How many times can you hear Ode To Joy and still have it be an ode to joy? I am in the process of finding the answer to that question…
A few years ago, the kids took piano lessons from a wonderful teacher for the school year. After the June piano recital, we decided to take a brief summer hiatus from lessons (cue foreshadowing music here: can anyone see what is about to happen now?) for vacation and, well, just a short break from everything.
It turns out that a short break from piano lessons easily slides a slippery slope to a two year break from piano lessons, and as each month goes by, the re-start looks less and less likely…
Until a few months ago, when the kids sat back down at the piano one day and just started to play.
I believe this renewed interest was spurred by something at school. There is nothing like an upcoming Talent Day in music class to provide motivation to develop some impressive skills, and FAST. The piano books came out of the bench, and The Professor quickly picked up Ode To Joy again. Mission accomplished for him, ready to impress the classmates with a classical tune.
The Little One had never mastered the Ode during lessons, but with great perseverance he plunked his way through, Big brother also gave him a “lesson”, but also (helpfully?) pointed out that the third line was WAY to hard and he should not even try it. (Is it possible for someone to be so endearingly helpful and maddeningly unhelpful at the same time???)
Perhaps it was his older brother’s doubt — but something drove this child to master Ode To Joy like no song has been practiced before. For two months, this boy has been oding the joy 15-30 times a day.
He plays it as soon as he gets up.
He plays it right before he goes to bed.
He plays it very fast. And slowly. And in different keys (thanks, Megan).
He plays it happy, and sad, and in a weird passive-aggressive way that leaves no doubt how he feels about his family at that moment.
He plays with one hand way up the keys and one hand far down the line, which actually sounds quite cool.
He plays it with the pedals.
Every other possible permutation you can imagine? Yes, we’ve heard that too.
This weekend he played it with the top of the piano off, so he could watch how the keys really work. (Male household consensus was that one key needed WD-40 but I said hands off no fixing the piano yourself that is for professionals).
His brother now covers his ears when the oding begins again; it drives him crazy. That song no longer brings him joy. An early lesson in karma, maybe. Guests have chuckled at the “one hit wonder” and tried to get him to play something else. Anything else. With some success.
But still it is Ode To Joy that he returns to when stressed, or bored, or when he just wants to play something fun.
Me? I’ve always loved that song. The string trio played it at our wedding. I still love that song, and I love how he plays it. Here’s the thing: I think I could listen to him play Ode To Joy 15 times a day for the next 15 years and I would still love to hear him do it. How could I not — Beethoven wrote a piece of music that has actual joy embedded into it, and my baby plays it with his fingers and his heart. I know that one day he will wake up, and the song will stop as abruptly as it started.
Hopefully when this ode inevitably ends, there will be another song, many more, as we continue to try to incorporate music into our largely non-musical household. It does not come naturally to us, and it takes effort as a parent to make the time and the investment to make it happen. Good thing that while their mom was plodding her way through her To Do list toward scheduling music lessons (it’s back up at the top!), the kids decided to play just for fun.
Which hopefully it will still be when lessons have begun.