Category Archives: Reviews

Ai Weiwei, What is he up to?

I recently came across some media coverage on Ai Weiwei. The world family and politically controversail sculptor has move to live in Cambridge in England after living in Germany for the last few years. He is also setting up a business to share his sculptures with buyers to be re-assembled in one’s home. This is consistent with his signature style to shock and to make one ponder his intent.

This brings to mind his exhibition in Toronto entitled “According to What?” some years ago. The impact of his home imprisonment in China was still fresh in his consciousness. And with China in the news these days with the CO-vid19 virus spreading from Wuhan to all over China, and  globally with no end in sight, the image of his crabs is an apt parady. There is a Chinese saying, that if one spills a basket of crabs, they’ll crawl everywhere–a situation hard to contain and control. This is what it is:

Ai Weiwei has been described as provocative, political and controversial.  The exhibition of his art on a world tour and at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) originated from Japan. The curator went to his home in China where he was on house arrest to discuss the presentation. I went to the exhibition with an open-mind, albeit wonderfully how I would feel afterwards.

Ai Weiwei’s Snake meandered on the ceiling of the entrance hall.

I entered a corridor with photographs of the changing landscape of China on display. The next corridor had television screens showing a myriad of clips ranging from Ai Weiwei working on his art forms, making faces (which I guess was also his artistic expression), and his arrest by the Chinese officials. There was a write-up on the incidence and pictures of brain scan showing the brain injuries Ai had sustained from the blow of the head by his officials, and for which Ai had to undergo brain surgery.

On the opposite wall, two marble sculptures, one representing surveillance camera outside his house and the helmet worm by the rescue crew at the Szechwan earthquake paved the way for more messages from the artist.

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His works reflect his ideas about free expression and right to protest, and at the same time, his artistic brilliance shine in his astuteness in the use of lines, forms and geometry.

One passed by a life-size sculpture of Ai Weiwei himself as one left the exhibition deeply moved by the power of this giant in the artistic world.

I am wondering now if Ai Weiwei will create a sculpture with face masks in response to the Wuhan corona virus when the masks are back in supply. This may even be a piece he can shipped to his patrons’ homes to be re-assembled.

Thursday Special: Vodou

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This was an exhibition that was new to me at the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. The warning that part of the exhibition might cause discomfort or surprise spurred my curiosity to take a look. As it turned out, it was a thought-provoking and educational display on the origin, history and the practice of Vodou.

Vodou came to the New World from West Africa and took root in Haiti blending with local religious beliefs. The first group of exhibits were artifacts inspired by Vodou. On display was a Vodou shrine in the size of a small closet where Vodou could be practiced at home.

A wall was dedicated to the time-line of Vodou in Haiti, where colonizers who were Catholics denounced Vodou as superstition and considered it to be evil and barbaric. This drove Vodouists into clandestine practice and they formed their secret societies.

A central belief in Vodou is the interconnection of the spiritual world after death and the world we live in. This is achieved through Lwa, which are special spirits also manifesting the presence of the Great Met (the Vodou god). Lwa can appear in many shapes and forms. This one is an example:

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Vodouists communicates more easily with Lwa and when they do, they enter into a state commonly known as “possession”. The vodouists do not suffer and they return to their own selves afterwards.

On display were drums and artifacts used in special ceremonies and a video played the dancing, chanting and trance-like condition of vodouists to the rhythm of drums.

The exhibits looked more menacing towards the end of the exhibition, as they represented the darkness of persecution by the colonists and the struggle by vodouists for freedom and independence . Vodou also became synonymous with the fight against slavery at the time.

Haiti became independent in 1804 and Vodou was officially recognized in Haiti in 2003.

One of the goals of the exhibition was to dispel the notion that Vodou was associated with curses and the popular image of a Vodou doll that people poke with needles. In this exhibition, I saw a lot of parallel between Vodou and many other indigenous folk beliefs all over the world. Believers were persecuted in the name of religion by colonizers or invaders in human history. It is unfortunate that political domination is linked hand in hand with the attempt to eradicate the collective meanings of a culture that has become the subordinate. Would it not be a better world if we were more tolerant of differences?

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For more Thursday Specials this week, please visit Paul’s blog Lost in Translation.jupiter-widget_text

O-O-O Challenge: Opalla’s Overindulgence in Ottawa

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First of all, my gratitude to Frizztext for the inspiration to write this post about Opalla in Ottawa in his comment to my recent post, and I take it as an invitation to submit to his O-O-O Challenge. Nonetheless, I take credit for the “overindulgence”.

It was a working holiday. There was no time for haute cuisine, even though there was plenty in the Canadian capital. Whether it was the meetings and workshops that drained calories or the cooler Fall air outside, I craved for comfortable food. Interestingly my companions felt the same.

One night we ate The Manx near downtown (Elgin and Gladstone).  We were at the pub around 5:30 p.m. and was lucky to find the last table. It certainly was a busy pub the entire time we were there. My attention was captured by the picture frames on the wall.

There were others that read “I bought this because my friend was the artist”, “Ikea print”, and so on. Fun!

The food came in generous helping and was delicious. My pork chop had been brined in ale and was presented with a beautiful baby arugula salad and maple parsnip mash. It went very well with the pale ale I ordered. I finished all my food.

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My companions each ordered from the daily special menu and had pork chop and penne respectively. They were very happy too with their food.

The Manx, 370 Elgin Street, Ottawa.

The Manx on Urbanspoon

Another pub we went on this trip was Mill Street Brew Pub. near Parliament Hill. I had been there before and liked its location near the river. The building was converted from an old mill.

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On this occasion, the quality of the food also lived up to my expectation. I had a tourtiere made with pork, elk and veal prepared with veal stock and Mill Street stock ale. It was very flavourful. I ate up the last pea on my plate.

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My friend who ordered the steak was also very pleased with the helping and the taste. The fish and chips for my other friend was disappointing though, because both the fish and the chips were dry. (To be honest, when it comes to fish and chips, I would put my vote on the British fish and chips any time.)

The beer was nice, and Mill Street Brewery produced many house brands. I chose one infused with green tea and I liked it.

Mill Street Brew Pub, 555 Wellington Street, Ottawa.

The pub food on both nights was hearty and satisfying. My food cravings were curbed, but I had overindulged.  My workout could come later, I told myself.

Mill Street Brew Pub on Urbanspoon

Book Club Review: Beach Strip, John Lawrence Reynolds

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POSSIBLE SPOILER

I have a chance to read Beach Strip by John Lawrence Reynolds through the book club of my local library branch, which is in support of the One Book One Burlington Event this Fall.  Our discussion surrounds some of the questions prepared by the librarians, with insight from a member who has taken part in the initial shortlisting of the book.

Most of us know where the Beach Strip is as a local landmark in Burlington and some of us have walked along it, including myself. (This is another reason why I read this book, because of the familiarity of the setting.) If you have been following my blog, you may wonder if I have an obsession about this area–the beach walk, the waves and the lift bridge. I tell my group that as I am reading the book, the scenery appears vividly in my mind’s eyes, even though I walk along the strip only in daylight and the crime in the book takes place at night. I figure out roughly where the author refers to as the first crime scene, and know exactly the location of an unexpected twist in the plot in which Josie Marshall walks on the lift bridge, looks at the guard on duty in the tower and throws the ashes of her husband in the canal. After that she walks on to discover a dead body, whose head is missing! I have not gone back to Beach Trail and the Burlington Canal Lift Bridge by myself since reading the gory details. Honestly, I need some company here.

When it comes to the plot, we have a perceptive remark that every ingredient one wants for a crime story is here. There is more than one murder, and the cops play a key role. There is more: Sex, flirtation, violence, a gangster boss, a suspected pervert, filial piety, sibling rivalry, extra-marital relationship and police corruption. Reynolds must be having fun with his canvas of the book, and puts a dab of this character and that character, as well as the various themes, viola! We are wondering whether with all these catchy ingredients the film right of a TV movie may be forthcoming.

The biggest misgiving we all have is the characterization of Josie Marshall, whose husband Gabe, a police detective, is found dead on the Beach Strip outside their house.  Josie does not believe that Gabe has committed suicide, as the police has told her. She takes it upon herself to find the murderer. There are too many inconsistencies. One moment Josie is grieving her loss and crying that she is feeling weak, but the next moment she is charging around talking to people and functioning like a cool and balanced-headed detective. Then she is in Vancouver with her sister, spent after all her experience. Next she is on a flight, calling and emailing all the people she wants to see to expose the murderer. This is all within three weeks of losing her husband. Mind you, she has seen at least two dead bodies in this short time. She appears like Super Woman.

The most upsetting part for us, all being female readers, is the stereotype of a woman’s strength to be her sexual appeal. It is only too superficial to see Josie deliberately wearing a tight top and a short pencil skirt when she visits the gangster boss. Reynolds says that he is experimenting with a female protagonist in this novel and when he tries to get into the head of the Josie Marshall,  it seems that it still comes from a male perspective. Anyhow, Reynolds will be appearing in an event to talk about his book. It will be interesting to see what he has to say.

The book is an interesting read, but likely not Reynold’s best. We think that it is selected for One Book One Burlington more because the setting is a local attraction, and Reynolds is a Burlington resident.  It is also easy to fit in other activities for this “one book one community” event which is gaining popular support in  the province.

Thursday Special: Serendipity (A New Tea House in Burlington)

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The quotation of Henry James on a chalk board greets me and my friend when we enter Serendipity Tea House in Burlington, Ontario. It helps to dispel our frustration after driving around the block twice before we can locate this place.

My friend and I make the impromptu decision to have afternoon tea. We have heard about a new tea house and decide to look for it. Just as it is named, Serendipity Tea House is our serendipitous find. I want to make this post my Thursday Special (hosted by Paula) for this week.

We feel quite comfortable in this small café with clean white table cloth and fine table settings.

The lunch crowd has left and we have a quiet time before other customers for afternoon tea arrive. The menu offers many choices for tea, and a lot in the fashionable category like green tea, white tea, herbal and caffeine free. I am a traditionalist, and so I only have English Breakfast Tea, Darjeeling and Earl Grey to choose from. My friend and I both settle for Darjeeling.

We also order the Classic Tea. It was a gorgeous presentation of sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries.  The cucumber sandwich is a real delight. The scones are warm and served with clotted cream.

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My friend and I chat over our tea for almost two hours. There is classical music in the background, the genre I like.  We feel we have our privacy even with other customers around in this quaint tea house. I had afternoon tea which was very enjoyable in a bigger hotel earlier this year; yet if I had to make a choice, I would come back to Serendipity.

POSTSCRIPT:  Serendipity Tea House has an entrance address: 477 John Street, Burlington, Ontario which is different from their postal address.

Serendipity Tea House on Urbanspoon

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Symphony of A Thousand at the Brott Music Festival

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Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 is also known as the Symphony of a Thousand. Although there is no absolute requirement to have a thousand musicians to perform the piece, it certainly requires a considerably big orchestra and a choir to produce the desired musical force. The National Academy Orchestra (NAO) chose this piece to be the grand finale of their season at the Brott Music Festival. This was an ambitious project and I was among the audience to support the NAO in this performance at Hamilton Place, Hamilton, Ontario.

In this composition, Mahler departed from the conventional form and divided the symphony in only two parts. He composed his music to the 9th century hymn Veni Creator Spiritus (“Come, Creator Spirit”) in Part I and for Part II, the words came from the closing scene (Act V, Scene 7) of Goethe’s Faust. I knew neither Latin nor German, and so I was delighted to  receive a copy of the words with English translation with my programme notes.

The first part featured Apprentice Conductor Brandan Hagan, who led the orchestra and the combined Arcady Singers and Junior Arcady Singers to a powerful and convincing performance. The baton was handed over to Maestro Boris Brott after the intermission. Maestro Brott guided the audience in a journey through the penitent and the mystical passages to the climax of the symphony. The brass instruments blared and thus announced the triumph of the human spirit and salvation (of Faust’s and all humankind) made possible by a woman’s love.

The vocal parts were beautifully sang by the soloists. The sopranos made it look easy when they sustained their parts in high range with superb tonal control, and all the voices, particularly the tenor, performed brilliantly over the might of the orchestra and choirs.

It was a dazzling musical feast with an orchestra about 100 strong and two hundred members in the choirs. The NAO brought back some of their graduates and the leadership came from professional musicians who took the principal parts. Concertmaster was Mark Skazinetsky, Associate Concertmaster with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Existing NAO members were undoubtedly mentored by a superb team. Although Mahler acknowledged that this was his “biggest” work, he never endorsed the number “a thousand”. I whole-heartedly enjoyed what I experienced with the NAO this evening.

I also liked the departure from the black attire orchestral members normally wore during performances. Female musicians wore colourful evening dresses which enlivened the mood. (They did the same when they played the Brandenburg Concerti.) After all, Mahler’s Symphony 8 rejoiced in the enlightenment of the human soul, and definitely it was not the most sombre and saddest of his symphonies. Besides, this was a summer music festival–Why not brighten our world with some colours?

The last note brought the audience immediately to a standing ovation. It was said that when Symphony 8 was first performed, the audience applauded for almost half an hour. This record had yet to be matched, but the NAO, the Arcady Singers and the Junior Choir were on their feet for over five minutes while the audience brought the conductor and soloists back on stage for three or four curtain calls. The NAO rounded up another triumphant season.

POSTSCRIPT

When I want to hear Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, this is my favourite YouTube clip, because Leonard Bernstein is one of my favourite conductors.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSYEOLwVfU8

House of Gourmet: A Chinatown Staple

Have you had the experience of walking aimlessly in town looking for a place to eat? This was what happened to me and my family in Chinatown on Spadina Street in Toronto recently. There were so many Chinese restaurants and we did not come here often enough to have a restaurant to always go to. What saved us was the rule of thumb that never failed: only go to a place to eat if there are a lot of people there. We peeped inside the House of Gourmet and this was what we saw:

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“This is safe to go in,” said my husband. Unlike some busy restaurants where we had to wait indefinitely for someone to show us where to sit, we were ushered to our table promptly, and the waiter came with the tea and the menu.

Another rule of thumb I use when I go for a Chinese meal is to pick what I do not normally make at home. For the four of us we ordered steamed eel with garlic and black bean sauce, stir fry neck of pig, roast duck and stir fried vegetables (tong choi) with bean curd.

The complimentary soup of the day, melon soup, was tasty, and so were the dishes we ordered. The eels were served steaming hot and the neck of pig was stir fried to perfection, bringing out the texture of the meat that it was known for. The skin of the roast duck was crispy and the meat tender. The vegetables were freshly in season. We enjoyed the food with plain rice and were utterly content.

When we left the restaurant, we were aware of its traditional setup with the take-out counter, where one could buy barbecue pork, roast pork and roast duck on one side and the open kitchen preparing noodles and dumplings on the other.

I shall feel comfortable to return to the House of Gourmet next time I look for a restaurant in Chinatown or to buy take-out. I may even consider it to be my Chinatown staple.

The House of Gourmet, 484 Dundas Street West, Toronto, Ontario.

House of Gourmet on Urbanspoon

Book Club Review: The Sense Of An Ending, Julian Barnes

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It was my turn to host the book club and I had chosen Julian Barnes’s Man Booker Prize winning novel The Sense of An Ending. When I read the book last year, prior to my decision that it would be my book club pick, I came to the last but two pages, and the ending took me by surprise. I said to myself, “Did I miss something?” and I re-read the book–it was only 150 pages long. I then decided that it would be the book I would share with my friends.

Later I came across a review by Geoff Mak, who commented that “The Sense of An Ending has gained itself a reputation for being the novel you must read twice”, and the director of the 2012 Man Booker Prize did so as well. It was very good to know that I was not alone.

At our book club meeting, I first asked my friends whether they found the ending a surprise and unanimously, nobody expected the twist, although one or two suspected that it might not be a straightforward ending. Our discussion quite naturally moved to  the mystery aspect of the book. We thought that Tony Webster was unreliable as a narrator.  He was forced to re-walk and rewrite his life history with he inheritance of the diary that belonged to his friend Adrian through the mother of his ex-girl friend Veronica. Adrian committed suicide after they finished school and parted ways. Even then, how much could he remember events of forty years ago, let alone recall them accurately? As one book club member opined, our memory was what we wanted to remember.

Not only that, a few of us echoed what Veronica kept commenting about Tony that he “just did not get it”, although we could not figure out what he did not get, because that would solve the puzzle regarding his relationship with Veronica, Adrian and Sarah Ford (Veronica’s mother).  We felt we had to accept the fact that this was Tony Webster, resigned and somewhat unable to understand relationship issues, struggling to remember what happened in his younger days. With our all-female member book club, we even ventured into generalizing that this could be a male perspective. As for Tony, the book gave the impression that he was constantly lost and uncertain about himself. Margaret, Tony’s ex-wife, continued to be his counsel and confidante.  We speculated that his weekend at Veronica’s home was significant, but our interpretations differed. One wondered about the imagery of Sarah flipping the egg and throwing it away, and its implication.  Another person read more into Veronica’s asking her brother Jack whether “this one (Tony) would do”.

The personality of Veronica did not appeal to us. Tony warned Adrian that she was “damaged goods”, but her personal history was sketchy in the book. She was spiteful after she had slept with Tony, and that was also after they had broken up. I wondered what the story would be like if Veronica was writing it.

It seemed that Tony had almost forgotten the vicious letter he wrote to Adrian, after Adrian told Tony about him and Veronica. He wanted to find out why Adrian had committed suicide. Veronica told him that the money bequeathed to him by her mother was “blood money”. However, the ending did not help us, who were trying to play sleuth. After all, Sarah Ford’s letter to Tony mentioned that Adrian died happy.

We were very involved in our discussion, and everybody attempted to create a version of exactly what had happened. This little book spanned Tony Webster’s life time from youth to retirement age, yet what was not written– except that he got married and then divorced– in between did not seem to matter. He was an ordinary fellow trying to make sense of his life.

Julian Barnes adeptly wove the class discussion of history into the theme of his book. It was Adrian who said, ” We need to know the history of the historian I order to understand the version that is being put in front of us.” (p.13). With Tony, who seemed uncertain at times about what exactly happened in his life, the irony rang home.

One thing was certain. Several book club members decided to re-read the book. Our discussion actually continued into the next day, when one person sent out an email giving yet another interpretation of what had happened in the plot. I could not be more pleased.

Konga Cafe: A Taste of the Caribbean in Saskatoon

I am in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for  few days. There is a small restaurant that my friend and I like to go to every time I visit for Caribbean food. Konga Café is situated in a non-descriptive plaza in the fringe area of town, but the moment you enter, you know you are in a friendly family-run eatery that only the enlightened locals and visitors would come.

You cannot miss the open kitchen near the entrance. This is to allow you to say “hello” to chef owner Eddie or for him to spot you and greet you. The décor is vibrant and and relaxed. Colourful paintings by children are pinned up as part of the decoration. The restaurant does not have a big menu, but their signature dishes are well-known.

This evening I ordered mahi mahi with Caribbean rice, and my friend ordered the spicy ribs, because it was all right to get messy with familiar company. The food was hearty and delicious. We could not resist the key lime pie as dessert, and it is freshly made every day.

Chef Eddie had a moment to spare and came to the table to greet us. He also handed us his own concoction of a shooter-drink for a toast. No wonder all of us kept coming back. If you happen to be in Saskatoon, look out for Konga Café. Their curry goat is another must try.

Konga Café, 204 Avenue H.N., Saskatoon, SK

Konga Cafe on Urbanspoon

Brandenburg Concerti at the Brott Music Festival

1-IMG_0559 The Complete Brandenburg Concerti featured The National Academy Orchestra, now celebrating its 25th anniversary under the artistic direction of Boris Brott.  The orchestra presented the six Brandenburg concerti in two concerts (matinee and evening) on the same day. I was only able to attend the evening concert with Concerti No. 2, 6 and 5 on the programme. The venue was the Studio Theatre of the Burlington Performance Arts Centre which housed 200 people, and it was a full house that night. The theatre provided the perfect room-size and good acoustics for chamber music.


(Source: Burlington Performing Arts Centre Facebook)

Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 is famous for its trumpet part, which is reputedly the most difficult part in the entire repertoire. It was a bright piece of music to open the concert with over twenty musicians on stage.  When the trumpet was not playing in the second movement, the violin, clarinet and flute trio blended in to a calmer movement, before the trumpet returned in the third movement. The trumpet soloist gave a brilliant and commanding performance tonight.

The atmosphere became more intimate when the instrumentation called for only six musicians in Concerto No. 6. Only two violas were playing at the beginning and other instruments were graduatlly brought in . The energy built up, and the flow of the music continued. Overall, it was a mellow and beautiful piece featuring the violas and the cello, which was muted to produce the effect of the ‘viola da gamba’.

Concerto No. 5 brought back the rest of the orchestra and was a treat for harpsichord lovers. Bach probably was writing this piece for himself, and the harpsichord soloist gave a virtuoso performance. Since the concert went without an intermission, this was a warm and affectionate piece to close the evening with.

The reason I support the National Academy Orchestra of Canada was the opportunity and support it has given to young musicians, mostly recent graduates from music programmes, who still need the mentorship of established musicians in how to become a professional musician. This orchestra provides a unique platform for these musicians to work with experienced professionals before they join major orchestras in North American and around the world. This evening’s concert is the best illustration of this philosophy. Emerging musicians were performing with professionals, who took on the leading or principal parts on the trumpet (Robert Weymouth), the viola (Brendon Chui), the harpsichord (Borys Medicky) and the oboe (Tamsin Johnston), and led by their enthusiastic concertmaster Joseph Lanza. The younger musicians may occasionally missed the flair of the concerti, but the music quality is made up by their focus and discipline in making music. An added bonus was the succinct and very well-written programme notes. I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

The Perfect Kichen: Perfect Cantonese Dining

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I live in the suburb and this means that every time my husband and I want to dine out in a Chinese restaurant, we have to drive about half an hour to get to somewhere we can find authentic Chinese food. I do not mean to belittle the local restaurants serving Chinese food in the ever-so-popular buffet style with primarily Chinese dishes and Japanese sushi. In fact, I go to them occasionally for an indulgence to sample many dishes in one seating.

I have been to the Perfect Kitchen in Mississauga, Ontario more than once. They serve a Cantonese menu and also have dim sum at lunchtime. Their food fits my definition of authentic Cantonese cuisine, and the price is reasonable. For three people that evening, we ordered two meats and a vegetarian hot pot. The stir fry beef was sizzling hot when it was served, and the sweet and sour spare ribs lived up to the standard of being one of my favourites on the menu. The mixed vegetables dish was the best.  There were baby bok choy, broccoli, spinach, carrots and  Chinese mushroom braised with vermicelli. All went well with a bowl of fluffy rice.

The Perfect Kitchen, Unit 1, 2075 Ridgeway Drive, Mississauga, Ontario.

Choral Music with Voices: Bach to Basics

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I have written that my favourite composers are Bach, Beethoven and Brahms when I describe myself on the acceptance of some blogging awards . Understandably, how could I resist a concert that presents the choral music of these three composers performed in the fitting setting of a church?

Voices, under the artistic direction of Ron Ka Ming Cheung, had chosen the Anglican Church of St.-Martin’s-in-the-Field in Toronto to be the venue of their year-end concert. The Church celebrated many beautiful architectural features such as stain glass windows, a hand-carved oak sanctuary imported from Belgium and wooden sculptures. I was particularly interested in the organ,  described to be “a two-manual with twenty-one stops by Casavant Freres”. This Church is renowned for its acoustics, and it is written that Glen Gould and Ofra Harnoy have made recording there.

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About ten minutes before the beginning of the concert, Ron Cheung came out to speak to the audience. He gave an introduction to the music which the choir would be performing, and he did it with interesting details and anecdotes that I seldom found in many programme notes. For example, when describing the Mass in C Op. 86 by Beethoven, he mentioned that it was a creative departure from Haydn and he dedicated it to the Prince Nicholaus Esterhazy. At the end of the performance, the Prince came up to Beethoven and exclaimed, “What have you done!” Beethoven took it as an insult and left Vienna immediately. He dedicated the Mass to someone else. (Wikipedia noted that this was Beethoven’s public disgrace.) However, Ron Cheung opined that it was probably Beethoven’s misunderstanding, because given the beauty of this piece, the Prince’s remark was likely one of amazement and praise. The choir presented Kyrie and Angus Dei, true to the spirit in Beethoven’s words, “gentle, with an overall serenity”.

The other work by Beethoven sung by the choir was the Hallelujah chorus from Christ on the the Mount of Olives Op.85. It was a less popular piece compared ot Handel’s chorus from the Messiah. Thanks to the conductor’s for pointing it out, one could catch the reference to Handel’s work in the accompaniment.

Brahms’s works were sung next. The Missa Canonica was the only Mass written by Brahms, based on a canon-like (“round’) form and worked on the melodic 7th interval, and conductor Cheung mused that it was like an exercise for counterpoint. This piece was not discovered until the last century. The choir sang the Kyrie, Sanctus & Benedictus, and Agnus Dei.  Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen from Ein deutsches Requiem Op. 45 completed the first half of the concert. It was a moving performance which mesmerized the audience.

It was all Bach after the intermission. The choir began with three chorales: Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ; Dein Will gescheh, Herr Gott, sugleich; and Verleih uns Frieden gnadiglich.  They sang Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied BWV 225, Excerpts were chosen from Bach’s huge works Mass in B minor BWV 232, and St. Matthew’s Passion BWV 244. The choir rearranged the members to present the two-choir pieces. Meticulous care in programme planning was reflected by having the Kyrie I and Dona Nobis Pacem to echo Beethoven’s beginning pieces, like “book-ends”, according to Ron Cheung.

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Interspersing the choral music was either a cello solo or an organ solo by pieces of the three composers. Organist John Stephenson provided an excellent solo performance and a brilliant accompaniment the entire evening.

Voices had chosen very challenging pieces to perform this evening. They took full advantage of the acoustic of the Church and sounded powerful for a choir with twenty members. I noticed that they had to work hard with the two-choir pieces after a long evening singing in a warm evening without air conditioning. I left the concert feeling that Voices had affirmed their reputation as one of the finest community chamber choirs in Toronto. By showcasing the 4th movement of Brahms’s Requiem, they have given a sneak preview of their calibre as it is their plant to sing the entire work at Easter next season.  I hope I’ll be among their audience.

Church of St, Martin-in-the-Fields, 151 Glenlake Ave., Toronto, Ontario

Exotic Indian Cuisine: Home-style Indian Cooking in Toronto

Exotic Logo My Indian friend and my walking buddies were discussing the difference between home-cooked food and restaurant-cooked food on one of our regular walks and she said that her favourite restaurant in Toronto could do exactly what she did in traditional home cooking. I like Indian food a lot, and it was only logical that she offered to take some of us for a try. Exotic Indian Cuisine is located in a quiet plaza in north Toronto. My friend knows the chef-owner Kishor well, and one of the treats for us is a visit to the kitchen to see how naan bread is made. The dough is tossed to the side of an open charcoal oven. The bread is removed when it is ready with a metal hook. 1-DSC02278 For appetizers, we have chosen chicken pekora, which is meaty and moist, and the vegetarian pekora, which is tasty, although I do not like the doughy texture. They are served sizzling on a hot plate. We also have a kachori (pigeon peas in whole wheat pastry), which is an interesting change from samosa. We have papadom dipped in various sauces.

We have so many dishes for main courses that I cannot remember all of them 1-DSC02280 The Dhaba chicken is described as “just like the taste of street stalls” in the menu and it is delicious. I also like the deep-fried okra, and cashew nut curry and the butter chicken. There is rice and naan to soak up the tasty sauces. We all agree that some of the dishes are not found in the menu of other Indian restaurants, and the style and taste too, attested by our Indian friend, is home-style. I always give extra points to Indian restaurant which serve kulfi , and Exotic Indian Cuisine does. I indulge in my pistachio kulfi. There is also the rose flavour ice cream to sample. I stick by my pistachio kulfi. There is something about spicy food in that I would crave for it after a while. Exotic Indian Cuisine will be high on my list when I have my next craving.

Exotic Indian Cuisine is situated at: 1850 Albion Road, Toronto, ON.  

”Exotic

Travel Theme PEACEFUL: The Interactive Garden of Walt Rickli

The Travel Theme of Ailsa’s Where is my Backpack this week is Peaceful. This photo shows the setting in which I have discovered a peaceful surrounding for a quiet walk to engage in my own meditation.

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I am talking about the Interactive Garden of Walk Rickli, nestled in the serene grounds near Bronte Creek in Lowville Park, Burlington Ontario. Walt Rickli has made his name as a stone sculptor-philosopher, who has integrated into his art the beauty of nature and reflections in the mind. While I pace along the garden path, each sculpture invites me to pause, look and think. Many pieces on display have running water, the sound of which entices me to walk over, and I discover the stillness of the stone contrasting with the movement of the water. Many a visitor will find the ‘ohm’ moment here.

This is one of my favourite pieces.

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The exhibits are rotated during the year. I find on this day several sculptures depicting the native Inuit theme. I leave them to your interpretation.

English Afternoon Tea at the King Edward Hotel

English afternoon tea often leads one to imagine an elegant surrounding, fine china and expensive cutlery. One sips the tea, served with delicate pastries, sandwiches, and scones with clotted cream and jam. This is exactly what the Victoria’s at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto offers to its patrons.

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We were seated in a spacious room with large paintings on the wall. Service was attentive  and never intrusive. While we studied the menu, the waiter left us with a box of tea to sample our choices. I selected my favourite, Lapsang Souchong, while my companions chose Darjeeling and Assam, respectively. We also settled for the King’s Tea, deciding that we did not need the other option with champagne included.

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Our tea was served in Wedgewood china. The sandwiches arrived next and the selection included beef, salmon, egg and chicken. I was slightly disappointed that cucumber sandwich was not included. A three-tier tray arrived with the scones, lemon macaroon, maple tart, cheesecake  and strawberry mousse. They were delicious. My companions and I relaxed and chatted. Quite naturally our discussion also touched on what is the proper way to hold a teacup, and whether to put milk into the tea first. My blog friend Janet has written an interesting post about that recently too. The Victoria’s  had given us a leisurely break from the busy world outside.