This weekend I went to an event that you could say is one of the key elements that defines who I am. As a child I played an old, wooden upright piano that belonged to Mum. There was always music in the house. Mum played classical piano and Dad was in a jazz band on his trumpet. I was fortunate enough to have piano lessons from the age of six upwards but not fortunate enough to always appreciate them. I was not always grateful to be playing grade exams and scales with an old teacher with hair in a bun and glasses on a string. I rebelled aged fourteen and my parents reluctantly agreed that I could stop which I now realise must have been heart breaking as I was fairly good.
Later that summer I was in the back of my friend’s car singing along to a guy with a piano – Billy Joel. His first ever hit Piano Man became the defining song of my life and has stayed with me though success and adversity as my constant companion and go to. My friend and I sang every word of those Billy Joel albums that summer in the back of her Dad’s car.
One morning I was browsing in the music shop in Oxford where I lived and came across a book of sheet music for Billy Joel. I took it home and six hours later had played right through the book. I played and played and for the first time in a year that old piano was ringing to a different tune. I will always be grateful to my parents for giving me a second chance and a teacher was found who taught me Mozart and scales and the technical stuff but did not make me do exams and let me play my own thing as well.
During my adult life I have had so much pleasure from playing. I play when I am alone to express my feelings, as stress relief and because it is fun and satisfying. I have braved a few public performances for friends weddings and at school when I was a teacher but mainly I play for myself. My husband loves to hear me play. I play all sorts of music, from musicals to Beethoven but I always come back to Billy Joel. The introduction of Miami 2017 is one of my favorites to play.
Mum and Dad also fell in love with the guy that got me playing again and this weekend I was able to go to Wembley Stadium in London to see Billy Joel live in concert. By my side was my friend from the back of the car, her husband, my Mum and my husband. ( Dad does not enjoy large crowds but celebrated for us with regular phone updates). I stood with my nearest and dearest with one hundred thousand others and watched the guy that help define who I am, play the songs that had shaped my world and demonstrate such talent with his band. I cried as the opening of Miami 2017 soared out across Wembley Stadium at the hands of the composer.
Yet again I felt that I had much to be thankful for. To take my Mum who had never been to a stadium before and see the pure joy on her face was a moment I will always love to remember. She may not have grandchildren but hopefully she has a daughter who values and respects her and wants to share special moments. I promised one day I would take her to see him and I like to keep my promises.
Thank you Billy Joel and your band for such a great night. Thank you Mum and Dad for encouraging me to play under my own terms. Thank you Hubby for appreciating who I am and thank you to my mate and her Dad who owned that first album for shaping who I am.
Review of the concert by the Guardian.