Started with lessons at school 60-odd years ago, but never did any exams or grades; Kept it up, informally and somewhat chaotically, until after retirement; (I’ve usually had a piano in the house); started lessons again 3 years ago.
What kind of repertoire do you enjoy playing, and listening to?
Mostly romantic standards: learned a few Chopin pieces recently, earlier did some Granados Spanish Dances. Also, Ravel, but I find most of it too hard, Debussy: a bit easier!
How do you make the time to practise? Do you enjoy practising?
I’m retired, so I practise an hour or so most days when at home. Yes, I enjoy it or I wouldn’t be doing it.
Have you participated in any masterclasses/piano courses/festivals? What have you gained from this experience?
Masterclasses at Broughton in Furness with Anthony Hewitt, Martin Roscoe and others. I feel I get more from the fact of performing in front of people than from what I learn at the class
If you are taking piano lessons what do you find a) most enjoyable and b) most challenging about your lessons?
Making discernable progress: e.g. attempted a piece 2 years ago (Ravel: ‘Menuet’ from Tombeau de Couperin) and gave up as it seemed beyond my abilities. Took it up again a month or two ago and realised that it was now quite feasible. I feel I am hampered by having done little work on scales, arpeggios etc – there is no infrastructure to my playing!
Has taking piano lessons as an adult enhanced any other areas of your life?
Socially, we have a Piano Circle, hosted by my piano teacher. We meet once a month and play our pieces to each other. Most of the other members are more advanced than me, but we all encourage each other and I get some compliments about my playing, which is good for my confidence. I find that the challenge of playing to others means that I have to get a piece up to a presentable standard rather than giving up when the going gets tough. (For example I have played the first two pages of Debussy’s Clair de Lune for years but always gave up when the arpeggios begin). I’m planning to learn it properly when I’ve done my present piece.
In addition, we go to local concerts, for which I might not be motivated without social pressure.
Do you perform? What do you enjoy/dislike about performing?
I play at Piano Circle and at masterclasses. I’m a nervous performer, and tend to play much worse than I do at home in private. I wish I could stop making careless mistakes!
What advice would you give to other adults who are considering taking up the piano or resuming lessons?
Go for it!
If you could play one piece, what would it be?
I’ve been trying to learn the Chopin’s Prelude no 17 in A flat. It’s a wonderful piece with those amazing chromatic episodes: trouble is, it’s just a bit too hard for me at present! I gave it a trial outing at Piano Circle a few months ago and made a bit of a mess of it, but doubtless it will come! As we’re thinking about Alan Rusbridger and ‘Play It Again’, perhaps it is my G minor Ballade!
Peter Cockshott lives in the Lake District. He studied physics at University and went on to a career in industry, working in physics and electronics, retiring from this some 10 years ago. From an early age he has spent his spare time climbing or running in the hills, but now has to fit in piano practice as well.
He has piano lessons with Rosemary Hamblett in Ulverston.