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Playing the piano with Parkinson’s

I have played the piano for the past 60 years, but was probably at my best when I was 15 and passed the ABRSM grade VII exam with merit. I then switched to the organ, and although I achieved grade VIII merit playing both the organ and French horn, I did not apply myself sufficiently to progress any further with the piano.

One of the Grade VI set pieces for 2015/16 is the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Sonata in C, K545, which I learned when I was 13 or 14 – possibly for my own Grade VI exam. It is well known as one of Mozart’s easier compositions, at least from the perspective of technique. For some reason or other I was persuaded (or wanted) to perform the sonata at one of my school concerts. I remember with some pain the hash I made of it, largely through ‘nerves’, which have dogged my public performances ever since.

I was diagnosed with PD in 2007, but it wasn’t for some years that I realised my piano playing was worse during ‘off time’, alongside my other symptoms. Until 2014 I regularly played the piano for charity, in the form of ‘Pianathons’ lasting an hour – with medication carefully timed for the performance to coincide with my ‘on time’. Since then a combination of nerves and the progression of my condition have prevented my continuing to perform in public, although I do try to play regularly at home now I am retired and can time my medication accordingly.

It is interesting (and perhaps encouraging for other musicians newly diagnosed with PD) to find myself  just about able to play that same Mozart sonata, as the following recording of bars 1-28 show. The performance is spoilt by being created simply on a digital voice recorder – and of course my several mistakes! To hear it click on and press the top right button to start. I apologise for any adverts, from which I do not benefit!


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Skinner Street, Bury St Edmunds

Skinner Street is used as a service road for the town’s central shops, just as Upper Baxter Street and St Andrews Street South are. The alternative is waste being left and collected from the front of the Traverse and Buttermarket premises.

The Borough Council is not the only provider of waste services in the town, and so there are different waste bins used. This makes co-ordinating either their appearance or collection day difficult. In any case businesses may not wish (or have room) to keep the bins inside on non-collection days.

A bin ‘compound’ has been suggested, but even if different providers could be expected to use this, where would it be located in the street without being an eyesore? – after all, people don’t just want to look at each end of Skinner St, but to walk through it.

Plastic bags have also been suggested instead of bins. Again, this would not necessarily suit private collectors nor the businesses themselves. There could also be a hygiene risk, something The Bury Society are already worried about.

What could be done is for traders to keep their bins neatly against the rear wall of the premises and ensure they do not overflow. They could also keep their rear exterior walls well decorated, if they are prepared to meet the cost of this. Suffolk County Council could certainly improve the lighting.

If you have any other ideas, please let me know, via @CllrPaulFarmer.

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My “pianathon”…the result!

at piano

A big thank you to all who helped me raise the total of 5p over £100 for St Nicholas’ Hospice and Parkinson’s UK on 15th March. 


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