PLEASE NOTE: Even though this blog is now dormant there are many useful, insightful posts. Scroll back from the end or forward from the beginning. Also, check out my writer's blog. Periodically I will add posts here if they provide additional information about living well with Dementia / Alzheimer's Disease.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Chopin's Ballad No.1 Op 23

This was Gregory and my favorite piece: Chopin's Ballad No.1 Op 23. (You can click to listen below.)

Many years ago Gregory became enthralled with the piece and learned one page, doubting that he would be able to do more. I encouraged him to at least try to add a little bit at a time. Over five years, Gregory at his black, shiny, Yamaha grand piano and with me lying on the couch listening to him practice and practice and practice, he proceeded to learn the entire piece.

He would ask, "Aren't you bored with hearing me make so many mistakes (also called clams)?" My answer was always, "Never!" I used to tell people that to me the greatest feeling of home was hearing Gregory's piano music singing, dancing, and flowing through our house.

Eventually Gregory went on to perform the piece for our Gay Family at Chuck and John's house in Racine, Wi at the "First Annual Musicale," where family members performed, played piano, recited poetry, etc.

Not having much talent in this way and joined by Dominic, we created trays to carry around our necks and put on paper tiaras of sorts to recreate the image of a "Cigar Girl" from days earlier, who would circulate at the 50's supper club selling cigars and cigarettes. During intermission we distributed popcorn, boxes of candy, and soda.

When it was Gregory's turn to perform I had to leave the room. I was so nervous for him. He had a fear of performing for others that stemmed from his childhood. First, his mother Helen, while responsible for giving him this life long gift, also was the typical demanding, strict, piano practice enforcing mother. At one point Gregory, during college, stopped playing because of how badly his mom had "loaded" the piano experience.

While I cannot take all the credit for helping him return to the black and whites, I will take some. But I diverge, the reason I was so nervous was that Gregory always talked about how when during his childhood recitals he would be so relieved that the piece was almost over, he would inadvertently end it by hitting a glaringly wrong note in the last few bars.

You need to know that Ballad No.1 is a very athletic piece, played by people like Arturo Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, and Daniel Barenboim for an encore at Carnegie Hall! At the "Musicale" he played the piece flawlessly to a standing ovation from the group. You should have seen his face!

After Gregory slowly became unable to play piano anymore, he decided that it was time to sell it. If he couldn't play it well, why not let someone who could, have it. We found a young composer, recently returned from LA who purchased the piano after sitting in our home and practicing and falling in love with the piano.

Gregory in his usual calm, intelligent, loving optimistic way was not upset at seeing the piano leave our home. He was happy about its new home and he commented: "I can listen to as much music as I would like on CDs and that make me happy."

Share Chopin's Ballad No.1 Op 23 with me:


  1. One of my fondest memory of Gregory
    is Gregory at that piano with Isaac to his right
    Gregory teaching him to play Chopin

  2. Michael, one of my favorite memories as well was when all the windows in the houses were open and we could also enjoy the magic of Gregory playing the piano. He was terrific. I also loved when the piano movers creatively moved the piano with a crane from one house to the other. I wish we a picture of that.


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