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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Summertime In Montréal

montreal-international-jazz-festival

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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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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Al Pacino & John Cleese – Live In Toronto

Now that my house move and Christmas are out of the way, here, as promised, is my first general update post.  I have gone back a few months as I wanted to start this feature with two very special and memorable events.

First up was film legend Al Pacino at Massey Hall on Tuesday 10 September.

The only thing that spoilt the evening was my rubbish seat.  I bought the cheapest available ($100) and unfortunately, I had a slightly obstructed view, made worse thanks to the lady seated in front.  But I tried to not let that affect me during the few hours we got with Al Pacino.

I will not pretend to be his biggest fan but I have watched (and enjoyed) a few of his films so this was too good an opportunity to pass up seeing him in the flesh.  Over the course of the evening I learnt a few interesting facts about him:

  • He started as a theatre actor.  Given his success, I am almost ashamed that I did not know this.  He mentioned that a reason behind the trend of actors during the 70’s moving from theatre to the big screen was due to Directors/Producers etc going to see the shows, almost like a secret audition.
  • Has won an Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, Emmy & Tony awards.  Not too sure if any other actor has these statues in their collection.
  • Scarface shooting had to be shut down for 2 weeks when he picked up a gun after firing off 30 rounds and burnt his hand.
  • Thought he was going to be fired from The Godfather for not being “tough enough”, the scene at Louis’ restaurant saved him.

One of his most famous scenes was played out on stage, minus the gunfire!  A few members of the audience were able to ask questions and a young lady asked him to “do Tony Montana” After much encouragement from the crowd we got the immortal line

“Say hello to my little friends”

A funny story was shared.  After winning Best Actor for Scent of A Woman Al was in an elevator with an un-named actress in front of him.  As you can imagine, it was a little crowded and his Oscar statuette was precariously placed.  When the doors opened and Al was getting out, he thought best to let the lady know “that wasn’t me, it was my Oscar”

His latest project, Salomé, was spoken about with passion and this marked the end of the show.  Before he left the stage a poem by Playwright Oscar Wilde was recited.  I was quick with my iPhone and was able to capture the speech.  Click the link below.  Apologies in advance for the sound quality but he lost his mic at one point and the crowd shouted out. Turning up the volume a little will help.

Next was John Cleese at Winter Garden on Saturday 28 September.

I was so excited when I saw the advert for this show.  I was extra excited when I saw that an extra performance had been scheduled due to demand.  I actually noticed all this just as the tickets went on sale so I got out my credit card and bought myself a ticket then spent an hilarious early evening with this comedy legend.

I have known the work of John Cleese via Monty Python and Fawlty Towers all my life and even today when I think of certain scenes/sketches I can burst out laughing.  This performance has only added to my admiration for someone who once again had me in stitches of laughter.

As with my evening with Al Pacino, I also learnt a good deal about Mr Cheese, yes Mr Cheese, as that was his Father’s real surname.  I also learnt that:

  • Germans really do have a sense of humour as they bombed Weston-Super-Mare during the war.
  • His Mother only wanted thing, her way!
  • Was a solitary child and used humour to keep the bullies at bay.

As I have said, I know the work of John Cleese, what I did not know was all that came before Monty Python.  It all started at the Footlights at Cambridge with Graham Chapman and working with two future Goodies, Bill Oddie & Tim Brooke-Taylor that took in the West End, New Zealand & New York.  Unfortunately the New York Times was not impressed and their show lasted one week.

When I saw this show David Frost had recently passed away and John took a few moments to pay tribute to the man who gave him his “big break”.  This had come in the form of The Frost Report.  From that project came At Last The 1948 Show and the meeting with Connie Booth, his 1st Wife & co-writer and creator of Fawlty Towers.  It was also here and through other projects that the members of Monty Python meet.  In the words of John Cleese, a “crap pitch” was made to Michael Mills, Head of BBC Comedy and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

As all the Pythons were predominately writers the disagreements that arose were not about who would play which part in the sketches but who would write them!  And boy could they write.  So many comedy moments were created by these 6 men and that makes picking a favourite so difficult.

Their personal best was the Fish Slapping Dance.

I don’t actually have a favourite Python sketch but Life of Brian is my favourite film.

Fawlty Towers still makes me break out in giggles 30 years later.  John’s favourite Basil Fawlty sketch is the Fire Drill.

If I had to pick one I would say this

The title of this tour was Last Time To See Me Before I Die, put together to pay his alimony costs from his 3rd divorce.  Whilst the tour was a sell-out success maybe it was not enough to pay the bill as just after my show it was announced that Monty Python are reuniting, obviously minus Graham Chapman who died in 1989.  The show could not pass by without the famous eulogy given by John at the Chapman’s memorial.

That is the story of my two evenings spent in the presence of a legendary actor and one of the funniest men to ever grace a tv screen.  Incidentally, Cleese’s greatest ever comedy actor, Peter Sellers.

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Preston Proms – Jose Carreras & Katherine Jenkins

The evening started with a queue, a long queue that snaked its way between Avenham & Miller Park.  Nevertheless the time past quickly and soon enough we were heading into the fenced off area to find our spot.  The majority of people had brought folding chairs and blankets with them, a few even brought tables.  There was plenty of space and we managed to get right to the front, around 6ft from the stage barrier.  We were situated just to the left of the crowd, near the speakers.

After getting ourselves settled it was time to visit the Portaloo.  I must admit, there were plenty of them and they seemed clean enough.  I knew that a few others from where I work was going to be in the crowd and almost straight away I spotted (and heard) one group.  They in turn pointed out the rest to me.

The concert was due to start at 19.00 and they were, unusually, on time.  I am not going to talk in detail about the songs that were sang as we did not buy a programme, though I do know Katherine started with Halleluiah and also sang “Time To Say Goodbye”.  All I really can say it that each and every piece of music played was a delight to hear.  The power of Jose & Katherine’s voices to the perfect music from the Manchester Camerata Orchestra, all was a priviledge to witness live.

Time seemed to fly and before we knew it the fireworks were exploding above the stage.  I have taken away with me three new artists to explore, Carreras, Jenkins and Manchester Camerata Chamber Orchestra.  I very much doubt I will ever witness Jose live again but the 2 hours I saw on Friday night was plenty.  Maybe one day I will see Katherine again and I will be sure to keep an eye out for any Tour Dates.  As for the Orchestra, I am going to have a look at their schedule right now.

For my full set of photographs please view my Flickr Account http://www.flickr.com/photos/clare2904/sets.

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Proms In The Park – Preston Guild

Once every 20 years Preston, my home City, dusts off the cobwebs and has a big party to celebrate “Preston Guild”. They have street processions and a whole host of events.  This year they have kicked out the boat (onto the River Ribble) and arranged a spectacular Proms in Avenham Park.

They have not skimped on the acts, oh no, no second tier performers for Preston.  They have gone straight for the top and secured Jose Carreras, yes he of Three Tenors fame!  And they did not stop there, they then went and got the lovely Welsh lady Katherine Jenkins.  Together on stage for the first time!  They will both have individual sets then perform a “World Exclusive Duet”!!!!

Tickets for the event were a little overpriced at £65 but I very much doubt I will get the chance to see these two superstars of the music world.  The weather today is a little wet so I will be packing my umbrella.  I am going with my Mum and she is bringing the blankets and cushions, I am bringing the food & drink.

Preston Guild Official Website

Katherine Jenkins Official Website

Jose Carreras Website

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Where Have I Been?

To many different places is the answer.

I have watched many films, both at the cinema and at home. Have I told you that I am a member of Lovefilm? I have the unlimited package, 3 discs at home which is great value at £13.27 per month. I watch at least 4 films per week so I certainly get my money’s worth.

I have joined a new cinema, Picturehouse in Liverpool. It is very similar to the Cornerhouse in Manchester that I regularly visit. I am a member of the Times+ and they are running an offer of half price membership, £16 instead of £32. Considering that I recieve 3 free tickets is was worth the price. I also recieve a discount on all purchases as well as numerous other offers. If you are in the North West I recommend membership to both Cornerhouse & Picturehouse.

So what I have been up to?

I watched the new Werner Herzog Documentary – Into The Abyss. This was a pre-release screening @ Picturehouse that included an after film Q&A session with the man himself via link from London.

Interesting film that concentrated on a murder case in Texas. The documentary explores the people involved in the crime and the families left behind. It also looks at the use of the death penalty. For anyone interested in this subject Herzog currently has a TV series showing on Channel 4, Death Row. The previous 2 episodes are available here to watch.

Others films I have watched recently that I can recommend are:

In Darkness – Poland’s entry to the Oscars this year that follows a true story set in Lodz during WWII.

The Skin I Live In – Banderas stars in this excellent, if not slightly wacked out film with revenge at the core of his actions.

Ni Liv – Again a true story set during WWII but this time set in Norway as ordinary people help a man on a failed sabotage mission escape capture and to the safety of neutral Sweden.

Chocolat – A few of my friends needed a “girly chick flick” to cheer them up so we watched this lovely film set in a quiet French village that receives a rude awakening when a choclatier sweeps in and tempts them all during Lent.

The French Connection – I thought this was a great film with an great performance from Hackman. Lots of action and interaction with his partner that keep the pace thoughout. Nice car v subway train chase too 🙂

I went to see the BBC Philharmonic again at Bridgewater Hall for one of their “Reflections on Debussy” performances. As to be expected from the BBC this was a very enjoyable show with nice and delicate music played in perfect harmony.

Three ballets have been watched, Giselle at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool and Romeo & Juliet & Swan Lake at the Opera House in Manchester. Whilw I don’t always know the story or who is who I love to watch them dance, especially the men. I find their fast twirls and energetic moves very entrancing.

I return to Paris in May, where I watched my first ever ballet but alas there are no performances scheduled for the time I am in town 😦 The only show I could watch is the opera Barber of Seville but the ticket prices are silly at €90 so I shall pass.

Films/shows coming up include a free screening of Sideways courtesy of California Classics, a visit to Royal Opera House during my visit to London where I am watching a new performance of 3 short ballet’s. Rigoletto & La Fille Mal Gardee are two performances live from the National Theatre I shall be watching but via the Odeon cinema.

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The Film Music of John Williams: 80th Birthday Celebration Review

Wonderful, an absolutely wonderful evening. To hear many familiar & loved theme tunes, along with some unknown, played out live was a fantastic experience.

The show started with my up-most favorite theme tune, Star Wars. To hear this memorable piece of music played in front of me and to be able to see the instruments played was so exciting, I could almost picture the open credits of the film.

The next music was not by Williams but Bernard Herrmann with the theme to Citizen Kane. Quite bizarre as this film has just been delivered to me by Lovefilm. I have heard the music before watching the film.

The Lord of The Rings blockbuster The Two Towers, another film I have not seen was next. I tried to read the book as a child and that was enough to put me off the series for life!.

The next theme was a chance to check if it was safe to go into the sea, that’s right, it was Jaws. I always find myself looking around for a shark when I hear the opening bars of the music 🙂

At this point I had decided that I really have missed out on some classic film music. Close Encounters was next in two parts, the theme and the music towards the end of the film, which I have been told involves a “spaceship”.

Time for the Witches to take to the stage now with music from The Witches of Eastwick and the Dance of The Witches. And yes, this is another film i have not yet seen but I have added to my Lovefilm list.

Another blockbuster was next, a popular TV series from the 1960’s that has spawned multiple films though the decades, given us fearless warriors like the Klingon’s, the Borg Collective and boldly gone where no man has gone before. It was of course Star Trek.

We next went for a fly through the buildings of Manhattan as Superman takes Lois Lane on a trip. This was concluded with the theme tune. This also concluded the first half of the performance.

At the start of the second half we were introduced to a piece of music that Williams wrote for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Magic wands were waved and owl feather ruffled next as Hedwig’s Theme from the First Harry Potter film was played. I have read the book but will admit to only watching the first four films.

Another of my all time favorite films was next and another unforgettable tune, Raiders of The Lost Ark.

It was then time to find yourself an eye patch and parrot as we took to the high seas in the 2nd of the Pirates of The Caribbean franchise. Can’t say these films have ever appealed to me so this was yet another piece of music that I had never heard before.

“Hymn to the Fallen” from Saving Private Ryan was next and also the final piece of music that I was yet to hear.

Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List & E.T concluded the performance.

During the concert my mind kept wandering back to the same thought, John Williams certainly knows how to capture the heart & meaning of a film or scene and put it into music. When the film called for a more serious note you can feel this in the music. Equally so, when the film was about adventure, i.e Raiders of the Lost Ark the music is upbeat and you feel a part of film.

On the advert used for this concert Williams is described as “the greatest living composer”. After the two hours plus I spent listening to a catalogue I cannot disagree with this statement.

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Royal Northern College of Music – Foden’s Brass Band – 28/01/2012

Tonight I am making my first visit to the Royal Northern College of Music to watch a Brass Band.

I have always enjoyed this type of music and during my hunt for new Art experiences online I came across the website for the RNCM.

I am looking forward to watching this concert tonight and check back tomorrow for my report.

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