Monday, November 5, 2007

Frank Parkinson

It is the early summer of 1959. Ottawa. The crocuses have blossomed.
I have just completed my first year's study of piano with the formidable Sandra Coupal (I am glad to see there is now a prize given in her memor each year). She is a stern, but excellent teacher of classical piano on Daly Street. I am one of her better young first year students, and am elected to play God Save the Queen at the yearly concert. My other piece is Clowns by Kabalevsky. I can still hum the tune.
After months of practice and preparation, the day of the concert arrives. The students are catatonic. Like gymnasts, we stick our hands into powder, to keep the sweat from causing our fingers to slip. I can still remember how nervous I was.
The concerts take place at the cavernous Academic Hall. It seems to me like there were five hundred people in the audience (more like 150 according to my parents). I finish my pieces thankfully, and can lean back and listen to the others. Helen Fields was good. But the best of all was another first year student, who was about sixteen at the time.
His name was Frank Parkinson, and he was awesome. I can't remember the piece he played, but it was daunting for any first year student of any age.
Two years later, another concert at Academic Hall. I can't remember the pieces I played, but I recall Frank's performance like it was yesterday. He played Rhapsody in Blue for two pianos, accompanied by our teacher, Sandra Coupal. It was awesome. Frank blew the audience away. Gershwin was bopping in his grave. It was clear to all of us that Frank was on his way to becoming an international musical
Where did Frank go from there? I have no idea. He disappeared. The very next day he stopped playing the piano. As it turned out, Frank's dream was to play Gershwin's masterpiece. He did, and that was that.
I have no idea what mountains he has climbed since. But I remember his remarkable tale to this very day.

1 comment:

Claude said...

Dr. Rosenberg. What an excellent story!

I also had the opportunity of taking piano lessons from Sandra Coupal from the late 60S to the late 70s. She was both generous and spectacular.

She also taught me some English and I improved her French. We just had a lot of fun discovering the world of music and our respective cultures.

I have no pictures of Sandra. If you do, could you flip some to me at your convenience...