Catharine Savage Brosman
This stately piece by Handel was a staple
of my childhood keyboard practice. Here are annotations
in the hand of my aunt Mary—my sole teacher—
to improve the fingering proposed and indicate
new phrasing. We did not have an instrument
ourselves, except, for brief years, the Brambach baby grand
belonging to another aunt—which, rebuilt,
refinished, tuned, following Katrina’s damp misdeeds,
occupies this room. My father played by ear, and well;
but he depended, as I did, on pianos elsewhere—
Aunt Mary’s Steinway at my grandparents’, the Brambach,
another Steinway at his brother’s house.
“Wash your hands before you touch the keys!”
Aunt Mary cautioned me. Fair enough, given
that I was a tomboy, outdoors more than in.
She showed great patience. Once, my grandmother,
considerate and generous, ordered—a surprise gift
for my father—a good upright, second-hand.
It was delivered, somewhat dirty. I came home from school
to find my mother, furious, telling him
it could not be accepted, covered as it was with dust.
A pretext? Anyhow, it was refused. That day, her love
for both of us failed greatly. For some years,
the subject of pianos was not raised. I practiced
at the aunts’, worked through students’ books, learned
four-part pieces, sang. Handel stayed
with me, my fingers keeping somehow its broad measures
and its sonorous bass line, moving evenly
under the treble chords. Though in a minor key,
it speaks serenely now, the way a placid statue
emerges from rough stone—disharmonies
and old missteps yielding to the ordered dance of age.