As we age, each one of us grows a list of dates of infamy – those dates upon which fell some event of scope and/or scale that indelibly locate themselves in our memory – the “where were you when” dates. Some of these events may be deeply personal, such as the meeting of our spouse, the birth of a child, the loss of a loved one. Others are pivotal events for our world – the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first moon landing, the attacks of 9/11 2001 and 1/6 twenty years later. There is no rhyme or reason to what makes it and what doesn’t make it onto this list for each one of us – but the list does very gradually lengthen.
One date on my list that might NOT be on yours is August 31st 1997 – I was in a Fergus pub on the closing night of Theatre on the Grand’s summer production of the musical “Eight to the Bar” by Canadians Joey Miller and Stephen Witkin – I had served as Musical Director and onstage pianist for the production. Unusually the “background music” in this noisy place that night was a radio station, and out of the blue a voice came on amid the loud soundscape announcing the death of Lady Diana Spencer in a Paris auto accident. People around me had missed the quick announcement but I swore to them I had heard it, and shortly it was repeated and confirmed.
A date NOT on my list (as it fell prior to my birth) but perhaps on a few of yours’ is February 6th 1952, 70 years ago yesterday. CBC listeners on that day awoke to sombre music accompanying an announcement of the death of King George VI, and the Accession of Princess Elizabeth II to the throne. This unhappy, but important anniversary was commemorated annually with an evening “Accession Service” during the early years of my time as organist to St James’ Cathedral in Toronto – an interesting culturally Anglican ritual that eventually ceased before I ended my twelve years there.
Featured in that service every year was the anthem I share today, “I was glad” by Charles Hubert Hastings Parry – and as a special treat, the performance is from 5th May 2018 by the Georgetown Choral Society under my baton, accompanied by Simon Walker and Michael Barth, video design including coronation footage by Hunter McBride. Many thanks to GCS Archivist Dave Steckley for this clip, and in general for curating our growing collection of audio and video recordings.
In 2022 Queen Elizabeth celebrates the uncanny platinum jubilee, the 70th year of her reign in a time of some turmoil for the Royal Family, but she occupies an important place in the hearts of several nations and their people. Her jubilee address confirmed her hope that Camilla Parker-Bowles, Duchess of Cornwall will become Queen Consort when Charles follows his mother onto the British throne – a path that was sadly not to be for Lady Spencer.
We have all been invited to an online Members’ gathering this Monday evening February 7th at 7:30pm to discuss the Board’s wish for us to return to bimonthly in-person rehearsals a month from now. It seems unlikely by that point we will be able to contemplate preparing a full-scale concert this spring, but we are pondering other options, and are looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
‘See’ you next week – take care of yourselves and those around you. Brighter days lie ahead.