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Shop Toronto

A report from the big city during the Holiday Season

by Marie Nicola

A window display at Holt Renfrew in TorontoEntering another Holiday Season in my Upper Canadian hovel. And, by the way, it’s Holidays in Upper Canada, never Christmas. The explanation why is as commercially driven as the season itself up here. And, we all know where Christmas preparations start—in the stores.

To be in the city, one loses a sense of time. Thank goodness for the store fronts like in the Holt Renfrew flagship store on Bloor West. Had it not been for their opulent window dressings complete with crystal chandeliers and elegantly dressed mannequins lurking in seasonally festive poses, I would barely have recognized we were more than month past September.

There was a time back home on PEI where my holiday traditions included the Western School Board Christmas Concert, the TOSH annual craft sale, gorging on mass quantities of holiday sweets like an insatiable Jabba the Hutt and, of course, paralyzed on the couch by the promise of Christmas Specials.

How those days are opposite from my existence in Toronto! Months of mental preparation is required before stepping foot into the rage known as Holiday shopping. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about propping up the local economy. I just simply cannot stomach any activity that requires physical agility as a necessity to deftly move in and out of irate crowds. After a day of defending my personal space I feel like the only Christmas Spirit left is found in an unmarked bottle located in the cabinet next to my television. Yep, Holidays are not for the weak of heart and I’m on a bid for freedom against the annual hex I call holiday shopping.

I’m a philanthropist at heart so you can imagine how thrilled I am with the hottest trend in cultural gifting. Membership programs, designed specifically for young professionals ages 25­35, are popping up all across the city at the country’s most prestigious cultural centres. These programs offer parties, discounts and glamour all bundled in one fabulous and affordable package ideal for gifting. Two of the most notable include The Royal Ontario Museum’s Young Patrons’ Circle and the Canadian Opera Company’s Operanation. (You can log on to www.jakandjil.com and see a photo of yours truly scouted at this year’s Operanation for the style section.)

Secondly, the Art Gallery of Ontario has long been prized by culture vultures as the must shop stop for unique items. They’ve recently launched their online shopping portal at shop.ago.net with watches, stationary and prints designed by architect Frank Gehry, and of course fabulous children’s gifts all in support of their programs and collections. Dear Confederation Centre of the Arts, consider this my wish for you to establish an online store so I can shop your unique art items as well.

It’s all coming together, time to steer my attention away from the preparations and focus on the joy of the season. Nathan Phillips Square and the Cavalcade of Lights! Only in Toronto will the city cry about power shortages and then illuminate 100,000 lights nightly for a month. But, I’m not going to protest, I’m going to enjoy one of the few seasonal traditions that exist outside the shops with my friends, of course. Happy Holidays, everyone.

A Fitting Challenge

Costumes for 18th century play require a scandalous amount of sewing

by Terry Pratt

Five sewers with Lady Sneerwell’s costume for The School for Scandal, from left: Jo Edge, Pam Jewell, Rachel Fitzpatrick, Margaret Dawson and Linda Kerr.Sit down five sewers, for ACT and ask them why they do it—given long hours, minimal recognition, and no financial reward—and the answers are both inspiring and humbling.

As director of the forthcoming production of The School for Scandal, I recently had that experience.

From Pam Jewell, sewer and overall designer, “I guess the real fun starts in the fabric store for me. After I talk to the director and I do some research on my own, I have these ideas in my mind of what I’d like to see the character in, and so I go in the fabric store and that’s just pure joy, picking out a fabric that I think would suit the character and the colour scheme. The challenge is the fittings, because it’s an exacting science: there’s a certain way that they are supposed to fit the characters, despite different body types and body shapes and heights and leg lengths.”

From Maraget Dawson: “Probably the most fun for me is seeing the costumes come to life, because they are of a different era, and it’s fun to see what people did wear in those days. It makes you wonder how they wore it all, and why.”

Jo Edge’s first love is set painting, but she sews as well: “I think the best part of it for me is to see the production when it’s finally on the stage, and feel that you’ve been part of that. Since I do some of the scenery as well, I get an enormous thrill out of it all, seeing what I can actually do, effects I can get that I didn’t realize I could do before.”

Linda Kerr is making one dress for The School for Scandal that requires eleven meters of cloth: “I’m with Pam, it’s fabric, I love fabric, I could buy rolls of fabric and put in on the floor and roll around in it. I love the texture, and the colours. It’s a tremendous amount of work to make one of those costumes, but I love the opportunity.”

Finally Rachel Fitzpatrick, sewer and sometimes actor: “The challenge of trying to create something that I haven’t tried before is very exciting, especially period costumes. You say ‘Oh that’s really exciting, how would you do that?’ Then you’re staring at it, you’ve come to a snag and you’re frustrated, and you’re trying to figure out, ‘How the hell does that work?’ and then you finish it, and you see it on stage, and ‘Wow, that looks pretty good, I can’t believe I did that.’”

There is nothing to add to these words of dedication, daring, and joy of creativity, except thank you.

The School for Scandal is an elegant and fitting eighteenth-century comedy by Richard Sheridan. You can see it at The Guild November 16­19 and 23­26.

The Rapture

by Tristan McKinnon-Gray

Many rocky romances have locked up a place in music history: Ike and Tina, Sid and Nancy, David Lee Roth and ass-crushing spandex. Now comes a new duet: The Rapture and the cowbell. The New york based Funk-Punk four piece have just crafted a record called Pieces of the People We Love where the cowbell is less a playful accent on the beat, but becoming a necessary piece of the spastic funk shaped puzzle.

Which, needless to say, is far from a bad thing. Starting off with a Queen-esque banger, “Don Gon Do It,” this album doesn’t stop twirling till the final track, “Live In Sunshine.”

But it’s not like this album came out of left field. The release of their prior full length Echoes in 2003 started of all of the explosion of white boy indie dance music (The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, et al.) and also contained the Redonckulas track, “House of Jealous Lovers,” which can still be found prowling a few DJ’s sets to this day.

While there may be no club-dismantling track such as “House of Jealous Lovers,” there are a more than a few booty shaking minutes on Pieces with songs like “The Devil” in full blown 80s-dance-floor take-over mode, and “Whoo! Alright-Yeah…Uh Hun” possibly being my favorite track of 2006, this record will stand up to a lot of punishment. The first single, “Get Myself Into It,” is a perfect example of what a good band with a woodblock can do when they put their mind to it. While there are a few less than stellar tracks (“First Gear” and the Danger Mouse produced track, “Callin Me”) I’m still going to be listening to this album on repeat for the rest of the month.

......................5 out of 6

Check out the band’s myspace for a stream of the full album at www.myspace.com/therapture.

idisconcur.blogspot.com

Canada Rocks! Round 2

Show co-creator Doug Gallant talks about what’s new

by Alix MacLean

Doug GallantDoug Gallant, one of the creative masterminds behind the Charlottetown Festival production of Canada Rocks!, sat down with me to discuss some of the changes that have been made to the show, for its return engagement on the mainstage of the Confederation Centre. At the end of last season, the creative team took a long, hard look at what worked in the show and what did not. Gallant notes that he received a huge amount of feedback from the public—the majority of which was overwhelmingly positive. Last fall the creative team, consisting of Gallant, Terry Hatty, Wade Lynch, Hank Stinson, and director Anne Allan, began the work of making a successful show even better.

“Deciding what to put in and what to leave out is the hardest part of doing a show like Canada Rocks!,” Gallant mentioned. “Everybody on the creative team has their favourites…. This show is not just about what I like, or what Terry likes, or Hank or Wade or Anne Allan. It’s about the songs that struck a responsive chord with all of us, with all Canadians,”

According to Gallant, the most notable change to the show is the reworking of the story. The creators decided to streamline the show, making it more documentary-style. Rather than having actors play fictional characters, the actors are playing themselves. This eliminates some bulk, making for a faster paced and even higher energy show than last year. The script has been rewritten to include interesting facts about the music featured in the show.

Another change audiences will notice is the addition of some new faces. Gallant points out that although some familiar faces are gone (performers like Mike Ross and Stephanie Cadman), there have been new ones added. Charlottetown’s Joey Kitson has joined the cast, along with Charlotte Moore, Janet MacEwan, Sandy Winsby, Allan Gillespie and several others. Gallant notes that Ross and Cadman will be missed, although he is incredibly excited about the new additions to the cast.

New songs have been added to the show, with a particular focus on women in the Canadian music industry. For Gallant, it was important to add some female artists who weren’t there last year. Some of the new song include tunes by Heart, Carole Pope, Shania Twain, and Avril Lavigne.

Though the creative team took feedback from many into account when reworking the show, they knew they couldn’t please everyone. On the songs that didn’t make the cut Gallant says, “We could do a new version of Canada Rocks! every year for ten years and still have to leave out songs that should have been there. Hard choices have to made.” He had trouble making such decisions, noting that without the guidance of director Anne Allan, the editing process would have been much tougher. “[Allan] knows better than most how to strike a balance that will work for everybody. She is the engine that moves us along.”

The new and improved Canada Rocks! plays select dates from June 21 to September 29 on the Confederation Centre Mainstage.

ARTicles

DVD features Prince County artists

by Hilary Hawkins

Digital video production crew members Jonathan Bearisto (rear) and Lindsay Victor (centre), discuss lighting and technique at the studio of Alberton based artist Patt Le Clair Bates (front).A DVD project currently underway in Prince County is promoting the work of several visual artists from that region.The finished DVD, which is targeted towards visitors to our ‘gentle Isle,’ is expected to enhance the Island tourism experience this summer.

A team of non-professional Island youth is working together to produce the DVD, which is a joint project of Tyne Valley CAP Site and East Prince Youth Development in Summerside. The project has been named ‘ARTicles’ by its crew members. Nine artists are featured on the DVD—all living and working from Summerside west. “Inspiration for our ARTicles project came from a CBC series of short vignettes featuring artists from across Canada,” says ARTicles project co-ordinator, Susan Driscoll. The artwork ranges from recycled-metal sculpture to teddy bears, basket-weaving and paintings.

Patt Le Clair Bates of Alberton is one of the artists featured on the DVD. “Art is an essential part of Western PEI’s culture and when you purchase a piece of art (created here) you are purchasing a piece of Western PEI,” says Le Clair Bates.

The DVD will be on display for public viewing at various high-traffic tourism sites on PEI, together with Island highway maps, featured artists’ business cards and their promotional literature. The DVD launch and an exhibition of artwork by artists featured on the DVD is set to take place June 27at Tyne Valley CAP Site on the Port Hill Station Road. Artists and crew will be in attendance and the general public is invited to attend.

The ARTicles project has been make possible with funding from the Tech PEI Innovation Fund and the PEI Community Cultural Partnership Program. ARTicles crew members are Jonathan Bearisto, Summerside; Duston Cameron, Freetown; Callandra Cartwright, Ellerslie; Susan Driscoll, Poplar Grove; Hilary Hawkins, Mount Pleasant; Anthony Millar, Birch Hill; Lindsay Victor, Mount Stewart; and Ken Williams, Tyne Valley.

Fresh Breath

Ingrid Jensen Sextet charms crowd at Steel Recital Hall

Review by P. Wentworth Baker

The Ingrid Jensen Jazz Sextet performed in March at the Dr. Steel Recital Hall at the University of Prince Edward Island. The concert was presented as a fundraising event for the Chris Driscoll Scholarship Fund, which was founded in honour of the late Island jazz drummer.

I’ve been to clubs in Toronto, Vancouver and New York, including the legendary Village Vanguard where I remember enjoying a packed McCoy Tyner show. I might have been too young to enjoy the historic significance of this show, although, growing up, I heard a lot of the recording Coltrane Plays the Blues which included Tyner. And I’ve nearly worn out my Miles Davis recordings. I think that Jensen’s sextet presented work that began somewhere around where these jazz giants’ work left off.

Jensen’s sextet demonstrated inspired writing and playing. The members include leader Ingrid Jensen, trumpet and flugelhorn, Christine Jensen, alto and soprano sax, Joel Miller, tenor sax, Fraser Holland, bass, John Wikan drums, and New York musician Jeff Keezer, piano and keyboard.

These musicians play with the ease and togetherness—they were really tight, with perfect timing and very polished chops. As it turns out they are kind of a big family as Ingrid explained. She’s married to John, Christine and Joel are a couple,and Jeff is a close friend and associate. They spend time at work and play together and quite often work with Fraser who is from Montreal. They must put many hours of practice in together; they make it look easy, playing long, involved charts. And such beautiful, sophisticated compositions—all written by members of the group.

Right from the start, with barely an intro, they played music that takes you on a ride, tells a lovely story and leaves you in a new place. Ingrid’s piece “At Sea” is a boat ride with wind in the rigging providing. Christine’s piece “Red Road,” apparently inspired by the PEI landscape, was a real jaunt. My 11-year-old son, a music student who came along, thoroughly enjoyed “Cap’n John” an energetic, energizing piece featuring some terrific drumming. Ingrid’s version of “Moon River” is wonderful and fresh, a few notes into the piece I realized I’d been marvelling at it recently while listening to the radio. It was followed by a neat, quirky piece called “Moon People” written by Joel Miller. The group played music like they would never stop, and the full house really appreciated the performance.

At one point in the second set, the late Chris Driscoll’s grandfather got on stage to speak of his great appreciation of the musicians’ performance in support of the scholarship fund. He also gave emotional thanks to the sextet, which illicited a spontaneous hug from Ingrid, and thanked Dr. Ian Reed and Ian Thoms for organizing the event.

At the concert I picked up Ingrid’s latest CD which is produced by Ingrid and John. Ingrid remarked in her introduction to one tune that she is now operating as a proudly independent musician after years of receiving the short end of the monetary stick from record companies. She now sells her CDs online from www.ingridjensen.com.

 

Fab Four

Chucky Danger Band

Review by Sue Shipley

Chucky Danger Band photographed live in concert at the King’s Playhouse.

On a pleasant July evening I experienced a concert at The King’s Playhouse, a gem located in the heart of the small village of Georgetown in Eastern Kings County. It is an historic building with a welcoming lobby that displays a town quilt and lots of photos lining the hallway. The comfortable interior has wonderful acoustics.

This night The Chucky Danger Band was playing. When I arrived, shortly before show time, the seats were filling up and there was a feeling of anticipation in the air.

The four-member band made their entrance wearing their trademark matching dark suits and ties. They looked classy and confident, reminded me of a young foursome from England in the 60s.

The band’s energy was contagious as they had the audience singing “find a way to walk with me” on the opening number and clapping along with them to the Spanish beat of the second song.

Chucky Danger Band photographed live in concert at the King’s Playhouse.Lead singer John Macphee carried the show well between songs with easy humour and a comfortable stage presence. He also showed his strong abilities as a songsmith with “Beautiful Mistake,” “So Willing To Let Each Other Down” and “Beautiful One” to name only a few.

Lead guitarist Colin Buchanan played a dazzling guitar solo during “Lost in a Dream,” a rocky tune that also included several percussion instruments played by the other members of the band.

One of the highlights for me was when brothers Rob and John Macphee took center stage singing harmony on John’s song “Silent Stars.” Something magical always seems to happen when siblings join their voices that way. The quiet acoustic beginning of the song grew to full expression when drummer Dave Macdonald and Colin Buchanan rejoined the brothers on stage.

Just when we thought the show was winding down with the announcement of one last number, things really began to wind up! The grand finale was a song well-known to local fans, entitled “Sweet Symphony.” The song progresses in stages of quiet to raucous and back again. Included in the mix members switch instruments while continuing to play, eventually leading to a solo by drummer Dave Macdonald on a set of bongos. It was a well thought out, polished and very entertaining part of the show. Now the crowd was ready for more so when the guys tried to say goodnight much clapping and hooting brought them back for an encore. They played a fine version of the Beatles “Back in the USSR” with the audience clapping along.

I suspect we are going to hear much more from this talented group of Islanders. They are extremely gifted musically, have strong captivating vocals, and they are fun to watch. As John Macphee introduced one song he commented, “I wrote this when I was very young…well I’m still very young, but I was younger then.” The Chucky Danger Band is a very young band with an enormous amount of talent and with many great things awaiting them in the future.

A Musician’s Life

Doug Riley makes PEI his full-time home

by the editor, Peter Richards

When I visited Doug Riley in his Eastern Kings County home in June, workmen were busy transforming the century farmhouse from Doug and wife Jan’s summer retreat into their year-round home. Doug showed me the music room, which is just about large enough for his very grand, grand piano, a massive Hammond B3 organ, and a well-used and (I think) famous Wurlitzer keyboard. On the walls were mounted framed gold and platinum records given to Doug for his work with Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot and Bob Seger. A U.S. platinum record marks sales of one million copies.

A summary of the highlights of Doug Riley’s musical career as a musician, composer and producer fills two pages of the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada (www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com), but it all began when Doug was three years old, and his parents bought a piano. By age four Doug was studying the Royal Conservatory program, and these studies continued until he attended the University of Toronto to study composition with Canadian composer John Weinzweig.

But all through these years of study, Doug had been leading a double life in music. When he was six years old he began listening to his father’s jazz records, and in a few years he was mastering the stride piano styles of American greats such as James P. Johnston, and Fats Waller. In the late 1950s Doug was in Montreal studying pipe organ when he heard the music of electric organist Jimmy Smith. Another arrow in the jazz quiver. Fast forward to 1967 when, at the age of 22, Doug was hired to perform on and produce an album for none other than Ray Charles. As Doug modestly says “that opened some doors.”

Soon Doug became a one-man centre of music production in Canada (with a few years off as a member of Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band). Besides working with all of Canada’s top musicians, Doug wrote commercials, film scores and “serious music” including, at the request of Placido Domingo, an arrangement for the London Philharmonic of a piece for tenor and piano by Tchaikovsky.

Doug continues to perform (PEI Jazz & Blues Festival, Indian River Festival), produce (new CD by David Clayton Thomas) and write (with pencil and manuscript). On PEI he has worked with Island musicians like Roy Johnstone, Joey Kitson, Teresa Doyle and Peter MacDougall, and others. Keep your ears open.

Events Calendar

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Some Upcoming Events

Sirens season

Women’s choral ensemble announces concerts for 2018–19 Select dates
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The Ennis Sisters

Newfoundland sisters on the mainstage December 1
Homburg Theatre  On December 1, Sobeys LIVE @ [ ... ]

Together Again

Kenny and Dolly Tribute Concert at the Confederation Centre November 29
Homburg Theatre  On No [ ... ]

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A gift of Island poetry: Chris Bailey

Curated by Deirdre Kessler Things My Buddy Said Oh, brother, growing up I’d get into trouble
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A passion for cinema

Laurent Gariépy is screening the classics at City Cinema by Dave Stewart Anyone checking out City [ ... ]

Acadian showman

Profile: Christian Gallant by Jane Ledwell Forty-six musicians and step dancers took the stage at  [ ... ]