The prompt for Sepia Saturday this week is of a couple around a piano. It is an upright piano and similar to the one owned by my grandfather. One of my fondest memories of summer holidays as a child was listening to him playing the piano. He lived near the seaside and when we were younger the entire family descended on him and my grandmother for two weeks, staying with them in their small bungalow. The upright piano was in the sitting room; the sitting room that smelled slightly of pipe tobacco, mints, polished wood and musty music. In the evenings we could sometimes persuade Tom to open the piano, take out his songbook and tinkle on the keys. We were enchanted as we watched him loose himself in the songs.
My grandmother told us that Tom could play anything, that he learned most songs by ear, and that often he would just sit and play for the sheer pleasure of doing so, and maybe for the memories.
When they were younger my grandparents used to take part in music hall. I wouldn't imagine this was the music hall of the grand old type, but rather smaller, local events put on for and by communities across London. In the days before cinema and television live entertainment was more commonplace.
Tom started early. Amongst his memorabilia I found the remains of this programme dated April
1913, from the Hemmingford St John football club annual concert and dance
On the first page just before the presentation of the swimming awards, you can see that the 'act' is Master Tom Welch, who was billed as a Comedian and was performing 'Yiddle on your fiddle' maybe sounding something like this and 'I don't care what becomes of me'. Tom would have been around 13 years old at the time of this performance.
Fifteen years later, at the age of 28, Tom was still performing but this time he had a more sedate roll as the pianist at the 'Grand Smoking Concert' held after the final and semi finals of the Domino Championship, hosted by the ECDO sorters (the post office sorting department). (He worked for The Royal Mail for most of his life).
Tom also played the piano accordion, and my grandmother sang with him as a soprano. She once told me that she deeply regretted not following her desire to become a professional singer and have her voice properly trained.
In his later years Tom would occasionally play the piano at the local old folks home and day centres. When he died none of us had room in our small houses and apartments for the piano and my grandmother couldn't bear to look at it so she gave it to the church.
|Tom and Dorothy|