Everyday Heroes: Breaking silence with music

19 November 2021

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

Was it a leap of faith or a coincidence no one will never know, but Robert Armstrong’s journey with accordion started back in 1962.

“I have to thank my Mother for giving me my first accordion, (…). While I was home for a visit in Saskatoon, she said they had purchased one for my younger brother to learn on, but he did not want to, so I could have it. I never had lessons to play it, but had lots of time to teach myself, which was a challenge. Mostly I just played at it, but gradually learned to enjoy what I could do.”

Once retired, Robert had much more time to practice and enjoy the therapy that music brings. While attending music jams, he learned that he had to improve in order to play with some of the good musicians there. So he practiced… he practiced a lot. And what motivated him even more was purchasing his first new squeeze box at Accordions International in Salt Lake City. “I had never heard one that had such rich and beautiful tone. I was motivated to learn new music, and play it for others when the occasion presented itself.”

One of his favourite memories includes visiting an old friend while on a trip to BC, Retired Archbishop Adam Exner, who said that he had put himself through the seminary by playing the accordion. “He played my new accordion for almost an hour, and then gave it his blessing. Then I played a couple of tunes for him.”

Since we all have been curtailed by the virus pandemic, many activities he enjoyed playing at have been restricted. At 83 years old he is not stopping though and him and his wife find ways to entertain residents in the apartment building in Spruce Grove they live in.

As many of seniors are confided to their apartments because of COVID-19, Robert is playing out on the balcony of his residence so the sound echoes in the area for everyone to hear. And his music is appreciated too.

“I was honoured to be asked to play ‘O Canada’ during our Nov. 11 ceremonies in 2020, and again for the July 1 Canada Day singing with many residents present.” His wife organizes a sing-along for the apartment residents they live.

Whenever possible, they attend the local Farmers Market, and despite the challenges and fears, he accepted invitation to play at Rotary Ribfest.

“It is my belief that music is the universal language, and no matter who hears it, or what language they speak, they can enjoy my music. I am 83 years old, and hope to be able to provide enjoyment for many more folks while I am still able to.”

– Robert Armstrong and his wife are members of the Holy Trinity Parish, Spruce Grove residents. Robert is a life member of the Knights of Columbus, Past Grand Knight of three councils, 2093, 7599 and 7336. He has many years of parish service, both in Canada and the US when he and his wife were ‘snow-birding’