Shared Moments: Catching a clip from “A Show Of Hands” written by Maureen Kershaw

Catching a clip from “A Show Of Hands” on Radio 4 Extra took me back to the days when I had lovely hands with long slender fingers – almost worthy of being a model for hand cream or nail polish adverts. As a child Mum would tell me I had ‘a pianist’s hands’ and she being an accomplished player herself, probably knew. Having lessons from early childhood in the 1920s, she was forever in demand at school – St Michael’s in Headingley, now the Parish Centre. Mum would often play for morning Assembly but then would come the call “Dorothy can you play for singing (or dancing class)?”. Goodness knows what happened to the school pianist as Mum always put down her lack of learning to having been called upon to play.  The boy sitting next to her in class often complained to the teacher how Dorothy was cheating by copying his work. That boy was Alan Pedley who in 1975-76, became the Lord Mayor of Leeds.

Mum came from a talented musical family, her brothers playing violin, saxophone and banjo and on the keyboard side, her uncle was an extremely gifted pianist and accompanist who sadly passed away at the age of 31. The family tree reveals many church organists and organ builders living around Woodhouse and Hyde Park, so all must have had those wonderful hands. We had a piano in the front room of my childhood home, a wedding present to Mum & Dad in 1937 and I remember well its beautiful Burr Walnut casing. Mum would play at any family gathering, but at other times when the front room was out of use and the coal fire unlit, she would put on her coat and headscarf against the chill and play some of her favourite melodies, in particular ‘Vilia’ from ‘The Merry Widow’ or – in the style of Charlie Kunz – “Tea For Two” and “Walking My Baby Back Home”.

Any attempts to teach myself to play failed miserably so I was not to continue the tradition sadly, something I have since regretted. When moving house in 1970, Mum’s beloved piano was sold – for £3! It included the piano stool too, full of sheet music. Oh how I would have loved to have been able to look through those gems now. My late brother in law was a brilliant pianist, excelling in jazz and classical was a Lecturer on the first Jazz & Light Music Course in 1967 at Leeds Music Centre, now the City of Leeds College of Music. His sons and mine all are musicians, guitar, bass and percussion. Me? After years of choral and show work I can ‘follow’ sheet music but still cannot sight read. I used to love knitting, mainly baby clothes and simple crochet but advancing osteo-arthritis put a stop to that. As was mentioned in the radio clip, although I needed no reminder, advancing years can bring along crooked fingers and nobbly knuckles. Mine are no exception and coincidentally my Sister had the same misshapen hands, as did our Mum. All hail Arthritis! Child-proof tops are impossible to open without the assistance of a special gadget, necklaces which pop over the head are preferable and as for securing earrings, the ‘backs’ almost always end up on the floor. Can I have a ‘show of hands’ from anyone else sharing this plight? I certainly don’t show MY hands more than is necessary and the only keyboard keys ‘played’ being on my laptop.