Thursday, July 20, 2017
Is it the fact that I am getting older, having recently retired or just that I always like to learn - this year has been a year to create new challenges. This digital harpsichord arrived last Thursday. I had my first lesson on Friday. I played the piano for about five years long ago and there still seems to be some muscle memory in my fingers, though I have a very long way to go. One advantage of this instrument is that I can plug in a headset and practice without annoying anyone.
Another challenge I have taken on is an attempt to learn Spanish. I am in no hurry - but do about 5 - 10 minutes practise every day with Duolingo. It is enough to make me able to have simple conversations with someone who works at the gym where I go. But she obligingly speaks slowly. Most Spanish speakers I have heard speak at quite a clip!
And my third challenge. For the first time in my life I am running. My brother and I will be doing a 5K in a few weeks. I plan to walk and run - and am only racing against myself. That way I will do well ;-) - beating my non-existent record so far. Whatever time I run it will be my best.
Am I run away from aging or running towards aging well?
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Every summer I spend a week at CAMMAC, a music camp in the Laurentians. While most years I post photos of all the activities, this year I decided to just post photos of the many moments of peace that being in nature provides.
The daily schedule is quite hectic with classes, practice time, concerts ... so it is important to steal moments of tranquility, like this moment at twilight when the moon could be seen overhead.
This bell has been a fixture at the camp. It is rung to call the participants to concerts and other events.
Many swimmers take advantage of the lake - some even doing a cross lake swim at 6:30 in the morning. With all the rain we have had the water is very high and the small beach is non-existent.
Wildflowers abound along the road. I like to walk up the road to get a little quiet away from the bustle of the camp. You can always hear sound during the day on the campsite as people spend time practising for the following day.
This dragonfly also took a moment to relax.
Walking an focusing - a form of meditation. Taking time to notice the details around us.
Early morning sun reflects on the lake. There is something about being by the water that is calming.
Even rain can bring moments of contemplation. The sound, the feeling that being quietly indoors is enough.
Music was never far from the many moments of the day. Music, too, has its way of replenishing the soul.
Sunday, July 2, 2017
Festival Montréal Baroque: June 22 - 25
A highlight of my year is always the Festival Montréal Baroque - a four day early music festival full of magnificent works, humour, new discoveries, friendship and surprises. This year's theme was the circus and it started with sheer delight - a parade through part of Old Montreal to the venue of the first concert: Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours. It was led by La Carmagnole, a circus band playing mainly Klezmer music and dressed as ravens. A raven "couple" danced along while two stilt walkers juggled and danced with people in the crowd.
It was extraordinary to watch the ravens dance - the female raven was a puppet, but behaved perfectly raven-like.
This raucous band was followed by a more serious concert: Monteverdi's Vespers led by Matthias Maute, one of the co-directors of the festival. Absolutely splendid.
Susie Napper, the founder of the festival has to be one of the most creative programmers. Relying heavily on local talent (Montreal has a large number of early music groups and performers) with a few people from outside she (and now along with Matthias) puts together an incredible array of concerts - about 15 over the course of the four days. There are also outdoor concerts, lectures, an exhibit area for instrument makers and other music related vendors... In addition she arranges with a local cafe to host the young musicians who play while festival performers and attendees can enjoy a bite to eat or a refreshing drink.
One concert featured some of the younger groups each along with a circus performer. All was choreographed - good music but also great fun and quite a spectacle as acrobats, a woman on silks, a man on a loose wire, a clown, each in turn amazed the audience.
This concert was dedicated to the memory of Nicolas Fortin, who died far too young. He had been the director of operations.
In addition to great music, it is always interesting to see the venues Susie discovers for the concerts. This year concerts were held in the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours, the crypt of the church, a couple of halls at UQAM (Université de Québec à Montréal), the Church of St. John the Evangelist, Musée d'art contemporain and at Notman House (former home of the Montreal photographer, William Notman).
This year included a keyboard festival - three concerts dedicated to early keyboard - harpsichord, clavichord and fortepiano. I heard this young musician who is studying in Amsterdam both in solo performance on clavichord and fortepiano and with his "page turner" who is actually a cellist.
From a moving concert by Red Owl to an opera that Bach might have written had he followed the route of Handel instead of being a church composer, the festival touches on every human emotion and always ends with a sense of joy.
Thank you, as always, Susie - and also to Matthias for a memorable few days.
Saturday, July 1, 2017
We were in Ottawa a couple of weeks ago. Everything is decked out for Canada Day - this year celebrating 150 years since Confederation. After the study groups I have participated in lately, one about the residential schools and another on indigenous art, I have mixed feelings about the celebrations. While on the one hand I love to live in Canada and feel good about so much of the values of the country, I am also aware of the terrible things that the indigenous people have endured and continue to endure. There is much to reconcile and to fix so we can move on.
We spent time in the National Art Gallery. The exhibit space has been completely rearranged with aboriginal art sharing the same space as the art of those who came to live here. The exhibit space is divided by art until 1967 and art from 1968 to the present. It acknowledges that the creations by the people who lived here first is art not artifact.
On the walking bridge over the canal people have placed "love locks". So many now are rusty and I wondered if the relationships have also become rusty - as the elements of life took the shine off the hopes and dreams.
If you were looking for a symbol of your love, would you find a lock called Master Ex? It seems doomed for failure. This may be an ex-relationship long before the rust sets in.
Inukshuit were created by the Inuit as markers, often placed on higher ground so people in boats could use them for navigation. Now you can find many versions of inukshuit all across Canada. Near Remic Rapids there are several small inukshuks - a little more open than those normally built for practical purposes.
We weren't the only ones enjoying the park. Ducks, a large number of Canada geese and many other people were taking advantage of the weather. It has been a very rainy season, so clear days (or clear parts of a day) bring everyone outside.
I think cities built near water are so much more picturesque. There is something wonderful about being able to watch water, to see reflections that just calms the soul.
Sunday, June 11, 2017
As part of the celebrations of Montreal's 375th anniversary (I know - that is a random number to celebrate), the Musée des Beaux Arts has mounted an outdoor museum, with sculpture and photographs on Sherbrooke Street stretching several blocks. The totem pole, which I wrote about here is part of this.
This sculpture, Dancing Nana, is by Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002), and was created in1995 according to the museum site (below). She towers over the fence around the McGill campus.
Lurking not far off is this wolf, a creation of Joe Fafard, a Canadian sculptor. I have featured some of his work before.
Further west on the campus is this circle of men, The Meeting, by Chinese artist Wang Shugang (born in 1960).
This pyramid of people is also located on the campus, somewhat obscured from my vantage point. It is called Human Structures and is by Jonathan Borofsky (born in 1942), It was created in 2010.
There are also photographs by a variety of photographers, slowing my walk as I stop to admire and, in many cases, reflect on the subject of the image.
This iconic image by Robert Indiana can be found in different colours in different places. I have seen it in Philadelphia and someone who checks out my Flickr photos saw one in Malaysia.
While I love seeing all the art, I am less enamoured with the flags which only seem to clutter the street. Installing the standards that hold them must have been done at quite a cost - money far better spent on other things - maybe even more money for the arts!
Friday, June 2, 2017
The artist who created this totem pole is a residential school survivor. In school he was met with abuses. His life afterwards, as with many other survivors included substance abuse. Over two decades ago, he turned to his culture for healing and creating this totem pole is a continuing part of the process.
The figures are taken from Kwakiutl symbols, but they also tell the story of the residential school experiences. Included are images which represent his family.
The figures at the bottom represent Charles' family. The red above them represents a cedar rope, a symbol of safety and security. Moving up, you can see the wild woman. She is portrayed with children on her lap - the children coming home from residential schools. She represents female tradition and culture.
Here you can see her welcoming arms.
Above the woman is the killer whale with seven faces, six for the tribes the government recognizes and the seventh for a disputed tribe. The faces also represent the children who were adopted out, not just from Charles' tribe but from First People's bands across Canada.
The raven is a trickster. He represents the collusion between the church and the government in the process to assimilate (and take away the cultural identity) of the native peoples. On one side of the raven there is a nun, on the other a priest.
Further up the pole there is a spirit bear. Again, there are many faces, this time representing the many children who did not make it out of St. Mike's residential school (where Charles spent his childhood) as well as those who died later from the damage caused by their experiences.
The arctic fox is the observer. It bears witness to the past. Capping the pole is the kulus figure, its wings outspread. It represents both Charles chief as well as Christianity (it stands in the shape of the cross). Many indigenous people, include members' from Charles' family have adopted Christianity. This is meant to show the good side of it.
The pole represents the anguish of the First Nations and their experiences after the arrival of the Europeans, but it also represents steps to healing as Canada finally begins to address the wrongs that were done. Baby steps on the path to reconciliation.
All information comes from a document from the Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal as part of the Balade pour la paix in celebration of Montreal's 375th anniversary.
Sunday, May 21, 2017
It's that spectacular time of year when each day looks different. Two hot days brought speedy growth. The blossoms seemed to grow in just days.
Each tree has its own shade of pink.
Each tree comes to life at its own rhythm. Some have leaves that are almost full, others blossoms and some are just starting to send out the first signs of leaves.
On one of our hot days (Wednesday and Thursday the temperature went up to 30°C) the tulips opened wide. Some closed up again as a cold front came through. Tulip season is not long here. Spring brings rapid change before settling in to the lushness of summer.