A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Just Play Sausages

By Fr Kevin Bates SM

One of my childhood piano teachers was a Brigidine nun, Sr Fidelis. Along with her great love for music, she had a zest for life that stayed with her till the end of her ninety-some years. She reverted to Elizabeth, her baptismal name, in latter years, but for me she was always Fidelis. I was honoured to celebrate her Requiem Mass in Melbourne some years ago.

While she was teaching me classical piano, she knew I was playing the pop songs of the day by ear and she encouraged me to broaden my musical tastes beyond the classics she was teaching.

When it came to exams, she had the wisdom to encourage me to keep going, regardless of nerves or mistakes. She’d say brightly, “If you make a mistake, keep going anyway even if you just play sausages!!” In other words, don’t let nerves or mistakes stop you.

Among many fond memories and the lessons she taught me, I remember tricks for naming the various sets of musical keys I learnt from her.

The sequence of the Major Keys with Sharps could be remembered thus:
Giving Dull Answers Easily Brings Faults Carelessly.

Major Keys with Flats could be remembered by:
Fat Boys Eat Apple Dumplings Greedily.

Minor Keys with Sharps:
Every Boy Finds Comics Good Daily Amusement.

Minor Keys with Flats:
Do Good Cheerfully For Blessed Eternity Amen.

Each set of key signatures seemed to have its own personality and still does, so here’s a little exploration for you to see which set of key signatures or which key resonates with the person you are becoming.

Majors with sharps appear to me as confident, strong, high achieving and clear in their planning. The trickier ones such as B and F# require more skill and take more time to learn, and once mastered, bring great satisfaction.

Majors with Flats seem warm and welcoming. There’s a certain grace and mellowness in them and once again the more challenging ones beyond E flat bring subtle rewards with them when played with care.

Minors with Sharps are a different breed. They are edgy, on the move, ready to protest at injustice and don’t tolerate fools gladly. Each key past C# could be a learner’s nightmare and requires the ability to attack problems with vigour and purpose.

Minors with Flats, on the other hand, seem quiet and meditative. Their mood is reflective and tends to melancholy. They seem to feel the suffering of the world and take it personally! Once you get past B flat you are in deep waters, embracing life’s mysteries with a sort of purposeful surrender.

Prior to any of these keys are C Major and A Minor with no sharps or flats. They’re the basic beginning tools, the necessary foundation, and are always worth visiting when re-focusing one’s musical journey is required.

Playing in any key comes with its risks and rewards, as does the living of any life-story. You may find echoes of yourself in one or other of the sets of musical keys, and may even like to explore more deeply and find one particular key that best plays the tune of your life.

The brightness and confidence of A Major, for instance, may be yours; or the warmth and tenderness of E flat major may resonate more truly. C sharp minor may best capture your desire and commitment to create a just world for all; or C minor may open up your compassion and concern for those in need.

This whimsical exploration may just leave you scratching your head! Even so, you can take heart from the joyful wisdom of a wonderful music teacher who told me that when I made a mistake, I was to keep going no matter what.

In other words, with regard to the music of my life, none of my failures or sins are beyond the reach of God’s tender Mercy. None of them can ever provide an adequate reason to stop playing, even if I just play sausages!  

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