The Toronto Music Garden can be appreciated on many levels - as a garden infused with the spirit of music, dance and artistic genius, as a public place for young and old alike to enjoy and learn, and as a meditative space to sit and quietly ponder nature. It is a symbol of Toronto's participation in the international community, and a place for everyone to enjoy.
Music provided courtesy of Sony Classical Music
A beloved public garden celebrates a milestone: The award-winning Toronto Music Garden turns 10. To commemorate this momentous occasion, author and landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy has released The Toronto Music Garden: Inspired by Bach. The book is an in-depth guide to the creation and completion of the three-acre public garden with a design based on the “First Suite for the Unaccompanied Cello” by J.S. Bach. Readers will enjoy the books’ comprehensive tour of the garden’s six “rooms” – each an interpretation of the traditional dance forms featured in the cello suite’s six movements. Gorgeous color photographs and sketch renderings transport readers to the many paths and gathering places along the musical journey.
To order your copy, visit http://www.torontoparksandtrees.org/
Inspired by the pictorial element in Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello, internationally renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma collaborated with a number of artists to produce Inspired by Bach – a six part film series. The series was produced by Rhombus Media Incorporated and broadcasted in 1997 and 1998.
For the first film in the series, The Music Garden, Mr. Ma worked with landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy to interpret in nature the music of Bach’s first suite. As a result of the film project, Yo-Yo Ma, Julie Messervy and Rhombus Media Incorporated approached the city of Boston, Massachusetts to create an actual garden based on The Music Garden. When the Boston site fell through, Toronto enthusiastically embraced the project.
Julie Messervy designed the waterfront Music Garden in collaboration with landscape architects from the city’s Parks, Forestry and Recreation Department. The garden design interprets in nature Bach’s First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello, with each dance movement within the suite corresponding to a different section in the garden. Two Canadian artists created special features for the Music Garden. Tom Tollefson, architectural blacksmith, fabricated the Music Pavilion, and the late Anne Roberts of Feir Mill Desin Inc., designed the Maypole.
James Douglas Fleck led the private side of a public/private collaboration with the City of Toronto to create and build the Toronto Music Garden. The donors are David and Vivian Campbell, George and Kathy Dembroski, James and Margaret Fleck, David and Catherine Graham, Michael and Sonja Koerner, Wilmot and Judy Matthews, Jim and Sandra Pitblado and Sandra Simpson. The Weston Foundation has also contributed to the project.
The first moment of the suite imparts the feeling of a flowing river through which the visitor can stroll. Granite boulders from the southern edge of the Canadian Shield are placed to represent a stream bed with low-growing plants softening its banks. The whole is overtopped by an alley of native Hackberry trees, whose straight trunks and regular spacing suggest measures of music.
The Allemande is an ancient German dance. Interpreted here as a Birch forest, the movement invites the visitor to swirl inward to various contemplative sitting areas, that move higher and higher up the hillside, culminating in a rocky vantage point that looks over the harbour through a circle of Dawn Redwood trees.
Originally an Italian and French dance form, the Courante is an exuberant movement that is interpreted here as a huge, upward-spiralling swirl through a lush field of grasses and brightly-coloured perennials that attract birds and butterflies. At the top, a Maypole spins in the wind.
This movement is based on an ancient Spanish dance form. Its contemplative quality is interpreted here as an inward-arcing circle that is enclosed by tall needle-leaf evergreen trees. Envisioned as a poet's corner, the garden's centerpiece is a huge stone that acts as a stage for readings, and holds a small pool with water that reflects the sky.
This French dance was contemporary to Bach's time. Its formality and grace are reflected in the symmetry and geometry of this movement's design. Hand-crafted with ornamental steel, a circular pavilion is designed to shelter small musical ensembles or dance groups.
The Gigue, or "jog" is an English dance, whose jaunty, rollicking music is interpreted here as a series of giant grass steps that offer views onto the harbour. The steps form a curved amphitheatre that focus on a stone stage set under a weeping willow tree; a place for informal performances. Shrubs and perennials act as large, enclosing arms, framing views out onto the harbour.
The annual Summer Music in the Garden series produced by Harbourfront Centre in partnership with City of Toronto Parks Forestry and Recreation, with the generous support of Toronto Culture, and Margaret and Jim Fleck. Summer Music in the Garden is curated for Harbourfront Centre by artistic director Tamara Bernstein.
Concerts are Thursdays at 7pm and Sundays at 4pm (weather-permitting) and are approximately one hour in length. Bench seating is available, but limited, so please feel free to bring a lawn chair. We also advise bringing a hat or umbrella and sunscreen as shade is limited. Please call our info desk at 416.973.4000 for the most up-to-date concert rain dates.
The City of Toronto's Children's Garden and Exploring Toronto Programs offer environmentally focussed day camps and school programming at the Toronto Music Garden.
In the summer, the Music Garden Eco Camp offers a fun-filled week exploring the Toronto Music Garden and Spadina Quay Wetlands and gardening at the Waterfront Children's Garden. Campers, ages 6-9, will enjoy hiking and nature exploration, organic gardening, drama, storytelling, nature crafts, healthy exercise, plus loads of fun and games. Additional, off-site nature trips include exploring the Toronto Islands.
In the spring and fall, hands-on, interactive school programs are also provided at the Waterfront Children's Garden, located at Spadina and Queen's Quay beside the Toronto Music Garden. Teachers can book a 2 hour, curriculum based program for grades JK-8.
The Toronto Music Garden is located on the waterfront at 479 Queen's Quay West between Bathurst Street & Spadina Avenue. (Toronto maps)
The Toronto Music Garden is easy to reach by public transit. Take the Spadina 510 streetcar south from the Spadina subway station or the LRT Harbourfront Line going west from Union Station. Call the Toronto Transit Commission at 416-393-4636 for service information.
The Toronto Music Garden is open year-round and there is no admission fee. The Toronto Music Garden is wheelchair-accessible