Giants of the Keyboard - John Arpin
Pianist, composer, arrangers, John Arpin has long been regarded as one of the most versatile performers on the Canadian music scene. Born in Port McNicoll, Ontario, many older hometown residents still remember his father's little confectionary store - complete with juke box, and young John's piano practice emanating from the Arpin living quarters behind the store.
John Arpin's first piano was the one that his mother purchased as a young single woman. She had saved her nickels and dimes while working as a seamstress for Hobberlin's in Toronto. She bought the upright piano from Heintzman's however it bore the stamp of The Canada Piano Company. The instrument remained with her afer she married, and at age four, John and his brother, Leo, took their lessons on that same piano. The story of the Arpin family piano regrettably came to an unfortunate end. Following his mother's death in 1975, John arranged with a flea market dealer in Victoria Harbour for the storage of the piano and other family possessions. The dealer was paid $500.00 for moving the items and for an agreed upon period of storage. A few weeks later, John and his son returned to Victoria Harbour in order to begin moving things back to Toronto. To their dismay they found the storage place "cleaner than a whistle," and following local enquiries discovered that the departed dealer had sold everything at auction.
John Arpin graduated from the Royal Conservatory of Music at the age of sixteen. Following a year at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, he became an active member of the local music scene and for many years, both as a soloist and as a leader of his own trio, played in Toronto's leading night clubs.
Arpin's many recordings and his live concerts in Canada and the U.S.A. have earned the affable Canadian a sizable following. Possessing diverse musical abilities, he also composes, arranges and conducts. Though he plays everything from the classics to film and stage songs, John Arpin's name has become synonymous with piano rags. He is generally acknowledged as one of the top two or three ragtime musicians in the world. No less a musician than the late Eubie Blake pronounced him "The Chopin of Ragtime", while the New York Times labelled him "The Richter of Ragtime".
At presstime, John Arpin personally provided the publisher of Downright Upright with the following story:
"Years ago, when I was a teenager and had only recently arrived in Toronto, I had the good fortune of meeting a young gentleman, Basil McCormick. Basil became a close musical friend. Through him, I got to know some of the people who worked at the old Heintzman building on Yonge Street. One of these people was a chap called Ruben, somewhere in his sixties. He was the night elevator operator and watchman for the building after closing hours. It was only a matter of time till I discovered the famed Artist Room on the fourth floor. This room contained two wonderful Heintzman concert grand pianos. They were placed in the center of the room, dovetailed. What magnificent pianos they were, always tuned and well maintained. My brain began to work overtime and I suggested to Ruben that perhaps I could practice now and again. He told me that I could come over any time during the night when he was working, but to be discreet and not mention anything about this to anyone associated with Heintzman's. There began a three times a week all night practice vigil in the Artist Room at Heintzman's store playing on two super pianos. Ruben would listen, make his rounds, come back and listen again and also show great interest by making positive comments about how I was progressing. I'll always be indebted to him, even though I never got to know his last name or where he lived."
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