Jean and I played organ (Jean) and piano (me) at a Christmas Festival of Lessons and Carols yesterday evening. The piano was tuned a semitone sharper than the organ necessitating some on-the-hoof transposing for us both. She played the sharp key carols a semitone down and I did the flat key ones a semitone up. It is easier to do it that way since you read the notes as set as if it were with the flatter or sharper key signature. So G major ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ was played by Jean in G flat major; I played in G. I played B flat major ‘Silent Night’ in B major; Jean played in B flat major.

All went pretty swimmingly bar the occasional forgotten C flat (Jean) or E sharp (me). When we came to the last carol, ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ (G major), my concentration was flagging. Jean played the introduction in G flat major. My brain heard F sharp major (the same sound because G flat and F sharp are the same note). And (horror!), my fingers moved on to the black keys of F sharp/G flat major. As verse 1 began, in I came with Felix Mendelssohn’s block chords in F sharp major. The piano being a semitone sharp, this sounded in G major producing a clash with Jean’s G flat major chords on the organ. Fortunately, 3 chords in, I realised what I’d done and shifted my fingers up a semitone. The Herald Angels were singing so loudly that my faux pas passed unnoticed.

What this showed is that my brain can still hear F sharp major at its true pitch, rather than the more usual semitone up of my Pitch Imperfect transition (unless the organ was tuned a semitone flat, of course…..).

Wishing all a Happy in-tune Christmas 2022