Fronting on Toronto's inner harbour, the Toronto Music Garden is one of the city's most enchanted locations. The park design is inspired by Bach's First Suite for Unaccompanied Cello, with each dance movement within the suite corresponding to a different section of the garden.
Gardens & Plant List - Bach's Suite No. 1 for Unaccompanied Cello
Prelude - An undulating riverscape with curves & bends: 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.
Allemande - A forest grove of wandering trails: 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.
Courante - A swirling path through a wildflower meadow: 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.
Sarabande - A Conifer grove in the shape of an arc: 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.
Menuett - A formal flower parterre: 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.
Gigue - Giant grass steps that dance you down to the outside world: 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.
Inspired by Bach - 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.
The Design - 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 Desing Inc., designed the Maypole.
The Donors - 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.