they only count as 2 points.’

Gabe

Gabe has completed two important elements of his music GCSE: recorded performance and composition. His performance piece was Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. On the appointed day, he played the piece twice, while his music teacher recorded it for the examiner. Each rendition included one mistake, so he was given another chance, early in the morning the following week. I dropped him at school to make sure he was there in time. Ten minutes later, it was wrapped up, with a faultless performance recorded and sent to the examiner.

30 day challenge

Eliza has joined L and me on (so far) two 30 day challenges with escalating physical demands. First, we did ‘abs and squats’ and now we’re attempting an arm strength challenge. We get together in the evening for that day’s exercise. Eliza goes first, so she can finish first. She does the exercises frenetically, pitching her torso up and down with sit-ups, not with the control I would expect of her as a gymnast. The fourth and final daily arm exercise is shadow boxing. Eliza thrashes her arms, getting quite uppity at the futility of the exercise and liking one of us to hold a pillow that she can flail at. 

Robin has played in his second cup final of the year, this time representing school. His team won all six matches, barely conceding a goal and with Robin leading scorer with 11. He has, I’m told, impressed playing alongside his friend and Man Utd academy player, Big L. 

The Beatles continue to be Gabe’s favourite band – to listen to and to play on the piano (Lady Madonna, at the moment). But he’s allowing other long defunct groups into his listening repertoire: Bowie, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones and most surprisingly, the Smiths. He’s interested in which songs L and I like, encouraging us to add them to Spotify playlists (the subscription for which he convinced us to buy). He’ll listen to our choices, but hand down his own judgement on the correctness of our taste. 

Flight time birthday

Robin

As a birthday treat, we took Robin to the Trafford Park free-fall centre. Twice, for 60 seconds, he stepped into a wind tower, assisted by an instructor and was suspended in the air as if he had jumped from an aeroplane thousands of feet above the ground. He was fearless and enthralled.

Two days later, for his party, he was again airborne. This time at JumpNation, the trampoline centre, with a group of five friends, plus Eliza and her best friend.

The birthday week is over now, and his feet are back on the ground.

Eliza

Back in the summer, on Father’s Day, Eliza presented me with a special cheque book, filled with vouchers. She reminded me recently that I hadn’t used them. I remembered today and tore out the ‘clean my shoes’ voucher. She looked irritated at my choice of timing, but when I came back from cricket practice this afternoon, my work boots were waiting at the front door, clean and shiny, with a note on them: “Happy?”

Gabe

Gabe’s musical interests are diverging. On the one hand, there’s classical. On the other, he’s interested in indie music, preferring Radio X to Capital; on a third hand he’s consuming and performing the Beatles. Imagine is his favourite piano piece and gets played most days at a variety of tempos and sometimes with members of the family singing Lennon’s words at his shoulder.

Long and short of Christmas

The kids longed for Christmas. Each school day they willed the term to end. Every morning they counted one fewer day until the big one. The allure and magic seems to have survived their getting older and wiser.

Gabe was the most organised about what he wanted, drawing up a long list, none of it extravagant, qualified with a note that he didn’t expect it all. Robin’s was shorter and more ambitious/ less likely to be fulfilled. Eliza the most indecisive.

Eliza also caused consternation, by repeatedly floating the idea that, after their stockings were opened on Christmas morning, no more presents should be opened until the afternoon. She gloried in her preference for deferred gratification and the pain it caused her brothers. She was out-voted.

There was a stronger onus on the presents they would buy for each other and L & me than there had been in the past. Eliza was the best organised, followed by Gabe and then Robin, who left things late. Gabe had a ruse for Robin. He made him a plain Christmas card and handed it to him as a present. He was going to wait to see Robin try to look grateful or disappointed, before handing him his real present. Humanely, on the day, he didn’t leave Robin much time to digest the plain card, before handing over the present.

On Christmas morning, we went to the local park, for a play while the rain held off. Eliza, Robin and I played frisbee across the big field. Robin tore after the disc pulling off amazing collections at full tilt. Eliza threw and caught the frisbee with new found alacrity.

Gabe led the indoor games: Apples and Apples (where he favoured sarcastic verbal connections) and cards, with contract whist a new favourite.

A couple of days after Christmas, family and friends from the Wirral, meant a happy household of 14. Robin’s trumpet playing was mentioned, a request made for a performance and without speaking he went to his trumpet case, took out the instrument, found his music and began to play. Facing away from his audience, he hit every note cleanly and clearly and left the room, again without speaking, to our applause.

Coming out of her shell

Eliza

At Eliza’s first secondary school parents evening, L heard a series of compliments for her progress and good nature. Several teachers noted that she began term very quietly, but was now coming out of her shell. Another (ignorant it seems Napoleon and many other eminent people of limited size) contrasted her physical size and that of her personality. The comment about ‘coming out her shell’ recalls her early days at junior school, where, in a class with many children from the year above, Eliza grew in confidence and flourished with the academic challenge. 

Robin

Robin is still the first in the family to wake. Nowadays he will lie in bed until he hears someone else roused. But at weekends, when we might be in bed past 7am, or if he wakes in the night, perhaps from a bad dream, he’ll come looking for us. ‘Baby Putin’ we call him, as he is bare-chested. But it’s not aggressive nationalism we’re met with, but urgent requests to go downstairs for breakfast, or perhaps a hug. 

Gabe

Gabe is genuinely motivated by music GCSE. He talks seriously and keenly about the subject matter. He has begun composing a piece for the piano. He listens to classical music, alongside modern tunes on his Spotify playlist. And he has set himself the target of learning to play Beethoven’s Midnight Sonata and Für Elise on the piano.