Tag Archives: music

Day 738: The power of music

We’ve probably all experienced the power of music at one time or another … how it can entertain, bewitch, even heal.

This story struck me for two reasons. How volunteering can change the life of the volunteer even more than those they’re helping (it’s done that for me).

And how music connects with a deep part of our soul, and brings us to life.

Just had to share, hope you enjoy it.

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Day 667: Pianos are grand

“Play me a song, you’re the piano … lady.”

You may notice I skipped over Day 666 … sorry, creeped me out, lol.

I meant to post this last week but got sidetracked, so I apologize … I took this photo coming back from a work conference in Minneapolis. Now, I don’t have the kind of job where I get to go to many work conferences… in fact this was my first one. Ever. … and it all happened last minute, so I was a tad stressed out over the whole thing, to say the least.

Add to that, my ineptitude in booking my flights (which resulted in me almost not having a ticket home!) and the basic stress of going through airport security, and I was more than a little tense on my return trip. … In fact, I was fully prepared to kiss the ground when I landed back in Canada.

There was one glowing bright spot to the trip home, however. I came through the airport luggage x-ray contraption where your bags … and shoes … get scanned, and as I scrambled to zip up my suitcase, make sure I still had my passport, and put my sock feet into my boots, I heard the most beautiful music.

I stumbled into the open area and, like an angel greeting you at the Pearly Gates, a lovely lady sat at a grand piano playing a classical concerto. It was so peaceful and calming, I wanted to throw my arms around her.

I refrained however, and scrambled to find some change to leave in whatever tip receptacle  I could find. All I found, however, was a small sign explaining that she wasn’t a grand-piano-toting busker, but a volunteer.

So instead of rushing to my gate, I took a deep breath and waited until she was finished her piece. Then I walked over and thanked her and told her she played beautifully. Which she did.

Amazing what a little music at just the right time can do….

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Day 376: Play me, I’m yours

Luke Jerram's "Play Me, I'm Yours" art project.

Luke Jerram's "Play Me, I'm Yours" art project.

My good deeds today were small ones. I tried to be more thoughtful and considerate in my everyday dealings … even in the morning, when I’m usually a little slow on the uptake.

In fact, I enjoyed my morning coffee so much, I told the young cafe server who made it how good it was. Her kindness in return was to run back to the cabinet and pull out the packet so I could see what kind it was (Green Mountain, in case you were wondering).

Everyday Hero … the sequel
Last week, I named Luke Jerram, the British inventor and artist behind the international art project “Play Me, I’m Yours” as my Everyday Hero.

A reader in Australia (thanks, Eric!) kindly sent me a link to a story about another branch of the project Down Under and I found it so inspiring, I’m continuing Luke Jerram’s reign as E.H.!

You may recall that his project involved placing a number of pianos in public places (in cities in the U.K. and Brazil and Australia) for anyone to play, listen to, decorate or otherwise enjoy.

In reading the article Eric sent along, I came across some great stories of how these pianos have brought joy and magic into the lives of everyday people:

In Birmingham, U.K.

“There is another [piano] at Colmore junior school, where a teacher was persuaded into an impromptu recital dressed in white gown with veil fluttering in the icy wind. She had been on her way to her wedding.”

In Sao Paulo, Brazil
Jerram installed 13 pianos in São Paulo, Brazil….
“At £1,000 each (a year’s wage for some people) many people had never seen a real piano before, let alone been given permission to play one,” Jerram said later. “The project made national news there.”

On Jerram’s website, one commenter wrote that he had heard a piano being played on a Sunday morning at the Lux station … Bach, Tchaikovsky, then:

“The most incredible thing happened, (something I had never seen in my 10 years of musical studies) a beggar — tattered and dirty, and smelly — sat at the piano and incredibly started playing the first notes of the Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven).

Another commenter wrote:

First off I would like to thank you for bringing your project “Play Me, I’m Yours” to my city, São Paulo. You have no idea of the positive impact it has been causing in our community. Everyday I catch the subway at Estacao da Luz, where one of your pianos is located. This is a very busy hectic place, where most of the people are coming from or going to work in a fast pace so typical of a megalopolis.

It amazes me the power of the instrument, the magnetism that it generates among people.…. I believe we have to take art out of its common venues and make it more public, more accessible….

I usually wait for a co-worker right next to the piano, and as she is always late, I have the chance to observe people’s reactions. I’ve seen people walking by and coming back to listen to somebody play, I’ve seen people calling dear ones from their cell phones to share the music with them.

I’ve seen an ice cream vendor crying after listening to a song, I’ve seen a couple dancing, I’ve seen 2 blind guys with the subway employee ( in charge of guiding them) sitting down and taking their time to appreciate the music. I’ve seen children in total ecstasy jumping around while an old man played a famous Vivaldi piece (from a perfume ad here in Brazil)….I can feel the respect they have for the instrument, I’ve seen people caressing it gently, admiring the keys, the shape, all its contours…Thanks again! You brought slices of magic to us all!!!

Please, Mr. Jerram, bring your 88 keys to Canada!

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Day 287: In the key of good deeds

accordion1Gotta minute? Let me tell you a little story.

Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved the piano. Whenever she came across one at a friend or relative’s house, she’d sit at the keyboard for hours picking out her favourite songs, note by note.

More than anything, she wanted to learn how to play and begged her parents for piano lessons. “Sorry, dear, your hands are much too small,” they told her. “But we have an even better surprise for you, instead.”

Expecting a bike … or a pony … imagine the girl’s disappointment when a gruff man came to the door bearing her surprise — a shiny new … accordion.

Um, yes, that little girl was me. And I tell you this story because when I came upon a smiling rotund busker at the subway today, happily playing the accordion, I felt a little guilty.

For all those years ago, when I had the chance to learn how to play this strange squeezebox, I burst into tears instead and ran away from it screaming, “I hate it! It’s not a pianooooooo!”

So I approached this man — Leonid was his name — and listened to him play for a while (I think it was the theme from Dr. Zhivago). He was a burly fellow with red rosy cheeks, wearing wool pants with red suspenders and a flat wool cap.

When I put my money in his case, I noticed there was a stack of homemade CDs on the floor so I bent down to take a look.

He stopped playing immediately. “They are very good!” he exclaimed in an Eastern European accent. “Only $10!”

I didn’t have $10 on me, but I chatted with him for a minute, learned his name, and thanked him for the music. He continued playing and I was struck by how happy he looked, smiling from ear to ear.

Maybe I should’ve gone for the squeezebox after all….

P.S. This isn’t my busker, but he rocks! Enjoy!
“I Capuleti e I Montecchi”
(Bellini) performed by Count Guido Deiro (1886 – 1950) who introduced the accordion to North America back in the day.


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Day 129: Board member

One of my jobs as a freelancer is proofreading. Most of the time, the documents, articles and other materials are very factual so it’s easy to dot the i’s and cross the t’s without getting emotionally involved in each story.

Today, however, was different. I proofread a magazine that included an “In Memoriam” page. One of the items read, in part, “After a painful illness, John died in his sleep at the age of 49, at home in his apartment with his cats.”

I never met this man but I wept for him when I read this. There were no spelling mistakes in the item, no grammatical errors, nothing for me to do to the copy. But what I could do was say a prayer for John — that he rest in peace free from pain.

I’ve been trying to include stories about everyday heroes on Sundays. For the bravery to enter and leave this life alone, I think John counts as one.

Another everyday hero I’d like to mention is Rob Dyer, founder of Skate4Cancer. Rob, 21, is skateboarding across Canada — from Vancouver, B.C., to Halifax, N.S. — to raise awareness for cancer prevention. He started his marathon in the spring and is now only a few days away from reaching Halifax on Oct. 31. Congratulations, Rob!

Check out Rob’s blog at http://blog.skate4cancer.com to find out more about cancer prevention.

P.S. A little music to warm your heart on a cold day. This video is part of the Bill Moyers PBS interview with Playing for Change founder Mark Johnson, who believes in “the simple but transformative power of music.” Enjoy!

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Day 39: Salad days

Isn’t it great the way music can turn a grey day into a sunny one? This literally happened on Saturday at my friend’s fundraising concert (see Day 38: Sing sing).

The clouds threatened rain, but after a few of us got up to sing and play guitar, the sky was as blue as the ocean.

A highlight for me that day was hearing some new songs written by my friend, Dave, whose beautiful baritone voice resonates like a cello. This guy is so talented, but he’s content to just play for friends and at the occasional coffeehouse. That makes it even more special when I get a chance to sing with him and hear his new songs. Another highlight was listening to a local farmer, Sean, sing some country gospel tunes. This guy is built like a fireplug but has the voice of an angel.

Sean takes the stage.

Sean takes the stage.

Oh yeah, my good deed. Well, I bought some raffle tickets to support the teen rehab centre and, to my absolute surprise, I won.

The prize was a beautiful handcrafted pine, cedar and oak salad bowl. As much as I loved it, I decided to give it to my friend’s mom before we left last night. She makes us feel very much at home each time we come up and it just felt like the right thing to do.

This good deed thing must be having some effect on me because if I’d won the bowl during last year’s event, wild dogs couldn’t have ripped it out of my hands.

Now, if it had come with matching tongs, that might have been another story….


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