It was no accident of fate that I spotted a 90 plus, sprightly woman on you tube who registered a wish to find a partner to play “4-hand piano.” (It’s a musical collaboration between two players at one instrument.)
The posting, exciting my interest, had been hyper-linked from the Ashby Village (AV) website that details a nonprofit program flourishing in the California Bay area. Its framing goal is “to help older adults to independently age well in their own homes” through a repository of “connections, volunteer services, and referrals.” Add in the Village’s plethora of “activities” that include nature walks, documentary film watching, handwork group knitting, nonfiction book club, Shakespeare reading group, hearing-impaired support, Mah Jongg, Stretch, Strength and Dance, Hearts’n Hands-Pulling up the Weeds, and much more.
Invited speakers include AV “volunteers,” “members,” book authors, et al, who give presentations on exercise and aging; relationships between grown children and their aging parents, Music/Cognition etc. And while topics can be varied, they’re always of interest to the Ashby Village community.
The Back Story
When I discovered Ashby Village Member “Anita” on You Tube, she was sitting beside a “volunteer,” noting the valuable assistance she’d received in the gardening and computer technology universe. Suddenly, unprompted, her thoughts veered toward the piano as she voiced an interest in locating a duet partner. (Either a “member” or “volunteer.”) Note that AV volunteers can also be members.
At 40 seconds:
Such a pivotal moment in the video sent me scurrying to post a Comment as if I were a wish-fulfilling music fairy waving a magic wand.
“You need to look no further,” I typed, with alacrity.
But how would I magically transform myself from a You Tube viewer to a real-time musical participant at Anita’s piano bench?
Surfing through Ashby Village’s website, I realized that my journey had to be taken in carefully measured steps. These encompassed filling out a Volunteer application; providing the names and phones of three references; setting up an interview with principles in the organization; signing papers for a background check and attending a 5-hour Orientation.
Such requirements for Volunteers are part of a rigorous “vetting” process that ensures the safety and well-being of seniors being served in their own homes.
Fast forward to the Present
Anita and I enjoy playing music of the Masters framed by an eye-catching view of the Bay. Paired with a blissfully resonant, well-maintained Mason Hamlin grand (circa 1969) we’re in Heaven, sealed off from a world in chaos.
As we “sight-read” through the works of Bach (in transcription, including the Well-Tempered Clavier and Orchestra Suites), and those of Mozart, Schubert, and Faure, we draw on Anita’s vast collection of 4-hand albums that are voluminous and well-stacked.
Some are older collector’s editions that have been published in France, Germany, Poland, etc. requiring delicate page turns–a task normally assigned to the SECONDO (or bass part player). That’s my assigned role, as I’m perched to the Left of Anita, who plays PRIMO. (She covers the treble portion of the keyboard) At times our hands cross over, particularly when we “read” through Schubert works.
Every two weeks, we “collaborate” for about two hours, taking a tea and cookie break, (or whatever delectable treat Anita rolls out on her glass coffee table.) The icing on the “cake” is our warm and scintillating conversation that provides a well-spring of energy to feed our second playing segment.
An ardent student of the piano with a passion nurtured from a young age, Anita credits her immersion in Scales and Arpeggios around the Circle of Fifths as the key to her remarkable “sight-reading” skills. (She emphasizes that “fingering,” in particular, has been well-developed by this exposure)
Without doubt, Anita has remarkable keyboard facility, dexterity, artful phrasing and focused concentration even as her life’s chosen career had not been tied to Music. Nevertheless, the piano, she insists, has always been front and center in her life.
So Bravo to Anita, and to Ashby Village for making our meaningful, two-way musical “connection” possible!
Long may it live!
LINK: Another Ashby Village member makes news