Clare In The Cheap Seats

Follow Me Around The World Of Art

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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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.


The Misanthrope

Once again I found a local play via the TO.Tix website.  This time is was The Misanthrope by Molière.  Unlike the last play I went to see (The Mousetrap) this one was set outdoors.  The setting was the Guild Inn Gardens in Guildwood, on the outskirts of Toronto with the Guild Festival Theatre staging the play.
Before purchasing my ticket I had quickly read a little about the play.  Phases and words like “comedy of manners”, farce and satire instantly appealed to my taste.  So for the price of $24.90 I click “buy”.
On with the play itself and I found it to be everything I thought it to be.  It was a hilarious look at one man’s quest to not partake in any “folly” or fake niceties that was prevalent in 18th Century French aristocracy.  He decides that he will say nothing but the truth.  This leads to all sorts of problems including a trip to court after he insults a fellow member of high society when he writes a love sonnet.  Whilst the words of the sonnet were truly bad, the over-the-top way in which it was delivered made it a highlight of the show.
The main problem our “honest aristocrat” faces is the fact that one person who does enjoy a good gossip happens to be the lady he loves.  She enjoys the high society lifestyle to the full, which means never saying no to a host of suitors who vie for her love and attention. 
As the story unfolds, we see all the backstabbing and bitching that comes with putting on airs and graces instead of being honest.  In the end the truth comes out and everyone is left in no doubt as to where they stand.
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Carmen – A Disappointment

I should have looked into this a little more before purchasing my ticket.  I must also learn the difference between what I deem Ballet and what passes for “modern” these days.

This performance was nothing like a Ballet, nothing at all.  For me this was a dance production, a modern dance and not a very good one.  Granted, I have never seen Carmen before and bar one piece of music, was not too sure on the music either, but this was just a mess.  I have no idea what was going on when our ears had to suffer through minutes of almost Neanderthal type noises, that I think were supposed to represent the “passion” between the characters.  It was hideous and most off-putting.

Thankfully I was in the same seats as my previous visit so only wasted $25 on this poor pretence of a Ballet.

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Canadian Opera Company – Dialogues des Carmélites

It is time to revive this Blog.  Now that I have a job I can start visiting the Arts once again.

On Saturday 25 May I went to the Four Seasons Centre for The Performing Arts to watch the final performance of Dialogues des Carmélites .

I bought my tickets via T.O.Tix Whilst they were Level 5 and one row from the very back they were fine, in no way too high up.  My only complaint was the safety bar that ran along the seats in front.  As the seating sloped downwards towards the middle of the row, the bar was in my sight-line.  Thankfully there were empty seats nearby so I moved 3-4 seats along and the bar was out of the way.

The opera itself was very good, very few props but lots of people.  The story was simple, nuns during the French Revolution being forced to abandon their faith, they stand true to their beliefs and are killed for it.  The final scene, as they fall, one by one, to the sound of the guillotines blade was very chilling.

So for the cost of $25 I had a very satisfying first trip to the Opera.

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The National Gallery of Scotland – Edinburgh

Again no photographs were allowed in the gallery so I went around with my pad & pen writing down the details of those paintings that caught my eye.  Unfortunately I have not been able to find pictures online for all the paintings I liked.  The ones I have been able to find are shown below.
I found the Gallery to be very nice with large rooms giving everyone enough space to move around and view.  There were two little exhibtions within the Gallery that were free, I only got to the Bute Collection.  When I arrived I was greeted by a very helpful Gentleman on the reception desk who went through the map with me, pointing out highlights for me to view.  I dined in the Restaurant on the Lower Ground Floor.  The prices are on the high side (£15 inc tip for soup, sandwich and a pot of tea) though the soup was lovely and they gave me a pot of hot water to get a few more cups of tea.
Overall it is an impressive Gallery and I am glad I made the trip.  I was there around 4 hours including lunch break and shop browsing.  The only downside is that they do not offer an audio guide.  Lockers are available as large bags etc are not allowed in the gallery (£1 refundable on collection).
Here are the paintings I enjoyed (and have been able to find online)
Aelbert Cuyp –   A Horse, Cattle and A Cowherd Resting in a Landscape (Bute Collection)
John Emms – Callum
 David Teniers the Younger – The Card Players (Bute Collection)
 Pier Francesco Mola – St Jerome
Raphael – The Holy Family With a Palm Tree
Titian – Venus Anadyomene (Venus Rising From The Sea)
Andrea del Verrocchio – The Virgin Adoring The Christ Child
Sandro  Botticelli – The Virgin Adoring The Sleeping Christ Child
Edgar Degas – A Group of Dancers
Bernardo Bellotto – A View of Verona with The Ponte Delle Navi
Aelbert Cuyp –  Cattle Watering by An Estuary (Bute Collection)  
 Aert van der Neer – Frozen River Landscape (Bute Collection)
Claude Monet – Boats In A Harbour
Claude Monet – The Church at Vetheuil
 Edgar Degas – Portrait of Diego Martelli
Waller Hugh Paton – Entrance to the Cuiraing, Skye
Gabriel Metsu – An Old Woman Feeding A Dog (Bute Collection)
Camille Pissarro – Kitchen Garden at L’Hermitage, Pontoise
Goffredo Wals – Landscape with Christ and St Peter
Pietro Berrettini – Landscape With The Penitent Magdalen
Meindert Hobbema – Wooded Landscape
Philips Konnick – An Extensive Landscape
Claude Monet – Poplars on The River Epte
 Nicolas Poussin – 7 Sacraments (Marriage)
Rembrandt – Self Portrait Aged 51
 Jacob van Ruisdael – The Banks of A River
Jacob More – The Falls of Clyde
The Honourable Mrs Graham – Thomas Gainsborough
Camille Pissarro – The Marne at Chennevieres
Titian – The Three Ages of Man
John Constable – The Vale of Dedham
Eugene Delacroix – Vase of Flowers, 1833


Rouen & Vernon

The last two days have been spent in the nearby town of Rouen and the town in which we are staying, Vernon.

Rouen is famous for its Cathedral, which was painting over 20 times by Claude Monet and Joan of Arc, she was tried, convicted and executed in Rouen.  We spent just over 4 hours here and visited the Musee des Beaux Arts de Rouen (Fine Art Museum of Rouen), the Cathedral and then strolled the streets with their half timbered houses.

More photos of Rouen can be found here and here

We are staying in Vernon and today we went for a walk around the small town to take in the few sights and visit the small museum.

One of the main attractions in Vernon is the Old Mill House by the River Seine.  In 1947 the owner of the house passed away and despite attempts no heir could be found.  The house fell into disrepair and was only saved when the Town Hall intervened.  Whilst it is not open to visit the view from outside is still stunning.  This too, like Rouen Cathedral, was a favourite of Monet.

From here we continued to the AG Poulain Museum that houses a small collection of Monet, his Wife and other painters.

The rest of my photos from the Gallery and from around Vernon can be found here

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Monet’s House & Garden In Giverny

I have finally made it to Giverny and the home of Claude Monet.  Entrance fee for the House, Garden and Impressionist Museum was €15.50.

Thankfully the weather was on its best behaviour as rain had been forecast in the days before.  We arrived around 11.30 and the wait to enter the gardens was less than 5 minutes.  With it being later in the season there were not coaches packed with visitors on day trips from Paris etc and we were able to walk around the gardens with plenty of room for all.  There are rows of flowers that stretch from the House all the way down to the boundary of the grounds.  You are able to walk in between most of these rows though so areas are cordoned off.  There are plenty of benches dotted around for you to have a rest and admire the view.

The house itself is very neat and tidy and one room has been decorated with around 60 replica works of Monet.  There are maps available in the room for information.  The upstairs bedrooms give you a lovely overview of the garden and I could imagine the sight that greeted Monet every morning.  The Japanese Garden is accessed via an underpass near the Group Entrance.  This is of course the Water-Lily Pond and the Japanese Bridge that is world famous.  Once again, the sight was beautiful.  I am so glad we visited at this time, whilst there were people around you could easily take photos etc and there was no scrum to get your photos taken on the Bridge.  For me the most impressive part of the garden were the Weeping Willows, they were just so beautiful and for me made the whole Water-Lily Pond more stunning.

As with most places I visit (when allowed) I took plenty of photographs to show you.  As you will see from my Flickr account I do not know the name of some of the flowers.  If you do please leave a comment, either on Flickr or here and I will update the photograph.  I do hope you enjoy viewing my photos and if you can, please visit Giverny and see this beautiful place for yourself.

More photos can be found here: Flickr Account

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Buying Original Art

I recently started to purchase original art to go along side the prints I buy on my travels around the UK Art Galleries.  The website I use is

So far I have purchased two paintings and spent under £60.  They have a wide selection of art available and the prices start from £10.  Delivery is free and it is also very quick.

Here are my two paintings.

Inglenook On A Winter Evening – Christine Jones (£40)

Wet Farm Entrance – David Hannaghan (£13)

Take a look and see if there is anything that takes your fancy.  All the Artists are UK based.

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