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How I met and became a fan of pianist Peter Longworth

How I met and became a fan of pianist Peter Longworth featured image

Photo: Tara McMullen 

It’s still taking me some time to fully comprehend that pianist Peter Longworth is gone. Peter was a major fixture in Toronto’s classical music scene, as a pianist, chamber musician, collaborative pianist, and beloved mentor. I’d heard him in performance here and there, and on the radio. The first time I was in close proximity to his playing was around 2009 when I page-turned for him when he played for a violinist’s audition. I am used to turning for one of my brothers, so sitting next to Peter felt quite different and new, and I was so enjoying his playing that I actually had to distance myself emotionally and just focus on the “facts” – meaning, listen “neutrally” while reading the notes on the page. I would have totally forgotten to turn had I enjoyed myself. (This is not to say I don’t enjoy my brothers’ playing.)

A few years later Peter asked me to style his photo shoot and I was excited to do so – he had such a good sense of humour about the process and agreed to allow me to dictate what he could and could not wear. I asked him to wear the blue sweater seen above, because I knew it would bring out his eyes, and the sweater itself suggested Peter’s friendly and approachable personality.  Peter has an intense gaze, and some other publicity photos you may have seen reflect that; I wanted some that expressed his friendliness so I remember saying something outrageous so he’d crack up, and we got this shot. This past June, when I went to visit him in hospice, I met his parents and explained that I am a huge fan of his playing, and styled his photo shoot. His mother brightened and said, “oh, I love those photos,” which was lovely to hear, and of course, made me reach for the facial tissues.

I was recently at the Royal Conservatory of Music on an errand, and as I walked through the halls, it struck me that never again I’ll see Peter’s brisk, harried walk, his bright greeting “Heyyyyyy – hi Liz!”, hear him crack a hysterical joke, nor see him chatting with students where everyone grabs a coffee on the main level.

A concert is taking place this Sunday, October 7, at 4 pm, “Celebrating the Life of Peter Longworth” at Koerner Hall at 4 PM. “A Little Night Music” host Kathleen Kajioka will be performing in the fifth movement of Brahms Requiem along with soprano Melanie Conly, pianist Richard Herriott, and other friends of Peter. The concert will include excerpts from the Franck Violin Sonata with his widow, violinist Sheila Jaffe and pianist Francine Kay; Brahms Trio with violinist Mark Fewer and cellist Tom Weibe, members of the Duke Trio that Peter was a member of, with pianist Jeanie Chung; Brahms Intermezzo Op. 118 No.2 with pianist Andrew Burashko; comments by Barry Shiffman; Brahms Intermezzo No. 1 with Issac Seo; Cavatino from Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 130 with violinists Sheila Jaffe, Aaron Schwebel, violist Keith Hamm, and cellist Leana Rutt.

Tickets are free but must be reserved.

Toronto’s classical music community suffered a great loss with Peter’s passing, but I think we all feel lucky to have met him and experienced his wonderful music. I’m grateful for that.

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