Beth Tree and the Elgars 3
I played each of the scales in turn, over and over, and still Mr. Elgar sat at his desk, writing something, and paid no attention to me whatsoever. I wanted to tell him, that we were paying him to teach me, and he wasn't doing his job, but I was not brave enough to do that.
Finally, I decided to play a song that I had memorised – Fur Elise. It was a simple but very pretty song written by Beethover. My sisters had played it, and when I had a chance, I tried to make the notes sound like the way they had played it – half following the music, and half depending on my memory.
Finally, Mr. Elgar took notice. “I thought you were a complete beginner. Who has taught you
to play up to now,” he said.
“No one, really. I just listened to my sisters playing this piece and tried to copy them.”
“Did you learn it from the music, or just from hearing them play it?”
“A bit of both, really.”
He gave me a single sheet of music. “Can you read this and play it? If you can only manage the treble clef, do that.”
So I struggled hard using only my right hand, and managed to find the melody in the tune, and then it was easier to carry on.
“Good,” he said. “Now do it again, and see if you can put in some of the bass notes too. Don't worry if you make mistakes.”
So with great trepidation, I tried to do as he asked, and although I made many mistakes, and was waiting for his shout, I was pleased and surprised that he only looked at me with great interest.
“I think you have a gift,” he said. “If you truly were able to play that well with no practice or tuition, that shows you have an instinct regarding harmony and a feel for how music should sound. I will give you several more of these pieces, and I want you to practice for at least an hour every day. Can you do that?”
“Oh, yes,” I said.
“I've forgotten your name,” he said.
“Beth Tree. You and your wife came to a picnic at our house a few weeks ago. And my sisters, Jessie and Margaret, had violin lessons with you at the Girls High School.”
“Oh, yes. I know your Father, don't I. Good man. Is he musical?”
“We sing a lot at home, mostly hymns, but Father doesn't play an instrument. But we go to concerts when we can, and we all love music.”
“Good, good. Well, your time is up for today, so if you give these pieces to Mrs. Elgar on your way out, she will tell you the price. I will see you again next week at this same time.”
So I tripped lightly down the stairs, and had a huge grin on my face.
“Was that you playing the piano?” asked my Mother, and I was so proud to admit that it was.
“I need to pay you for these,” I said, and handed the sheets over to Mrs. Elgar to count.
“That will be a shilling for the music and two shillings and six pence for the lesson. And shall I book you in again for next Saturday?”
“Oh yes,” I said, “it was wonderful.”
As we walked back to the train station, Mother said that she could see how happy I was with the result “But it might not always be such plain sailing,” she said. “You must practice very hard if you are going to live up to his great standards. Can you do that?”
“Oh, yes,” I said, still grinning from ear to ear.
“What did you and Mrs. Elgar talk about while I was having my lesson?” I asked her.
“She was telling me about their daughter Carice. They picked the name by joining together her two names, Caroline and Alice. I think it is a lovely name. She said that Carice has a tutor at home at the moment but she also goes to the Mount often, as the headmistress there is a great friend of
theirs. When they are off on their travels, Carise stays with her. She is called Miss Rosa Burley.”
“Did she say if Carice had inherited her father's genius?”
“I did ask if she played the piano, and her mother seemed a bit embarrassed. It seems that her father finds her frequent mistakes rather difficult to listen to, so she isn't allowed to practice when he is in the house.”
“He is such a wonderful man, Mother. He said that I was gifted, and he thinks that I will have a future in music. Before I was so scared, and now that I know him a bit, I can't wait for my next lesson. I shall practice ever so hard, as I want him to be so proud of me.”
“Be careful, Beth. You might find him a very different person at your next lesson. I hear he is very tempermental. You musnt' build up such a perfect picture of him, as if he then criticises you, it will hurt that much more.”
“I am sure I can deal with it,” I said with great confidence and naivity.
As I was a sensible ten year old, and the trip from our house to the Elgars was not a difficult journey, Mother said she trusted me to go on my own from then on.
Photo above of oldest Tree girls, Elizabeth is on the lright. My husbands grandmother on the left.