“This is my Father’s world,
and to my listening ears,
all Nature sings and round me rings
the music of the spheres.”
Even when I was a child, music was very important in my life. Some of my earliest memories are of my father’s songs – “You Are My Sunshine”, Lili Marlene”, “In’t Groene Daal” – these still bring back memories when I hear them. I always looked for ways to make music of my own. Once, I assembled a collection of empty jam and pickle jars, filled them to different levels with water, and played the notes with a spoon. I made up my own songs, but had no way to write them down. It was only later that I learned music theory and harmony. We had no piano at home, so at first I took singing lessons. Then, when I began high school I began to use my allowance to pay for piano lessons with Sister Margaret. My parents bought me a used piano, an oak Grinnell Bros. upright grand. I also sang in our church choir. We were all very young – our director was only twelve, and so was our organist. I loved the Latin hymns and Gregorian chant. For three summers I was able to attend a Schola Cantorum, St. Michael’s Cathedral Choir School. Here I learned not only the newest church music, but elaborate motets by Palestrina. I learned how to write down and direct Gregorian chant – I even had a few lessons on the pipe organ, where I found that it was very challenging to play notes with my feet!
When I started university I kept up my piano lessons. Finding a place to practice was always a problem, so when I was at the University of Windsor I made a copy of the key to the Music House. My first boyfriend, Bryan, was a good pianist, and he would play Chopin as I turned the pages for him. Of course we were found out, and this got us into a lot of trouble. After I transferred to the University of Toronto I had a very good teacher at the Conservatory, but eventually practicing became too difficult, and I had to give up my lessons.
I also joined the University of Toronto Chorus, under Lloyd Bradshaw. During my second year with this choir we were scheduled to perform Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” with the Toronto Symphony under Seiji Ozawa. We had to audition for this performance, and I was very disappointed when my friend Jane was picked but I was not. Then I realized that the names had not been written down, so I calmly showed up at the next practice, and nothing was said. That performance was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. It seems obvious that I was prepared to become a criminal if music was involved.
In the second part of this post, which is to follow at a later date, I will talk more about the nature of music.