Angela Hewitt and the Chamber(Music) of (Bach’s)Secrets

Job Description: Musician.  What does that even mean? 95% of the world has no clue, and who could blame them?  Where do we even come from?  It’s like one minute we’re plinking out “Twinkle, Twinkle,” the next minute we’re battering against the glass ceiling of the music biz.  How do we just suddenly **POOF** appear on a stage somewhere, dripping in either black or glitter (or both – my go to combo), sewing filigree seams of magical beauty into the very fabric of existence?

To be a musician in society is akin to being a wizard.  We are shape-shifters of sound. People pay to witness us moving, twitching, breathing, and articulating as we pull vibrations, frequencies and emotions from nothing but sinew, fiber, flesh and bone.  Physics aside, there’s something mystical about the sounds we musicians are able to produce.  Just like wizards, not all musicians are as skilled as others.  As in the Wizarding World, there is a spectrum of agility, grace and power in the music community.  We all can’t be Dumbledore, but that doesn’t mean we can’t strive for his heights of prowess, passion and humility.  After all, where would the Headmaster be without a Hogwarts full of wizards striving for something bigger than parlor magic tricks? Like an avid reader spellbound by Harry Potter’s odyssey to conquer He Who Must Not Be Named, concert goers are enticed by a musician’s somewhat inhuman ability to create virtuosic strains of sound from seemingly nothing but thin air.

I like to think of myself as a musician.  I focused my post secondary education in Music: Voice Performance.  I can decently shape-shift the odd sound.  I’m no Harry Potter, but I’m in the midst of the fray (think Luna Lovegood; Neville Longbottom or Bill Weasley – not protagonist material, but a good supporting character).  I don’t go up against Ol’ Voldi Himself, but I can sing a mean Vivaldi aria despite my short comings in sound shifting…I mean…singing.  I make my livelihood by multiple means (that’s a whole other blog post – insert circus juggling music), all of which involve music in some capacity.  By trade, I am a musician.  If I was a wizard my super powers would be “Primary: Singer; Secondary: Piano.”

However, singing wasn’t my first love.  Nuh-uh.  Nadah. No way.  It was piano.  Ever since I was a three year old, barely able to spread my little sausage fingers over the keyboard, I wanted to play the piano.  I remember my sister’s introductory piano lesson with Mrs. Apland (I’m going to be 30 soon and I still have trouble calling her by her first name).  I crept around the corner of the living room to see my soon to be piano teacher, weaving spells of “Hand Position” and “Note Names” from the keyboard, as my sister sat there in excited anticipation.  What was this sorcery?

Unfortunately I was a little too mini to start piano just then, but the second Mrs. Apland thought I was ready I leapt into the deep end.  Show me the good stuff!  Teach me this music magic, I thought as I conquered chart topping hits such as, “Mouse in the Coal Bin” and “Sixteenth Century March.”  Along the way, Mrs. Apland shared recordings with my sister and I of Canadian pianists such as  Glenn Gould, Angela Hewitt, and Oscar Peterson.  These were the true wizards.  The rest is relatively standard history, culminating in an A.R.C.T. in Piano Performance before scooting off the Hogwarts…I mean, Western University.  (Honest Freudian slip – check out the Western University Tower; it looks quite like the magical castle that seems to have forgotten my acceptance letter.)  Fast forward through several degrees and a budding teaching studio and we have come to a screeching halt in present day.  I hope you enjoyed the Hogwarts Express.

Image result for University of Western Ontario hill wide angle picture

Just this past Thursday I had an opportunity to witness Ottawa piano superstar Angela Hewitt in concert at the National Arts Centre.  The evening was the third installment of a four year project entitled Bach Odyssey.  Hewitt is planning on tackling all of the known keyboard works of Bach in a 12 recital series between now and 2020.  All. Of. His. Keyboard. Works.  **Dramatic pause to allow readers to pick their jaws up from off the cold, hard floor.

I feel I’m slowly earning my stripes as a shape-shifting sound-weaver.   I can play through the odd prelude and fugue.  At the ripe old age of twenty-six I can say I’ve devoted a fair sampling of blood, sweat and tears to the art of making music.  But Angela Hewitt is another level.  That’s some Dumbledore echelon sound-weaving right there.  Sure, some of you readers may have more Gandalfian tastes, but nobody can argue with Hewitt’s agility and precision.  It is exhilarating to behold.  Just even considering the kind of brainpower involved in performing three complete Bach partitas and one sonata in a single sitting is a harrowing notion at best.

At the end of the day, what I’m saying here is that it’s healthy to be floored by the Angela Hewitts of the music community.  Whether you dabble in party magic tricks or wish to conquer the universe with your immense sorcery, there’s something in this experience for everyone.  The simple awareness and digestion of high level music creates a twofold benefit:  It reminds you of where you stand in the music cosmos, and it inspires you to strive beyond your current level of musical wizardry.  I wish I could have brought every person I know and filled that hall.  I would have stated emphatically, “See this?  This, right here?  This is magic.”

We don’t need to look to Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings for magic in this world. Magic is within us.  It’s in our bodies.  It’s at our finger tips.  Thank you, Angela for reminding me never to forget this.

“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!” — Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 

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