Habit Forming

I passed by LC last Saturday. A surge of memories made me smile. But it wasn’t my quiet but wonderful college years I glimpsed through its shuttered green windows that had me grinning foolishly to myself; it was the familiar sight of an RVM nun, in the usual white habit and black veil, wiping her forehead with a pristine handkerchief. I looked up the seven-story Science Building and saw myself rushing breathlessly up the fifth floor almost expecting the melodious door chimes tinkle softly in the silence as I nervously came in. To my right I could see the long glass panel containing all sorts of tiny musical instruments and figurines. My rubbers hardly made any sound on the spotless and cool tiled floor but she heard me anyway. I jumped fearfully as she started shouting, in her firm feminine voice, from somewhere within the recesses of her enormous office:

“You’re late again, girl! Get inside the cubicle and begin your exercises. Don’t close the door.”

“Yes, Sister.”

“Start with the scales, now. Major and minor keys.Then do your arpeggios and chords.”

“Yes, Sister.”

“And don’t slouch. Feet on the floor.”

“Yes, Sister.”

“Louder… Stop.”

“Yes, Sister?”

“Have your nails been cut? Short?”

“Yes, Sister. Really short, Sister.”

“Good. Again. Fingers over the keys… One, two, three, go.”

“Good. Now Czerny. Pages 60-70.”

“Yes, Sister.”

“Good. Did you bring Bach?”

“Yes, Sister.”

“Now play Prelude No. 5…. Stop. What did I tell you, girl? Softly, softly at first… There…Good. A little bit faster…No, no, no, that’s too fast. Four-fourths… two, three, four, two, three four… Shhh… pianissisimo… faster…. louder…forte… mezzo forte… Good.”
 

“Shall I repeat it, Sister?” 

“What?” 

“Shall I repeat Bach?” 

“Yes. Twice. Then proceed to your recital pieces.” 

“Yes, Sister.” 

“You’re out of timing, girl. Put on the metronome.” 

“But I just began studying the piece last week, Sister.”

“No buts, girl. The metronome.”

“Yes, Sister.”

“Stop!!! You hit too many wrong notes with your Beethoven opus. And you’re still out of timing. Tsk, tsk,tsk. If he could hear you now, he would turn in his grave, come over and spank you. Tsk, tsk, tsk. You did not practice again. How many times do I have to tell you to cut down on playtime and practice more?”

“There are too many flats, Sister.”

“There aren’t too many flats, girl. You did not practice. You will remain there until you polish that piece. You hear me?”

“Yes, Sister.”

Now, play it again… Stop, Stop! My goodness. That is the dullest performance I’ve ever heard. Put some passion into it. This is Beethoven, for the love of God! Do I have to get in there and play it myself, girl?”

“No, Sister.”

“So, repeat. Read the notes carefully. And try not to hit two keys together. Now, do it again. Do the pedals properly. I’m getting inside and stepping on your foot if your pedals aren’t right.”

Yes, Sister.”

All right, that will do for now. Let’s hear Chopin this time….”

I rounded the corner and turned my head sharply towards the Auditorium across the street. I swear I could hear “Fur Elise” on the Yamaha grand. But then, I could be wrong. Oh, Sister Hermie, I miss you so. Where could you be now? Perhaps tormenting Saint Cecilia’s angels in Heaven?



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