For the past several years we have been researching Glenn Gould, and we have conducted over seventy five interviews with those who knew and worked with Glenn. One of my favourite stories involved his beloved Chair! As many of you know, this chair was integral to Glenn’s performing, and when questioned as to what he would do if this chair was not present for a performance, he replied that the concert would have been cancelled!
Jamie Musselwhite, a Toronto piano tuner recounted a very dramatic story about Glenn’s famous chair. To my knowledge, very few people know about this event. In 1956, Jamie’s father was the principal tuner for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. They had decided to purchase a Steinway Concert Grand piano from New York, as the resident piano at the time was a Heintzman Grand sorely needed replacing. Mr. Musselwhite ordered the piano from Steinway and it arrived shortly before Gould was scheduled to perform with the Orchestra. On the day of Glenn’s concert, Mr. Musselwhite spent hours tuning and regulating the new Steinway Grand for this important artist’s performance. Glenn arrived and practiced for a while. Satisfied with the sound, he left the auditorium leaving his chair in front of the piano on the stage. Shortly before the performance Mr. Musselwhite decided to just check the piano one more time, and noticed a “ratty old chair” on stage in front of the beautiful new Steinway. He thought that a stagehand had wrongly put it there instead of the proper piano stool that accompanied the new acquisition! He grabbed the chair, took it outside to the back of the building, and threw it over a fence which surrounded the trash area. Just before the performance, Glenn returned to the Auditorium, walked in and noticed that his chair was gone. Jamie recalled his father saying “Glenn threw an absolute fit” that his chair had been removed. Without saying a word, Mr. Musselwhite promptly hurried outside in his suit and tie, climbed over the fence, and retrieved the chair from the trash, returning it promptly to the stage! Glenn then proceeded to give an unforgettable concert with the Calgary Philharmonic.
Glenn Gould’s chair remains one of the most famous musical objects in the history of classical music. But on this afternoon in 1956, it was almost destined to be lost. One can imagine the impact that this loss would have had on Gould, and on the world of classical music!
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