Posts Tagged: "Renée Silberman"
“Perhaps this is the true ‘meaning of life’: to have the ability to see the flaws but to forgive them”
New York is a city of song and dance. In the literal sense, certainly, but also in its ambience, in the street life, in the gritty subways, on the Highline, on Fifth Avenue. Yes, Broadway, the avenue and the eponymous theatre district, situated on those short, but teeming blocks that peel off from the main artery and nourish regular denizens of the neighborhood as well as strays in from the hinterlands . . . Broadway is a lifeline, a thought process, an expectation, often fulfilled, of fantasy, insight, the gamut of emotional expressions.
From a fourth century author, Claudian the poet, we have the following on an organist’s performance: “Let there be also one who by his light touch forcing out deep murmurs, and managing the unnumbered tongues of the field of brazen tubes, can with nimble finger cause a mighty sound; and can rouse to song the waters stirred to their depths by the massive lever.”
Even then, in Claudian’s time, when the organ survived its infancy, knowledge of it had not yet spread to Western Europe. However, the instrument enjoyed a long, strong life in the Middle East, where St. Jerome, around 420, reported the existence of an enormous organ in Jerusalem, with twelve bronze pipes, two elephant skins and fifteen smith’s bellows, capable of producing a volume of sound audible to listeners across the valley separating the centre of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a mile away. Pepin, the father of Charlemagne, recognized the merit of organ music as a stimulating call to prayer. In the 14th century, composer Guillaume de Machaut pronounced the organ “king of instruments,” a descriptive title still in use, applied to church, theatre, botanical garden and baseball stadium instruments.
A buoyant spirit, in love with the music of life, blessed with boundless drive and energy. This is Phil Murphy, whose life in music is the stuff of legend to Londoners and others who have followed the “scene” over a stretch of many decades. Phil spent his childhood and youth absorbing musical traditions, giving his heart to jazz, learning, playing, following the tunes of the times, building relations with musicians here and there, all the while fashioning his own professional persona.
And what is that unique persona? We know, from an investigation of Phil’s earliest ventures in music, that he was endowed with a genuine flair – a good ear, a fabulous inspiration in the form of a devoted, musically skilled father, a great ability to read audiences and get them into the groove. Seeing challenge as adventure enabled Phil to develop his chops, to find the action, first at home in Windsor, then in nearby Chatham, Wallaceburg, Sarnia, Tillsonburg, and yes, finally in a major centre, Ottawa. Phil went to the big-times, and musicians there found him not wanting.
There is mystery and wonder in the way any of us defines our ambitions – some hit upon a passion early in life – the confluence of talent and opportunity provides a strong catalyst for forward-moving growth. Others meander along the stream of chance, where an external element of randomness coupled with our own inner vagueness, leaves us drifting toward the hope of perhaps enjoying at least a minor adventure while we still have the will to accomplish something of meaning. Continue Reading
“You know,” said Midge as we walked down the hall, “Phil’s passion is music. Music is his life.” (To an observer, it seems Phil’s other passion is Midge). My three-hour visit with Phil Murphy confirmed his wife’s insight, which she uttered with conviction, for who but Midge has known the melodies and rhythms of his life better than she?
Phil Murphy is a thoughtful man with a positive take on his eighty-seven years of living, playing, teaching, and conducting. He allows, “I am one of the luckier musicians around.” His craft came easily to him, and he loved the joy of performance. He was also a realist, finding satisfaction in teaching, within the Public and Catholic School Boards of London, and also at the University of Western Ontario. Phil was a natural, eager to learn, quick to catch on, hard-working. Music fills every cell of Phil’s being, so it seems.
The streak of musical intelligence that runs through Phil derives from sources within and beyond himself. He was born with attributes essential for a career in music – a fine ear, physical dexterity and coordination, emotional depth, and truly with a song in his heart. But these gifts, these natural resources, enjoyed an added value, in the form of a father, a trained musician, who passed along his knowledge and enthusiasm to his very willing son. In the case of the Murphy family, it is almost impossible to separate the genetic details from environmental influences, as we will see when we mention Phil’s five children and their musical interests.
Phil likes to introduce the story of his own entrance into the magical realm of music by referring to his dad’s quixotic discovery of his own particular talents. That story begins when the senior Phil (later known as “Big Phil,” to differentiate him from his son, our Phil) joined the Royal Merchant Marine Service in England at the tender age of thirteen, in an apprenticeship to be paid for by the parents of boys accepted into the program. The advent of World War I put a crimp in plans, when the ur-Phil, our Phil’s grandfather, could not sustain his butcher shop in the East End of London, as the British government commandeered provisions to satisfy the needs of the military, depriving the family of an income, and the ability to pay for the son’s upkeep. What might have been a disappointment, an ignominious indication of failure, proved to be a stepping-stone for a lad of mettle, a determined, adventurous sort of young man, indeed. That Phil jumped ship on the coast of Australia, found a vessel to carry him back to more familiar territory. On landing in Belfast, Phil immediately joined the Royal Ulster Rifles, with which group he traveled on to India, where he was stationed until 1927. A picaresque tale, reminiscent in a way, of Dickens’ Pickwick Papers, wherein a young man moves with the tides, swims with the currents. Continue Reading
Larger than life, with a huge life drive, Clark Bryan exudes enthusiasm for all things great and small. His office/studio in Aeolian Hall contains artifacts of his own experiences, along with memorabilia from earlier times. Clark is a man “consumed with creativity,” and consumed with creative ideas he has been for the past few decades. Educated in the 20th century, but coming into full ripeness in the present one, Clark projects whirlwind thought processes even while sitting at his desk. It is hard to restrain the effervescent flow of words – a stream of associations percolates in his brain; ah yes, fire codes and retardants must be dealt with in the old hall, but we must also think steadily of the uses the hall is really meant for.
At this stage of the game, Clark’s persona has become interwoven with the very essence of the Hall. The Aeolian enjoys a long history, is a fixture on Dundas Street, situated between the Western Fairgrounds on one side, and the commercial end that heads westward toward Adelaide Street. The building is old, having served for a time as a city hall when East London was an independent entity; a firehall, a courthouse; a public school; a workshop; a hardware store. And this was merely the picture in the 19th century from 1885 onward. In the 20th century, the grand old building accommodated variously the first branch library of the City of London; Goodwill Industries; a few utility suppliers; the London School of Telegraphy; an appliance firm. And so it went until Gordon Jeffery bought the structure in 1968 and transformed the building into a home for concerts, ushering in a period of revival for cultural purpose. As Gordon Jeffery’s name was associated with Aeolian Hall in his time, so is Clark Bryan’s in the here and now. Clark purchased the building in 2004, and quickly sketched out a rough draft of his long range expectations for the Hall. Both of these men, Gordon and Clark, began with well-rehearsed dreams, plenty of energy, and ambition for making and presenting music for London audiences. Continue Reading
Darryl Fabiani projects vigour, energy, and purpose. He radiates joie de vivre. A man whose personality – that of a gentle giant – would be welcome in any circle, as a friend or professional colleague. There appears to be a mix of qualities, the active and the contemplative, combined in a single being, a very complete sort of person.
Why begin with such a glowing statement about a nice guy who runs a business on the west side of London? We should let the facts speak for themselves before affixing descriptive encomia.
Darryl left Niagara Falls for London in 1997, to enrol in Western’s music faculty as a piano and percussion major. That was not enough. He joined the Mustangs as a linebacker. He completed a Bachelor’s degree, and then became a certified piano technician in a newly created program within the Faculty. He moved to Toronto where he enjoyed parallel careers as a piano technician and as a member of the Toronto Argonauts. This is where the evidence of vitality really begins to manifest itself in his adult life.
While working at The Remenyi House of Music, Darryl started to examine the big picture – he bought a truck in order to add moving to his list of piano-related activity, beyond tuning and setting up. In 2002, he made the Toronto-London run a regular part of his work life. By 2005, Darryl found he had enough employment in London to make a full-time move here seem the reasonable thing to do. Darryl had known Steve Grega, tuner-technician par excellence, since 2001 – from his student days; together, the two men decided to join forces in building a business. Steve was a great resource – he brought knowledge, golden hands in the art of restoration and maintenance of pianos, and a tremendous amount of enthusiasm to the endeavour.
Did Darryl have a business plan when he set out on his journey? Perhaps not a thing of the classic type MBA students are expected to develop during the theoretical stage of their program. Fabiani went with his instinct, with his ambition for self-employment, with his love of playing the piano. The details emerged with experience, a blend of creative force coupled with some genuine understanding of the dynamics of the local music scene.
First and foremost, Darryl saw himself as a risk-taker. What he knew about business, he knew from observation, first at Remenyi’s, then in the venture he ran with Steve. With Steve’s encouragement, the two looked into the possibility of becoming the official retailer of Yamaha pianos in Southwestern Ontario. This was a brilliant stroke, obvious in its elegance, amazing that no such arrangement was in place prior to the D & S development of the idea. Steve and Darryl knew the merits of Yamaha instruments from extensive work with them, from the pianos’ popularity among artists, teachers, and students. Yamaha Canada seized the suggestion, so that now D & S represents the company in a territory extending from Windsor to Kitchener, as well as the Niagara region.
Music is here to stay. It is a universal, eternal form of expression that survives both the calculations of Boards of Directors, and the whims of ticket buyers. Musicians are also here for the duration, because their appetite to play is as compelling as music itself, built into their DNA, irrepressible as an erupting geyser.
So, what to make of the troubles of the late, lamented Orchestra London? We regret the fading of a landmark institution in our city, but the melodies linger on, and the artists are determined to pursue their passion to play. Members of the old entity quickly rebounded, forming We Play On, a musician-managed ensemble. As such, these former members of Orchestra London have chosen to face current realities. Continue Reading
Life is a gift. Life is a big word. We love it, we cherish it, take for granted; lay our plans based on the assumption we will have plenty of it. We like to assume we will live forever. Imagine then, the shock and turmoil that can unnerve an individual and the family when a diagnosis of serious illness comes along. But for a sturdy soul, the challenge can be met with intelligence, determination, and hope.
Janet Heerema, organizer and conductor of the Celebration of Life Concert, knows all about beauty, purpose, love, and leadership from her long experience as an organist, choir director, teacher. The attributes she cultivated over a lifetime of music-making, now serve her well in her personal confrontation with ovarian cancer. She looks at her situation head-on, and works with the material in front of her. Beneath the sunny charm, there resides in Janet the will to make things happen. As she has fashioned successful choirs with a combination of skill and inspiration, she now directs her attention to the medical exigencies, while also engaging in symbiotic strengthening relationships with those around her. Continue Reading
The doors to the future swing open every September. We rejoice in facing a fresh start. We also glance back at achievements, and invariably, at a few disappointments. For those of us who avidly follow the classical music scene here in London, there is much to look forward to. We fill in our date books, and discover, in the process, that music is alive, and there will be plenty to draw our attention, although we must lament the parlous condition of the great entity, Orchestra London.
NEWS FLASH! A BIG SPLASH!!!! BREAKING NEWS! BREAKING NEWS!!!!
Feeling compelled to scrounge for tidbits concerning the fate of the Musicians of Orchestra London, I just entered a search on Facebook, and discovered there a recent post by #WePlayOn which tosses out this news:
“What do Beethoven 9, Bramwell Tovey, #WePlayOn musicians, and a 200 voice choir – drawn from Western University, Amabile Choirs of London, London Pro Musica and Karen Schuessler Singers – all have in common? Yes, indeed! It’s our season opening concert at Metropolitan United Church on Saturday October 17th. SAVE THE DATE – interesting graphics and ticketing information to follow….” Continue Reading