Category Archives: Music

Come From Away- A Musical For Our Time

At a bar called The Batch discussing Come From Away after the show.

After we saw the musical Come From Away at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto my husband and I went to a nearby pub to talk about it.  We both loved the instrumentalists whose Celtic music accompanied the show. We thought the story telling was superb.  Sometimes in a musical all the singing detracts from the story.  In Come From Away it certainly does not.  For those of my readers who aren’t familiar with the story of Come From Away it is based on the true experiences of the residents of Gander Newfoundland and what happened when some 7000 airplane passengers were stranded in their town during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.  

The people of that small community literally opened their homes and hearts and public spaces to all these strangers from around the world feeding them, entertaining them, caring for them and building relationships with them. The musical shows us what a diverse group of people emerged from the 38 planes stranded in Gander.  There were folks from many different countries, who spoke many different languages, followed many different religions and were of different races.  There were people from different social classes and different income levels and different sexual orientations.  Somehow they all managed to become friends and care for one another and support each other in a time of crisis. 

We are at a point in history when the ruling political party in the United States wants to build a wall and shut their doors to people who are in a desperate situation, when racial discrimination and anti-Semitism seem to be rearing their ugly heads once again, when the American president issues edicts to ban Muslims from his country and stop transexual people from serving in the military.  At a time like that it is refreshing and inspiring to see a musical where differences between people are celebrated and seen as strengths, where doors are opened and not closed to those in need.

Waiting for the play to start at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto

There’s a scene near the end of a play when a woman from New York and a woman from Gander who have become friends are talking on the phone.  They like to share jokes.  The woman from Gander says…… “Want to hear a Newfie joke?”  The woman from New York familiar with the routine says,  “Knock, knock” and the woman from Newfoundland says “Come on in. The door’s open.”    

That’s the essence of the play.  All these strangers in need knocked on the door in Gander and the local people there said, “Come on in.”  Wouldn’t it be great if our world worked like that?

The musical Come From Away sells out wherever it is staged in Toronto, New York, Winnipeg and in 2019 its going to be in Dublin, London and Sydney. I bought our tickets four months ago and there were only a few seats still available  that long before the performance.

My husband and I decided a big reason why Come From Away has become so popular is because even though the events in the drama happened nearly two decades ago they provide a message of hope for our time and inspire kindness.  It portrays our world the way so many of us wish it could be. 

Other posts………

A Musical Mural in Toronto

Marc Chagall and Fiddler on the Roof

Jersey Boys

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Filed under Music, Theatre, Toronto

The Same Race

“We are all running the same race.  We are all going to the same place.”

The_Once_band- wikipediaOn Tuesday night courtesy of my cousin and her husband we attended a concert at the West End Cultural Centre featuring the talented musical trio The Once.  The Newfoundland band members have a wonderful on stage chemistry and blend their voices in rich and interesting harmonies.  I enjoyed many of their songs but the one whose lyrics stuck with me was called We Are All Running.

The line in the song that is repeated over and over is………

“We are all running the same race.  We are all going to the same place.

I did some reflecting on the meaning of that line.

We are all running the same race.  

 

Golden_Rule_by_Norman_Rockwell public domain

The Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell

Whether we are Caucasian or African or Indigenous or Asian we are all participating in the race of life hoping to find happiness, security and peace of mind. 

Whether we are rich or poor or middle class we all running the race of life to achieve the very best outcomes for our families and those we love. 

Whether we are Conservatives or Liberals or New Democrats or Green Party members we all involved in the race of life with the goal of making our communities, our country and our world a safer, more prosperous and more peaceful place to live now and in the future. 

Whether we are Buddhists or Muslims or Christians or Hindus we are all pondering the race of life in order to find meaning, hope and spiritual blessing. 

Whether we are men or women or transgender, straight or gay or bisexual we are all journeying together on the race of life desiring to discover who we are and how we can connect to others in meaningful ways. 

We are all running the same race and in the end we are all hoping to arrive at the same place- we all basically desire the same outcomes for ourselves and our families and our communities. 

street mural canada's children saskatoon

Mural of Canada’s children on Broadway in Saskatoon

 

Listen to The Once singing We Are All Running. 

The song’s lyrics can be found here .

 

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Filed under Music, Newfoundland

Nostalgia

hymn sing programI took my father to the Hymn Sing Reunion Concert on Sunday. For readers who don’t know, Hymn Sing was a Canadian television program from the 1960s to the 1990s.  Every year a group of promising young singers was chosen to present a weekly Sunday night concert of familiar Christian hymns.  The show, filmed in Winnipeg, was hugely popular across the country, sometimes garnering a viewership greater than that of Hockey Night in Canada.

hymn sing reunionI was definitely one of the younger people at the reunion concert at Bethel Mennonite Church on Sunday afternoon which featured sixty former Hymn Sing performers. It was sold out. What drew such a big audience to the concert?  I think it was nostalgia for hymns that may not be sung in churches very much anymore, nostalgia for the kind of religious and contemplative television programming we don’t see much of anymore, and perhaps nostalgia for a time when things were a little more black and white. 

Aga RSZ-50 - Diora - E070 (wiki)I noticed in the Hymn Sing Concert program that one of the event’s sponsors was Nostalgia Radio CJNU.  Last Thursday I gave a group of staff and board members from Nostalgia Radio a tour of the French Moderns Exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. I asked them about their radio station and they told me it is run by retired broadcasters and other folks who were nostalgic for music of bygone decades, music that is sometimes hard to find on other Winnipeg radio stations. They play that kind of music everyday as well as lend their support to a whole variety of community and cultural groups including the Winnipeg Art Gallery. 

shepherd tending his flock millet brooklyn museum

Shepherd Tending His Flock – Jean-François Millet- 1860

A painting I discussed with the Nostalgia radio crew was this one of a shepherd by Jean-Francois Millet.  Lisa Small, curator from the Brooklyn Museum where Millet’s painting makes its permanent home, says one of the reasons paintings like Millet’s of the shepherd were so popular in the late 1800s  was that the rapid rise of industrialization meant many families had left their farms and villages to move to the city. They were nostalgic for their country roots. Millet’s paintings took them back to their childhoods in rural France. 

This past week I’ve been reminded that music and art can be powerful inspirations for nostalgia. 

Other posts………..

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Filed under Art, Media, Music, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Marc Chagall and Fiddler on the Roof

marc chagall the musician brooklyn museum no copyright restrictions

The Musician by Marc Chagall- 1912- Brooklyn Museum

The first time I saw The Musician by Marc Chagall in the current French Moderns exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery I was reminded of the fiddler in the musical Fiddler on the Roof.  I wondered if there could be a connection between the French artist and the musical.   I knew Chagall was Jewish and had been born in Russia and that Fiddler on the Roof is set in a Jewish community in Ukraine so I decided to follow my instincts and do a little research.  Sure enough! Turns out Chagall definitely influenced the creators, director and set designer of the musical . But there are varying opinions as to which painting of Chagall’s specifically provided that inspiration since the artist painted quite a number of works that featured musicians playing violins.  

Some folks think the painting of Chagall’s that comes closest to the image of the fiddler in Fiddler on the Roof is …….

chagall-The-green_violinist

The Green Violinist by Marc Chagall – 1924 Guggenheim Museum

Others would nominate …….

le mort by marc chagall

Le Mort- Marc Chagall- 1924- Private Owner

And Chagall’s Wikipedia page says the inspiration was……

the fiddler marc chagall

The Fiddler- Marc Chagall-1912-Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

I decided it could also have been The Musician, the painting currently on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. If you’ve seen the musical Fiddler on the Roof which candidate would you choose as the inspiration behind the Broadway hit?

Don’t forget the French Moderns show is only on at the Winnipeg Art Gallery for a few more weeks.  You don’t want to miss seeing Chagall’s work as well as that of many other impressive French artists. 

Other posts………….

A Legendary Love Story Illustrated by an Artistic Legend

De Ja Vu at the United Nations

 

 

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An Artist’s Date For My Mom

Mom singing and playing the piano with my sister and me.

In the book my writers group is currently reading and discussing The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, the author introduces an important ritual to keep your creativity flowing.  You need  to take yourself on an artist’s date at least once a week.  On an artist’s date you do something totally creative just for yourself.  It is a way to foster and stimulate your creative side. You might go to a concert or take an acting class or try ballet or sit by the seashore and sketch. 

My Mom playing the piano with her granddaughter

It struck me lately that my mother took herself on an artist’s date every Sunday afternoon.  Mom’s life was incredibly hectic, she was raising four children, cooking and cleaning and doing laundry and keeping track of all of our busy schedules, supporting us in our many music and sports  involvements.

My Mom on the piano and her grandson on the guitar

Mom was also busy with a host of volunteer things at church and in the community but on Sunday afternoons after she had cleaned up the dishes (and on Sundays she made a full course hot meal at noon) she would sit down at the piano often for an hour or more and just play. Mom played for school and church choirs and at countless weddings and funerals. She was a sought after accompanist for singers and violinists at music festivals. But ……….on those Sunday afternoons she played for her own enjoyment. She played what she loved- sonatas and etudes, minuets and gavottes, preludes and nocturnes and plenty of popular tunes from the thirties and forties.   Most of the time she played without sheet music- the memorized pieces tumbling from her head to her hands, out into the livingroom and through the house.   It was her weekly artist’s date. 

Mom on the piano with one grandson on clarinet and another on trombone. I have no photos of Mom on her Sunday afternoon artist’s dates at the piano. I wish I did.

When my mother was dying in the hospital we noticed that she was using the coverlet on her bed as a keyboard, first finding a middle C at a certain spot and then playing the pieces she loved, her fingers flying along the threads of the blankets.  

Today on my Mom’s birthday it inspires and comforts me to know that she was still in touch with her creativity till the very last days of her life. 

My Mom playing her old Heintzman piano which I had for many years

Note:  Mom owned two pianos during her married life.  The first a Heintzman upright is now at my sister’s home and has been lovingly restored. In this photo at a Christmas gathering at my sister’s my grandson and my two daughters- in- law are singing at the piano. Her beloved grand piano graces the main room of her granddaughter’s house.  Recently my niece’s partner told me it is played almost every day.  My Mom would love that!

Other posts…….

A Chicken Soup Story For Mother’s Day

Thirties Prairie Portraits

My Mom’s Birthday

 

 

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Filed under Family, Music

Centre Stage in Oklahoma

oklahoma clipA feature about the composers Rodgers and Hammerstein on the CBS show Sunday Morning had me remembering my performance in the musical Oklahoma when I was in grade twelve.  I played the female lead Laurey.  Check me out center stage  in an old newspaper clipping from the local paper The Carillon . When I look at it I think ……………

  • Tickets to the musical were only $1.00.  My how times have changed since 1971. 
  • Highschool musicals in Steinbach were big deals.  The newspaper reports that weekend performances were sold out!
  • How lucky I was to have an amazing mother who sewed that dress for me.  I kept it long after the musical was over I loved it so much. 
  • How lucky I was to have hard working teachers willing to go the extra mile to stage musicals with their students.  I believe Mr. Elbert Toews our Glee Club conductor directed this one.
  • How I can still remember the words to some of the songs from that musical like O What A Beautiful Morning.
  •  How forward thinking some of the lyrics to those songs were. In this photo I am singing Many a New Day and when I bring the lyrics to mind I think they were pretty liberating for a woman to be singing in 1942 when the musical was written. 
    Why should a woman who is healthy and strong
    Blubber like a baby if her man goes away
    A weeping and a wailing how he’s done her wrong?
    That’s one thing you’ll never hear me say
    Never gonna think that the man I lose
    Is the only man among men
    I’ll snap my fingers to show I don’t care
    I’ll buy me a brand new dress to wear
    I’ll scrub my neck and I’ll brush my hair
    And start all over again.
  • My leading man in the musical who played the role of Curly was a guy named Eddie Unger.  I wonder where he is now? 

Other posts…………

Sleeping Under the Eaves

The Song My Paddle Sings

Lessons From Leonard

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Filed under Education, Music

Music Will Be My Light

Earth Song by Frank Ticheli

Sing, Be, Live, See
This dark stormy hour
The wind, it stirs
The scorched Earth cries out in vain

Oh war and power, you blind and blur
The torn heart cries out in pain

But music and singing have been my refuge
And music and singing shall be my light

A light of song, shining strong
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Through darkness and pain and strife
I’ll sing, I’ll be, live, see

Peace

I attended the Garden City Collegiate choir concert on Wednesday night.  My talented daughter-in-law is a music teacher at Garden City and I always enjoy watching her inspire and conduct so many different groups of student singers. The concert was great.  Hearing all that marvelous music made by young people who were so obviously loving what they were doing, gave me such a sense of hope and optimism for the future of our world.  

One of the pieces the chamber choir sang was Earth Song by Frank Techeli.  The words which I have included above are powerful. Yes there are lots of things wrong with our world but we can sing in spite of it, live in spite of it, and envision a peaceful future full of light and strength and song.  It makes me so happy to know that our future generation is being motivated by hope- filled ideas like that. 

Other posts……….

Music to Soothe the Soul

Musicians Photographed World Wide

A Musical Mural

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Filed under Music