By Suzanne Sparrow Watson


As my brother wrote last week, a new year often brings new resolutions.  Mine usually involve giving up cake and exercising more.  These resolutions are normally shot to smithereens by January 4th, our oldest grandson’s birthday.  The occasion obviously requires eating cake, whether I’m with him in person or not.  But in 2024 my goal has nothing to do with sugary confections: I have resolved to learn Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on the piano.  You didn’t know I play the piano?  Neither does my piano.  I took piano lessons for two years at age 12.  I liked it, but by age 14 I liked boys and my friends more and stopped the lessons.  However, I still played occasionally and when I entered the Junior Miss contest in 1968, I performed two songs as my “talent”, which was good enough to place me second runner-up.  Otherwise known as third place.  My securing a trophy only speaks to how awful the rest of the talent was.

Alan teaching grandkids how to play

As the years went on I gave up playing entirely, mainly because I didn’t own a piano (a critical requirement).  In my early 30’s I bought a house and purchased my first piano.  I was working and had a long commute, so I didn’t have a lot of time to devote to playing, but I still would find solace in it when I had the time.  Then I met Alan.  I always said he fell in love with me at first sight…of my piano.  He loved playing the piano and was very talented.  He never took a lesson but could play by ear and figure out almost any tune.  I eventually stopped playing, as I didn’t want to subject him to my halting, wrong-key, playing.  Any of you who have suffered through kids taking piano lessons know exactly how excruciating it is.

Giulietta Guicciardi

But now I am drawn to the piano once again.  I still have every piece of sheet music I’ve ever owned, including my “Music from the Movies” book that contains songs from Chariots of Fire and Urban Cowboy. Okay, so my music is a bit dated. I thought about buying some more current scores, but instead, I picked up my “easy” version of “Moonlight Sonata”. I love that song and could easily re-learn it, but I decided to download the sheet music as written by Beethoven, in C-sharp minor, no less.   A friend commented that she thinks it is such a sad-sounding song, and questioned whether I might want to learn something more upbeat.  But I have always loved the melodious, haunting rhythm of the sonata.  Plus, it was actually written as a love song.  Beethoven dedicated the “Moonlight” sonata to his 16-year-old lover and student, Giulietta Cuicciardi, with whom he had fallen in love. He proposed marriage to her, but her father forbade her from marrying him as he deemed Beethoven to be without rank.  History does not record whether her father lived long enough to see the error of his ways.  “Moonlight” was also something of a miracle, as the deafness that would eventually engulf Beethoven started as he was writing it.  Even though the deafness was at its early stages, the progression was aggressive, and he was reported to have broken several pianos trying to make out the sound of the keys.

I’m guessing that if Beethoven could hear me playing, he’d be breaking my piano. But with some perseverance and watching a wonderful teacher on YouTube, my goal is that by year’s end I will have it memorized.  That is not such an easy feat these days.  I can’t remember to take out the garbage can out on the right day.  Perhaps I will be able to record it and embed a video into this blog at year’s end.  Or not.  In any event, I’ll give fair warning so you can get your earplugs ready.  In the meantime, if you want a real treat, look up Alicia Keyes playing “Moonlight Sonata” at Kobe Bryant’s memorial service.  Truly one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever performed.