Remembering the Nurse

As a follow-up to Marianne Schroeder: A Portrait in Sound, my blog post from nearly two years ago, I am here with some sad news. Nurse Marianna Schroeder, the only female voice in Glenn Gould’s 1967 radio documentary, The Idea of North has passed away. Both she and her dear husband, Jerry, died in June of this year. I had no idea of the news until a couple days ago when I happened to stumble upon their obituaries.

Marianna Schroeder in her home (2011). Photo by Penny Johnson

2022 has been a trying year and this loss to the Gould world, certainly to my own little world, is significant. Marianna and I were very good friends, who regularly kept in touch via snail mail, email and occasional phone and video calls, as well as yearly visits which usually involved myself traveling to Hamilton to enjoy the company of Marianna and her husband. I was quite close to this quiet, thoughtful, nature-loving couple and am devastated by the loss. That same month, I also lost my high school piano teacher, Dale Innes. Dale was the one who got me interested in Glenn Gould and, towards the end of her career, wrote a book entitled, Seeking Solitude: Glenn Gould and the Goldberg Variations.

Marianna Schroeder and Penny Johnson in Niagara Falls, Ontario (2010).

As many of you know, I have not been active on this blog lately, in fact, this is my first post of 2022! This has not been due to lack of interest or passion for the influence that Glenn Gould has had on my work, but rather, I have been working hard to grow my YouTube channel. Who would have thought that a pandemic would turn me into a YouTuber? Turns out I love creating content. I work from home, in my solitude, making videos, learning, growing, stressing and hopefully working my way towards meaningful work and opportunities. The channel is small, but this is the kind of thing where growth takes time. I think that Glenn Gould would actually have quite enjoyed being a YouTuber, though maybe not the whole having to post on a regular basis and certainly YouTube #shorts would absolutely NOT have been his thing! My channel is devoted to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

While the ideas I’ve had lately for content on the channel have revolved largely around piano performance and how to practice fugues, things like that, I have had in my mind that Glenn would have turned 90 this month. Still, I had not planned to post anything Gould-related on the channel this month. That is, until I learned about the passing of Marianna. The news truly came as a shock, not just she but also her husband had died just a day apart.

With that, all plans for Bach-related content were temporarily set aside and I knew what I had to do. As I had the privilege of being a close friend of Marianna, I not only got to hear her talk about her time working with Glenn Gould on The Idea of North, but also I just plain got to know her on a personal level, to laugh with her, even to cry. Our walks along the Niagara Escarpment, car rides, conversations on the patio, meals both at the house and at Lemongrass restaurant in Hamilton are memories clear in mind, just like the clearness with which she described the waters up north in the opening of The Idea of North.

From the cover of The Land That Never Melts: Auyuittuq National Park (1976). Pictured on the right is Marianna Schroeder hiking in the Canadian Arctic in 1975. Marianna had a large framed photo of this picture in her basement.

As I enjoy stories and history, I decided to use the platform that is my channel, to pass along my memories of Marianna. I invite you to check out this video and enjoy lots of unusual anecdotes, photos and such, from our thirteen years of friendship. As I say in the video, I share these memories because Glenn Gould is a Canadian icon, one of the greatest pianists ever and it is totally possible (I believe, anyway) that one could approach his work, particularly The Idea of North, with fresh ears, knowing something about the characters in this program. Glenn Gould or not, Marianna loved the north. She chose to go there multiple times. It was a beautiful and special place for her.

When I listen to The Idea of North and hear Marianna’s voice, I think about her as more than just the young nurse up in Coral Harbour, Nunavut in the mid-1960s. I also think about her feeding racoons in her backyard, of her love for Golden Delicious apples, her stray cat she and Jerry took in, her tremendous ability to be a good listener, her love of nature, hiking, meditation and of her stories about being in the Arctic. She was a good, decent and compassionate individual with a strong moral conscience. I admired Marianna and even, in a way, looked up to her for being a strong, independent lady.

May the spirit of Marianna Schroeder and her husband, Jerry, be forever remembered with love and affection. I hope you will enjoy the video and hearing about how our paths first crossed. Keep well and be kind to one another.


  1. Good morning Penny!        September 25/22This is a wonderful tribute to a wonderful lady!So very well done!Thank you …thank you!Love 💕 Gary J

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone


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