According to his son Jason, Vasil Henry would have loved to play the piano, but he never had the opportunity as a young person to learn. Time has a way of moving people past earlier ambitions, so Vasil’s love of playing music was something he tried to pass onto his sons when they were young. Jason says the lessons never quite took, however, but as he got older, he always wished that he’d stuck with it.
His children, however, have both taken to the piano beautifully. At 15 and 13 respectively, Emerson and Ronan play with confidence, skill and a gentle touch that Vasil always loved watching and absorbing. In these current times, however, in-person concerts have been something so many have been longing for and, since the world changed more than a year ago, Vasil hasn’t been able to see his grandchildren, let alone hear them in concert.
That is until Ronan and Emerson had an idea. They were both studying for their conservatory exams and decided to create a virtual mini-concert to share with their Papa and his fellow residents in the Emma’s neighbourhood in the Village of Taunton Mills.
“It’s been difficult, not being able to see him,” says Emerson, reflecting on the challenges so many are facing under provincial restrictions. “I know that COVID stopped so many people from doing so many things that they love and if I can provide somebody with something they love, it’ll make me happy and I know it will make them happy.”
Ronan felt the same way so the idea was hatched. Each would play for a short time for the camera, covering the likes of a range of musicians, from Mike Springer to Beethoven to John Lennon, and they would later add photos of their Papa alongside.
For Vasil and so many of the residents in Emma’s, most of whom live with some form of dementia or memory loss, music is often the greatest of gifts for it helps them access joyful memories. When the concert was played in early May, that is what neighbourhood coordinator Kylie Krane witnessed: joy among so many and pride upon Vasil’s face.
“Vasil was beaming at knowing his grandkids put on this concert for everyone,” Kylie says.
Ronan is humble as he describes the reasons why he continues to play, tying it into the feelings the concert inspired.
“Just knowing how much joy, not only it brings me but also my family and anyone who’s listening,” Ronan says, “that just makes me want to practice more to make my songs better so I can play them for people.”
It’s a point of pride for their mother and father, as well as Papa, for a lot of joy was felt in Emma’s neighbourhood that day and spirits were lifted. Until the time when in-person concerts ignite the heart of music lovers, it’s they kind of joy we can all hang onto.