In the summer of 2010 an unbelievable piano falls in my lap (continued from Synchronicity, Dreams, and Antique Pianos). After it is safely installed in our house I remember that I have all of my childhood piano music packed in a couple of file boxes in the cubbyhole. So I venture into the cubbyhole and drag it all out. As I am sitting there in the bedroom sorting this music, I being to remember and think.
I got a piano when I was 12 years old. It was a hand-me-down from the church. A huge old upright, it was once a player piano until someone did a – what would you call it – a player-ectomy. It still had the place where you put the rolls in and since that mechansim was long gone it gave you a pretty good view of the hammers and soundboard. Anyway, this thing got moved into my parents’ basement – which served the function of way today would be called a family room. My mother produced a big pile of piano music. Where did this come from? I never thought about it then, but now I realized it must have come from the Aunt Farm! And given the age of the stuff, at least some of it must have belonged to Grandpa Anderson (my mother’s father). From what I knew then he was a traditional old time fiddler. What I didn’t know at the time was that he was also classically trained on violin and piano in the 1890’s – early 1900’s.
While going through this box I found it – two handwritten manuscripts of tunes he’d written down, in the 1930’s it appears, most likely to teach my uncle how to play. Between the two of them they have 116 songs of varying age and origin – a very interesting collection! And more than enough upon which to base a CD! Funny thing is though, I couldn’t figure out how they got in there when I’d never seen them before!
Fast forward a few days. We had a gig at the Ramada Inn in Ligoner – it is a standing gig we have had for years. Earlier that day we had a musical friend for lunch and I showed him these notebooks. Later that day we went to Ligonier. There are two songs that we do where I have to play fiddle. I am a lousy fiddle player but that night I sounded great! It was like my arms and hands suddenly knew what to do. On the way home I made the connection – I’d touched those notebooks only a few hours before. I have had psychometery (reading objects) happen to me before. I tried to play the same songs the next day and I sounded just as bad as ever – like I was strangling a cat.
While I was at the National Flute Convention in New York I bought a series of books we’d been trying to find for a long time. Published by Oxford University Press, they are style guides for music of various periods. One of them is the Romantic Period (early 19th century) and it included a CD of music recorded on wax cylinders and marking pianos (recording pianos) in the 1890’s. One track is a piano student of Schumann playing a piano piece in the true romantic style. The hair on the back of my neck stood up.
Why? Fact is, nobody ever taught me to play piano. I just did it. After the church gave us that piano, it took me about three months of messing around before I was playing Beethoveen piano sonatas. Aunt Mary & Uncle Harold (my father’s sister and her husband) came to visit and were all impressed – Uncle Harold used to tell my parents to send me to Juliard. Later on when I played for piano teachers they were always correcting the way I played – sometimes the left and right hand were not perfectly together, and I sped up and slowed down a lot (there is a term for this – rubato). But nobody was into rubato in the 1970’s! Yet here I was hearing this person who was taught to play by Schumann – playing the same way I did as a kid having never been taught anything!
That’s when I realized it: I’d been somehow channelling Grandpa Anderson’s music. And given that Grandpa Anderson had some serious issues and that things were getting weirder by the minute, I decided I had to KNOW once and for all if this was all just a figment of my wild imagination or if this was all for real. I decided to book an appointment with a professional medium. If this person told me all of the same stuff I was getting without knowing beans about me – then there must be something to it! If not, well … then I could try and go back to being normal? Not that being normal was ever a possibility for me.