Flashback to my first clear memory. I am a toddler held high in a crowd to see a long train arrive in the local station in Kitchener Ontario. It is 1939. On the back of the train are a couple, a lady in a pink dress standing beside a man whose attire is of much less interest. Both are waving and everyone in the crowd is waving back. It’s exciting and it will be covered in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, the local newspaper as the visit of their majesties, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. We were lucky to see them.
Flash ahead to the 1970’s when my 10 year old son appears in the National Arts Centre Ottawa production of Colours in the Dark, a kind of Canadian equivalent to Dylan Thomas’s Under Milkwood, when dramatist, James Reaney, covers the same event in Stratford Ontario – long before its famous drama festival. In the sequence – “When the Queen came to Stratford”, a similar crowd gathered but the train forgot to stop and roared right through. Reaney probably enjoyed finding that event recorded in the Stratford newspaper too.
The year before school I spent a lot of time dancing to 78 rpm recordings that my mother had to change every three minutes or so. Bizet’s L’Arlessiene Suite #1 figured heavily along with other traditional ballet music, though I am sure that the motivation on my mother’s part was appreciation of classical music, rather than dance. She had studied singing in New York City and started to prepare for a career in classical music. It was delayed when her sister had a second baby and she came to their home in Parry Sound to help. In limited free time, she took the lead in the local Gilbert and Sullivan production, The Sorcerer, where my father was singing the baritone lead. So I exist partly because of the influence of a British Victorian Operetta. Both parents continued to sing and my mother was an amazing piano player, who could play jigs and reels by herself without the benefit of guitars, fiddles and mandolins accompanying her. She honed this talent earlier by playing for exercise classes at Queen’s University in Kingston – because of course there were no record players.