With life changing rapidly all around us, the world in lock-down and the growing realisation here in Australia that we're about to head into the COVID-19 tunnel, I'm finding that sitting down at my piano is one way - almost the only way - to hang on to some sanity.
Nothing beats the focus and calm of even a short session playing the piano. Even when I'm stumbling through the tricky bits (and there are always tricky bits), or getting frustrated at my slowness at learning new pieces, I'm able to experience the solace of concentration and self-control.
I feel lucky to be a pianist. Pianists are used to social isolation. Unlike our friends who play orchestral instruments, we pianists usually spend most of our playing lives alone at our instruments. After a summer of bushfires, smoke, cancelled holidays, unbearable heatwaves and then a devastating hail storm, I've already spent hundreds of hours escaping to the piano. My one faint hope today is that this long-term experience of solitary discipline will help me through the terrible days and months of what will be our dark winter of 2020.
I can't do much to influence the course of the pandemic (except to STAY HOME, which, believe me, I'm doing). But it seems to me that if I can connect with some of the millions of adult amateur pianists out there, we might help one another through this. So I'm starting this blog, through which I plan to share my experience of getting through the pandemic at the piano. I'll write about composers and arrangers I'm exploring, share my ways of practising (not always successful) and offer links to free or low cost digital download piano music and to inspiring and useful piano content online. I welcome your feedback and suggestions too. The more we can connect online and build communities, the easier these weeks and months will be.
My first realisation for surviving lock-down has been that I must structure my day, making sure I build into my schedule time to play. It's too easy - but way too depressing - to spend hours following the online news updates that are tracking the spread of infections and the stuff-ups by governments (yes, they really did let 2800 passengers disembark from a COVID-19 infected cruise ship in Sydney and simply go home). I know I'm living through economic free-fall and the end of Australian society as I've known it. Life - for those of us who survive the virus - will never be the same. The very act of creating a daily schedule gives me back some of the control over events that the virus has stolen.
My second realisation is that I need to set myself some goals for my piano playing for however long the lock-down or social isolation needs to last. Setting goals will be the topic of my next blog. For now, I'm headed out for a run around Lake Burley Griffin, before we find we're no longer allowed daily exercise.