‘They gave us supper early. We were saying, Soon They’ll Feed Us At Three.’ I said, In this cold weather if it was me I’d say to you all at lunch: Eat Up! Your Supper’s Ready! so I could get home early. She had a good laugh at that.
‘I played the piano at supper.’ Oh, good. What did you play? ‘The piano’ she says mischievously and laughs. The she sings, ‘Lady of Spain I adore you – right from the night I first saw you … ‘
‘We would dance to this in the Masonic Hall. Folk dancing. Also to When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. And a Welsh dance and a Scottish reel.’
‘For Girl Guides I had to play a March for my piano badge. Mrs Steytler said I was playing too fast, the girls marching couldn’t keep up. Then I had to play God Save The King, we were still under the monarchy then, in the Commonwealth. And Elizabeth has gone to hospital for the first time.’
Well, she’s 93, I said, same age as you. ‘Oh, I thought she was Pat’s age, older than me, and Margaret was my age.’ I think she’s 1928, same as you, I said. While we were talking I checked. True’s Bob, Mary was right, Mrs Queen is two and half years older than her. Pat’s age. I was foolish to contradict her. What do I know about poms?
‘I saw her in Boksburg, you know. She was keen to get back home to the only boyfriend she ever had. Philip.’
Mom Mary Methodist tells me she played all the hymns she can remember on the piano in the dining room before breakfast this morning. It’s Sunday, see. She plays ‘for the oldies’ (she’s ninety two, some of the oldies are in their seventies already). ‘They liked them so much I played them all again.’
And she tells me one of the ladies found a screw about an inch and a half long yesterday, and walked round asking everyone, ‘Who’s got a screw loose?’ ‘She’s quite a wag,’ says Ma. ‘When she got to me I murmured to her, ‘Just about all of us, I think.’
Some of the inmates crowd around the piano when she plays. ‘Shame,’ she says, ‘When the meal arrives and I stop playing, some of them have to be shown where their tables are. They’re quite lost.’
Play the Warsaw Concerto, demanded 99yr-old Louise at Mom’s retirement home today. Ooh, says Mom – eight years younger and has always respected her elders – I used to play it, but I don’t think I could play it now. You go right back to the piano now and try! ordered Louise.
Mom says she’s a real character. She had just finished playing ‘I Love Paris in the Springtime’ to the assembled mass of old bullets. Probably half a dozen of them.
How did the Warsaw Concerto go? I ask. Ta ta da da DUH! says Mom.
Here it is:
Who’s it by? I ask. Addinsell she says. Ay double dee and ends in double ell. I think it ends in double ell. I check: Of course it does. Richard Addinsell. Written for the 1941 British film Dangerous Moonlight, which is about the Polish struggle against the 1939 invasion by Nazi Germany.
CHATTANOOGA CHOO CHOO From the film “Sun Valley Serenade” (1941) (Lyrics: Mack Gordon / Music: Harry Warren)
Pardon me boy, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo? Track 29, boy you can give me a shine. I can afford to board a Chattanooga Choo Choo, I’ve got my fare and just a trifle to spare. You leave the Pennsylvania station ’bout a quarter to four, Read a magazine and then you’re in Baltimore; Dinner in the diner, nothing could be finer Than to have your ham and eggs in Carolina; When you hear the whistle blowing eight to the bar, Then you know that Tennessee is not very far. Shovel all the coal in, gotta keep it rolling, Whoo,Whoo, Chattanooga there you are. There’s gonna be a certain party at the station, All satin and lace, I used to call funny face. She’s gonna cry, until I tell her that I’ll never roam, So Chattanooga Choo Choo, won’t you choo choo me home!
Recorded by: Glenn Miller & His Orch. (vocal: Tex Beneke & The Four Modernaires) – 1941 Glenn Miller & His Orch. (Film Soundtrack) – 1941 Cab Calloway & His Orch. – 1941 The Andrews Sisters (with Vic Schoen & His Orch.) – 1941 Johnny Long & His Orch. (vocal: Paul Harmon) – 1941 Kurt Widmann Mit Seinem Orch. (vocal: Ruth Bruck) – 1941 Carmen Miranda with Bando da Lua (feat. in the film “Springtime In The Rockies”) – 1942 Bill Haley & His Comets – 1954 The Modernaires – 1954 Karel Vlach & His Orch. – 1955 Ray Anthony & His Orch. – 1956 Al Saxon (with Ken Jones & His Orch.) – 1959 Cyril Stapleton & His Orch. – 1959 Ray Charles – 1960 Martin Denny – 1960 Ernie Fields Orch. – 1960 Oscar Peterson (Instr.) – 1960 The Checkmates – 1961 Floyd Cramer (Instr.) – 1962 Si Zentner & His Orch. – 1962 Hank Snow – 1963 The Tornados (Instr.) – 1963 The Shadows (Instr.) – 1964 The Fabulous Jokers – 1965 Harpers Bizarre – 1967 Billy Strange (Instr.) – 1968 Joe Loss & His Orch. – 1969 Syd Lawrence Orch. – 1969 Ted Heath & His Orch. – 1972 Enoch Light & The Light Brigade – 1973 Haruomi Hosono – 1975 James Last & His Orch. – 1975 John Hammond – 1975 Joe Bob’s Nashville Sound Co. – 1976 Vic Lezal’s Professionals – 1976 The Dooley Family – 1976 The Million Airs – 1976 Tuxedo Junction – 1978 Rita Remington – 1979 Taco – 1985 Denis King – 1986 Mercedes Ruehl (feat. in the film “Big”) – 1988 Asleep At The Wheel – 1988 Barry Manilow – 1994
Also recorded by: Sammy Davis Jr.; Teresa Brewer; Tony Rizzi And Pacific; Larry Elgart & His Manhattan Swing Orch; Johnny Bond; Boston Pops Orchestra; Harry Connick Jr.; Ray Conniff; Bette Midler; Matt Monro; Jimmy Caro; Udo Lindenberg; Xavier Cugat; Stéphane Grappelli; Rick Van Der Linden; Al Russ Orch.; Rune Öfwerman Trio; Ron Russell Band; Harry Roy; Klaus Wunderlich ….. and many, many more.
MELODY OF LOVE [Melodie D’Amour] Henri Salvador (m) 1903 Leo Johns (Eng l) 1949
as recorded by – The Ames Bros 1957; Eduardo Almani & his Orch ’53; David Carroll & his Orch ’55; Leo Diamond ’55; The Ink Spots ’55; Joe Loss & his Orchestra ’57; Edmundo Ros & his Orchestra ’57; Jane Morgan Nina & Frederik Henri Salvador
Melodie d’amour, Take this song to my lover; Shoo shoo little bird, Go and find my love. Melodie d’amour, Serenade at her window; Shoo shoo little bird, Sing my song of love. Oh tell her I will wait (I will wait) If she names the date! (names the date) Tell her that I care (how I care) More than I can bear. (i can bear) For when we are apart, How it hurts my heart! So fly, oh fly away, And say that I hope and pray, This lovers’ melody, Will bring her back to me. Melodie d’amour, Take this song to my lover; Shoo shoo little bird, Go and find my love. Melodie d’amour, Serenade at her window; Shoo shoo little bird, Tell her of my love. Oh tell her how I yearn, (how I yearn) Long for her return, (her return) Say I miss her so, (miss her so) More than she could know! (she could know) For when we are apart, How it hurts my heart! So fly, oh fly away, And say that I hope and pray This lovers’ melody Will bring her back to me. Melodie d’amour, Serenade at her window; Shoo shoo little bird, Tell her of my love. (Contributed by Peter Akers – January 2010)
KINGSTON TOWN Harry Belafonte
Down the way, where the nights are gay, and the sun shines daily on the mountain top, I took a trip on a sailing ship, and when I reach Jamaica I made a stop. But I’m sad to say, I’m on my way, won’t be back for many a day. My heart is down, my head is turning around, I had to leave a little girl in Kingston Town. Sounds of laughter everywhere, and the dancing girls swing to and fro. I must declare my heart is there, though I’ve been from Maine to Mexico. But I’m sad to say, I’m on my way, won’t be back for many a day. My heart is down, my head is turning around, I had to leave a little girl in Kingston Town. At the market you can hear, ladies cry out while on their heads they bear, acky rice, salt, fish are nice and the rum is fine any time a year. But I’m sad to say, I’m on my way, won’t be back for many a day. My heart is down, my head is turning around, I had to leave a little girl in Kingston Town. Down the way, where the nights are gay, and the sun shines daily on the mountain top, I took a trip on a sailing ship, and when I reach Jamaica I made a stop. But I’m sad to say, I’m on my way, won’t be back for many a day. My heart is down, my head is turning around, I had to leave a little girl in Kingston Town. Sad to say, I’m on my way, won’t be back for many a day. My heart is down, my head is turning around, I had to leave a little girl in Kingston Town.
‘When the Sun says Goodbye to the Mountain’ – (1936 M: Larry Vincent / T: Harry Pease)
The Masqueraders, Dir. George Scott Wood V. Sam Costa Recorded 27th November 1936; Also recorded by: Geraldo, V. Monte Rey Comedian Harmonists; Roy Fox; Primo Scala & His Accordion Band; Susan McCann 1983
When the sun says goodnight to the mountain
And the gold of the day meets the blue
In my dreams I’m alone on the mountain
With a heart that keeps calling for you
The voice in the trees
The song in the breeze
They bring memories of love we knew
When the sun says goodnight to the mountain
I am dreaming, my sweetheart, of you.
Transcribed from John Wright’s 78 RPM Record Collection (Transcribed by Bill Huntley – May 2013). Our lyrics were different: eg: ‘says goodbye’ – ‘brings back sweet memories of you’
“Cruising Down the River” is a 1946 popular recording song; winner of a public songwriting competition held in the UK. Words and music were written in 1945 by two middle-aged women named Eily Beadell and Nell Tollerton. One of the original early recordings of this song issued in the UK in January 1946 on the Columbia record label (FB 3180), was by Lou Preager and his Orchestra, with vocal by Paul Rich. This was immensely popular on radio, with record and sheet music sales making it one of the biggest hits of 1946 in the United Kingdom.
Mom was 18yrs old and already an accomplished piano player, studying under Miss Underwood!
Cruising down the river, On a Sunday afternoon With one you love, the sun above Waiting for the moon. The old accordian playing A sentimental tune Cruising down the river, On a Sundy afternoon. chorus: The birds above, all sing of love A gentle sweet refrain The winds around, all make a sound Like softly falling rain . . . . Just two of us together, We’ll plan our honeymoon Cruising down the river, On a Sunday afternoon. (Contributed by Ruthie – March 2003)
Mom has played the piano for about eighty years. First Granny Bland’s Ottobach, then her own Bentley she bought from her aunt Marie Bain. She can no longer read her sheet music, so doesn’t play her classical music anymore, but she still plays our favourite popular singalong and dance songs.
I thought I’d know the names of the songs – I don’t! I’ll find them and come back and add them in.
“Poor Little Angeline” – by (maybe) Will Grosz, Hugh Williams, S. Wilson & Jimmy Kennedy – 1936
She was sweet sixteen, Little Angeline, always dancing on the village green, as the boys went by, you could hear them cry, Poor Little Angeline. Oh her eyes were brown and her hair hung down, laddered stockings and her old blue gown, but she dreamed we’re told of a lover bold Poor Little Angeline. Then one day a prince came a-riding, and he stopped right by her side, very soon she heard him confiding, I want to make you my bride. What a pretty scene on the village green, when the prince was wed to Angeline. Now as his princess, she’s a great success, Poor Little Angeline
Over on my blog about the olden days in the Orange Free State – you know, when knights were bold and nights were cold – I’m running a series on the classical music pieces Mom Used to Play on her piano while we were growing up. Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt and fellas like that. Those are mostly played by ‘guest artists’ as we have very little of her classical pieces ‘on tape.’
Here it’ll be different. Mom will feature in person! playing the popular songs she knows by heart – reading her sheet music has become just too hard, but at 91yrs old she can still belt out some of her favourites. Quality varies – cellphone video’ing by sister Sheila and myself – and as she has good days and bad visually and cognitively. But she has fun and people listening generally love her playing.
Well, Grab Your Coat and Get Your Hat – Let’s go! ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street’ is a 1930 song composed by Jimmy McHugh with lyrics by Dorothy Fields. Some authors say that Fats Waller was the composer, but that he sold the rights to the song.
ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF THE STREET From the Monogram Picture “Swing Parade Of 1946” (Dorothy Fields / Jimmy McHugh)
Grab your coat and get your hat, Leave your worry on the doorstep, Just direct your feet To the sunny side of the street. Can’t you hear a pitterpat? And that happy tune is your step, Life can be so sweet On the sunny side of the street. I used to walk in the shade With those blues on parade, But I’m not afraid, This rover crossed over. If I never have a cent I’ll be rich as Rockefeller, Gold dust at my feet, On the sunny side of the street. (Contributed by Ferda Dolunay, lyricsplayground.com – April 2005)
Here’s some of her repertoire in her own handwriting – Sheila has more. I see our first one is No.9 on the Quick Step side:
Recorded by: Ray Anthony; Louis Armstrong; Chris Barber; Count Basie; BBC Big Band; Tony Bennett; Les Brown; Dave Brubeck; Benny Carter; Frank Chacksfield; June Christy; King Cole Trio; Nat King Cole; Harry Connick Jr.; Bing Crosby; Doris Day; The Dorsey Brothers; Jimmy Dorsey; Tommy Dorsey; Roy Eldridge; Duke Ellington; Dorothy Fields; Ella Fitzgerald; Helen Forrest; The Four Freshmen; The Four Lads; Judy Garland; Erroll Garner; Georgia Gibbs; Dizzy Gillespie; Benny Goodman; Stephane Grappelli; Lionel Hampton; Coleman Hawkins; Earl Hines; Billie Holiday; Jack Hylton; The Ink Spots; Harry James; Louis Jordan; Bert Kaempfert; Stan Kenton; Diana Krall; Frankie Laine; Brenda Lee; Peggy Lee; Jack Lemmon; Ted Lewis; Liberace; Nellie Lutcher; Manhattan Transfer; Barry Manilow; Shelly Manne; Dean Martin; Johnny Mathis; Billy May; Jimmy McHugh; Glenn Miller; The Modernaires; Rita Moreno; Ella May Morse; Willie Nelson; Anita O’Day; Charlie Parker; Les Paul & Mary Ford; Oscar Peterson; The Pied Pipers; Louis Prima; Leon Redbone; Don Redman; Django Reinhardt; Marty Robbins; Artie Shaw; George Shearing; Frank Sinatra; Keely Smith; Dorothy Squires; Jo Stafford; Art Tatum; Johnny Tillotson; Fats Waller; Dinah Washington; Chick Webb; Clarence Williams; Teddy Wilson; ….. and many more.
Monica said ‘Don’t worry Mary you needn’t play today,’ but I protested: No Way, Ma! You have to play! How else will you earn your keep? So she gamely fired up her stootoot – isithuthuthu – and beetled off to the dining room where her friend ‘Mauritius’ was in her wheelchair, waiting for supper.
She rocked straight into Somewhere My Love, so fast that I missed it. I video’d her next song, ‘It’s Only Words’ (what’s it called?); and she said ‘Supper Time’ but I pleaded One More Please; Play for your supper.
What was that? I asked at the end of it. ‘Deep In My Heart’ she said – and then I’m so sorry I stopped filming, as she said, ‘It’s by Sigmund Romberg from The Desert Song’ and she told me more, that I can’t recall, but that ‘it was beautiful; very special’ I do remember.
I went looking . . .
Ah, here’s the trailer: You can see why Mary would have loved it back in 1954! Many of the songs are familiar; she played them; the reel-to-reel tape played them; and the Goor Koor sang them – all in the lounge at 95 Stuart Street in the Free State village of Harrismith!
And then the best song: The Drinking Song from The Student Prince! Sung in the movie by Mario Lanza.
The inmates in Azania – I mean Azalea Gardens – look forward now to new arrival Mary Methodist’s preprandial concerts. While we were chatting the guy next door stuck his head in and asked anxiously from his wheelchair, “When are you coming?” so we all hastened over to the lounge / dining room so Mom could do her thing.
In the background the ole man is paging through some old Farmers Weeklys. The piano music plays havoc with his hearing aids, so he has switched them off.
Ooh, says Mom, I’m not at my best today! True, says I, You were better when you were eighty. She hosed herself at that. She also played Angeline and Chatanooga Choo Choo and two others I forget the names. A round of applause from the tables announced OK, enough now, the grub has arrived. Mary immediately got up and joined them for roast chicken, roast spuds and creamed spinach; then pud.
edit: The old codger in the wheelchair was one of her biggest fans. We heard a couple of weeks after this day that he’d shuffled off, moved on; Natural causes after a good innings, nothing to do with Mom’s playing.
Mom’s short-term memory has got a bit shaky since a TIA a few weeks ago.
Today she tells me she’s getting on famously. “I sat down at the piano and played a song I haven’t played in YEARS. My fingers just remembered it. It was ‘Maria Elena’ . I played it without a single mistake”.
Her sense of humour hasn’t changed one bit as she pauses, then muses:
“Of course, I may have played it last week”.
“Maria Elena” was written for the First Lady of Mexico, the wife of president Gil, by Lorenzo Barcelata (1898 – 1943), a Mexican composer. It topped the charts in 1941. In 1963 it reached No.6 in the US charts & No.5 in the UK charts.
Sheila told another lovely story in June 2012 – Thought you’d all enjoy this: My niece Linda was telling her gran Mary Methodist and me about a friend who had all his precious work stored on his laptop, but had failed to back up anything, anywhere. Aware of the potential dangers, he was very conscious about the possibility of having said laptop stolen, so when he had to go out one day, sans laptop, he hid it in the oven.
Well, you guessed it: Hours later he was met in the drive-way by a very embarrassed partner, who had done the unthinkable. The precious laptop was melted, done to a crisp, warped etc etc.
Oh no! interjects Mary, He had cooked the books!