Several months ago I brought my mom, who was visiting from British Columbia, to the Toronto Music Garden. An oft-overlooked gem along Toronto’s waterfront, the three-acre public garden is a horticultural interpretation of Bach’s First Suite for the Unaccompanied Cello, by renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma and landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy.
Humming Bach movements as she admired the landscape, my classically trained mother drifted off into another world. She probably wished I could come along, but despite her attempts at inculcating her three daughters with classical music through piano lessons, we all ended up as Royal Conservatory dropouts.
Today I’m back at the gardens. Originally intended for Boston, Toronto scored the garden a little more than 10 years ago — replacing what had been a derelict piece of lakefront property. Even though this place accentuates the divide between my mother and I, coming here seems to bring me closer to her.
This time, I’ve got a guide. Standing at the Prelude, Irena Hrzina, a volunteer with short brown hair and a warm smile, is armed with a portable CD player. We’re an unusual gathering, as are many guided tours: A retired couple, three teens from Forest Hill, and elderly lady in a pink flowery outfit accompanied by her sister, her daughter-in-law, granddaughter and 15-month-old great-granddaughter. And a Metro columnist taking notes.
The 15-month-old girl is enjoying the tour. Her chubby cheeks peering out from beneath a white bucket hat, she climbs the boulders lining the flowing path in the Prelude, grabs onto a bright yellow black-eyed Susan in the Allemande, plays in the water fountain in the hidden Sarabande — the contemplative core of the garden — and rushes up the circling hill of the Courante, as her mom, grandmother, and great-grandmother try to keep up. Whenever Hrzina plays Bach, the girl stops whatever she’s doing and stares at her.
At the end of the tour, after we’ve passed through the symmetrical pavilion of the Minuet and hobbled down the giant grass steps of the Gigue, the elderly lady in pink shakes Hrzina’s hand profusely.
“You were my birthday present,” she says. With tears in her eyes she explains how she’s wanted to see the gardens for years. And today, her daughter-in-law brought her here from Oakville.
“There’s four generations of women here,” she says. And looking at the youngest, she adds, “She’ll be indoctrinated with good music.”
May the girl’s mother have better luck than mine.