We played piano duets, my Dad and I, although for some reason we called them “dudets.” We had this great book that went from easy to difficult. Through the years, I could play further into the book, sometimes taking the bass, more difficult, part. We had favorites, of course, and would sometimes get stuck on those, playing them over and over.
One day we decided to give the Chopsticks Waltz a try – a selection surprisingly far along in the book. Dad was doing the oom-pahs of the bass clef and I was doing the traditional chop sticks, two-finger, number. But as I glanced ahead, I got a bit concerned. This was a piece with variations and weird stuff was up ahead.
As I got closer to it, I could see that the next variation was a syncopated-type style — instead of two fingers playing at once, I had to alternate them. No prob! So I’m sailing along in new-found confidence …. when we turn the page.
To my relatively untrained eye, the next variation was a mass of black – a solid line of notes all mashed together. We were too far back in this book! We’re still steaming along, Dad and me, chopsticking away, but I’m watching this train wreck up ahead and I don’t know what to do about it.
I keep watching this approaching mass of storm clouds and I can begin to make a little sense of it. It is obviously a series of notes going up the scale – to be played, apparently, in rapid-fire succession. I have no idea how to do that, but I can imagine what it must sound like. And here it comes….no more time to contemplate and I ain’t no quitter!
And then we’re there….. As my fingers are supposed to somehow be rushing up the keys in a scale run, I open my mouth and holler, “La-dee-da-de-DAAAAAA!!!!!!” as loudly as possible, concerned more with timing then staying on key.
There was some kind of explosion from beside me as my Dad reacted to this least-expected option. I think he dropped his pipe, but to his credit, after a brief stumble, he kept on playing, as did I. A few la-dee-daas later, and we sailed into our big finish. There was that typical, brief moment of silence in tribute to a piece completed, a job well done….. Then there was the smashing of keys as we fell into each other and onto the piano, gales of laughter our only applause.
It became one of our favorites. And even when I learned how to do the run, I usually “sang” it.