Vanstein Copyright - Chapter 9
Chapter 9 – Eve of Party
“Tonight is the eve of the party! The whole store is on me!”
In high spirits, Mrs. Care hoisted her beer mug high in the air and proceeded to treat everyone in the bar to a grand feast. Since the beverages were free, the old men were permitted to grab drinks from the counter bar at their own discretion.
Mrs. Care instructed her butler and maid, who emerged out of nowhere, to deliver more and more platters of cuisine from a nearby restaurant after discovering that “Crazy Louis” had practically no food on the menu.
“A toast to the Inglez, the United Kingdom, to everyone who supports the trade here in London, and to the young pianist, Angela～!”
The toast by Mrs. Care drew a resounding toast from the customers in the bar. Apparently, Mrs. Care made the rounds to each table to spread the word about Angela, and supportive voices erupted from all over the place.
“As expected of Angela, do your best with the performance!” or “You’re going to save Sister Care’s son!” or “Angela, you’re a real angel!” and so on. In her desperation, Angela’s declaration, “Leave it to me,” has been driven into a situation that can no longer be rescinded.
“Um, Mrs. Care? Perhaps Adonis could…”
Although Angela somehow succeeded in grabbing Mrs. Care and attempted to relay the news that Adonis may be performing as assurance, those words were drowned out by the echoing voices of the tenors from the stage.
“‘Pleasant & Delightful’!”
Adonis began playing the tavern song, Saloon Song, which was known to all. One of the old men, cheered on by his buddies, brought out his violin and started to accompany Adonis on the piano.
When all the other people at the same table simultaneously broke forth into singing, their voices spread throughout the bar, leading to a huge chorus. Watching everyone singing at the top of their lungs, their arms around each other shoulders with beaming smiles on their faces, made Angela ashamed to think that she had done something terribly dull.
Although she was desperate, it was Angela herself who made the decision to go through with it. Regardless of whether she was Merch’s daughter or not, or whether Adonis would play for assurance or not, as promised, Angela would be the first one to play the “Piano Solo for Right Hand”.
It would be disgraceful to make an excuse first and then perform.
As Angela sipped from a bottle of ale that was nearby, she could no more suppress her itch to join in the chorus that permeated the bar. The girl dashed up to the piano stage where Adonis was playing and began to unite with the others in singing from the stage.
With her cheeks flushed, Mrs. Care also embraced Angela and sang along together, ale bottle in hand. When the song ended, the audience applauded and cheered, exchanging a few toasts with one another. In her excitement, Angela rushed to Adonis and shouted with all her strength in a voice that didn’t lose to the tumult around her.
“I’ll play next!”
＊ ＊ ＊
“Why did you say that?”
Once the steam engine vehicle carrying the high-spirited Mrs. Care was off, Angela posed the question to Adonis in a voice that was an octave lower than usual.
Angela gave Adonis’s arm a vigorous shake, as he brushed it aside with a beaming face.
“Like I said, why did you tell her that I am the daughter of… Merch! I warned you to keep that a secret from everyone!”
“I was just wondering that she might be delighted… you knowー?”
“It’s not she might be delighted! Isn’t it obvious that she would be thrilled! I am Merch’s daughter! And of course, she’s going to assume that I’m on the same level as my mom, doesn’t that just raise the bar for me!!”
“Well, well, well. Mrs. Care didn’t bring the subject up with the other guests, either. In fact, it’s the truth that you are Merch’s daughter.”
With Adonis’ valid argument, Angela’s head, which was unaccustomed to alcohol, could no longer formulate a counter-argument.
As the girl wobbled back into the bar with unsteady steps, she settled down at a table and wrapped her head in her arms as if to languish.
All around her, plates of cuisine were scattered on the tables, and the snoring of drunken, passed-out old men can be heard. The stench of the spilled ale on the floor was nauseating and unpleasant.
Since the bar’s inception, the master has been collecting a heap of empty bottles and calculating the sales at the rear of the counter bar.
Having consumed so much food and drink brought in with someone else’s money, even Angela didn’t have the heart to admit that she couldn’t perform it after all.
Yet, as she sobered up, the indisputable reality dawned on her. When she opened her hands, she found ten fingers as short as a child’s.
What she can’t handle was after all out of reach for her.
“What shall I do…What shall I do! I somehow managed to have three weeks extension, but in the first place, I have no confidence in my ability to pull it off at all. At any rate, I think I’ll have to stretch my fingers to play it, but how do I extend them? Even if I pull and stretch my fingers, how is it possible to stretch my fingers in these mere three weeks? Hey! Hey!?”
Adonis crossed his legs mindfully after taking a seat at the table, while Angela clutched him with tearful eyes.
“Hey, how do you stay so poised!? To be honest, it kind of slipped my mind, but the London competition is in a month’s time, you know? At this peak of the schedule, how could I possibly practice different songs for three weeks!”
“I guess I sort of forgot about that.”
“Ahhh, this is impossible after all. You play it, Adonis. It’s too much, I absolutely can’t handle it.”
After drawing in a deep breath, Adonis addressed Angela, whose only response was whining, in a serious manner.
“I apologize for being a bit pushy, but I honestly believe that you’ll be able to perform ‘Piano Solo for Right Hand’ in three weeks.”
“How can you say that, I really couldn’t do it even though I practiced over and over again…”
“Show me your hands, Angela.”
Angela propped down on the table and put her hands out in front of Adonis with the momentum she had.
Together with his own hands, Adonis measured the size of them. Not surprisingly, Angela’s hand was significantly smaller than his.
“Look, my hands are like those of a child, aren’t they?”
“No, not at all. They are the size of a female’s hands appropriate for her age, and there is a good chance that they will grow in the future. Come here.”
Adonis rose and headed for the piano with Angela following albeit reluctantly.
“With your thumb and pinky, try to grasp an octave.”
Sitting in the piano chair, Angela obediently complied. She was just barely able to grasp it but that was within a manageable degree of control.
“As long as you can do this, your hands are not that small after all. A lot of children as young as ten years old can’t control it… and even Mabel Faze, who won the London competition would have been just barely capable of hitting an octave at the time.”
“How could I be compared to such a genius…”
“A ten-year-old girl who could barely grasp an octave and play it so well had a decent reason for doing so.”
“Isn’t it because she’s a genius?”
“No, that’s not true. Angela, grasp the octave again with your right hand.”
The octave of C was struck.
“Next is the ninth degree, from C to D.”
Angela pressed down a bit too harshly. This seemed to be her limit.
“Okay, now let’s change the height of the piano chair.”
Adonis brought a cushion from the sofa seat and set it on the chair.
“If you sit on it, I suppose your elbow will be at the same height as the keys. Come on, sit down.”
“That’s enough, Adonis. I’ve had a few drinks and I don’t feel like I can play properly.”
“You don’t have to play a piece of music. What I would like to teach you are posture and weakness. That’s what the 10-year-old Mabel had already mastered.”
Perhaps due to her slight dizziness, Angela was having difficulty sitting properly on the cushion on top of the piano chair. She managed to sit down by grabbing Adonis’ hand. As she spread her arms out over the keys, Adonis measured them on a menu chart and compared the height of the keys to the position of her elbows.
“Okay. Now the height of the keyboard is equal to the height of your elbow. Then grasp the octave of C again. This time, when you do, don’t exert pressure on your fingers. The trick is to lay your fingers on the white keys and let the weight of your body ride on top of them, from your arms to your wrists.”
She did as she was told and seized the octave of C. Angela found the method of not exerting force to be a piece of cake right now, presumably owing to her inebriation.
“Continue to the ninth degree, C to D.”
To the neighbor one up above, Angela’s pinky finger reached out and caught the note. Angela kept a curious look on her fingers.
“You have an easier grip than before, don’t you? Let’s try going up to ten degrees. Without putting any pressure on the joints, relax from the shoulders to the fingers, and focus the weight of your arm only on the tips of the fingers you are touching――”
Angela effortlessly grasped ten degrees, i.e., from C to E above.
“I did… it.”
With an incredulous expression on her face, Angela stared at her own right hand. While maintaining the same stance, she seized the other keys in sequence.
Accompanied by her left hand, she struck a series of octaves with both hands, as if she were slowly savoring the explosive stimulation.
Relying on her memory, she tried out the bar of octave strokes in Chopin’s “Polonaise de l’Hero” by playing it slowly.
Despite that she was progressing at a glacial pace, she was nonetheless successful.
The songs that she had taken for granted to be played by skipping notes were now being performed according to the sheet music.
“If your fingers can’t reach the notes, you can change something, just a little bit, to improve it. That’s what pianists do, and that’s what Mabel Faze does.”
For Angela, even Adonis’ words were no longer catching her attention.
She couldn’t stop playing octaves while retaining the unfamiliar skill of not applying force.
A small “wow” was muttered over and over as she glided both hands over the keys. Her touch has been powerful, drawing out a consistent volume without strain.
“I’m going to end the session here and go home. I’ll have a little chat with the master before leaving. We can practice together again tomorrow.”
“Okay. See you tomorrow, Adonis!”
She even forgot to thank him and continued to play with the keys like a child. After nodding in satisfaction, Adonis went to talk to the master who was frantically doing calculations in the back of the room.
He, likewise, will need to cooperate.
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