Saturday, 9 February 2013

Love of Music

Yesterday I very much felt love of place for I took Benedict Ambrose around my favourite part of my hometown, the St. George campus of the University of Toronto, in the beautiful blizzard. The University of Toronto, which is distinguished by much Victorian and Edwardian Neo-Gothic and Neo-Tudor flourishes, looks at its very best in the snow.

We had planned to see the permanent collection the Art Gallery of Ontario but, innocent Edinburghers, we weren't counting on the $19.50 (each) tickets and had already spent too much on lunch. Feeling mad at myself, I led B.A. to streetcar and subway and Royal Ontario Museum, but instead of turning right to the Museum (which, whisper it, I find a little boring), I turned left and took B.A. to the Faculty of Music.

The new Faculty of Music building (not so new anymore) has a big atrium with benches upon which music students lurk. A big one in a woolly hat twinkled at me before he was distracted by a fellow student behind him.

"Mikhail! Mikhail! I need you to help me with my Russian. I'm doing a paper on Shostakovich."

A cello growled noisily from down one of the halls, but the most beautiful thing was the view out the window of a rare example of Toronto Regency and, across a snowy expanse, neo-Gothic Trinity College. We soon went out into the snow towards it. B.A., who knows everything about church architecture, explained to me its chapel.

After touring Trinity College--its Germanic chapel, its neo-Tudor refectory--we crossed snow-choked Huron Street to Crux Books, the world's best theological book store, and then popped into Tudor-Gothic Hart House. As I led B.A. to its Great Hall, we were stopped outside the windowed doors of one of the long chambers by the sound of Chopin's "Polonaise in A-flat major."

We peeked in and saw a blond, bespectacled young man seated at a grand piano by the neo-Tudor windows. He had long white fingers and he was not doing such a bad job of it, although he was taking some corners dangerously quick. I thought of my brother in Montreal playing Chopin until his hands hurt so much he shoved them under the kitchen faucet.

I am fortunate that I grew up in house where classical music was valued, but unfortunate in that as a student of the piano, I was very much a plodder--a reluctant one, at that. When it came to music, I had no work ethic, and it certainly never crossed my mind that music could be play. That my brother played the piano for hours and hours a day because he wanted to was a magical and enviable quirk of his personality. But happily some of his love of music rubbed off on me. One of the best aspects of my childhood was waking up on a Saturday morning to the smell of coffee and waffles and the sound of my little brother playing Mozart et alia on the piano.

Hearing my brother play the piano is still one of my favourite things in the world.  (I write this in part in the hope that after he picks up B.A. and me from the train station, he will consent to play me more Chopin, but it is no less true). I also love to hear my husband and his friends sing the Kyrie from Byrd's Three-Part Mass in our echoing stairwell. I love Bach (B.A. approves) and Mozart (B.A. does not approve), and after European travel, my favourite indulgence is the opera.

I know this is easy for me to say, but if I were a young widow (sorry, B.A., that I am always slaughtering you to make a Single Life point), and I had to choose between human romance and ever hearing classical piano music again, I think I would have to pick the piano.

What music moves you most?


NS said...

Gosh I always love a puff piece. KISS. Nocturne in e minor OK with you? Bach for BA at Mass on Sunday. See you Dorval at 4:30pm depending on snow.


Lena said...

What a romantic day: the love and company of your hubby, snow, and experiencing the arts in several forms.

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

I love lots of music (my mom's known in our area as a Christian musician and she was classically trained on violin) but what really gets me the most is just plain-sung folk music. I generally find that I can just tap into it really deeply really quickly - or maybe it taps into me, bringing me into resonance with the constant rhythms life that have beat their tune throughout the entire human experience.

I enjoy pretty much all the folk/ethnic music I hear, but I did grow up listening to the Irish Hit Parade*, and so I do have a special preference for Celtic and Celtic-descendant folk music, whether it's from the British Isles or Atlantic Canada or my own New England. Although I'm pretty clearly suburban, there's something about those seafaring songs, and pioneer songs. I might be the only 20-something I know who will flip the radio off on a long drive to sing and drum on the dash and wheel to sea chanteys. :-) I just love them so much.

*Not all Irish Hit Parade songs are good, so approach with caution... my parents had categories for the iffy ones, like Plastic Madonna (nostalgically religious imagery without religious substance), Green Beer (celebrating a vague and stereotypical "being Irish"), and Export Only (extremely sappy and nostalgic). But growing up with the Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem, the WolfeTones, Paddy Reilly, Dubliners, Mary Black, etc. - well, it may make me out of touch with my peers musically, but gosh how I love them too much to give them up.

Seraphic said...

Well, I'm trying to get across that romance is not dependent on husbands, boyfriends, love interests... Thanks anyway!

One of the most romantic days of my whole life was a trip by car up and down the Rhine Valley with a seminarian pal (in whom I had no romantic interest, and who had no romantic interest in me). It was such a beautiful day, and not only did I visit a beautiful Benedictine convent (and heard the nuns sing Vespers) and saw the reliquary of St. Hildegard of Bingen, I found the skull of St. Valetine in an ancient tiny church.

Nzie, we love what we love! As you can imagine, there's LOTS of Celtic music in Scotland. On New Year's Eve, we switch from BBC Scotland (lots of Scottish English-language rock) to BBC Alba (Gaelic folk songs and music)!

Kate P said...

I come from a musically-inclined family and cannot go a day without music (which is why it is turned off on Good Friday).

In terms of classical music, I have always loved Vivaldi and Puccini ("La Boheme" in "Moonstruck" was a pretty good idea), and I'll never forget my aunt's choral group's performance of a number of pieces, including Mozart's "Requiem."

Outside of that, I have a weird combination of Sinatra, the Killers, and alternative music from the '90s in my CD carousel right now.

If I may also beg Auntie Seraphic's indulgence because I mention weddings, as a cantor for many weddings, I have sung the "Ave Maria," not to mention the Irish blessing (it's an ethnically Irish parish) at just about every ceremony or Mass. And I don't think it's out of obligation, either.

Jessica said...

Hi! I recently discovered your blog and have found much wisdom and encouragement in my perusals. :)

As a pianist, my most favorite composer to "play" is Chopin! One of my life goals is to work my way through ALL of his Nocturnes.

My favorite music to listen to is Renaissance Polyphany - Byrd, Lasso, Palestrina, Victoria. If I could have a full-time job it would be singing this music professionally.

Contemporarily speaking, gotta love Counting Crows and Jimmy Eat World.

Seraphic said...

Jessica, I don't know who Counting Crows and Jimmy Eat World are, but as for the rest I approve heartily!

Christine P. said...

Oh, ouch, is that ever a post to induce homesickness. I don't think I'd live in Toronto again, but....

Nzie (theRosyGardener) said...

Kate P., my mom's sung many weddings over the years, and in the greater Boston area music director's circle there's a story that went around about a bride who wanted the Ave Maria while her mother was walking in, and then noted, "But my mother's name isn't Maria." :-)

I want BBC Alba. I've recently discovered Julie Fowlis - I want to get some of her CDs or listen on Spotify.

Anonymous said...

I love harmony, and dissonance which resolves itself. Within Temptation and Nightwish are some of my favorites, along with The Wailin' Jennies. For classical music, I have always had a soft spot for Bach, but I don't play favorites and love a bit of everything.


Jenna St. Hilaire said...

The piano and I have been desperate, passionate on-again-off-again lovers for twenty-four years now. Unfortunately, between too few lessons and too much off-again, I am an awkward little bungler of a pianist. But my beloved Korg Triton and I had a lovely romantic evening last night over discovering a little Chopin prelude together.

Also, I love Gregorian chant, polyphony (I have been known to claim, dramatically, that Palestrina's O Bone Jesu is the single most beautiful piece of art in existence), Beethoven, Mozart, Brahms, Chopin of course, opera, alt rock, wizard rock, techno, and Celtic Woman. Yes, it's an odd mix, but aren't we all. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, yes, Renaissance polyphony is quite ethereal and very difficult and complex.

I adore Bach and almost all opera.

I have recently taken a shine to all things Handel. This man knew grandeur, being a hearty, hale personality himself.


Anonymous said...

Baroque music for me.

Heaven will sound like Monteverdi's Vespro della beata Vergine Maria, I expect.

The order in Baroque music is peculiarly settling to the soul. It takes into consideration sadness and evil, and brings it to a happy resolution.

Rosemary said...

I've loved Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Piano Concerto No. 2 ever since my grandparents introduced them to me as a teenager. On a more personal level I love to play Clair de Lune: partly because it's beautiful, but also because it reminds me of my grandma, who asked me to play it at her memorial service.

When it comes down to it though, I just love music, which is why I'm perfectly content to do long drives alone, because I can blast whatever music I want and nobody objects!

Alisha said...

Musical theatre tied with gospel. I love swing and jazz, but gospel cuts through me.

Rosalind Phillips said...

Oh! I'm late on this one - being very sick and effectively for a few days. If anyone's still reading this, I don't think it's possible to be unhappy after listening to Schubert's Trout Quintet. I often joke about Schubert as my teenage crush because his music makes me melt.

The other happy music in my experience is anything by Handel, especially the Concerti Grossi, Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #3 and Regina Spektor's 'The Call' from the Narnia movie.