Below is a further chapter from A Kerridge Childhood written by Enid Simpson. For a full introduction and index to all the stories please see the head page.
I was about eight years old when my parents decided to let me have piano lessons. This followed a severe illness which must have left me with some nervous problem’s. We were still living on Kerridge at Redway Lane and money was short. It was necessary to have a piano and with her usual drive, Mother negotiated for one. It was a ‘showroom’ bargain and the price was good. It had to be paid for by installments and thinking back to the way that house was situated, I wonder how it ever got through the narrow doors. It did, and took pride of place in our front room, that showpiece of rooms that was seldom used.
The young man who was to be my teacher was the son of our Sunday School superintendent. After three sisters along came the boy they had all longed for, and I’m sure he was spoilt to death. Rowland would be about eighteen and had already gained the right to use the magic letters LRAM (Licentiate – Royal Academy of Music) after his name. He worked in the office of one of the local mills and this put him on a slightly higher level than most of the other boys of the time. The family were all staunch Wesleyans and were involved in everything to do with the Chapel and Sunday School.
Mr. Longson, the father, owned a small sweet and tobacco shop at the other end of the village from where we lived. Tuesday was my night to go for a lesson and I remember clutching the 1/6d necessary to pay for it. In order to get to the living room, I had to go through the shop and lift up the flap on the counter to walk to the private family quarters. This made me feel so important when Mr. Longson would look up from the customer he was serving and say “all right Enid, you can go in.”
Rowland was a slightly built youth, with a shock of curly hair, quite good looking but he had a slight disability – his voice had never completely broken. Consequently his almost normal light baritone voice would suddenly turn into a shrill falsetto, much to his embarrassment.
The recognized music learning programme then, was to have a book called a ‘tutor’ which had scales and dull exercises which had to be pounded out by the hour, until one reached the end of the book… and that took a long time.
Rowland had another way and this was called ‘Mrs. Curisen’s Method’ – it took the form of learning to play easy tunes right from the start and the scales were sort of slipped in between the tunes. This was a much nicer way than plodding away at those deadly scales.
As I said earlier, the Longson family were very active in all the Sunday School activities and this threw us into close contact with them. It soon became apparent that Rowland was, as the term then was, ‘sweet’ on my sister Joan. Whatever social event was taking place, Rowland was the pianist, and at that time, Joan was taking leading parts in plays etc. They were very innocuous musical things, Wesleyans didn’t approve of dancing or such goings-on. Well, a year or two passed, and Joan grew into a lovely girl and Rowland was still mooning after her. The only trouble was that she couldn’t stand him at all. Pity, he did his best to press his suit but she would have none of it.
Came the time for the annual Sunday School concert and me being Rowland’s pupil, I was put on the programme for a Pianoforte solo – Melody in F – Enid Oldfield. Mother made me a new dress in green art silk. Rowland tutored me laboriously with my piece, and also an encore ‘Baccarole’ whether the audience wanted it or not, they were going to get one!
On the auspicious night my hair had been washed and curled in rags, my white silk (!) long stockings donned and I wore the new green dress. When my name was called out as the next performer, I walked down the aisle, feeling very important, holding my music. Poor Mother, she was not very confident of her child’s prowess and I’m sure she nearly had a heart attack in case I broke down. Of course I didn’t… I may have played a few wrong notes but I got to the end and played my encore, so the evening was a success in my view.
My lessons went on, but I was never to attain great heights in the music world. I cannot remember when or how the lessons came to a halt, maybe I didn’t practice enough. The period was not wasted, however, as I was always able to read music and I remembered the theory part of my lessons. In later years when I began to enjoy choral singing, it was a tremendous asset.
I wonder what happened to Rowland?
© 1985 Enid Simpson