MISGUIDED MUSICAL AMBITION
After watching too many episodes of Australia’s Got Talent, my associate Editor Des has decided he wants to become a famous musician. He desperately wanted to play a keyboard instrument, but let’s face it, he just doesn’t have finger dexterity. After a lot of thought and some tears on Des’s part I decided a mouth organ would be the only option. It took me forever to find something suitable, but I finally came across a little German Empress harmonica. At the moment he can squeak out one vaguely recognizable verse of On Top of Old Smokey.
It is doubtful whether Des will ever perform in public, unlike myself… that’s if playing the button accordion in front of my West Ulverstone Primary School classmates can be considered ‘public’.
For the entire year of grade six I began the school day by butchering the already depressing dirge; Awake Thy Soul. I have no musical talent whatsoever, but the headmaster Mr MacLaine asked if I’d take over where my sister left off the year before. Robbie had performed the same song, perhaps marginally more proficiently than me . Why we were given this dubious privilege? I have a nasty feeling it was because our father was active in the Parents and Friends Association. As a farmer, he had helped out when the school grew a fundraising crop of beans. And he had provided the posts for some new playground equipment.
The accordion was inherited from our more musical older brother Ken, who had helpfully scratched numbers on the melody keys for us to follow. To me at least, the bass keys remained a complete mystery. I saw a photo of Ken recently teaching his granddaughter how to play. Oh dear, I’m not sure that’s sensible Kenny.
AN ACCORDION MAESTRO
Now there was a boy in my class called Kevin; an unfortunate, friendless child from the wrong side of the tracks. Kevin wore glasses with a patch over the lens due to a lazy eye. He was hopeless at sport and struggled with his schoolwork. However, one day he brought his accordion to school and damn me if his fingers didn’t fly over those buttons (both melody and bass) like a maestro. But was he asked to play the morning hymn? No! It was the first time I was conscious of unfairness, mixed with abject shame! However, unwilling to give up my starring role, I said nothing. Yes, a poor excuse, but previous to my musical gig I’d had to bask in the reflected glory of my brother Laurie. Two years earlier he had been awarded a plastic pencil sharpener in the shape of a desk calendar. It was for ‘Best On the Back-line’ in Australian Rules football.
Towards the end of the year I was asked if I could play Christmas carols and I foolishly lied and said yes. For the next few weeks I droned out Silent Night and a mistake riddled: Oh Come All Ye Faithful. Oh my hat! Poor class…poor Kevin.
To add to my shame, Mr MacLaine wrote the following comment on my report card: ‘Pauline has done a wonderful job this year playing the morning hymn.’ Oh well, the beans had done well and Dad’s posts were successfully holding up the monkey bars!
I have no memory of Kevin in high school; he must have been as ‘invisible’ as I was myself. I can only hope he blossomed in later life. Kevin, wherever you are, I apologize!
My cousin Alan later became headmaster of the West Ulverstone Primary School. I wonder if he ever found any record of my humiliation? I’m too embarrassed to ask. I imagine a yellowed list of morning hymn musicians that included;
1962 PAULINE ALLEN – Button Accordian (Truly awful)
I saw a most alarming family photo recently. My brother Ken teaching his little granddaughter to play that same, wretched accordion. Goof grief! She has such a determined expression……probably playing, Awake Thy Soul.
Note from Des – “Yes, well I was asked to play The First Noel at the Blackheath Primary School nativity play, but unlike some people I know my limitations!”
Thanks Des…NOT! Regretfully, shame and embarrassment followed me into HIGH SCHOOL.
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