Recital Time

Dedicated to Jeffrey Chappell

Recital time at the keyboard.
We’ve been going through this for years.
No Plunking it out for Beginners
Or songs about gondoliers.
No, this is for serious students,
Some destined for Juilliard.
They play fugues and preludes,
And Chopin Ëtudes ,
But whatever they play, it is hard.

They all have in common a teacher,
Who's devoted himself to his art.
The succession of tutors before him
Reaches back, so they say, to Mozart.
He can tinkle a riff from Duke Ellington,
Or a dissonant offering from Part.
Perhaps you have heard
His Rachmaninov Third.
Which he’s recently mastered by heart?

So this is his Great Exhibition,
His students are strutting their stuff.
Their families are numbed by the practice,
But have they practiced enough?
Each enters the hall a bit nervous.
The Steinway stands there, looking black.
Some young lad is cursed,
For he has to go first,
While the others look glum at the back.

So here is the first little maestro.
Good heavens! He looks about nine.
Composed as a junior ice-maiden,
He plays like a young Rubinstein.
The second is not a lot older;
He has his Beethoven down pat.
His diminuendo
That came at the end, oh!
I'd have listened all morning to that!

Some players played without music.
Oh, for a young and clear brain!
No losing your place at bar thirty
And starting all over again.
Do you think they have time to watch baseball.
Or for hanging out with their pals?
Will they, measure for measure,
Work hard with such pleasure,
When it’s time to start dating the gals?

And last, perhaps least, comes my moment.
I am nervous, but that's no excuse.
I have only one speed, it’s andante,
Which for Chopin is not of much use.
With my brain as swift as molasses
My reactions not working at all,
I plod like a horse,
And the piece sounds of course
A bit like the Dead March in Saul.

This is the truth about music:
It contravenes natural law
That competence grows with experience
And knowledge and age over-awe.
But not in the business of music!
Common sense has been turned on its head.
Here the youngsters excel,
And the older ones, well,
Come unstuck as their pieces unthread.

So here is the moral I'm preaching:
Music is tough for old men
Maybe those on guitar
Can play slow and get far,
But piano? You need to be ten.