The Piano in the Park

Peakes-Quay
The walkway leading to the Confederation  Landing gardens and the Hillsborough River with the Park on the left and Peake’s Quay on the right.

It’s strange that you can pass something on a daily basis and not really think much about it.  Case in point the brightly painted upright piano in the open bandstand at Confederation Landing.  Nora and I pass it almost every day – except when it rains – on our walks (more about them later in the week) but it was only this past few days that I have paid it any mind.  Normally all that is heard from it are random series of jarring notes and cords.  Sometimes it bears a passing resemblance to chopsticks but more often it is just a series of random bangings by some five year old to the feigned delight of an exhausted parent.

 

But as we walked by it Sunday morning there was a young lad sitting on the log stool and playing a Chopin waltz.  Any imperfects in the sound drifting over the bricked walk were the result of the badly tuned piano and not the talent of the young player.   A glorious sunny morning,  a cool breeze from the Straits, and Chopin on the piano.  Talk about your idyllic existence – but lest we get all sentimental there was also Nora staining at the leash and barking at another dog.

100 years ago, Canada produced beautiful pianos. Now we send them to the dump.

Later that morning the radio was tuned, as it is every Sunday, to The Sunday Edition on CBC.  Though I have many bones to pick with our national broadcaster’s sloppy web reporting it is still unsurpassed in it’s radio documentaries and interviews – particularly those on weekend radio.  Being as it is summer the August 20th edition was a mixture of new items and some repeats.  New were an interview with Leonard Zeskind on the Rise of White Supremacy in the U.S., astronomer Don Hladiuk on the Magic of Witnessing an Eclipse, and a study of our obsession with Stuff.  Then two repeats from earlier in the year: a  thoughtful essay on dealing with dying, and the sad fate of the upright piano in modern times.

The last reminded me of that colourful upright in the bandstand and how it had been saved from the fate that Willow Yamauchi described in End Notes*.

 

Our Landing piano is an new addition to life on the waterfront and was the brain child of David Sheppard.   In an item on the CBC** he expressed the hope that more “public pianos” will appear around town.

I haven’t discovered the history of this old upright other than what is indicated in the CBC article.  It is identified as a Mendelssohn which means it was made in Canada by one of the leading manufacturers of pianos in the early 1900s.  The company was formed by Henry Durke and David Best by amalgamating a failed piano company and Best’s piano string and hammer factory.  Durke  prided himself on producing a moderately priced piano and advertised it in the Canadian Music Trades Journal as “made in Canada, by Canadian workmen, for use in Canadian homes.”  Between 1900 and it’s acquisition by the Bell Piano and Organ Company of Guelph Mendelssohn produced 25,000 pianos.  Perhaps our bandstand upright was one of that 25,000.

*A right click will take you to the full documentary.

**And another right click will give you some of the background on our “public piano”.

On this day in 1849: The first air raid in history. Austria launches pilotless balloons against the city of Venice.

Spring Ahead

For Cathy, Faye, Darrell, Jeffrey and all my churchy friends to join in joyful chorus.

Though it may seem that we just set our clock back only months ago – to be honest it was less than five months ago – it’s time to spring gaily forward even though spring is still 10 days away.  Because we follow – often foolishly though in this case we are their biggest trading partner so needs must – our American cousins we are making that one hour adjustment tomorrow.  Our European friends are waiting until the last Sunday in March  after the official arrival of Spring while much of the Middle East will have jumped ahead a few days earlier on the Friday.  And let’s not even look at the Southern Hemisphere let alone Saskatchewan which doesn’t observe DST however since it is theoretically in the Mountain Time Zone but observes Central Time is actually on DST all year round.

Now there’s all sorts of discussions going on about the advantages and disadvantages of going on Daylight Savings Time and because, as I’ve often said, I don’t get involved in politics my question is “does it affect when the sun is over the yardarm?” That question is easily answered – it doesn’t because the “sun is always over the yardarm” someplace in the world.  However experience has taught me that there are two things that are seriously affected by the push of that hour  to and fro – animals and church attendance.

dog-dinner-dstWe are often told that dogs (and cats for those of you what has them) have no sense of time but any of our Hounds from Hell have always felt the time change.  And it’s  particularly apparent at feeding time; not so much the spring forward as that means earlier “mangers” which for dachshunds is any time you want to feed them.  But that “fall back” thing does take some adjusting.  The indignity of not being fed at the time god intended but an hour later can led to some interesting conversations (oh come of it you have conversations with your dog or cat so don’t get so bloody high-handed with me!) and interactions.

And church?  Well any priest/minister/teacher can tell you that the Sunday of the time change at least two or three people, if not entire families will show up late/early for mass/service/Sunday school.  I myself remember on particularly dreary morning standing on the back steps of Saint Thomas Huron Street surrounded by swirling autumn leaves like something out of one of those pathetic Dickens’ stories waiting for someone to come along to open the vestry door.  Or arriving on a bright sunny morning in time for the Gloria when I should have been madly swinging a thurible an hour earlier during the Credo.

And here for all my church choir/organist friends is a little something that you might want to add to tomorrow’s service.  It would be a fine hymn for that period of mediation that follows the nap most of us take during the sermon.  And it’s sung to one that lovely old Welsh hymn tune Cwm Rhondda.

Time-Change-Song

On this day in 1927: In New York City, Samuel Roxy Rothafel opens the Roxy Theatre.

Be Prepared

Well it’s that time of year again – time to fall back, as the actress said to the archbishop. Yes this Sunday November 6th we officially return to Standard Time here in North America.  The UK,  Europe, and most of the Middle East did it on October 30, except the West Bank and Gaza insisted on jumping the gun on the 29th;  in the Southern Hemisphere Australia changed to DST on the October 3 but New Zealand beat them by four days springing forward on September 29. Got that?  So on Saturday if it’s 0900 DST here in Charlottetown, in London  it will be 1200.  On Sunday when it’s 0900 AST here on PEI it will be 1200 1100 1230 – damned if I know!  And let’s not even ask about the difference between Sydney, Nova Scotia and Sydney, New South Wales!

In an effort to be of assistance to my faithful follower I offer this little aide-memoire to get you through some of the trauma.

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On this day in 1847: Sir James Young Simpson, a British physician, discovers the anaesthetic properties of chloroform.