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From the Back Rows of the Symphony

Fewer places have I found where I've been able to truly and fully experience the range of human emotion than from the back rows of the symphony. The back rows in particular are where I choose to sit, as it allows me the freedom to weep quietly without disturbing others with the constant sniffling of my nose and wiping tears off my cheeks. You may question why it's such an emotional experience for me, as I occasionally ask myself the same thing, and the answer I've found is often a complex one. It begins, however, with my paternal Grandmother.


Some of my earliest, most notable memories are of my Grandmother setting me up beside her on the piano bench in her old farmhouse while she played everything from the likes of Mozart and Beethoven, to hymns, both old and new, to Louis Armstrong. She even entertained my little girl self by playing cover songs from my favourite Disney movies. As I moved through childhood, I learned to tell the state of my Grandmothers heart through the melodies that came from that old player piano. There were times when I'd hear the loud notes of her anger and frustration, while other times had her grief running out all over those ivory keys while it simultaneously, and silently, ran down her cheeks. It was she that taught me the beauty of music and how it connects us to both ourselves and each other, and to the One who created us.


A few weeks ago, while attending the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra's season finale, I was struck once again with the likeness found between the symphony and our everyday life. You see, there is a unique chaos that takes place during the orchestra's pre-performance warmups. It sounds utterly horrendous when dozens upon dozens of string instruments play different notes to different timings. It's almost anxiety inducing. Yet, always, out of the chaos, beauty emerges. And even upon the rare occasion that there is a major mistake during a performance, there is always an opportunity to pause, apologize, and begin once again. In committing to doing the hard work of self-discipline and growth, beauty and life will most certainly sprout up and flourish.


Grandma Stilling's piano

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