A Time for Reflection
9th December 2002
Still feeling 'numb' with disbelief that John is no longer with us, the great sense of loss and void has certainly given way to a time of reflection.
During 1997 and 2000 I was flying with a company operating B727 freighters within Australia. Every third or fourth weekend we were rostered to spend a four day weekend in Hobart, Tasmania. As fate would have it, during one of those weekends in November 1998, I happen to meet John Sidney, who was a well know entertainer in Tasmania.
I was in the foyer of a hotel making a phone call when I heard a piano begin to play right on 12 noon. To this day, I still marvel at our meeting. I was at this hotel briefly making a future reservation. On leaving the hotel, why I took coins from my pocket to phone home on a pay phone when I could have returned to the company accommodation and made a free call, I don't know, but it was this delay at the pay phone that was the key to me meeting John.
John played piano at this hotel every Sunday lunch for two and a half hours. Being a lover of piano music, I couldn't wait to get off the phone so I could go and investigate this wonderful sound coming from the dining room. I stayed for lunch and sat through the whole session, after which I moved towards the piano and introduced myself. John was selling 11 home recorded tapes of his beautiful piano music. I left after buying all of his tapes. To me they felt like gold in my hands.
I could hardly wait to pick up my next Hobart trip. Due to the Christmas shut down period and my involvement in the office at work, it was almost three months before my next rostered weekend in Hobart. I was somewhat concerned that John may no longer be playing there. Fortunately for me he was, and it was this second meeting that formed the beginning of what turned into a lasting friendship.
I love John's piano music with a passion. During my second meeting with John I asked him if I could put his piano music onto CD as I wanted to 'preserve' his music forever. He said I could so long as I didn't sell them. Tapes deteriorate with time and I knew once his music was on CD it would be much easier to preserve. At that time I knew absolutely nothing about putting music onto CD but I was about to learn how.
The next time I saw John, I had not only reproduced his piano music onto CD for my own collection, but I delivered a number of CDs to him to sell along with his tapes. He was impressed and very grateful for this gesture on my part. This, I felt, was the least I could do to express my appreciation and gratitude to him for his wonderful music which I was enjoying so much.
Sometime later I was in Hobart on one of my trips when John called by the hotel I was staying at to pick me up to go to one of his gigs. At that time I was doing a lot of work on my computer for the company I was flying with, and when he noticed my computer skills, he asked me straight out if I would put him on the internet. John knew nothing about computers and assumed anyone who knew anything about computers, knew everything about computers. Little did he know, I knew little of the internet then myself. I knew how to send and receive mail and that was about it. I didn't let him know that of course, and just said I would do that for him. At that stage we had four Easy Listening Piano volumes recorded, which John had recorded in the studio for our own personal collection.
I was just over the steep learning curve of mastering music from tape to CD when it all began again with learning the internet. By the end of November 2000, I finally launched www.evergreenmelodies.com for him to market his music. (Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks!!) This site is now dedicated to his fabulous piano music and is managed by myself. I'm now very dedicated to keeping his music alive,(as I promised him I would) by sharing it with as many as possible who treasure his music. I'm not sure what form or how this will take place but I know with my enthusiasm for his music, I will certainly find a way to do so.
John wasn't only a great pianist, but also a great entertainer. He was a very clever magician and ventriloquist, with his famous doll, Charlie. John and Charlie became very famous when John ran and compered the Children's show for many years on Hobart television. John also play piano live on television with fellow musician and organist Peter Richman, on a program called Tea Time Tunes, which later became Teletunes when the time slot was moved away from tea time Sunday evening. Oh how I wished I could have witnessed those years. Often when I experience moments wishing I had met John thirty or more years ago, I also remind myself of how privileged and grateful I am to have ever met him at all, albeit for only a short few years.
During those four short years I knew John I organized tours for him to mainland Australia, where he played and entertained at many of the larger retirement villages and nursing homes. After a show, John was never in a hurry to leave, but would mingle and chat with the people. John was, as you perceive him to be in the photos you see of him on this website, a very warm and kind person. Everywhere we visited, the folks just loved him and responded to him so well. These tours were hard to grow because every place we visited wanted him back each time he returned to the mainland and I was restricted by the number of days off I had from work to manage the tours with him.
Sadly, with his passing last month, words cannot describe the great sense of loss, and how much he will be missed by the many of those who loved and admired him so much. John was a beautiful man, an absolute gentleman. He will always be fondly remembered by his friends and admirers for many years to come.
John and I had so many plans to record so much of his work, and have him perform at shows all over Australia, especially once I retire from flying. I still find it hard to comprehend he is no longer with us anymore and that this will not now happen.
John was working on two Christmas carol CD's when he became ill which sadly never came to fruition. Reflecting back, I still marvel at what we managed to achieve over the past twelve months in spite of the odds being stacked against us. With John's health deteriorating through the latter part of the year, my ISP being very sick on and off during the year, and with me being off work for six months with a compound fracture to my left ankle!
John actually recorded most of his albums this year - both volumes, The Four Hands Of John Sidney Volume 1 ,The Four Hands Of John Sidney Volume 2 and his famous rag Ragtime Rhythms , Dance Music By John Sidney and Sing A Long With John Sidney .
Looking back, I consider this to be quite an achievement under the circumstances.
In closing, Geoff Bland, a fellow musician from Hobart, Tasmania has expresses so beautifully, and in so few words, a tribute to John worthy of your reflection at this time. Thank you Geoff, we could not have expressed ourselves any better than you have done.