Perfect Pitch


( Written before attending Regis College)

Every key on the keyboard had its own shade of pale

so that whenever she heard an “A” it had the sound of a faded yellow

while the “G” was whiter with tiny lines so imperceptible

you had to look closely to find them.

“Middle C” was grey-white with a neutral sound

and she recalled telling one of her professors many years later

that its sound evoked a sense of stability

while she identified it unmistakably with her perfect pitch.

Or was it the sense of stability which came first

resulting in the sound of a distant ship’s horn inside her head

the pitch of which happened to be “middle C”?

She did not know that the keys’ discolorations were caused by age.

To her the piano was neither old nor new, neither big nor small,

its touch neither resistant nor too giving.

She would hear yellows and whites and beiges,

giving them their names “A”, “G” or “F” as mere consequences

and as naturally as the naming of a person to whom a voice belonged.

No need to look at the keyboard.

All she had to do was listen.


There was nothing about this piano she did not like.

It even had a name of its own, a name she could not read

but was told it belonged to a famous composer, a name with a French pronunciation.

In gold long-hand lettering centred above the keyboard was engraved the name Chopin.

She did not yet know that this composer was not French

and so did not wonder what the non-French pronunciation of his name could be.

The only thing she knew about Chopin was that her sister sometimes played a song he wrote,

a big song called Polonaise, another French word.

She did not think about the fact that her sister played the music of Chopin

on a piano which had his name engraved on it.

She was too young to find anything serendipitous about this connection.

To a young child serendipity is a given.

Everything about the piano,

its dark wooden presence reaching far above her view whenever she watched her fingers play,

the pedals she would some day reach fixed a foot beneath her dangling feet,

the black keys with the feel of wood grain under her fingers

Its ringing sound and all that it gave in return to her touch,

sometimes harsh, sometimes gentle,

and the sound springing forth sometimes loud and sometimes soft,

simply was.

Grace Colella graduated from Regis College, attends Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, is an associate of the Sisters of St. Joseph, volunteers in a hospice and is involved in spreading the word for Guaranteed Basic Income.

  • Paul Baker
    Posted at 07:06h, 28 August Reply

    What a beautiful line, “To a young child serendipity is a given.” A child lives in the now, the present. Is this not what it means to be childlike?

  • Peter Bisson, SJ
    Posted at 10:42h, 28 August Reply

    Thank you Grace!

  • Robert Czerny
    Posted at 09:14h, 11 September Reply

    Very evocative! I play rhythm guitar, so my colorations associate with chords rather than notes: C major is positive and workmanlike whereas A major is grand. The major-minor contrasts are front and centre when accompanying psalms. Thank you for this reflection.

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