So a bunch of us who work-study-hang-out at McGill University have decided to snoop around some of the buildings on Friday evenings as a means of learning more about this awesome and contentious and sprawling place.
Last Friday, Josée, Andrea and I met up and decided to do some exploring and given the tumultuous political times we live in, we figured where else should we go but to the one place on campus that still pays homage to the British royalty of yore? So off we went to where music students hang: The Strathcona and Schulich buildings at the Faculty of Music
The statue of Queen Victoria at the front of Strathcona looks eerly like the Ice Queen from the Chronicles of Narnya what with her sitting there all majestic surrounded by effigies of vanquished Aslan. Was the Schulich School of Music home to powerful magikal wizard? Ominous!
Up the large front steps and in through the doors, we found ourselves in the wide vestibule just outside Pollack Hall. The required paintings of stately old white men in majestic dresses were in evidence, of course. As per McGill's bad tendency to lock up fun places, Pollack Hall was off-access so to the right we went, to wander around Strathcona's lower levels. So far, fairly oh-um and quiet (too quiet, for a music school) with no access to the choicest aspects of lower levels we'd come across elsewhere on campus.
So up through the levels we went - eventually emerging on floor 3 or so - in the music school practice rooms - halls and halls over four different floors of the building, all filled with tiny, sound-proofed little room. Some with their own easels, some with pianos (upright and grand), some with students playing their chosen instruments. A few times, we came across a holes in in the practice room walls - obviously punched in or kicked in by a frustrated virtuoso.
Through a window, Josee spotted a hidden courtyard that would be ideal for outside musical performance, if those were allowed on campus. But as Josee informed us, playing music outside is no longer allowed, since apparently McGill hates anything fun and wants to become the town from Footloose.
We came across some lockers wide enough for cellos and it reminded me of the time I got stuck in a locker when I was in grade school and generally noticed that music students on the whole, appear to be a trustworthy lot. Pairs of boots were left unattended on top of lockers and we even saw a pair of opera-appropriate pearl earrings was tacked on a cork board.
On the 7th floor, we spotted a ladder up to the roof, but again, McGill had decided to foil us so there was no place to go but down.We took the elevator and ended up back near the Strathcona entryway, where we explored a bit more, finding a door with an unusually high and slanted door-frame, a wood pallet and some fairly tame McGill student graffiti.
Down we went over to the new, Schulich music building, adjacent to Strathcona. On the way there, we found an incredible innovation to the confusion which invariably sets in whenever double doors are created and people don't know which one to use. Each set of doors was made up of a door marked with a green circle (that's the door to go through) and red x (that's the door you can't go through, since it's for the person coming the opposite way). Innovative!
The Schulich building just outside Tana Schulich Hall (again, locked, of course) is essentially a large, lifeless concrete mausoleum. We took the stairs up and Andrea pointed out the exact spot where two years earlier, she'd watched student demos taking place on the street. Going up, we found ourselves outside of the Schulich music library. All the doors were locked except for one so we went in. We thought we'd major-scored, finding an empty library, but someone was still around and after a moment, an inquisitive and friendly librarian named Brian came out to greet us. Turns out he was just about to lock up and he told us we'd have to come back during regular hours. Nevertheless, before we took our leave, Brian took the time to tell us about some of the building's interesting features of the library - which includes an extensive musical collection and recording studios. He also pointed out and told us about the Schulich golden violin on display - an intricate piece of sculpting apparently purchased in Abu Dhabi and awarded each year to the most meritous student.
We left and headed up, where I'd hoped we could get a glimpse at some of the facilities of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology (CIRMMT - pronounced Kermit - whoever came up with the name is an acronym genius). All the rooms looked like they were locked and we were going to head out but then victory, an unlocked door knob opened up into a board room set up with a circular table arrangement and spectacular corner view of Sherbrooke Street. Also in the board room was an organ -because apparently that's what board rooms at the Faculty of Music need. We turned it on, getting a kick out of the music sample options, each having a go at selecting different instrument settings.
Leaving the board room, we were able to sneak into the CIRRMT office, getting in just after someone who'd swiped a card key. But everything was closed up there too, so we left through the kitchen and eventually headed down to the street, where we decided to call it a night.
All photos by Josée.