Una Meers was born in Dublin. She has always enjoyed writing and many years ago won an award for her short story, The World Around Us. Family and work then took centre stage, but on retiring from Trinity College she has returned to writing short stories.
She now enjoys her life living part of the year in Dublin and the rest in a small village in the South of France.
By Una Meers
In the Main Theatre of the Royal Irish Academy of Music, gifted students are privileged to play in concert for the hierarchy of the Academy. Parents are also invited to watch their children perform. I wait. My hands are clammy. Fear grips my stomach and I feel it’s going to go horribly wrong.
It is 1960. I am ten years old.
From the wings, my turn approaches. The smell of old pianos mixed with wood oil hits my nostrils. I am next on stage. I need the toilet but there’s no time. The sweet clear notes of a harp being played faultlessly by Aoife reach me. God, I wish I was playing the harp; not because of its tone or that I prefer the harp to the piano. It’s simply that Aoife’s teacher’s face is full of pride as she smiles at Aoife.
I crave a smile from my teacher; but if old hatchet face ever smiled she’d crack her face. At my piano lessons, I never know when her hand will connect with the back of my head. My mother, usually a perceptive woman doesn’t seem to believe me when I tell her of my teacher’s horrible behaviour.
Aoife finishes playing and bows amid loud applause from the audience. As she arrives back to the wings, her teacher hugs her in a ‘well done’ sort of way. My teacher’s scowl catches my eye.
“Play well!” she hisses in my ear. I am pushed onto the stage by her long skinny fingers. I sit at the baby grand piano, fingers poised; the audience expectant.
To this day, I have no memory of playing in that concert. I do not recall my mother speaking to me afterwards or my teacher’s reaction. Did I freeze on stage or play well? I never asked, or maybe I did. Whichever, I have erased it from my memory. I left the Royal Irish Academy not long after that concert and went to a private tutor, one with a heart.
I never did become a concert pianist, although I did manage to win a prize or two at subsequent competitions with my rendition of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
Perhaps it was all a bad dream. Maybe I played beautifully in the Dagg Hall that night. All I know is that to this day when I hear a Nocturne any Nocturne, by John Field, a shiver runs down my spine.