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riches at the AGO

My readers, a pledge to you today: I have been a grandmother for a year now. I’m thrilled to be a grandparent, as you no doubt have gathered. But the time has come to stop inundating you with pictures of my daughter’s son. So from now on, I’ll try to limit myself to a few pix every once in a while, and focus on other things. Cabbages and kings.

Okay, and that little boy, sometimes. I can’t resist. But not too much. My ex-husband has just arrived in T.O., to spend the weekend chez moi, to attend Eli’s birthday party tomorrow afternoon, a dinner out tonight, a family dinner here on Sunday. Perhaps a tiny photo or two.

Or not.

It has been a very busy week, no time to sit, let alone blog. Lynn arrived on Tuesday in time to join us as Eli smeared birthday cake hither and yon, then to stay till this morning before heading back to France after her months in Austin, Texas. My old friend and I walked the city, shopping and sightseeing; after her more than four decades in France, Mme. Blin is an extremely careful and thrifty shopper, fingering much, buying little.

There were two highlights of her visit – the Art Gallery yesterday, and dinner last night. Ken, a dear friend of us both, is an AGO member and often invites me to be his guest for one of their special shows. Yesterday, he took Lynn and me to the stunning arts of the early Renaissance exhibit. But first, we went to the Henry Miller atrium, where an art installation by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller is playing.

In fact, I’d seen it before, at Harbourfront years ago, and loved it – the 40 speakers set around a large circle, each channelling a different voice of the choir singing a forty part motet by Thomas Tallis. It was beautiful at Harbourfront. But in the echoing space of the Henry Moore atrium, surrounded by those earthy sculptures, it’s overwhelming. To me, it’s about humanity – how we are alone and yet part of a vast community, creating together, each voice part of a magnificent whole. It’s a sacred work of art. Of course, I wept.

Here’s what the gallery website says:

The installation is strikingly spare: 40 identical black speakers, perched on stands in a circle. What comes out of them, though, is near-transcendental. The composition, Spem in Alium, by 16th-century composer Thomas Tallis, is one of the most complex choral arrangements in the history of music, written for eight five-voice choirs to perform simultaneously. Cardiff and husband George Bures Miller recorded each of the 40 parts individually and sent each one through an individual speaker.
The effect is one of alarmingly disembodied intimacy. Stand in the middle and the full glory of Tallis’s piece washes over you like a wave. Come up close and you commune with each individual voice: some clearing throats or muttering under their breath, waiting for their part; others in full-throated song.
It’s one of the most popular works of art of the past decade or so, globetrotting with such regularity that its owners can hardly keep it in house (the National Gallery of Canada’s copy was on the road for nearly 10 years straight). This means its time here is, as ever, short. Don’t miss it.

Repeat: Don’t miss it. And the rest of their installation work, on the fourth floor of the gallery – original, thought-provoking, fascinating. You can get stuck in a storm and explore some very strange minds. I was proud to show my friend from France the riches of our provincial art gallery.

Then friends came for dinner, old friends from our youthful days. Lynn and I, as I’ve often noted, met in 1967 when I was 17 and she 18; the other friends last night, Suzette, Jessica, Anne-Marie and Ken, were from the same era or only a few years later. Another kind of riches, the joy of old friends, old friendships, an understanding that goes back so far, to our young selves who were much the same as we are now, and yet so different. So very green.

I’d hoped we’d sit in the garden for our aperitif, but it was 5 degrees outside. We’re back in early spring here, with a bitter, freezing wind. But it’s not cold enough to kill the plants, that’s all that matters. We humans will get through, but if something happened to my tomatoes, I’d be sad.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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