There’s a crescendo of sunlight gathering in the living room of Mark and Virginia Wells’ Lawrence Park home.
Vaulted ceilings and large picture windows augment the light filtering through as the couple sit on their sectional. They designed the home themselves, taking advantage of modern architecture to create a space they could hold chamber music concerts.
“The acoustics are pretty decent,” Mark says. “We do fundraisers and the symphony has used it for a couple of events.”
Virginia, who also goes by the nickname Ginny, has been a violinist for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra since 1991.
A grand piano sits comfortably by the windows, overlooking a small creek that feeds into Sunnydene Park.
Both the Wells are violinists.
The instrument struck a chord with both of them when they were young children. Mark, 54, and Ginny, 51, met while attending the Manhattan School of Music in New York City in 1987.
Ginny was born in Radford, Va. and raised in Kingsport, Tenn. Mark has always called Toronto home. His father was in real estate, and the family currently owns the Briton House Retirement Centre on Mount Pleasant Road.
Mark worked for a bit for the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet before opting for studying in New York.
“I supposedly extended my Masters degree by a year, and in the end I didn’t get my degree because I refused to do a piano minor course,” he says.
The grand piano behind him sits mute.
The two joke that even though they play the same instrument, to sit in a quartet together would prove problematic.
“People at school would always ask us to play — both of us — if they needed a quartet for their recitals,” Ginny says. “But he didn’t like it.”
“I think it’s tough for a married couple to play in a quartet together,” Mark adds. “It’s an intense relationship and it can be damaging to a relationship.”
The two have been fixtures in the Toronto classical music scene for more than two decades. Ginny got her start in Kitchener, auditioning for an associate concert master position in 1988 before joining the TSO in 1991.
“It was fortuitous that I got the job, and then when you get the job, the orchestra processes your work permit for you, and we were married the following year, so I can always say I got into the country on my own,” Ginny says.
During the ’90s there was plenty of work for musicians. Mark worked as a concert master for Showboat and also did work on
Phantom of the Opera.
“We were doing very well during those days,” he says. “As a freelancer it was a successful time, and the city was busy.”
Work has seen a diminuendo for Mark, and he has focused more on the family business, tapering off his violin playing.
“If you’re working in the Canadian Opera Company, you’re making the same amount of money that I was when I was 25,” Mark says. “If you think about that, it’s staggering.”
Ginny is still rosining her bow, however.
After 23 years of performing, she says it’s hard to pick out a highlight.
There have been many, including Carnegie Hall, and a European tour. She comes to the conclusions it’s the camaraderie at the TSO she enjoys most.
“I can’t speak to being a member of any other orchestra, but what I hear from when my friends play elsewhere — and I don’t want to be too specific because I don’t want to say negative things about other orchestras — but the family atmosphere and the camaraderie in Toronto is wonderful,” she shares.
“We bring our lunch to work, and we eat together, have orchestra parties. It’s a nice group of people to work with.
“To be a part of something, to create and bring to life some of that music, it’s great,” she adds. “I know I’m not saving lives, but I always think there’s a place for art.”