Monday, November 19, 2007

Our Hearts Are Heavy But Such Memories......

Dear All,

Our hearts still ache but it is so comforting to read the tributes, to hear the stories and to learn of the depth of impact that our beloved John has had in relation to all of you. It is a source of comfort for the family and it is not uncommon for us to read the tributes and comments repeatedly. And, we thank you for the hundreds of cards and emails-they are full of great memories and so warm and loving.

For those folks who could attend the visitation and funeral mass our family thanks you for your kindness to come to comfort us and to remember John. For those of you who could not attend or who live physically too far away I am posting here some of the tibutes to John and the Eulogy that was so beautifully read by Ms. Louise Pitre.
There is also a DVD tribute that will be posted for a few months at the Humphrey's Funeral Home Website that you might enjoy.

I hope that these tributes will also be a source of comfort for you as we look back and prepare to move forward.

With Deep Gratitude,

Mary Jane

Eulogy for John Arpin by Ms. Louise Pitre


The Monster Piano Player with the smallest hands,
The Dog Lover and Rescuer
The Composer, Arranger, Writer, Accompanist, Ragtime Authority,
Concert Performer
The Walking Musical Encylopedic Mind
The Gifted Son
The Adored Father and Grandfather
The Attentive Brother
The loving and ever so proud Husband

John, we know you have simply gone to a better place where you can continue with your total engagement in life, your youthful energetic attitude, your love of children, dogs, antiques, sports; Where you can keep raving about your wife and her impressive achievements while working a rooom full of medical professionals.

From Port McNicoll to the best concert halls and recording studios. It's been a long and impressive career. Your parents exposed you to classical music and opera. They supported your talent. Your mother even took you to Toronto from Midland on the bus so you could study with better teachers-even though she was sick all the way there and all the way back. It was either bus sickness or no lesson. You got the lessons and you flew!!

I’ve had the distinct honour of singing with John at the piano. It is a priviledge for which I will forever be thankful.

John and I collaborated on a couple of songs. I wrote French lyrics to an English song he had written. During one of our sessions at his home, he asked if I might try my hand at writing lyrics to a piece of music he had composed. He called it “Heartbreak Rhapsody" and it was heartbreakingly beautiful. John sat at the piano and I stood by his side as he played. We were both crying by the time he had finished. I told him it was the saddest melody I'd ever heard. He told me Mary Jane had said the same thing. I started working on it but was and am still having trouble finishing it because the words need to live up to the music. My husband, the writer, is now working on it with me and we are making some headway.

A few weeks ago, I went to see John at home. He was not having a good day but I did have a chance to visit and talk and tell him how much he had meant to me. I also sang him the lyrics that have been written so far to this heartbreak rhapsody. He cried and I took it to mean that we were on the right track. I had been wrong about the sad, regretful theme I had originally envisioned for this song. It is about how some might regret but not him. It's a celebration of what Mary Jane brought into his life. I'd like to read what we have so far and hereby promise publicly to finish this song. It is fitting that I should simply read since I was the words and he was the music:


The world may be missing some music now that John is gone but Heaven just got a boost in its music department. John, I know you're playing the piano of your dreams, the boys' choir is studying one of your heavenly arrangements while Polk-A-ROO hovers by; Pavi is lying a few feet away and Bing is running around and going up to total strangers without fear or reservation.

You loved your audiences and used to bring the lights up on them during concerts, so you could see their faces.
I know you can see our faces now.
We are smiling and thanking you for the music. The beautiful music.
I’ll be seeing you, John.
We’ll all be seeing you.
But we will especially always be hearing you.

Tribute by Dean Macdonald

Thank you have made a significant and good difference in my life. We have all said at one time or another, "If I hadn't been at a particular place, at a particular time, my life would have turned out very differently than the life I have lived". It was 1969, John, when you formed the John Arpin trio. As a member of your trio for all those years, you opened doors for me that would otherwise not have been opened. John, you treated me with great respect and generosity. I will always be grateful. Your enormous gifts taught me much about music, from the style and feel of a Gershwin medley to the grace and energy of classical ragtime and oh, so much more. But you were also a dear friend "off stage" as well as on. We shared many experiences all those many years ago, some hilariously funny, some sadly tragic.....John, thanks for the wonderful adventure. You made a positive difference in my life. ...I love you. I will miss you....God speed.

Tribute by Mr. Rob Natale

John Arpin

The measure of a man’s greatness is not so much in what a person achieves or accomplishes, but rather in the quality of a person’s character. Well, John Arpin had it all. He surely had great accomplishments and successes, but more importantly he had an overwhelming capacity to be genuinely concerned, interested and inquisitive about every single person he ever crossed paths with never giving a thought to social status or circumstance. He truly respected every person he ever encountered. That is grace, and surely graciousness is what characterizes John best. And his family would know this best. The intense love he always had for all the members of his family should be an example to us all. He was so proud of his family and they were always on his mind. And although he was certainly more so a lover of humanity than anything else, he went beyond that. When any of his four-legged beloved pets left this world he would weep a lot. That was John. His sensitivity in all things seemed boundless.

Those who were privileged enough to be included in his closest circle of friends long ago came to the realization that outside of his main field of exquisite expertise he seemed to know everything about just about everything. Of course if you ever expressed your amazement about his abundant knowledge he would quickly and so humbly dismiss that thought. Has there ever been a person with such enormous talent who all the while harboured such an abundance of humility.

John Arpin, the dedicated and beloved family man, the most charming and witty conversationalist, the maestro of musicians, the Chopin of Ragtime and now to be sorely missed by all of us, and especially by those who have been graced with the privilege of calling John Arpin a dear friend.

But, more importantly, John will be remembered for graciously blessing the world with his profound gift. Now may God bless John Arpin.

Rob Natale

Tribute Read by Dr. David Hurst

John Arpin

This kind, gentle, witty, enormously talented courageous, dear friend. This musical giant with very small hands which easily spanned an octave; with a smile that lit up a room.

We met at the Chelsea Bun over twenty years ago. Among his other stops were, to name a few, Ports of Call- he would always swing into "I'll Never Smile Again" when Toronto's own Ruth Lowe, the song's composer strolled in to hear John play. Also, at Mr. Tony's and the Victoria Room at the King Eddie.

I transported him to several gigs. There was never any sheet music, just lots of CD's. Once en route to the Sanderson Centre in Brantford, 700 tickets sold, I asked what he would play? The answer- "I don't know".

His wonderful stories never ended. At the King Eddie a waiter brought him a note from table 7. A nice lady wanted to chat when the show ended. It was Jane Fonda wondering if she should marry some chop named Ted Turner. Said John, "the money's right".

Once I stayed over with John and Mary Jane and after dinner, with a little prodding from me John began to play, while Joplin, their beautiful golden retriever lay asleep on the rug. Said Mary Jane, "Dave stand on the rug." John played "I've Got You Under My Skin". Joplin's ears came up. Mary Jane said, "Joplin dance.". He came to me, rose on his hind legs, fore paws on my shoulders and swayed to the music. He would only dance for his song. We were cheek to cheek. He was wonderful!

Eubie Blake, John's good ragtime pal, told him of writing- "I'm Just Wild About Harry" for a girl songer at some place of marginal repute. It was a waltz. Said she, a formidable lady, "Eubie I ain't singin nor waltz." So he changed it to the up beat number we all know. John played it both ways. Along came harry S. Trumnan, who made this his campaing song. Eubie became very wealthy on the royalties.

John came for a visit and showed me a very nasty lesion on the back of his right hand, which he'd been treating with skillful neglect. yes, it was a cancer. I told him to have it removed at once, but he said that would take many weeks in Toronto and urged me to fix it. So, I did. He then vanished for nearly a year. There was no follow-up as to possible recurrence of the tumour. John re-appeared and away we went to Buffalo in search of antique sheet music. We settled into a nice looking spot in Ellicotrille for lunch. Then we realized that the place was gay. Never mind, I was very anxious to check the hand, taking his hand in mine across the table, gently massaging it to feel for a recurrent tumour. A waitress cruised by and beamed her approval of this loving couple. John panicked and said, "Oh miss! This is my surgeon from Welland who fixed my hand". To which she replied, "We understand sir." At every concert after that John wanted to open with, "I want to Hold Your Hand."

Then there was the song, "Rialto Ripple". Enroute to his concert in Picton I found this was the only ragtime tune ever written by George Gershwin. Eureka! With this little trivia gem I would stump the all knowing John Arpin and dazzle him with my all-encompassing knowledge of the musical world. So, I threw this zinger at John, asking him to name the only ragtime tune ever written by Gershwin. John said, "Well Dave he wrote that in the back of a 5th Ave.bus one night coming home from Greenwich Village." I said, "Enough enough" and John went on to explain that "Rialto" meant Broadway and "Ripple" referred to the rain ripling down the hotel window and reflecting the light of the "great white way". I said, "Enough, enough", to which he replied, "I'll put it in the concert tonight." He did and dedicated it to me. No- I never tried that trick again!

I would like to close with a message sent to John and Mary Jane from our mutual friend Bob Bentley in Edmonton:

Dear John & Mary Jane,

Thank you for sharing the stories and keeping us abreast of John's health via your blog. It is a challenging time but I am hearten to see that you both draw strength in hearing from your friends and recounting the wonderful memories of times past. I wanted to contribute to your blog but that required some know how so here is my simple e-mail relating a wonderful memory.

The time is 5.00PM aboard the "Monet" as it headed north on the Adriatic Sea in full view of the beautiful Croatian coast. The lounge filled up early that August evening as people jockeyed for the best seats.This cocktail hour was to be special . A performance by the famed John Arpin was taking place Two and a half hours of some of the best piano music starting with Ragtime and ending with Gershwin. Each set was prefaced with storytelling and then without notes, the fingers did the rest. It was magical. Our group of sixty people sat transfixed as the maestro performed. Even the ship's pianist who gladly gave up his post stood in awe of superior talent. Dinner was delayed that night but the chef didn't mind...he was in the lounge with the rest of us. It was one of those special times in life that one treasures. Will I ever forget sitting in the lounge every night after, beside the piano (red wine in hand) and whispering to you for just a "little more Gershwin."
Yes, the trip on its own, visiting places like Mikonos, Santorini, Dubrovnik was amazing but John, your participation made our whole cruise an exceptional experience. Thank You.
Now, this is only one small memory in your massive book of memories...but it is a Big Chapter in our book.
Ruth & I send our love.

We can all be replaced....but not John Arpin.

9 comments: said...

We, of the West Coast Ragtime Society, paid honorable tribute to John Arpin by dedicating our Festival last week-end as a memorial to him. His many friends and colleagues were most respectful and reverent. We were aware of the funeral scheduled at the same time. Tears were shed as Alex Hassan performed "Toronto Blues" during his solo set. It was a most meaningful tribute. Other performers dedicated music John would have enjoyed as well.

I have secured a sketch of John at the piano during our Festival in 2005. It was drawn by our popular artist "Storm" Case from Laguna Beach, California. Storm and his wife Shirley contribute much to our music world through his artistic endeavors and her piano expertise in performing and teaching. I will send this special drawing of John to Mary Jane.

On this Thanksgiving Day 2007, I continue with a heavy heart, however I feel Blessed for having known John Arpin, the man and his music.

Hal Krueger
West Coast Ragtime Society

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