Magic, music and a West End surprise

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You can’t buy class. It’s oh-so-hard to define, but everyone knows it when they see it. While you can work hard to develop classiness, those who seem easily blessed with it also have the ability to make it seem effortless – and that, in itself, is classy.

Some musical instruments seem more naturally classy than others and the classiest of all is the piano. Not electronic keyboards, which say ‘I’m with the (rock) band’, but real pianos which simply say ‘class’; maybe it’s because the words ‘piano’ and ‘concerto’ are so often sitting side by side. Or maybe it’s because playing this beautiful instrument requires good posture, graceful arm movement and a controlled touch. Or could it be that the shape of the piano, with its smart black and white keys and inherent grandeur, is naturally pleasing to the eye?

The West End is many things: unique, gritty, playful, eclectic and surprising. But classy? Mmmm…..even to me, an unapologetic advocate for this under-appreciated part of Newcastle, that’s stretching it. Until now.

Foleys Pianos opened in Newcastle West in 1947 and since 1967 has been run by the Lindsay family. Today Sandra Lindsay is at the helm of this business which promises to ‘deliver dedicated service and knowledge that is second to none’ combined with an uncompromising standard of craftsmanship.

The shop has an extraordinary range of pianos including many versions of my favourite, the grand piano, which with its dramatic opening lid brings to mind either stirring concert performances, or Schroeder, the endearing Charlie Brown cartoon character. Its more affordable counterpart, the upright piano, always prompts, in just about equal measure, fond memories of school concerts and less fond memories of much-dreaded ballet lessons.

But it wasn’t any of this which pulled me straight off Hunter Street and into Foleys Pianos; it was Joan. I heard her before I saw her. As she played ‘What a Wonderful World’ a small group of people gathered to listen and then broke into spontaneous applause. If the song is loveliness itself, Joan is pure elegance. In a chic slate grey and black ensemble, with pearls (pearls in the West End!) she was all style and all class.

Joan has had no formal training, but despite this has taught her own three children to play, one of whom now has a Bachelor of Music in piano performance. She’s worked in the piano wholesale and retail industry for 45 years explaining with a smile that “the piano is my passion”. She is full of praise for the owner, Sandra Lindsay, who she describes as a clever and ethical businesswoman, but the admiration is mutual, Sandra describes Joan as “our touch of class”.

As I am leaving the store I hear her begin to play the exquisite opening notes of ‘Walking in the Air’ from The Snowman. In Joan’s playing a perfect musical quote comes to life: ‘The piano keys are black and white, but they sound like a million colours in your mind’.

Foleys Pianos, 689 Hunter St, Newcastle West. Phone: 4926 1466. Web: piano quote is from Latin author Maria Cristina Mena (1893-1965).

Joan’s piano tips:

  • Leave your piano open, so that you can easily sit down and play anytime, even if just for a few minutes, close the piano lid only to dust
  • Play your piano regularly, this way you will get the most enjoyment from it and reach your potential much faster

Kimberly O’Sullivan

Have you chosen the West End as your home or as the perfect place to run your business? Do you have a West End tale which deserves a wider audience? What inspires and infuriates you about the West End? If you have a story to tell I would love to talk to you! Here’s how to find me:; 0413 250 155.




5 responses to “Magic, music and a West End surprise

  1. I love the quote from Maria Cristina Mena. What a beautiful way to describe piano music. Thank you for this lovely description of a wonderful musical moment.

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