Friday, April 16, 2010
Landmarks and Geography-Three
I never stopped attending to these early introductory experiences of the mysterious prairie sights and smells. Years later, faced with school assignments in science, I chose to do my grade five work project on collecting plants, drying them and drawing them. By then I was discovering a greatly expanded world of prairie smells and plants. About the same time, our teacher taught the class the song, “Some think the world is made for fun and frolic.” When we had become comfortable with this jolly song, we had a surprise visit from the School Superintendent. He listened to the group performance, and then conducted a solo competition. Now that was a surprise: we were adjudicated after all had been heard. In spite of the embarrassment of singing alone in front of the class, the teacher, and Mr. Earl, I somehow had hoped to win (which I concluded in after thought when I remembered the disappointment I felt when I got second). Aubrey Earl was very kind, and I was surprised at the pleasure I found in discovering that Robert Jensen sounded so excellent and was even a little ashamed to have felt disappointed at being beaten by him. Gary Anderson, if he hadn’t been so timid might have beaten me also, but I already knew that he was musical, being a son of Brother Irvine Anderson, the Ward Chorister. At any rate, I discovered the joy of sound as music, and soon began adding to my joy in whistling, by learning to play the harmonica, and then the piano, and even appeared home with a violin I had talked the second hand store man into letting me take home to try out. He must have trusted me because I don’t even remember giving him a deposit: I had no money and I was from Barnwell and his business was five miles away in Taber. Now there is a strange mystery! Mother didn’t treat it like the stereoscope, but I did take it back when I discovered how difficult it was to play, and I had no one to tell me who could give me help—I’d have been too embarrassed to ask. I think I must have figured that playing the violin should be as natural as whistling, and if I couldn’t do it without help, I was stupid (i.e., not blessed with that talent). I took it back and never talked about my limitations: I did discover that a teacher of the piano came to teach students at Mary Lebaron’s home once a week. Mother had given Sharon the chance to take lessons and to practice on a neighbor’s piano, so I could now see the way open to learn how to play. I talked Mother into letting me take lessons when Sharon got discouraged and wanted to quit. Mom was using the family allowance to pay the cost, so she let me try. I soon got adjusted to the embarrassment of playing while strangers had to be quiet, eventually had several pianos available to me including the school piano. The school janitor became a friend and supporter who gave me free access to that building at any time. I spent many hours learning to play difficult pieces, but short changed my self on the technical exercises because I didn’t like their melodies. A very poor decision as far as a musical career was concerned, which I began to desire in a dreamy but impractical way and even tried to compose music. By the end of High School my studies had introduced me to the world of Mount Royal Music and Speech Diplomas and to the parallel Toronto Royal Academy of Music Diplomas, and even to the London Royal Academy, all of which I entered and was examined up to the Grade eleven level where I failed because of inadequate technical skill. Shortly thereafter I abandoned my dreams and my ambitions and gave away most of my music books and dealt with the grim reality of life.