Notes For My Grandfather – an Essay By Sophie Wright

Digging out an old box overflowing with scraggily yellow pages of books and notes I noticed a fiery red folder cracked and torn with age with the title “Harry Wright’s life in TAB” faintly printed with gold letters. Inside was a familiar E flat music sheet I used for my studies and for my grandfather’s memorial. I scanned the score once again which threw me back to May 21st2011…

Quietly nursing a bottle of bright blue liquid I began to scan the room for any familiar face that I could make conversation with so that I could feel more involved with what was going on. The old wooden tables made the pub feel very cosy and friendly yet I felt more alone than ever. My eyes were constantly being drawn back to the jet black case sitting beside me. The clips were shimmering in the artificial light above screaming at me to open it. I took hold of my necklace which my grandfather gave me and the memories of him started flooding back to me like a crescendo of notes. The memories were so clear it was like it only happened the previous week; visiting him in hospital with my brand new saxophone and watching his eyes light up in admiration as his fingers gently ran down the keys; visiting him at home and playing my old saxophone while he sat and strummed along on his guitar; visiting him after a long holiday and feeling his arms around me tightly gripping me as if he was never going to let me go. Grandparents are always special to each of us – but especially me. My grandfather and I connected greatly because of our love and passion for music. Stu began to climb into an allegro of recognisable music which snapped me back to reality. The memorial. An uncontrollable silent tear slowly crawled down my cheek. I quickly brushed it away hoping that no-one had seen. I wasn’t going to succumb to emotion tonight. Tonight was created for the memory of my grandfather and I was not going to let my emotions get the better of me. My heart started beating faster like an increasing metronome knowing that it was soon my turn to be in the spot light.

I slowly opened my case and I couldn’t help but stare at the glowing instrument gazing up at me. My grandfather’s words echoed in my head…”this is a beauty, the things you could do with this magnificent instrument. Well done Sophie” It was like he was there with me – I could feel his presence in the room which gave me the confidence to set up my saxophone. My clammy hands marked the glowing metal and I could hear the silver ring on my middle finger lightly tapping off the “A” key. I found myself constantly fidgeting with the keys. I took a deep breath and gulped the last of my drink down. Stu looked at me and politely asked if I would like another drink. I shyly nodded my head as I felt a smile grow on my face. He was a very good friend of my grandfather. I felt calm and composed around him – like how I felt around my grandfather. He staggered back and gently placed a shiny new bottle of blue liquid in front of me. I thanked him and took another sip. It was now my turn.

I tightened up the sling around my neck holding the saxophone upright. I clumsily flicked through the music and found a repetitive but popular tune. Stu noticed my hands shaking more violently and began to play the introduction. I took a deep breath and allowed the air to leave my lungs through the mouthpiece and deep into my saxophone. People around me began to cheer and Stu then bellowed out the lyrics as well as plucking the notes from his guitar in time with me. I could feel my fingers shake and my lip quiver. My heart felt like it was about to explode out of my chest. I quickly decided to use ritardando to make the simple tune sound more musically sophisticated, and it worked. Everyone around me was on their feet – I couldn’t believe it. I looked over at Stu as he winked at me smiling while applauding in syncopation with the rest of my ovation. I could feel my face turn from a rose pink shade to a scarlet red in a matter of seconds. I bowed my head so my hair fell around my face and closed my eyes. I finally did it. I had conquered my fear- the worst part was over: the complex work was soon to come.

I took a large gulp of my drink and sat back in my seat and breathed a sigh of relief. This was it, my big moment. The music stopped for a bit while people purchased more drinks and started talking and slowly getting more drunk. The smell of alcohol became sickly which didn’t help the knot in my stomach. I picked up my saxophone holding onto it tightly due to the sweat leaking off my palms. Tightening the strap I could feel the necklace dig into the back of my neck, it reminded me again of my grandfather. I pressed my lips tightly onto the mouthpiece and took in a few deep breaths to compose myself. I placed the old, age-stained score quietly in front of me deliberately not drawing attention to myself. I closed my eyes and took hold of my necklace and whispered under my breath “Granddad, this is for you” The glow of the gold writing shone off the folder as I took a deep breath and began to play quietly increasing my pitch to a comfortable mezzo forte. As the song became more recognisable, I could feel my heartbeat crescendo into a flame of passion. The chorus of the song was blazing towards me and I couldn’t help myself from allowing my saxophone come alive. My lip was quivering uncontrollably which could be heard by all but I kept going, bending the notes making it my own I pictured my grandfather sitting in front of me smiling with his face glowing at me which made me blaze through the music without hesitation. Before I knew it I had reached the end. I finished with a beautiful diminuendo before closing my eyes once more and reaching for the necklace embedded into my neck. The whole room were on their feet. It felt like the heat from my face could melt the ice in everyone’s drink. My heart was beating faster than the tempo of the music and my hands were shaking more noticeably than ever. I breathed a sigh of relief and fell back into the seat. Stu patted me on the shoulder and congratulated me. I couldn’t help but smile…I had done it. I held in a few tears as people all around the room also congratulated me on how well I had performed. I packed away my saxophone and my music, including the old score. Just before sliding it back into the fiery red folder, I quickly glanced at it for a final time and smiled.

Looking back now I realise that I should not be so nervous and scared of what people will think of me. If I knew that back then, I am certain that I would have enjoyed the memorial a lot more. Each time I pull out the score “Baker Street” I am always reminded of that unforgettable night. I can now enjoy playing my saxophone more than before and I can let my grandfather’s memory come alive by my playing. My grandfather will always be in my heart and will always be there to help me to battle through my fears. That saxophone is no longer just a piece of shiny metal; it is a part of my grandfather…and a part of me.

Personal Reflective Writing Piece for SQA Highers by Sophie Wright who attends the Kip McGrath Education Centres in Edinburgh South, Balerno


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