Ed Balls has passed grade 4 piano. Congratulations to him

Ed Balls has just passed grade 4 piano, aged 47. I bow down ahead of him.

I determined to find out the piano at about the exact same age, and possibly for the exact same factors. That is, my daughters had been starting to find out and I never ever had, and it appeared my lifestyle would be much better if I repaired that omission.

Virtually the most entrancing prospect I can think about is the thought of getting capable to make music. To perform an instrument is, in my dreams, like possessing the essential to a universal language, to turn into a member of that enviable elite that is defined by its capacity to talk eternal truths in a way that we can all understand. Right after all, that is why Voyager 1 is taking Bach into interstellar room.

This is not at all like tackling grade 1 piano.

Music is the food of the intellect, curiosity, emotion and, naturally, love. But in a drearily prosaic way, if you commence studying as an grownup, it is also a language that has to be learned and then practised, and practised, and practised once more.

The Jacqueline du Pré biopic, Hilary and Jackie, begins with the two tiny sisters tumbling around even though their mom, at the piano, encourages them to pay attention and reply to the music that she’s playing.

If you have never realized to listen, you do not realize that – who’d have thought it – listening is the simple prerequisite of understanding music. And of program, since most teachers of music commence with kids, and have in no way not known how to pay attention, they don’t realise that that is exactly where they require to commence to teach the odd elderly learner who strays on to the piano stool.

I was a horrible pupil, which was only partly to do with a lack of innate musicality. But how I loved it. I loved the patterns. The intervals. The spaces. It was captivating. It was as if the grammar of a language that I had always heard but by no means understood was finally being spelled out for me.

I realised that in time I may well be capable to deconstruct a piece of music in the most satisfying manner. It was a way of organising the planet that had never occurred to me ahead of. It was as if a wonderful arc light had been switched on and I was residing in a new and thrilling universe. The trouble was, it wasn’t music.

If only Yvonne, my dear and gifted neighbour who I persuaded to teach me, had realised that she need to not present me a piece of sheet music for, say, about 5 years, I may well still be persevering with the piano. As an alternative, I attempted to master music rather as if it have been a kind of crossword, the place if I could only familiarise myself with all the distinct constructions and clues the puzzle would unlock itself for me.

It dawned on me that I had taken a wrong flip on the day I sat in a music centre in south London about to take grade a single. Even though six-12 months-olds casually shimmied in and out, I shook with nerves in front of an examiner quite a number of years younger than me. I had fairly lately been in Belfast’s Milltown cemetery, the place the Ulster Defence Association volunteer Michael Stone had taken random pot shots, and frankly it seemed significantly less scary.

He was a kindly man, my examiner, and permitted me to scrape a pass. Yvonne and I agreed that exams have been truly not relevant and I stuck at the piano for a although longer. Music has never lost its allure. I am eternally grateful that I can talk it to about key stage 2, and hey, who cares about exams?

But I am actually impressed that Ed Balls is nevertheless at it. Sincere congratulations on grade four. Even though I do wonder if he, like me, is nevertheless determined to beat music into submission, rather than submitting himself to music. He really doesn’t strike me as the submitting type.

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