Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Neighbourhood Music

Posting the videos yesterday of music being played acoustically out of doors has made me reflect on the music in my own neighbourhood.

It was warm enough yesterday evening to throw open the french doors while making dinner. Stepping outside, I could hear others had done the same. Sounds of plates scraping sinks, utensils stirring, the happy chatter of mealtime. My neighbourhood sounded very much like a content little settlement.

This is not the only music my neighbourhood makes. In the warmer months you can hear music of the traditional sort - live music - being played in open-windowed homes. If you're lucky someone may even drag an instrument or two out to the porch and serenade you while you're working in the garden.

At a distance you can sometimes hear the low bass of drumming from the Sikh temple up the street. Other times, bagpipes float in from the armoury not too far away. One of my fondest memories of last summer was doing the weeding to the melodies of an opera singer who had rented a nearby garret suite. Her roommate seems to be a flamenco guitarist. I love the afternoons he plays his guitar in the sunshine. It's not uncommon to hear cello and piano being practiced by children as you stroll by; their dads drag out their harmonicas and accordions on occasion. There is a wonderful violinist a few doors down... I love walking by when she's practicing.

My next door neighbour has an evening ritual at her piano. Her music room is yellow and is often the only room lit up at night. You can see her through the lace at the tall windows. She plays the softest, sweetest old melodies. It's said that her son was a pianist too but died young. His piano sits in the room beside hers.

Last year the piano tuner who has his workshop across from us left an old piano on the side of the street for a few days. People stopped by in a steady stream to play the little tunes they knew. There were a lot of renditions of 'chopsticks'. I do recall someone playing some rather fantastic ragtime tunes. Eventually the piano rolled down the hill and on to some other fate.

(I always fancied it ended up at the bus stop. Wouldn't playing or listening to a piano at a bus stop make the wait considerably better?)

We try to contribute to this community of sound. One of our neighbours plays double bass in the symphony here. On the nights we get together to play gypsy jazz we open our windows too. Often when we play these jazz standards I get the sense the old houses recognize the tunes of their day. I think it pleases them.



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