Clare In The Cheap Seats

Follow Me Around The World Of Art

The Big Orchestras of Montreal

The Metropolitan Orchestra of Montreal has provided me with many hours of music excellence over the past year. The greatest accolade I can pay them is that they take their performances out into the surrounding areas of Montreal and not just stay at Place Des Arts. The ticket prices at PdA are ridiculous and many people are forced out of the market. A local church or similar setting along with adult prices of $22-$25 is far more reasonable and that is what I have done with my 4 performances.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor is a delight to watch. He brings such enthusiasm to the performance and you can see the respect he has for the musicians. I do find the whole conducting part to be way over my head in terms of what waving the baton actually does but I do know that after 2 performances by Yannick he seems to know what he is doing. He always looked so happy and relaxed on the stage, like he was having fun, and that conveyed itself to the Orchestra and those of us fortunate enough to be in the audience. I specifically remember watching the majority of the performances with a big grin on my face 🙂

Another person whom I have had the honour to watch perform twice is a young man by the name of Stéphane Tétreault, a Quebecois Cello prodigy with a very unique style. The passion he has for his instrument is clearly seen by his playing style and facial expressions. If you watch the clip below you will see what I mean. Here, and during the two performances I saw, he literally jumps out of his chair when he plays and you can almost see the music on his face. All this was rather surprising to me when I first saw him play back in December, classical music does have a reputation as a “upper class” activity and raw emotion is not something you usually associate with it, so in this regard, Stéphane was a joy to watch.

I have been to two other concerts by the Metropolitan with Philadelphia Conductor Cristian Măcelaru and a young Japanese-American Conductor called Kensho Watanabe. Yannick Nézet-Séguin provides a connection to both as he also conducts for the Philadelphia Orchestra and Kensho has just completed his training under his guidance in the US. The two concerts with were also a joy to listen to and I shall look out for them both if they ever visit Montreal.

The other major Orchestra in Montreal is of course the Symphony Orchestra and I have now been to two of their performances. Unlike the Metropolitain they do not venture out of Place des Arts and they their prices sadly reflect this. I will try to get to more of their performances but only if I can find a reasonably priced ticket.

The first concert I have to tell you about was back in February and featured that annoying but memorable ringtone William Tell Overture. It was quite an experience to hear such a famous piece of music played before me. Other pieces played during this concert were Symphony #5 by Mendelssohn, which I enjoyed.

and Concerto for Piano #1 by Brahms, which I enjoyed less. Not because it was not good, the guest Pianist was Emanuel Ax and he was great, it is just that found the notes to be too “harsh”. I do prefer the Violin/Viola and wind instruments to the keys. You can have a listen for yourself here.

My final concert was one from an absolute legend in the music and film industry. This man has been composing music and film scores for over 50 years. He has 3 Academy Award nominations and a host of other accolades and awards, his name is Philip Glass and his performance was outstanding. Two pieces stood out for me that evening. The first was Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra (2000), what a stunning piece that was.

The second was when Mr Glass himself took to the stage and performed his piece Mad Rush. I have been able to find the actual performance online as CBC recorded the event for one of their programmes. I am so glad I found this so I can see the close up of his hands as he plays. We were right up on the balcony, in the Cheap Seats  so you don’t get to witness the finer details of the performance.

That is everything for now.  I hope to get out to a few performances during the upcoming Jazz Festival (like last year) and to other venues showcasing musical talent.

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Music To My Ears

I am going to use this post to wrap up all the wonderful music I have been fortunate to witness from a few Orchestras and musicians based in Montreal (Met and Montreal orchestra post is here. The city is truly blessed with musical talent and here is what I have to share.

Christmas time is always a wonderful opportunity to get out and listen to some great live music and the run-up to Christmas 2014 was certainly no exception.

My first concert combined great music with the giving spirit of the season. The Lakeshore Concert Band held their Christmas Dessert Concert, which was a chance for those attending to support a local food bank and help those in need. I went to the store and stocked up on items that were requested and off I went with my box full of food. I was fortunate to sit next to the Wife of one of the musicians and she told me about how often they practice etc. As with when I have been to amateur theatre, the level of commitment shown by these people is nothing short of remarkable and they deserve every accolade put their way. The concert itself was a jolly affair with festive tunes that was topped off with a good old sing-a-long of Christmas Carols.

Baroque Christmas Around the World was the title of my next festival concert and it was simply amazing. I had never heard Baroque music before this evening and it showed me what I have been missing out on, the sound was just magical. What made it even more spectacular was the guest Soprano, Dawn Bailey. Her entrance into the church was stunning. I think everyone in the audience expected Dawn to arrive on the stage where the musicians were playing, instead she used the Church setup to her advantage. She began to sing behind the audience on the organ balcony. As her voice filled the Church she made her way down the stairs, then the aisle and onto the stage. Another guest joined the group for a later piece but I forget his name now. He was a young Iranian man who grew up here in Canada. He played a Persian drum; again I sadly forget the name and as with everyone else involved in this concert, he was marvelous. The name of the group is Ensemble Caprice and I will hopefully see them again one day.

Stewart Hall in Pointe Claire is my final location for this post. They host a wide variety of free concerts on a Sunday afternoon and I have the pleasure to share with you two recitals from November and February.

The last pieces of chamber music for clarinet and piano composed by Brahms was the delight that awaited me on a cold Sunday afternoon after work. Michael Westwood (Clarinet) and Gregory Millar (Piano) provided the entertainment as they played 3 pieces of music and shared their love knowledge and passion for these works. The next concert in February was by a very talented young man called Carl-Matthew Neher. This has been my favourite concert at Stewart Hall by far. Not only is Neher a very talented young man he also is a very good teacher. His pupils that day were the audience. The title of the concert was La Musique de l’eau (Water Music) and he took a great amount of time to explain (with short examples) of how the connection between water and music was represented in the pieces. I am not very talented when it comes to the actual construction of music, I go by what my ears enjoy so I felt I learnt a lot during the 2 hours and I am grateful to Carl-Matthew for giving the time to explain.

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More Reviews To Share

I really need to make more of an effort; I now have so much to tell you about. I’ve been very lucky to watch some wonderful performances over the past 3 months so I will get straight into my review.

I always like to support amateur artists; the dedication they give to their art is truly incredible. Lakeshore Players are one such group of people and I was delighted to watch their production of Sabrina Fair. Whilst I have heard of the play I have not watched its more famous adaptation, the film. This will soon be rectified as it is waiting for me to watch on my PVR. As for the Lakeshore Players take on the story, it was a hoot. Each performer was excellent and I really did have a great evening. It always amazes me how community theatres can put together such wonderful sets and in a small space such as the stage. Everyone involved with this production did a great job. I sadly missed their next play but I will certainly be back for more.

I moved on from community theatre to those studying Creative & Applied Arts in school. Dawson College in Downtown Montreal was where I went to have A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I must admit, I did not know before the performance that it would be an original dialogue production so it took me a while to understand the Shakespearean language and to my eternal shame, I did not know this story. I got there in the end though and had a blast. Again, the sets were truly marvelous and the whole production crew deserve credit for such a visually memorable show. There are a few more performances in the coming weeks so I will hopefully get back to see them again.

My next night of entertainment came from the Middle East. I am very active in the fight for Palestine and El-Funoun, a colourful dance troupe from the region provided me with a taste of this historical land. To be able to watch such a high-energy group of people was truly inspiring. The itinerary included dances relating to Palestinian folklore, resilience and love. All this came together to produce a marvelous show that will stay with me for a long time.  Here is a little taste of their show:

Another review to follow soon 🙂

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The Rest Of 2014.

Right, I have been ever so busy these past few months so I have lots to tell you about.

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Firstly I start with something that really put a dampener on my Art viewing schedule. Cineplex pulled the plug on screening Royal Opera House performances in September. I was so looking forward to watching Alice in Wonderland in December / January. Sadly I have not been able to find another local cinema (nearest is 100 miles away) hosting RoH performances so I have missed out on Alice and the gang.

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Another reason for my disappointment with Cineplex is their rewards card; each time I go to their cinema I collect points towards free tickets. A strange thing happened with this scheme in September. I had collected enough points for a free ticket so I booked myself a ballet as the ticket costs the same amount of points as a normal film but costs $8 more. Off I went to the screening and 10 minutes into the performance I find myself thinking “I’ve seen this before” I was watching Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty and afterwards when I checked my diary I saw that I had indeed watched Sleeping Beauty (traditional) back in April and that too was a free ticket! As with the performance in April I found this one to be a fantastic adaptation of the fairytale, though I am more a fan of the traditional setting.

Medea

My next visit to the cinema was to watch Medea. Someone I know was lucky enough to go and watch this play live. He raved about it so much that I looked it up online and thought it something worth watching and I was not wrong. Like Othello that I watched earlier in the year, the play is given a modern setting. The torment and abandonment is plain to see and everyone involved made this a very successful trip to the cinema.

Paquita

From the cinema I went to the live stage for a visit from the Paris Opera Ballet (a company I once saw live in Paris). This production was 15 years in the making (from the programme notes) and their performance of Paquita was well worth the wait. The costumes were gorgeous and the dancing as I expected from such a talented company. At first I hesitated about buying a ticket as they were pricey but I certainly made the correct decision and my money was well spent.

Kafka

A complete contrast followed, I went from one of the most famous ballets in the world to a performance by an ape. Mind you it was Kafka’s Ape. This Infinite Theatre production was a very cleaver adaptation of the famous 1917 Report To The Academy. The twist in this play was to show how an animal gained humanity and humans become an animal via military corporations only concerned about profit not people. The night ended on a somewhat funny note, it was my first experience street parking in downtown Montreal and I got a parking ticket for entering the wrong bay number. Thankfully the rip-off $53 charge was dismissed on appeal.  that meant I had more money for the Arts.

To Be Continued…

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Rogers Cup – Toronto 2014

Tennis is a huge passion of mine so this year I decided to revisit the Rogers Cup held in Toronto, I had previously visited back in 2010.  I once again opted for the VIP package that gave me a ticket for the whole tournament along with access to the VIP Lounge and events.

As in 2010, I had a great time, saw some excellent matches, met a few players and to top it all off, one of my favorite players won, Jo Wilfred Tsonga.

To view a selection of my photos (I took hundreds !) please go to my Flickr account here

I did not come away from Toronto with only memories and photos, I also came away with some unique art!  There are silent auctions taking place throughout the week and two wonderful pieces caught my eye straight away.  Thankfully I was the winning bidder and they now take pride of place on my wall.

Debbie Wells

The Rogers Cup alternates between Toronto and Montreal so in 2015 the tournament is on my doorstep.  I have already booked my VIP package and an added bonus is that three friends from the UK, who I met via tennis, are flying over to join me.

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Contemporary Art Museum of Montréal

From theatre to music to art, my next venture in Montreal took me to the Contemporary Art Museum.

I will freely admit from the start; I am not the greatest fan of what passes for Art these days. Contemporary is not something I usually fall over myself to go and see whether it be art or dance. People like Emin etc do nothing but make me want smash up their so-called “art” I guess that is what makes Art unique, it is so subjective, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

All that said I actually enjoyed the few hours I spent at the Gallery. I always want to say something insightful when I publish art that I find enjoyable but I can never find the right words to convey my feelings. Why do I like that piece but not another? Is it the colour, structure, how it makes me feel? It is at times like this when I really wish I were better at putting down on paper (or in this case typing) what it is that makes me stop, look intensely, steady my camera and capture the image for my collection.

But, the only way to improve is to keep trying so here goes. These are my personal highlights with a few words about what instantly springs into my mind when I look at the painting.

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Colourful symmetry and perfect lines.  I like perfection.

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Colourful asymmetry with uneven lines, complete opposite to the above and contradicts my normal feelings, yet I like it.

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Reminds me a tree bark and I love trees and nature, the painting felt real and alive.

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A patchwork quilt, something that makes me feel safe and warm.  Also reminded of the time at school when we knitted (or tried to) squares for blankets to be sent to Africa.  Gave me a sense of good.

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A spider web, which some people think are a nuisance but I like.  I think spiders are amazing, a fine example of how a small creature can create an home and sustain themselves in the process.

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The Moon is made of swiss cheese, a fine and happy memory from being a child.

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What is not to like about a heart?  We all have one.  I particularly liked that it was a dark colour.  So often a heart is red but even here it gave off warmth.

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Naked people lying down in the street.  Different shapes, sizes, sex and colour yet we are all the same, Human.

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For me this was a powerful image about music today.  It is no longer what it was, it has evolved and I can’t say it is something I enjoy as much.  It is no longer about the lyrics or music but the image and persona.  The life seems to have melted away.

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Marina, a lady who has been messing with the mind of Art for many years now.  In this piece she is naked, both of clothes and of life.

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I have always enjoyed patterns and this installation created a random array of light that I found very calming.

And that concludes my visit to the Contemporary Art Museum.  A visit that, like the one I took to the Tate Modern in London, has helped me find some pieces to enjoy and gain a little bit more of an understanding into this Genre of Art.

Enjoy the photos and maybe take a visit to your local Contemporary Art Gallery.

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Summertime In Montréal

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I managed to keep myself busy over the summer months in Montréal, here is what I’ve been up to.

New film blog

I’m sure you all know about my Criterion Collection Blog. As another way to broaden my access to films I decided to go “Region Free”, this means I can play Blu-rays & DVD’s from any country in the world. I can now buy from any Studio / Distributor so I have visited the websites for two British companies, Eureka and Arrow Films.

Both work in a similar way to Criterion, releasing films with lots of interesting and informative Extras. Given the exchange rate here in Canada they can be more a lot more attractive in price compared to Canada/USA releases. In order to keep track of all that I buy and watch I decided to start a new Blog which you can find here

Driving Miss Daisy

Once again I have been able to watch a play courtesy of Cineplex. This performance was filmed during the sell-out tour of Australia and as I have never seen the film starring Morgan Freeman as soon as I saw the advert I thought to myself “I have to see this” Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones on stage, yes please!

They certainly did not disappoint; the play was wonderful. It never ceases to amaze me how theatre can create such a vision with bare minimum props. It was two actors sat on chairs yet in your mind you could see them in a car, stunning !

Jazz Festival

When we first knew we would be moving to Montreal several people told me that the city hosts many Festivals. A quick look at the calendar and I found the Jazz Festival. A lot of the venues were free and even those that had a fee it was still reasonable. We managed to get to see a few acts and had a great day. The best by far was a local band called Waiting Game They have an EP available to download at “name your price” This was something I did as soon as we got home. Check them out !

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Busy Busy Busy !

Again, I am very sorry for neglecting this Blog since April.  The upside is that I have plenty to tell you about.

I’ll start at the Montréal Symphony Orchestra where Mr Clare & I spent an evening listening to:

BRAHMS, Academic Overture
BARTÓK, Viola Concerto
VIVIER, Zipangu
BRAHMS, Symphony No. 3

Our seats where up in the God’s but I prefer that when watching an Orchestra as the sound travels plus you can see each musician playing their part.  From the programme I really enjoyed the Brahms, who doesn’t? I was not keen on the Vivier, sorry it just sounded like noise with too much going on at once and was too long.  I enjoyed the Bartók piece though it was a tad too long.  There must be something about long pieces of music that I don’t enjoy!  All that said, it was an enjoyable evening out at the Orchestra and it was great to finally hear some live music again, you can’t beat it.

Next I was off to the cinema again to catch the encore screening of King Lear starring the marvellous Simon Russell Beale (great Podcast HERE with more HERE from National Theatre Live).  Wow, what a fantastic performance from everyone involved.  I actually think that my lack of Shakespeare knowledge is to my benefit when I go to watch these plays, as I have no spoilers, I felt the same way when I watched the equally fantastic Othello earlier this year (EDIT – I have looked through my Blog and cannot believe I have not told you about this!)  There were EPIC performances by Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear and whilst this particular production had a modern day setting it was nothing less than brilliant.  It was because of this performance that I went back to watch King Lear.  I can honestly say that both of these plays have made we make me want to read the works of Shakespeare in the future, alas, too much to read / watch, so little time, but I will get there one day.

Fast cars in Parc Jean-Drapeau can mean only one thing, Grand Prix time in Montréal. We have both been fans of F1 was years but never took the plunge and attended a race. Now that we have one literally on our doorstep it seemed rude not to go and check out the action. The ticket prices meant it was cheaper to buy a 3-day pass so we missed nothing. It was quite an experience to hear the roar of the engines (and this year they have been turned down), smell the burning rubber and see just how fast these cars move. The best view was from the back row of our Grandstand as we could stand up on the bench and see pretty much all the way down the back straight. We had to arrive at the circuit when the gates opened in order to get these seats as it was unreserved. This meant having to get out of bed very early though this was the only downside to the weekend. I managed to get quite a few photos and they can be viewed at my Flickr

I have a few Criterion reviews to write up on so I will now say Au Revoir from this Blog.

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2014, The Story So Far

Oh my, I have so much to catch up on. I have been to my first Montreal play, been out and about with my camera and caught the National Ballet via the cinema. In between all the above I’ve managed to pack in lots of films.

I’ll start with my first venture into the world of Montreal theatre. I went to the Segal Theatre to watch The Seagull, a new version based on the play by Anton Chekhov. I found it to be an absolute marvel and for the price ($24) it was a bargain. I have bookmarked the theatre (along with a few others) and will keep an eye on their future productions.

My partner & I went to the local Botanical Gardens back in early March to visit the Butterfly exhibition. Butterflies have always fascinated me ever since I was a child. I find metamorphosis extraordinary and love the colours of all the different butterflies and moths. I have posted a few photos here but check out my Flickr page for the rest.

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As I now live in Québec I have decided to learn French. Even with the Liberals regaining power in the Province, French is still an essential tool to living here. I am going to the YMCA and my course starts on 6 May for 7 weeks. Hopefully by the end of June I will have some grasp of the lingo.

As usual, I have been watching lots of films this year. I’ve even managed to catch a few at the cinema in addition to those at home. So far the highlights have been:

Nebraska (cinema)

Her (cinema)

Doctor Zhivago

25th Hour

Ted

Wadjda

A Single Man

The Wind Rises (cinema)

The Grand Budapest Hotel (cinema and my first winner from Wes Anderson. Ralph Fiennes is just marvellous)

Black Rain (Japanese title is Kuroi Ame)

I have also rewatched Deliverance & Gladiator, which are both immense films.

But the winner so far this year and the only film to score 10/10 is 12 Years A Slave. Whilst it is hard to watch in places, this film is an absolute “must-see”

Another reason I have been to the cinema was to watch the Ballet, yes the Ballet. Remember when I posted about the Arts being broadcast into cinemas across the world? Well I have been again, this time to watch Sleeping Beauty by the Royal Ballet. I had actually forgot about this performance so I missed the Live broadcast from the Royal Opera House. Thankfully they have an “Encore” screening and it was to this that I went on 13 April. The bonus for this performance was the fact that it did not cost me a cent; it was free! I collect points every time I visit Cineplex so with all films I have watched, the orders placed to buy DVD’s and movie rentals online, I had more than enough points to be able to exchange for a ticket. Hopefully it won’t be long until I have enough points for another free trip.

So what have I got coming up in the next few months?

Well I will be going back to the cinema in May to watch the National Theatre Live performance of King Lear. Later that month we have tickets to the Montréal Symphony Orchestra; details about the concert are here. There are a few films coming up over the next few months that I would like to go and see at the cinema and I have literally around 30 films recorded from the TV. And lets not forget all the Criterions I have to review. Enough to keep me busy and out of mischief 🙂

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2013 Wrap-up

During my search for activities to keep me occupied I came across a great free concert series held by the Canadian Opera Company.  I am always looking to experience live music and as there was no cost involved I thought I would give it a try.  I decided to attend the lunchtime concert being held on Thursday 28 November.  This short concert introduced me to a very talented young lady by the name of Naghmeh Farahmand.

I knew next to nothing about Iranian music and instruments before the show so when Naghmeh took time to explain the history behind the instruments and their meaning I felt more of a connection with her music.  The concert lasted an hour and 6 pieces were performed.  To find out more about this talented young lady please see her official website For a quick taster please watch the clip below.

In November I went to my 3rd and final Play.  The production was Who’s in Bed with the Butler by Theatre Etobicoke.  As with the 2 other Plays I watched during my 9 months in Toronto, this one was very well received, not only by me, but everyone else in the almost sell-out audience.  I am always amazed at the level of talent on show during these amateur plays and for $25, it was an enjoyable and fun way to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.  I am hoping to find a similar scene in Québec.

Sport plays a huge part of life in North America and Toronto certainly had enough to keep my sport needs satisfied.  I went to 3 Toronto Raptors games and they lost all 3!!!  Granted they were playing Miami Heat (who went on to win the NBA Title that season), Chicago Bulls & San Antonio Spurs but I was still disappointed not to see a win.  It is so typical that since I went to the Spurs match on Dec 10 the Raptors have been tearing up the opposition.  I was obviously a jinx!  I was less of a jinx to the Toronto Marlies, the feeder team for the Toronto Maple Leafs.  I never went to a Leafs game as the ticket prices were just ridiculous and frankly, the team is crap.  The Marlies on the other hand appreciated my support and won both the games I attended.  Another cheap way for me to watch some hockey was to go to watch the University teams.  Both Toronto University and Ryerson University have teams and I once again brought them luck.  I also found time to watch a new sport, Volleyball and again, finished with a 100% winning record.  There seems to be a pattern:

Overpaid pros: 0/3 — The B Team / Kids: 6/6

My final event in Toronto was Christmas with The Salvation Army at Roy Thomson Hall.  Christmas is not the same without Carols and this evening was a great way to listen to and partake in the singing.  The concert was led by Marjory Watson, a Scottish soloist, and backed by the Toronto Northern Lights Chorus, the reigning Barbershop Harmony Society International Chorus Champions, The Festival Chorus & the Canadian Staff Band. It was a wonderful evening of song and music and a fitting end to my cultural adventures in Toronto.  To cap off the night, it was snowing when I left the theatre 🙂

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