Being of an age at which loss of function becomes an increasing feature of the landscape, I accept that my loss of the sense of key and tonality is something that I must adapt to. Perhaps I will be able to manipulate the psychological aspects of the tonality sense to ‘hear’ in a new and satisfying way. I have not found a mechanism for this yet. Rather I find myself relishing the times when I hear pieces in the way I was used to (and expected to). This Christmas I was the pianist at Christchurch Kenilworth’s service of Nine Lessons and Carols. One carol the orchestra and choir performed was ‘O Holy Night’ by Adolph Adam. There is no particular key that this needs to be sung in: one need to make sure that the sopranos can reach the wonderful climactic top note that occurs in the repetition of the ‘Fall on your knees’ section of the chorus – O night divine! Our version is in D flat and the arranger had given broken chord triplets to the pianist that continue with ever greater sonority through the verses and chorusses. I relished this: here was an opportunity to hold on to this beautiful key almost literally. Playing the notes allows me to hear at the correct pitch, I have discovered. Somehow the topography of piano keys under my hands, the ‘shape’ of the key on the keyboard  corrects the sensory shift that is occurring in my brain. So for five or so wonderful minutes my forearms and fingers could play the rippling chords with progressive power while my brain and my soul heard and gloried in the synthesis of orchestra, organ, piano and 4-part choir making their music in D flat major, the key that has given us Un Sospiro by Liszt, the Raindrop Prelude by Chopin, Khatchaturian’s Spartacus Adagio, in Adam’s inspired song.

For more about D flat major and its twin key C#minor, click here.

[This is a re-post as the last version of this seems to have been the subject of a spam attack. Can’t think why!]