Given an old piano
When I was ten or eleven years old, I developed an interest in classical music. I asked my mother if I could have piano lessons; she agreed and I was soon being taught by Madame Rose Dudeney, at her house in Florence Road. At the time I was intrigued by why my piano teacher was called ‘Madame Rose’. Luckily enough, a friend of my mother gave us an old, upright piano; I can still remember how fascinated I was to watch a blind piano tuner at work.
I learned fairly quickly and Madame Rose enrolled me in competition classes for the Brighton Music Festival. On the stage of The Dome, I played Beethoven’s Fur Elise, unfortunately to no great reception. But in the Music Room at the Royal Pavilion, I did much better. I played a piece by Grieg and won the class. I do remember that it was a magical moment in a magical place.
Syncopating the hymns
The headmaster at Fawcett School learned that I had won this prize, and so I was asked, to play the winning piece for the school assembly. This was very flattering and I quite enjoyed it. After that, I was asked to join the teacher who played the piano for the assembly, to play the various hymns, with him, at subsequent assemblies. At that time I was also teaching myself blues piano; the hymn playing did not go well as I tended to syncopate the hymns. Unfortunately, family circumstances changed and my mother could no longer afford to book me for more lessons with Madame Rose. I continued to work on my blues and jazz music and still do, more than 50 years later.