An ACMP Love Story

They met through ACMP: Stefano Morra (violin) and Nancy Jiang (keyboard) playing at their wedding in Toronto

Ours is an incredible story of music and love. And when we look back on our journey, it could not have happened without ACMP.

In 2016, I was doing a fellowship in Intensive Care at the University of Toronto. Though the program was prestigious, the demands placed on fellows were super-human. It was during this challenging year of 100 hour weeks that my friend E asked if I wanted to try playing string quartets. I had grown up playing piano, but ventured into violin in my 20s. That’s how I ended up at Carol Kirsh’s place one December evening, deep in the season of burnout. Carol, who I didn’t know was the longstanding Toronto ACMP representative, welcomed me warmly into her life and into the world of chamber music. Even when I was too tired to sleep, music was a balm that soothed my soul.

After leaving Toronto to go back to Australia, I kept in touch with Carol and the original string quartet from that winter, nicknamed the “melon quartet” because once Carol bought an incredibly gorgeous cantaloupe for our post music snack. I joined ACMP myself and later played with ACMP members on travels to Hungary, Japan and Germany. But I had little idea that there would be another important ACMP member in my future….

Stefano had also lived in Toronto in 2012 – 2015 doing a postdoc at the University of Toronto, but our paths never crossed. In 2019, he was a well established Professor of Mathematics at Université Paris 8, visiting Toronto for a few weeks in the summer for an academic collaboration. He thought it would be fun to bring his violin along in case there were opportunities for chamber music. That’s how he met my friend E through the ACMP directory.

“You have to meet this guy, he’s an amazing violinist!” My friend E raved to me after their first meeting in Toronto. Instead of Facebook, I looked him up on ACMP and he looked sweet with a shy smile.

Though I never had any desire to travel to France (too cliché, too touristy…), E talked me into making a stop in Paris on a trip to Morocco later in 2019. Stefano hosted us for a weekend of chamber music. The first thing we played was the Opus 75a Miniatures, a string trio by Dvorak. His opening note was like a ray of sunshine that had pierced my life.

Our love life was marred by COVID and the ironclad international border policies imposed by the Australian government. I was living in Sydney and Stefano in Paris. We struggled along with daily video calls, sometimes words fell short and we exchanged clips of our music. We still don’t know how we got through that incredibly challenging time. After almost two years, we were finally reunited in Paris in November 2021, where we played Brahms with a couple of ACMP friends.

We decided to move to Toronto in 2022, back to where it all began. We were welcomed back to our little musical community. Here we discovered that time is immortal when it comes to music – we had all been separated by distance and COVID, but we were able to tentatively embrace each other again by playing together.

It was clear to us when we decided to get married this year that we had to have a chamber music party! In typical Canadian fashion, it was a cold snowy March winter evening. We were grateful to have an intimate gathering with our friends, musical and non-musical. We began and ended our wedding ceremony with the slow movement from the second Brahms violin sonata. It was the most surreal and precious moment of our lives, accompanied by the warmth of our musical union. After dinner, we played some of our favourite chamber music with friends, the highlight of which was a fun reading of the less played Mahler piano quartet.

Both our ACMP memberships have long since lapsed, but whenever we tell our story, we think of how intricate human connections are. Having met many ACMP members, I know this is a special society because music brings people together, just as it has brought Stefano and I together for life.

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