For those of you who are a bit familiar with Glenn Gould’s personality, you will probably have heard that he loved playing games.
A very interesting and noteworthy version of this type of game occurred in the 1960’s in Stratford, Ontario which is located under two hours west of Toronto. Stratford was a largely industrial town surrounded by beautiful farmland. It had no history as a cultural centre, when in 1951 a local businessman, Tom Patterson, had the idea of creating an annual drama festival focussing on the plyas of William Shakespeare, but also with the intent of promoting interest in the study of arts, literature, music, and theatre. In July of 1953 The Stratford Festival was officially launched.
Glenn Gould was involved with the music program at the Stratford Festival from 1953 until 1964. During this time in Stratford, another young, very gifted musician was appearing on stage there. This was the American cellist Lynn Harrell. Mr. Harrell, at the age of just twenty, was made the principal cellist with the Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of legendary conductor, George Szell.
One very hot August day, these two musical titans decided to play a game on Ontario Street, which is the main street in Stratford. Glenn was dressed in his usual attire of overcoat etc. even though the temperature was in the mid 90’s. He was situated on the sidewalk, while Mr. Harrell climbed part way up a telephone pole in order to have a better view. A third participant was employed to accurately record all of the car license-plate numbers as the cars passed by. The winner of this game would be the one to recall from memory the most license-plate numbers correctly in a period of ten minutes! As the cars whizzed by, they both made mental notes and then at the end of the ten minutes rhymed off to the impartial ‘judge’ on the sidelines. This very impressive memeory game was an incredible display of skill by both artists. Glenn just narrowly beat out Mr. Harrell to win the contest.
This unknown story about Glenn was told to us by Mr. David Zafer, a renowned Toronto violinist who was with Gould in Stratford performing in the music program at this time. Glenn was famous for his incredible memory and his love of games. This serious musician was also known for his immense capacity to have fun!
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