Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Classical Payback

They filed into the gymnasium of the Forest Hills Elementary School like little angels. In the gathering crowd lurked a few pre-pubescent he-devils. I don't know where my halo went that day...I guess it simply didn't fit over my horns.

I can't remember where the visiting girls choir came from, I just know that this grade four student was not impressed by the concert. Along with a smattering of other miscreants, I summoned the lack of decorum to boo them. Our school principal went ballistic.

After the concert our grade four teacher, Miss Duncan, who was really very nice, was instructed to ask each and every one of us about our involvement in the less than gracious welcome that was given to the visiting girls choir. We sat in a circle around the classroom as Miss Duncan asked us, one by one, if we booed the choir. I felt my face getting redder and redder. When she got to me I did what George Washington might have done, I told her that I chopped the cherry tree. Along with two classmates, I was sent to the Principal's office.

In the Principal's office was a collection of some of the nastiest boys in the school, plus me. When I left the Principal's office my wrist was bleeding. He should have used the leather strap to wallop my palms but the myopic old codger missed and strapped my wrist. I think that he was trying to kill me by targeting a major artery. The prick. I didn't bleed to death and a tourniquet was not necessary, but it was a low ball manoeuvre on the Principal's part.

I'd like to meet him in a dark alley now. I wouldn't beat him up, I'd just tie him to a chair, binding his arms and legs snugly with rope, then place my iPod on his ears. As he squirmed and writhed in pain, I'd turn my iPod up to its maximum volume. Then I'd select something from Wagner's Ring Cycle. I'd start at the beginning, inflicting the full five hours of misery upon him.

Then I'd strap his wrists, salt the wound, soak him in gas and light him on fire.

Kidding...I'm not really that mean. I wouldn't salt his wrists.

In fact, if I met my beloved old principle I'd thank him. Classical music has been a big part of my life since grade four. It's been a bigger part of my wife's life since grade three, when her music teacher, Mrs.Jackson, played an opera recording in class. It was love at first listen.

One of the strongest arguments for the existence of god, and by that I mean a malevolent god, is that this grade four music critic would go on to marry an opera singer. Justice was served not through bloody wrists, but through bloody long operas, of which I've sat through more than my fair share. I make it sound painful but, in fact, it's been a fun ride for me. For my wife, opera has been amazing.

Wendy has had a private coaching with Sir Georg Solti (aka the screaming skull). Sir Georg had won 31 Grammys in his life, more than any other person on the planet, and this list includes Quincy Jones (27) , Michael Jackson (13) and Fred Penner (0, surprisingly). Wendy had private lessons in Switzerland with Dame Elizabeth Schwarzkopf (aka Betty Blackhead). Wendy met Dame Joan Sutherland and worked with her husband Richard Bonynge. She's shared the stage with too many talented people to mention.

Wendy has sung in China, Japan, Hong Kong, Poland, Spain, Czech Republic, Italy, almost France (stranded in Lyons, the concert was cancelled due to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre), Switzerland, Germany, United States, Canada and McDonald's (yes, the golden arches...that's a funny story, worthy of it's own post). She's sung four different roles at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, her debut was conducted by James Levine, and has also appeared at Carnegie Hall. She's sung for Prince Charles, who is quite the opera buff (he's got the ears for opera).

My accomplishments are less impressive. I once appeared unfrocked on a nude beach (for three seconds...long enough to say that I did it!). I was once a big winner with Lotto 6/49. I've played fetch with Bill Clinton's dog (Buddy, may he rest in peace). That's about all.

Oh! I almost forgot...I've slept with an opera singer.

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