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A Night Out for Nature

By September 24, 2008September 3rd, 2019One Comment

Since it’s coming up on the 10th Anniversary of the opening of the Toronto Music Garden, I’ve been giving more presentations about it these days. Last Saturday night, September 20th, I was joined by my friend and esteemed cellist, Judith Serkin, for a performance at Vermont Academy’s new Horowitz Hall, on behalf of the Nature Museum at Grafton. We had given this same presentation once before at the Brattleboro Art Museum. Together, through language, live music, and images, we dissected the ideas behind my design for the Toronto Music Garden that was originally inspired by J.S. Bach’s First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello.

Cellist Judith Serkin and Julie Moir Messervy

Photos by Virginia Weiler and Laurie Danforth

Here’s what we did: We started with some beautiful images of the Music Garden while Judith played the Prelude section from the Suite. Then I took the audience through the development of my ideas as a designer, including a discussion of archetypes, journeys, and big ideas. I talked briefly about working with Yo-Yo Ma and the City of Toronto, the garden’s location on the Toronto Harbourfront, and the organization of a Suite (with its prelude and five movements, each inspired by a dance).

Play the Prelude of Cello Suite #1 (2:22)

[audio:Yo-Yo_Ma-Bach_ Cello_Suite_1_In_G_BWV_prelude.mp3]

(Played by Yo-Yo Ma, from his Sony Classical disc entitled “The Cello Suites, Yo-Yo Ma, Inspired by Bach,” from Sony Music Entertainment Inc., 1997). 2-disc set available from Sony BMG Music Entertainment Store,

Then we took the audience on a musical tour of the garden. I asked the audience to pretend that they were the designer of this garden and needed to find inspiration in Bach’s music. Judith then played part of each movement and the audience responded with their images. It’s uncanny how similar their reactions were — as though there’s some kind of DNA in the combination of notes that elicits within each of us the same feelings and mental images.

Listen to the Courante movement and notice what images come to mind. Then look at Virginia Weiler’s beautiful image of the Courante section of the garden, taken from above.

Play the Courante Movement of Cello Suite #1 (2:33)


Do you hear the bright colors? The whirring sound of bees and butterflies? Do you imagine the twirling and spiraling form of the paths? Children dancing around the Maypole? These were the images that guided me in designing this movement. How would it look if you designed it?

(Played by Yo-Yo Ma, from his Sony Classical disc entitled “The Cello Suites, Yo-Yo Ma, Inspired by Bach,” from Sony Music Entertainment Inc., 1997). See previous page for ordering info.

Toronto Music Garden - Overhead

Join the discussion One Comment

  • suzanne edney says:

    This is a garden you will never forget once you experience it. I was able to go to the garden twice when the perennial Plant Association had it’s meeting in Toronto years ago. Julie’s spirals and eddies of gardens reinforced by the innovative designs imbedded in the concrete walkways is inspirational. The individual gardens transition so artfully from one to the next. For visitors to this garden it is easy to imagine each of these spaces on their own as well. The placement of this garden wedged between the water and the city is pure magic. Congratulations on theTenth Anniversary of this amazing garden. Thanks Julie and Yo Yo Ma, Suzanne