The Piano Party
Intro music :
Months ago, if not months and months ago, I got an email from the Sis pointing out that Granny would be 80 this year and suggesting that we should Do Something.
When Granny turned 70, we all (eleven of us) rented a house near Apt for two weeks. This was one of life’s big coincidences, by the way. At the time, we didn’t know that we’d end up living 15km down the road. Anyway, for Granny’s birthday treat, we all went up in a hot air balloon.
Or rather, most of us went up in the balloon. The Eldest Daughter decided that she was afraid of heights and didn’t go, but she looked after her Dad for the day. He had been foraging in the fridge the previous day and found some delicious fish-flavoured chicken. It did cross his mind that chicken isn’t meant to taste like fish, but he ate it anyway and his body spent the next 24 hours forcibly ejecting any possible bits of fish-flavoured chicken from his digestive system. So he missed the balloon ride. Which was a shame, because it was really nice.
So how do you top a birthday balloon ride? It’s not easy, but the Sis came up with an idea. Granny loves classical music and has been a piano teacher all her life. How about a Music Party, suggested the Sis. We could have a meal in one of the local hotels, followed by a private recital, just for us. All we had to do was find a performer…
Well, the Sis and the Bro-in-Law just happen to be friends with one of Ireland’s top classical pianists, Hugh Tinney. Hugh, like many other people, is very fond of Granny and he said he’d be delighted to perform at her party. We booked a room at the local posh hotel, Dromoland Castle (it’s VERY posh. I wouldn’t dare go in there in mud-splattered jodhpurs).
Then we decided we’d better tell Granny what was going on. Surprise parties are not a good idea for eighty year olds. She was delighted and enthusiastically set about creating a guest list. The Eldest daughter designed the invitations. A grand piano was booked. Hugh decided that he needed a bigger piano, so a different grand piano was booked. A cake was ordered from an old friend of mine who has set up a business making bespoke cakes. We were all set.
Last weekend was party time. The LSH and I once again left our dogs in the tender care of John the Dog-sitter (he’s wonderful and he has a book coming out soon!) and caught the Ryanair flight from Nice to Shannon on Friday. The piano was to be delivered to Dromoland on Saturday evening. Hotel staff had told us that there were five or six steps leading up to the room we had booked and we had told our piano rental guy about this. Not a problem, he said, so long as there’s three or four lads around to give me a hand. Three or four ‘lads’ were lined up – the LSH, the Bro, the Bro-in-Law, the Nephew and the ED’s boyfriend was available too, if needed.
Late on Saturday afternoon, we all arrived at Dromoland to find that the ability to count is not an essential skill in the hotel management industry. This is how many steps there were :
Twelve, counting the bottom one. Twelve steep, wet, slippery steps. Hotel staff were very reassuring, especially a guy called John who lives in the village and remembers the days when Granny used to play the church organ every Sunday. He assured us that we would have as many lads as necessary to get the piano up the steps.
Piano Guy arrived exactly on time and his face fell when he saw the steps. We were afraid that he was going to say “NO! It can’t be done” but I don’t think that thought ever crossed his mind.
“I’d have brought different lifting gear if I’d known,” was all he said.
And that was as irate as he became. He had a quick scout around to see what the alternative access was like and came to the conclusion that the twelve stone steps were the only option. Extra lads were drafted in from the bar and the kitchens, and they cheerfully awaited their instructions.
Mind you, I’m sure I heard somebody ruefully muttering “I was meant to knock off at six!” when the piano guy said that they’d be lifting 400kg!
The first glimpse of the behemoth :
A trial lift just so everyone knew what they’d be carrying, and to allow the Bro in Law to remove a roller bar from underneath…
and away they went!
They made it look easy. I’m sure it wasn’t.
(Huge thanks to all the ‘lads’ who helped!)
The piano was set up and tuned, and it did look and sound wonderful.
Roll on the party – lunchtime on Sunday!
Guests arrived in dribs and drabs. Tansy serenaded us all as we mingled and chatted, which was very pleasant and gave me a chance to hear some of her music which I hadn’t heard before.
Lunch was served – I joked about doing a Thank Friday it’s Lunchtime report on it, but I was in holiday mode and not really thinking about blogging. Suffice to say that the food was really, really good. Granny changed tables between the starter and main course and had great fun catching up with all her friends, especially the her old friends from Shannon!
Then the main musical event followed, with Hugh playing the Moonlight Sonata, the Rustle of Spring and excerpts from Pictures at an exhibition – all Granny’s favourites, and some of which she used to play.
After the performance, it was time for cake. And oh how my friend had done us proud! The music at the front of the piano was even the music for Happy Birthday!
Granny did the candle thing :
and we all sang Happy Birthday and then devoured the cake, which seemed a shame, but it was delicious! Raspberry and white chocolate – Yum! Thanks Deborah, it was a big hit!
After that, the piano once again had to be disassembled :
and carted down the steps, with Granny supervising anxiously :
But is was easier going downhill, thank goodness, although it got kind of wedged at this point :
and two of the Dromoland managers had to get stuck in :
Finally, it was tucked away back in its white van. If you ever want to rent a large grand piano and need it carried up and down an indeterminate number of steps, I can heartily recommend this guy, Ciarán Ryan :
Some time later, we made our way back to Granny’s house, where we sat around drinking, talking and eating all the O’Donnell’s crisps we had bought.
And that’s why I didn’t bring any crisps back to France with me. Sniff.
Closing music :
Thanks again to Tansy and Hugh for playing on the day. Also thanks to Dromoland staff for giving our mother such a pleasant afternoon, to Deborah for the cake and to Ciarán Ryan, the very tolerant provider of the piano! Also thanks to the LSH and the Sis-in-Law for the extra photos. Most of all, thank to the Sis for starting the ball rolling on this way back when.