Written by: Maria Victoria (Vicky) Monsalve, MSc, PhD

Silver Linings of the Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has had some silver linings. It activated communication with many friends and colleagues overseas, and it deepened my friendship with my piano teacher from the almost five years that I lived in London (UK). I was a piano beginner at that time. Later on, we met each other regularly during my postdoctoral work in Cambridge (UK). I always admired her as a piano teacher and her curiosity about music as a therapeutic tool. My incentive to play piano came from my mother, who played piano since she was a child. Musical fantasias and family friends’ poetry readings that my mother shared with me have been one of highlights during this pandemic that I would like to share with you.

Musical Fantasias

Early in April one of my nephews living in Cambridge (USA) wrote in a chat, “My daughter Lilly wants to know if you would give her a piano lesson via video chat.” Obviously, I felt honored that my 7 year-old niece was asking for this. To give context, her brother Silas visited Vancouver in 2017 when he was 7 years old. When he returned to Cambridge (USA), his parents asked him what he liked the most during the 8-day visit. His response was seeing the Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions with the VSO at the Orpheum, and playing “a real piano.” He was referring to my piano, that he used during his visit. In 2018 during a visit to Cambridge (USA), I had the fantastic opportunity to play Christmas songs with Silas on his electric piano.

Arrangements were made with my nephew to start piano classes with Lilly over Skype. It sounded challenging to me. However, we did not decide when. One Saturday, three days after our chat when I was practicing Beethoven’s Für Elise at home as part of my musical activities during the pandemic, my nephew contacted me over Skype. I could see Lilly seated in front of a piano, ready to start the lesson. The thing that I had on hand was the partiture for Für Elise , so we started with this. Finger exercises were needed to reach the right notes of the first few lines of the partiture. Lilly expressed that it was a little bit difficult after I asked her how she was feeling.

The electric piano was borrowed from her neighbor in New Hampshire, where her family is staying temporarily during the pandemic. I just received a video in which Lilly is playing the piano, as well as another video of her brother Silas. A present for her birthday in April was an airplane ticket to Vancouver next summer to play piano with me. She is very excited about this, as I am.

Family poetry

To celebrate my late mother’s birthday, my youngest sibling (one of twelve) took the initiative to arrange for each of my mother’s descendants to read some of her poetry. My mother was the author of two published books: Silencio de Vida and Impresiones de Vida; later, her most recent writings were found in her personal diary. We named these writings Pensamientos de Vida . The reading event was on May 1st, her birthday. This occasion, using Zoom, was well received not only by her children, grandchildren and oldest great-grandchildren, but also by family spouses. A total of 20 poems were read by and listened to by 50 family members in Canada (Vancouver), Colombia (Bogotá, Pereira and Santa Marta), Germany (Lübeck), Spain (Barcelona), Thailand (Bangkok) and USA (Florida, New Hampshire, Texas and Washington DC).

One of the handwritten poems found in my mother’s diary and read by one of my siblings is as follows: PENSAMIENTOS DE M DE M
El sol seguirá calentando / The sun will continue to warm
La lluvia refrescará el ambiente / The rain will refresh the air
La luna brillará como siempre / The moon will shine as always
Las aves seguirán volando / The birds will continue flying
Las flores mostrarán sus colores / The flowers will show their colors
La noche y el día serán 24 horas / The day and the night will be 24 hours
El amor a los hijos siempre estará / The love for children will always be
Nada de esto conmigo morirá / Nothing of this will die

Heart designed by Lilly

The front page of Pensamientos de Vida was illustrated with a heart designed by Lilly, who was the youngest of the great grandchildren that my mother was able to enjoy in person before she died. This beautiful drawing was sent by Lilly for my birthday when she was 5 years old and is displayed on the top of my piano in Vancouver (see above).

Friends’ Poetry

A very good girlfriend who had the opportunity to meet my mother was involved in a “collective, constructive and uplifting” poem exchange. She selected one of my mother’s poems, Amarlo Todo - Love Everything, for this exchange event. My friend told me again that she still keeps the two books beside her bed in her house in the Bahamas. What else can I say, almost with tears in my eyes?