Days after a three-alarm fire ripped through his home on Queen Street West, pianist and composer Richard Herriott says even though he has lost almost all of his possessions, he’s just happy to be alive.
“I’m just going to start from scratch,” he said.
Emergency crews were called to a restaurant on Queen Street West, just west of Dufferin Street, shortly after 5 a.m. on Tuesday. Fire officials said smoke was visible from the back of the first-floor unit in a commercial-residential building.
The fire spread to the second and third floors of the three-storey building, forcing the evacuation of residents living in apartments above the restaurant.
Herriott said he was woken up by his neighbour, who was banging on his door.
“My room was trashed, basically. The fireman told me I was lucky to get out when I did… When I was finally allowed to go around the back of the unit… I could see the inside of my flat and they said, ‘Did you live in that one?’ and I said, ‘Yes,’ and they said, ‘God, you are so lucky.’”
Herriott is a concert pianist and composer who has played in over 14 countries around the world and the first piano concerto he composed was called The Newfie Bullet, which had its Toronto premiere in April 2017.
He has been playing piano professionally since 1976 and in the hours following the fire, he said he felt the pull to play piano.
“I came to work last night and played (at a dance) class… I just decided this is all that I’ve got,” he said.
The fire has left Herriott without a home and many personal valuables have been destroyed, including his keyboard and manuscripts.
“I have Yamaha Clavinova – which is fine to practice on at home – that’s wasted now because of when they sprayed the flat … I’ve lost all my scores, all my music, all my manuscripts, books, clothes, you name it, the whole lot,” he said.
“My two diplomas I got from Trinity college and Royal College of Music, that is all up in flames … There are also things that are priceless.
“My favorite film is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and I had one of the collector item cars, that’s gone … but as they say in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang from the ashes of disaster come the roses of success, so we just have to see what happens now.”
Herriott said he is currently staying with a friend and a GoFundMe crowdfunding page has been set up to help raise funds to help him as he recovers.
“I’m feeling overwhelmed by the support I’m getting from all around the world – from friends all around the world,” he said.