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A Musical Life

By Mary Matthews
January 2005, Aberystwyth
A digital story from Capture Wales

Mary's Wonderful Gift

Mary is a wonderful pianist and naturally gifted musician, performing locally and internationally.

"I listen by ear and pick it up instead of reading it by braille. Play by ear, pick it up. Listen by ear and play by ear... straight away. Everything and anything under the sun without asking how it goes: Litoff to Gershwin in 1968; Rhapsody in Blue, Swedish Rhapsody in 1953; Schubert's Serenade in 1955; Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy in 1956 - The Nutcracker; Sleeping Beauty in '58; Swan Lake in '58; Les Sylphides by Chopin; the Bartered Bride by Smetana; Ravel's Boléro and Bizet, L'arlésienne; Stravinsky... any composer.

I was in Overly Hall and I played the xylophone with Miss Smith and taught how to play the clapper on the piano by Miss Smith: Tubby the Tuba; Fiddle Faddle; (Mary sings Tubby the Tuba)... The Teddy Bears Picnic; The Three Bears in fantasy; the Façade suite; a Cuckoo - she's a pretty bird.

Dad played the piano and he taught me, 'Calon Lan' and 'Let Him Go Let Him Carry'. He wanted me to learn 'Leave the Kindly Light'... 'Leave kindly light' was the first one he learnt me. I was taught 'Leave kindly light with a wath in the snow' in 1954... and Mam taught me, 'You are my Sunshine' as well in 1955. She taught me two Welsh and one English: 'Wennol Fwyn', 'Mae'n Gariad i Mami' and 'You are my Sunshine'.

When I was four now... I was at... Tubby on the wireless when was in the dining room when I used to have a play with the giddle giddle. It's a bell... and I'd given it away in 1955 to another child.

Dad couldn't play better than me, I was professional... and he taught me 'Rwy'n gweld o bell y dydd yn dod' / 'From far I see the day have come'... and I used to cry in 1954... and Mammy used to put some strong stuff on my face which stung. I used to have a habit of scratching my face because it was itching.

I once practiced for Friday night at the Governor's house in Hong Kong and had a canapé and I had a bouquet and I was serenaded with, 'I Can't help Falling in Love with You'.... And we had, in the café after, we had a mixed choir singing and we had chips and Diet Coke and slept in the room.

And I have a very busy life. I go swimming on Monday, spin-biking on Tuesday, swimming Tuesday night, museum Wednesday, yoga Wednesday afternoon. Thursday I usually go cookery... horse riding on Friday, Rhydypennau on Saturday, church on Sunday.

Well it's my career, it's my life, it's a part of me. Because with giving it up it's wasting a beautiful, wonderful gift."

Mary Matthews

Please tell us a little about yourself.
I was born premature and was taken from Aberystwyth to Birmingham hospital and they received me as a daffodil baby. I was born blind and as there was no provision in Aberystwyth I had to go away to special schools but came home for the holidays. From the age of three I remember loving music, especially the piano. Some of my teachers were lovely.

What's your story about?
My story is about how music has been a big part of my life and about the people that taught me the piano and helped me with my music, especially my Dad. He gave me the opportunity to play the church organ and took me for rides on the family horse, Ginger.

Why did you choose to tell this particular story?
Music is the biggest love of my life and it is my career. I enjoy learning it by ear, listening to it and playing it by hand. I enjoy entertaining with my music and playing it for myself.

What did you find most rewarding about the workshop?
Doing the mouse and clicking the button. It is the first time I have worked on a computer. Hearing other people's stories and meeting lots of interesting people. It was lovely to meet such a helpful group of wonderful people.

Your comments

"I met Mary in the mid 90s and was immediately impressed by her musical ability and lively personality. I was running a music course at the time,and she was undoubtedly the star pupil!Since then, I have heard her play many times: on one occasion coming to the rescue at the last minute as pianist for a musical show I was involved with: she learnt all the tunes on the first night -by the second night she was note perfect! I now work at the Ceredigion Museum in Aberystwyth, and every Wednesday morning, Mary comes to play the piano for us, delighting locals and visitors alike with her astonishing repertoire! Mary, it's been a privilege and a joy to have met you." Jez Danks, Museum technician Aberystwyth.

"I was actually struck by the story of this young star, it made me think of my own life history (more or less the same). I like personal histories to be shared because they create an insight into some people who really fear to develop their talents ..." Ronald Mubiito, Kampala-Uganda.

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