Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ben Franklin

Ben Franklin by susanvg
Ben Franklin, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Thought I would share some of the public art in Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin gets around - he can be found in many places in the city, including his grave. I love his lightning hair!

Mural - Philadelphia

This temporary mural covers work. It certainly makes strolling through a pleasant experience.


This is part of a mural on the side of a pub. You have to look a while to find all the whimsical details - a flavour of Philadelphia.

Building a Village

This was in a store window - part of a village built by children. The "slate" roof was beautifully done. Some buildings even had graffiti - so much part of our modern cities.

Love and the Homeless

Love and the Homeless by susanvg
Love and the Homeless, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
This iconic sculpture sites in a park in downtown Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Ironic to see the sign as the pool is surrounded by benches full of homeless men. Notice the sleeping bag near the water. There is an astonishing number of homeless.

Mural - Philadelphia

Walking from the hotel to the ISTE conference (with a few detours), I passed some beautiful murals. Philadelphia is full of murals and other art work. I am always impressed by cities that value art. Public art is accessible to all. It speaks to the emotions and elicits laughter, a smile and even tears.


As Philadelphia is a very flat city, walking is easy, but benches are available for those who need a rest or just want to stop to admire the architecture.

Philadelphia City Hall

William Penn stands atop Philadelphia's City Hall overlooking the city. He must once have been able to see far and wide. Now modern buildings tower over the city obstruction his view in some directions. 

Modern Towers

Masonic Temple

Masonic Temple by susanvg
Masonic Temple, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Photo: June 26, 2011

There is quite a variety of architecture in Philadelphia, from the ornate to the stark modern structures. This is a detail from the entry way to the Masonic Temple (built in 1873). As you can see, each column is decorated differently. My hotel room featured a large print of a photograph of these columns.

Masonic Temple

This is the entry way - (photo taken a few days later).

The Pump House

The Pump House by susanvg
The Pump House, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Photos: June 25, 2011
There is no shortage of intriguing venues for concerts in Old Montreal and Susie finds them all. We went to a concert of music by Trabacci, played on viola da gambas and harp. It was held in the old Pump House, now part of the Archaeology Museum. A lovely concert with perfectly blended instruments and some truly beautiful solo harp pieces.

Concert in the Café

A delightful part of the festival is always the free concerts in the café. Young musicians share their talents as they have an opportunity to play for the public. It is wonderful to see the up and coming young musicians.


This year, the rain prevented outdoor concerts, so those also took place in the café. I only had a chance to hear a bit of Skarazula's concert. Their music, Middle Eastern and Eastern European, makes it hard to sit still. I hope to catch a concert of theirs in the future. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Festival Montréal Baroque

Festival Montréal Baroque by susanvg
Festival Montréal Baroque, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Photos: June 23, 2011

Each year the Montreal Baroque Festival astonishes and delights audiences with its originality, variety of concerts and, of course, with the fantastic music. This year's theme, The Seven Deadly Sins, features music by composers with unsavoury backgrounds (Forqueray who was known for his excessively unpleasant temperament, Gesualdo who murdered his wife and her lover, Rosenmuller who went after the young male singers in his charge...) as well as music which in one way or another portrays one or more of the sins.

Susie Napper, the director of the festival and creative force behind it opened the festival with a bite of the apple, a sin which may have sent people out of the garden of eden - but, in my opinion, into a garden of earthly delights!

Le Ballet Royal, de L'Impatience

Le Ballet Royal de L'impatience (music by Lully), was last performed at the court of Louis XIV in 1661. We were treated to a splendid and comic rendition featuring the choreography of Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière and the dancers of Les Jardins Chorégraphiques. Singing, instrumental interludes, dancing - a real feast which featured many of the deadly sins.


Clavicytherium by susanvg
Clavicytherium, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Five concerts - my head is swimming with music. The day began with teeming rain. After a trip by metro to Old Montreal and a walk up to the Café A Propos with rivulets of water racing down the hill, we ate breakfast while waiting for the concert. Our wet clothes began a long process of drying.

The first concert was held in the cafe - a young harpsichord player, Mélisande McNabney, who I have known since she was a young child at CAMMAC. She played music by Forqueray and Bach. A young artist, or extraordinary talent, she delighted the audience with her musicality and technique.

Concert #2 featured Mandragore, a medieval group. A lovely variety of music, beautifully presented. The voices blended and the variety of instruments provided interested colours.

Concert #3 was presented by the recorder consort: Flûte Alors! They played an astonishing number of notes at breakneck speed as they performed works by Matthias Maute and Vivaldi. I wrote about them recently when I attended another of their concerts.

Concert #4 was an interesting concept that worked beautifully. The late Bruce Haynes, a brilliant music historian, oboist and music philosopher constructed 6 new "Brandenburg Concerti" by using movements from Bach cantatas and concertos. This practice was not uncommon in the baroque era when composers reused movements from one piece in others and with copyright being quite different from now, they would even incorporate music from other composers into their own works. The new Brandenburgs were based loosely on the originals in terms of mood, but the instrumentation was based on players who were available in Montreal - another typical baroque practice. If you had a good oboist and harpsichordist, you would be likely to write more music for that composition of players. It was an emotional evening as Bruce died only a month ago; he never heard his extraordinary reworking of Bach's music. The musicians will be recording these new concertos - I can assure you I will be buying a copy.

Concert #5 brought both madrigals and some harpsichord pieces. The harpsichord pictured above is different from most harpsichords in that it is upright (like modern day upright pianos). It was played by Alex Weimann. The Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam were extraordinary. They performed madrigals (mainly by their namesake, Gesualdo). Their tuning, precision and overall musicality were magical.

Fatigue  prevented a visit to the Cafe to hear more young musicians. More concerts to come...

Old House

Old House by susanvg
Old House, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
The Montreal Baroque Festival always gives me the opportunity to be a tourist in my own city. With 5 concerts in one day in three different venues we walked through Old Montreal. I love the old stone buildings. The plaque on this one read... "built around 1800 on land granted in 1658 to Lambert Closse by Paul de Chomedey Sieur de Maisonneuve ..."

Doors of Justice

Along Notre-Dame, we passed the Court of Appeal, once the Court House. It is imposing, with stairs leading up, tall columns and these large doors. Here is a detail of one of the panels.

Detail of Door Near Notre Dame Cathedral, we found a pedestrian area - a quiet oasis in the city, with benches and fountains and the songs of birds ricocheting off the stone facades of the buildings.

Peace in the City

As to the festival - what a richness of concerts!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ensemble Masques

Ensemble Masques by susanvg
Ensemble Masques, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
A great weekend of music ahead with the Montreal Baroque Festival. This pre-festival concert was performed by Ensemble Masques. Wonderful music by Rameau and de Mondonville, played so beautifully. Montreal was founded in 1642. This music dates from the early to mid 18th century. I can imagine it may have been played here in Montreal in the salons of the elite. It certainly fits with the atmosphere of Chapelle Notre-dame-de-Bonsecours.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Street Music

Klezmer Music by susanvg
Klezmer Music, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Photo: June 19, 2011

Summer brings out the buskers in Montreal. Different streets (in this case St-Laurent) become pedestrian only for a few days for sidewalk sales and other festivities. These Klezmer musicians had everyone's toes tapping as their energy was contagious.

Street Music

Around the corner on Prince Arthur the South Americans held sway - their mountain melodies seducing those who were eating at the many outdoor tables. It was fun to see a very young child taken in by the music, smiling and waving her hands.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Shoe Sign

Shoe Sign by susanvg
Shoe Sign, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
This shoe was the only sign outside a shoe store. No neon, no words, just a shoe. It reminded me of Renaissance times, when much of the population was illiterate. Signs had to be more pictorial for stores to entice buyers in. Hopefully this shoe is not representative of what can be found inside. A quick glance of the store window suggested you could get goods of a newer vintage and higher quality than this one.

Advertising the Plowing Contest

Photo: June 19, 2011

Rural areas celebrate their roots and their daily life. Here is an ad (in French) for a plowing contest. In Casselman the farm fields surround the town. Though Casselman is now partly a bedroom community for Ottawa, farming is a way of life for many in the area. For information...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Glassy Reflection

Glassy Reflection by susanvg
Glassy Reflection, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.

Friday - sitting on the terrace of an Italian bistro, the wine has been consummed. I stare at the reflections in the glass. The sharp focus of the week dissolves into the reverie of the weekend, with time to enjoy conversation, good food and maybe, another glass of wine.

Cat Car

Cat Car by susanvg
Cat Car, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
This car was parked near the restaurant where I ate in Ottawa. I started to wonder about the cat sympathy baskets. Now I "lost" a cat last March. Who should the recipient of a cat sympathy basket be?

Cat Car

Would a cat sympathy basket go to my other cat - to help him over his loss? What would be in it?
Or should the basket go to me to comfort me (I hope not with the same ingredients)? Then again - my spouse, has only been in my life for almost 5 years, whereas my current cat has been with me for over 14 years - should the sympathy basket go to P for putting up with this housemate? It certainly is purr-plexing.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hanging to Dry

Hanging to Dry by susanvg
Hanging to Dry, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
I live between two places. In one the washer and dryer are in the basement of our home, in the other they are within the apartment. It certainly makes doing laundry easy - no running up and down the stairs to catch things just as the dryer is ready. As a result I iron clothes in Montreal, but my spouse hangs shirts at just the right moment so they don't need much ironing.

The Daily Shoot: The color of the day is orange. Make a photograph that is full of orange today.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Toronto Skyline

Toronto Skyline by susanvg
Toronto Skyline, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Porter Airlines makes flying pleasant. They have small planes which fly from Billy Bishop Airport on Toronto Island. This is the view from the window as I was approaching the check-in area. I've written about Porter before.

A free shuttle takes you from downtown to a ferry on which a three minute ride takes you to Toronto Island. No long lines as the planes are small and security, while thorough is not unpleasant. The lounge is comfortable, with free wi-fi, a "business centre" with computers for use by anyone and a cafe area provides free drinks, coffee, teas, cookies and other snacks. You feel like a person, not like cattle, which is more the case in larger airports.


Fountain by susanvg
Fountain, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
It's nice to wander off the main streets and find hidden squares with intriguing art. This tree stump fountain sent water dancing in the air.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pigeon Posing

Pigeon Posing by susanvg
Pigeon Posing, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Sitting in my hotel room I heard sound outside my room. This pigeon was strutting back and forth on the railing of the balcony, puffing himself up. Not sure who he was putting on this display for.

I had originally thought of taking this photograph without the pigeon - I liked the reflections in the windows I was facing. Maybe the pigeon did too.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Cheating Wall

The Cheating Wall by susanvg
The Cheating Wall, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Not the greatest picture (taken from the window of a restaurant across the street) - but an interesting concept. On the wall is video from Montreal. On this side are passersby from Toronto. The Montrealers can see the people from Toronto. Over the next few days there are activities scheduled - from charades to tai chi. More info from Facebook

Ontario from the train

Ontario from the train by susanvg
Ontario from the train, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
I took the train from Montreal to Toronto. I always like when the scenery opens up to reveal Lake Ontario. Farmland slopes down to the water - land cleared long ago by the first European settlers.


Trains pass industrial areas. Nearby this complex structure was a quarry. I guess they are processing the stone. Any other ideas?


As we stopped at a station I noticed this young man whose shirt proclaimed Freedom. I thought about train travel and how it has brought many people to new lives over the years.

I like train travel. It goes at a human pace - you can watch the world go by, peek into places you don't otherwise see and take time to sit, read, doze off and chat with people you would not otherwise have met.


Roadwork by susanvg
Roadwork, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
This time of year, driving through Montreal is a series of detours as the warm months provide time for badly needed repairs to the infrastructure. Here old water pipes are being replaced. Several years ago the city lost over 40% of its treated water to leaks. We are now down as the city s l o w l y replaces the aged pipes. Streets have to be dug up and the work takes a long time. No left turn here!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Viola da Gamba

Viola da Gamba by susanvg
Viola da Gamba, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
I went to a house concert - on the programme was music for two viola da gambas played by Les Voix Humaines. What a treat to hear music in an intimate setting! We were treated to pieces by Marin Marais, Sainte-Colombe, Couperin, Corrette and Lebègue - music which in turn invigorated, inspired, touched the soul and made one smile. This duo has been playing together for more than 25 years and the communication between them and blending of their sound and their musical ideas is perfect.

For the uninitiated, this may look like a cello but there are many differences. Like the better known violin family, viola da gambas come in different sizes. However, the shape is slightly different. All viola da gambas are played held on or between the legs (gamba - leg in Italian). They have frets which can be moved slightly to alter the tuning. They usually have 6 strings, though this is not always the case.. The one above has 6, the one below has 7 - an addition that was made to some French viols to add a lower note. Strings are made of gut, which require more frequent tuning as they are more prone to stretching and slipping than metal strings.

Playing the Viola da Gamba

You can see that the bow is held underhanded. Many viola da gambas have beautifully carved heads. Here is a closeup of the head on the top gamba.

Head of Charles I

It represents Charles I of England (he who lost his head). It is a historic viol made by Barak Norman in the late 1600s. Learn more about the viola da gamba from the site of Les Voix Humaines.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fun in the Fountain

Fun in the Fountain by susanvg
Fun in the Fountain, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
You know summer is on its way when... Water play - on a hot day there is nothing like splashing in water - in a fountain, under a spray, jumping over a sprinkler, or best of all in a Laurentian lake. Pure joy!


Columbine by susanvg
Columbine, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
I never tire of taking photographs of flowers - those in my garden or those growing wild. The detail, the structures fascinate me. The columbines dazzle with their spiky, comet-like tails and flashy centres. How could any passing pollinating insect resist the allure!


Sunday, June 5, 2011


Doors by susanvg
Doors, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
I love the variety of doors found in Montreal. All these were found within two blocks of each other. They have character, unlike the ubiquitous aluminum doors that go on many newer homes. Each is unique; each speaks of a time when craftsmanship was valued.

Barn and Silo

Barn and Silo by susanvg
Barn and Silo, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Photo: June 4, 2011

Bicycling through the countryside, we passed farms with freshly planted rows of corn. The smell of manure wafted over the road as we passed newly fertilized fields. We city dwellers were conscious of odours. Perhaps the farmers are oblivious as we are to the smoggy smells of the city.

Unique in the Ordinary

Unique in the Ordinary by susanvg
Unique in the Ordinary, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Photo: May 31, 2011

I love to see a bit of creative flair. These homes probably date from early in the last century. These brightly painted balconies give them each a little individuality - a bright spot on a city street.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Herbs by susanvg
Herbs, a photo by susanvg on Flickr.
Finally sunshine, finally planting. I couldn't resist buying this container full of herbs. Summer is salad time. These will find their way into food adding brightness to the flavours and pleasure to the consumers!