The (very slow) Arrival of the Queen of Sheba

Oh, happy memories of my piano-playing days when I heard Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, piano duet version, chosen by TV writer Sally Wainwright, on Desert Island Discs today.

N.B. This is not ME playing Arrival of the Queen of Sheba with my little friend. Read on, then you’ll be IN NO DOUBT.

At the sound of the opening notes, I was plunged unhesitatingly back to Northampton High School for Girls…


There’s Derngate…

44 Derngate

…and the main school building.

In a instant, there she was before me, my long-suffering piano teacher, a sweet woman called Elizabeth Bush. Well, she used to be sweet. I expect it wore off after a few years of teaching me.

I even saw the music in my mind and, with Google-amazingness, here it is, the very same copy:


Oh my goodness.

When I said ‘happy memories’ of playing Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, that wasn’t strictly accurate. True enough, I loved the piece and, in my imagination, I could sound as good as the couple in the YouTube video above. Better, even.

The trouble is, or was, that I wasn’t that good at playing the piano – and was even LESS good at practising  being not very good at playing the piano.

As some sort of incentive, maybe, Miss Bush suggested we should play the duet together in assembly. Had she a death wish?

I remember the excruciating, grindingly-slow, halting and mistake-ridden performance to this day. Assembly overran by several minutes.

I expect it was Miss Bush’s fault.

Mr. Handel has barely stopped spinning in his grave.



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