What a way to start into Spring!!
There was a song that Blood, Sweat and Tears had on one of their albums back in the day that had the line: “Sometimes in winter…” Always loved that song, partly because I first heard it while in Graduate School in Minnesota and that state can match most winters in Canada (but I digress, as I am wont to do betimes. This week I’d like to shift the narrative somewhat and simply say: “Sometimes as Spring starts, it’s good to be where I am…”
Last Thursday evening I decided to go to a new theatre in town. I really didn’t know much about it and erroneously I thought it was about showing clips of great movies. By the time I arrived (at a fairly nondescript building, save for the fact it was once a rather nondescript church) I had come to realize that it wasn’t a movie pad, but rather a renovated dramatic arts place. The new group has named this place Tempest Theatre and this bunch has potential. It is a small assortment of actors that reminds me of The Young Company at the Stratford Festival in Ontario. They are professional, they are provocative and they are entertaining. They did a series of scenes from a wide-ranging series of plays. I’m not going to review the performances other than to say I was spellbound by the quality of acting and the ability to engage with the audience. I will return, again and again. As I drove home I thought to myself – this group, if we can keep it alive, is the missing piece needed to justify a new Playhouse/Concert Hall.
The weekend was just getting started though. Friday night I drove down to Oliver, the relatively small town between Penticton and Osoyoos (our Border Town). They have built a new performing arts theatre attached to the town’s high school and they host many good concerts. This night was no exception as the audience (place was filled to capacity – perhaps 350 folks) was treated to the European group “O Celli”. Again I’m not going to bore you with the details – you can buy their CD’s somewhere – but the thing I want to stress is this. Here is a small town in the Okanagan we had an evening of wonderful classical music that spanned the spectrum from deeply serious to joyfully ecstatic. And the turnout further convinced me that people in this part of the world will support more than some touring heavy metal or grunge group.
Saturday morning was a different adventure. I went to the local cinema at 9:00 a.m. to take in something I have always wanted to do – experience at least one part in Wagner’s “Ring Cycle”. It was “Live from the Met” day and the performance was “Dei Valkure” – five hours in the theatre (good idea to bring your own lunch if you don’t want to get stuck eating popcorn) complete with the full three acts, behind the scenes interviews and a couple of 15 minute intermissions. When I was younger and on occasion travelling across the prairies on a Saturday when listening to “Saturday Afternoon at the Opera” on CBC Radio Two that was hosted by a guy I think was named Stuart Hamilton, it was always a hoot to listen to a British comedienne describe in 20 minutes the entire Ring Cycle. That was the only thing missing this time; because on this occasion I was able to follow the entire story due to the sub-titles at the bottom of the screen. I’m not sure I will go to more Wagner – he’s heavy and he does draw things out and pack a great deal in – but Saturday morning was special — the music was itself overprowering. And it was great to see the theatre quite full and of a range of ages too.
My weekend concluded on Monday night at the Dream Café. The crowd tended to be a bit older (which is encouraging because some think the “greyheads” won’t come out for musical entertainment anymore) although there were some younger folk too (no doubt dragged out by their parents or grandparents!)! The place was sold out (as it would be on Tuesday) and it was a wonderfully amazing evening, headlined by a woman who will turn 80 next month. I speak of no other than Judy Collins. I only hope I can do what I am doing now when I’m 80. Yeah, she missed a line or two here or there and had to refer to the charts and she was battling a cold (saved by someone in the front tables who had a package of Fisherman’s Friends and some hot tea from the kitchen) and early on had a couple of high notes escape. But from beginning to end she was the Judy Collins I remember – funny, great stories, wonderful voice and still able to sing protest songs with feeling and compassion (and now they range into the issues we all face – aging, love, identity, etc.). She went 90 minutes, non-stop without an intermission, and for an encore led the entire assembly in “Amazing Grace”… It was one more moment that encouraged me that this part of the world will respond positively to the Arts…just be good and they will listen.
So just maybe if we build it, they (and you) will come…