Piano mum: Sometimes laughter is key to survival

I’m emotionally drained after watching two of my girls compete in the recent Wimmera Eisteddfod.

Katianna’s college choir performance on Friday was a dream – the beautiful singing had me tearing up. 

Then her and Tiani’s solo piano pieces on Saturday and Sunday unfortunately involved tears of a different chemical make-up.   

For her most memorable appearance, 10-year-old Tiani took to the stage, made her bow and placed her sheet music on the grand piano.

She adjusted her position on the instrument stool, readied her hands mid-air above the piano keys and experienced the distressing realisation that she had no idea how to play Foo Foo Blues. It was agonising. 

Before a hushed and expectant audience, and a note-taking adjudicator, my baby girl stared hard at the music, then the piano keys, then the music, then her fingers and the black and white keys. 

Tiani looked with desperate pleading eyes over her shoulder to me side stage, and then back at the piano. 

The following 10 minutes included an exit stage right, big hug with mummy, back rub as huge tears poured down cheeks, broken heart, fabulous caring teacher, kind words of encouragement, practice out the back, courageous second attempt, success, tears from onlookers, relief! 

On the third day of the eisteddfod, I was feeling a little washed out, but I was still ready to support Katianna through her grade 4 piano pieces. 

She played her first piece with a world record number of mistakes. I don’t know how she was continuing after hitting so many wrong notes – the piece was hardly recognisable. 

I travelled from sick with nerves to shocked, to horrified, to giggly, to only just saving a snort of laughter escaping my contorted face! You know when you have to either laugh or cry? Luckily, laughter prevailed. Although after 40 minutes of practice a day, playing a piece so disastrously to a focused audience with a respected adjudicator providing a critique, a mother softly sobbing in the pews may have been much more appropriate behaviour than my deranged laughter.   

When Katianna took her bow and caught my eye with a huge smile of relief that it was over, and recognition that it was such a train wreck, I knew that we were both reading from the same sheet.     

Yolande Grosser

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