I looked at the face of the man across the table from me, a face into which kindness is etched, and my lips and breath formed the beat of my heart; “I love you.”
“I love you too,” he said, smiling at me, “that’s why I’m down here.”
I had mentioned that morning that I would love to go to a particular concert that night. And that is how I came to be in the city and in Fran’s Restaurant, eating a toasted BLT, across the road from Massey Hall, where we had tickets to The Gospel Christmas Project.
Toronto, on the last Saturday evening before Christmas; a city ablaze with neon signs and Christmas trees made out of coloured lights; and all around the lights and billboards, swirling, flashing and flickering; blue, green and red, above the streets packed with shoppers.
Above us the brilliantly lit buildings towered and on every hand shoppers thronged the streets. One store window had an animated display with a model train track running through it and a crowd of adults and children huddled around the window as if entranced!
The weather had turned mild and we rolled down our car windows as we drove slowly along Yonge Street, north from the Gardiner Expressway towards Shuter Street, absorbing the sounds, smells and atmosphere of the city. I was as much in awe of the razzle-dazzle as a child at a Santa Claus parade.
And then I was getting seated, next to a nice man named Pat on my right, who was seated next to Paula and Mavis, none of whom I had met before that night—but we all introduced ourselves, sensing that we were to share in something special and ought to know each other’s names. Paula’s husband was sick and couldn’t use his ticket, and so she had asked Pat, who was just passing by Massey Hall with his bicycle, if he’d like to go to the concert. He was from an “edgy part of town,” he told me; Dundas and Sherbourne. I told him that I thought he was in for a great treat, which proved to be true.
The music took off like a magic carpet ride from the start, and we had to hang on tight! Music by the Faith Chorale and a roster of phenomenal musicians and singers with voices of silk and satin, led by a genius on the piano, Andrew Craig. By the last song before intermission, the whole audience was on its feet and the place was rocking—no staid Canadian audience this. Pat was enthusiastically participating in the experience and I could barely contain myself, while Paul was enjoying it too, in a more reserved way—quite happy not to introduce himself to anyone on his side.
During the second half, Andrew Craig played a jazz arrangement of the 15th century German carol, Lo How a Rose e’er Blooming. I have never heard more magical music flow from anyone’s fingers. It was beyond incredible—and the encore of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus was unlike any rendition I’ve ever heard. What a magical evening.
(For those who would like to enjoy it, the concert will be on CBC T.V. on Christmas Eve, on CBC radio on Christmas Day and televised again on Boxing Day at 6.00 p.m.)
We two returned to our home north of the city, bathed in the stardust of the night and the wonder of Christmas.