Friday, September 13, 2013

Sipping Soda

The Sydney Bolter, my father's mother was an excellent pianist, a teacher of piano and a composer. I don't know of any internet connection from Andrew Highriser to Dorothy Hodges, so you can look her up if you want. But she did take on her piano student's surname who she ran away with from South Oakleigh to Balmain in later life, so her earlier life won't be there.

In my grandmother's footsteps, mid eighties I learnt the piano too, with a weekly one hour lesson. Pity he turned out to be a pedo. He was somewhat creepy. The lessons went for a couple of years and I learnt to read music and translate it to my fingers and then translate it to hitting piano keys. It never came naturally to me. It was a slow mechanical process where I played very slowly while reading a particular piece of music and with practice, improved and if I kept practising that piece, I could play it. And then there was the next piece of music to read and the whole process started again. If R ever hears Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata again in his life, he will scream.

Mother could play the piano when she was young and did for her Sunday School students' when she was teaching them the way of the lord.

Tradie Brother has the Sydney Bolter's own piano and Sister has Bone Doctor's mother's piano. I have sat down at times and tried to play, but Mother and I both agree, playing a piano is not like riding a bicycle. You just forget. I did have another crack at learning by a different style in the early nineties. I learnt major minor major seventh, diminished, or something like that. It was so different to what I had learnt earlier. Again I was unsuccessful beyond the basics. I sold my piano in the mid nineties, I think.

I remember Mother being at a friends' house, the friends being Jehovah Witness who also believed in witches. I think Father may have had a drink or two one night and called all their silly religious nonsense into question, especially when the woman started raving about witches and frightening us kids and then the friendship was no more. I have just remembered, Ann Bacus was her name. I never saw her name written, so I don't know the spelling. Her husband was less of a religious fanatic. How old was I? Maybe seven.

Nevertheless, they also had a piano and once Mother sat at their piano, put the music up on the piano fold out ledge (that thing must have a name) and played and sang. I don't know if she turned her own music pages or someone else did.

Mother's piano playing ability died from thereon. I might use this tale at her funeral. I will really struggle to find positive things in her later life.

Vividly but through defective memory, I remember what Mother played and sang. She hit the piano with gusto and 'The prettiest girl, you ever saw, was sipping soda through a straw'.

I thought it was an Andrews Sisters song, but You Tube is not being helpful. The lyrics are wrong, the pace is wrong. It was much brighter and breezy the way Mother sung and played it. Perhaps I am mixing up soda with  rum and coca-cola (love your work Andrew). Sipping Soda may well get an audio run at Mother's funeral.

16 comments:

  1. A friend of mine plays the piano with ease and I envy his ability to divert from our path to a piano he passes by to pause and play a melody or two. It's a lovely talent.

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    1. Victor, he can play by ear then. That is an extra talent, one I seriously envy.

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  2. I would love to be able to play piano, but the music isn't in me. My fists pounding on piano keys would sound just like fists pounding on piano keys. Odd that your mother's ability to play diminished after playing for the witch hunters.

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    1. River, we didn't have a piano at home, so there was never an opportunity to play and I don't think she was that interested.

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  3. Oh boy, I bet it really was brighter and breezier the way your mother performed it.

    Modern music is all the better for being re-mastered and tweaked, but at the same time I think we've lost the ability to accept imperfection in the way we get together and have fun. Your much loved clip of When Father papered the parlour is a good example.

    I'm with you, River - sometimes I struggle to work out Windows Media Player.

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    1. FC, it only happened once or twice when we had a pianola, but what fun it was to stand around and sing. Of course there was the piano with Mary or Pat playing at Pokeys and they were great singalongs.

      Tehe at media player.

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  4. Such fascinating stream-of-consciousness. I loved that song. The original was: sipping "cider" through a straw. American soda company, Hoffman's used it as their commercial jingle in the '60s ("sipping Hoffman's through a straw"). I don't recall ever hearing the Andrews Sisters sing it but I sure remember Rum and Coca Cola ("Workin' for the Yahnkee dollah...").

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    1. Mitchell, I saw references to cider. Are you sure that was the original? Rum and Coke was a good song.

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  5. The piano is my absolute favorite instrument, even though I can't play it at all. I have always wanted to learn. I wonder if it's too late??

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    1. Don't believe Andrew, it is never too late, if you really want to learn, find a teacher.

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  6. Keith, in the most kindly manner, I would say it is too late.

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  7. Lots of things instantly evoke memories from childhood eg special foods, the smell of freshly mown lawn in summer etc. But nothing does it quite as effectively as music. I have seen demented old ladies who sit in utter silence for years.... come alive with the music they knew well in the 1930s.

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    1. Just to test out this theory, I started singing "She wore an itzy bitzy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini" one of my favourite songs from 1960. There were a few words not quite right, but the tune and chorus were still crystal clear.

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    2. Great song Hels. I love it.

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  8. One of my wishes, to learn the piano.
    I remember Sippin' Soda, mum and dad played it on the record player part of the radiogram, still have their records, I must look it out.

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    1. Too late to learn Jayne. I know. I have ridden myself of quaint old things such as records. Mother still has some.

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