Tuesday, July 31, 2007

In Ragged Time

The disease took hold sometime in the mid 1960's, I think. I was well into piano lessons and my teacher, Mr. Lupi, was running out of ideas to keep me interested. He began notating a personal fake book with pieces that he thought I'd enjoy playing. Mostly it worked. It did, however, precipitate the disease that would later come back to haunt me. The Ragtime bug.

The piece of music, hand written by Mr Lupi, was "Mame". It was simple enough to play. Actually became somewhat boring and that's what allowed it to take over.

For some reason, perhaps due to hearing another piece of similar ilk, I don't know, on one particular day I decided to syncopate "Mame". I liked the result. My grandmother hated it exclaiming, "Who taught you to play the piano that way?!" I'm sure, for her generation, that way conjured up all the evils of society. In private, I continued playing my syncopated "Mame".

It was many years later that I heard a style the style of music that would become the emphasis of my adult piano studies. I was visiting with John and Virginia (now both deceased, they were Best Man and Matron of Honor when Doc and I got married). They had just purchased a new record that they thought I should hear. It was Scott Joplin's rags played by Joshua Rifkin. I thought it was fantastic and bought my own copy. At that point I could only listen as I didn't own a piano until many years later.

But.....
as soon as I did own one.....
guess what I started teaching myself?

You bet....Ragtime!

The more I played, the more I wanted to learn to play. Eventually, I learned of an organization called "The Maple Leaf Club". This organization is dedicated to the preservation of classic ragtime. I joined and kept up with the latest news, findings, and recordings. It was through the "Maple Leaf Club" that I became acquainted with Richard Zimmerman, a truly extraordinary ragtime piano player. I purchased his CD set of the "Complete Works of Scott Joplin" and at a joint AMICA (Automatic Musical Instrument Collector's Association) and MBSI (Musical Box Society International) meeting in Savannah, GA, scheduled to coincide with the "Tom Turpin Ragtime Festival", I was fortunate to hear him perform in person.

So, I practiced and practiced. Ragtime isn't very easy. Or maybe age created a slow learner! Each piece that I learned required about a month's practicing. But I enjoyed the challenge and would listen to Dick's CD and choose new pieces to learn.

Then I moved to MA and was without a piano. No practice time and my ragtime suffered mightily. Once in a while, after tuning at the church, I'd get in a bit of practice time, but I was losing more and more of what I had learned. Eventually, I did get a piano that needed piles of work. With thoughts of ragtime, I spent hours repairing the mechanics of that piano. It still had an afternoon's worth of work to complete when FP offered THE player piano. The little piano with piles of work was replaced! With a big piano still needing work.

Last week the addiction reared itself once again. I received an email inquiry about a couple of pianos. The emailer mentioned that her son plays Ragtime. I knew this, but had forgotten. The next day, after lunch at Skip's, Amanda, Mom and I stopped at a nearby Building 19 (for those of you not familiar...overstocks, outdated, damaged, cheap, some good, some junk, you never know what you may find store). There on the shelf, for a mere $5, was a hardcover book called "Joplin's Ghost" written by Tananarive Due. I had passed up buying this book months before at the bookstore. Too much money for what sounded like a rather trite novel. But for $5...well, how could I resist.

Weird thing...first Joplin piece mentioned in the story is one of my favorites, a piece that I can still play and use as my "I'm all done tuning" notification piece.

So now I've pulled out Dick's CD set and have been playing all four CDs while I've been working in the shop.

I miss playing Ragtime. As I listen to many of the songs on the CDs, I find myself thinking...I used to be able to play that.

I've got to find the time to get my piano in playing order. Soon. The Ragtime bug has bitten once again.

2 comments:

dickiebo said...

Listening to music whilst at work? How dare you enjoy yourself when you are supposed to be working. Now! Get your head down - and stop this Ragtime nonsense, my girl. I'll be back.

deb said...

My boss wouldn't dare fire me.