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?