Stratford the People’s Choice

the Patterson gardens will look great in five years

Earlier this week, Tuesday, May 17 we took our first day trip to see Richard III at the Stratford Festival. As usual we left a little after 9 with the first stop to for gas (before the prices went up again). While pumping gas the attendant pointed out that we had a flat tire! Luckily for us my partner is a ‘regular’ at this full-service station & they were able to get the tire fixed quickly. We ended up about 20 minutes behind schedule. 

looking out on the clouds

The sunny day was perfect driving weather. Traffic on the 401 wasn’t too bad – building more highways creates more traffic not less congestion. No major construction slowdowns either. At Cambridge we stopped at a Tims for a pee break & coffee. Continued on the scenic New Dundee Road, through New Dundee, Haysville – a stop in Shakespeare for pies & finally Stratford.

utilitarian ceiling

The next unexpected wrinkle was that our favourite lunch spot, Features, was closed! Windows papered over, signs gone 😦 On to Bentley’s, our other fav spot. I asked our server there about Features & the diner has moved & recently reopened. Whew. Lost time meant we went directly to the new Tom Patterson Theatre, which on May 12 was the recipient of the 2022 People’s Choice Award from the Ontario Association of Architects (OAA).

utilitarian lounge

Over the past years we have watched the transformation from tear down, to levelling & then construction of the new facility. The building is inviting but, to me, lacks drama 🙂 Interesting use of materials, the ripple shape of the entrance creates a sense of flow. Perhaps seeing it on a rather overcast, cool afternoon diminished it pizzazz. 

reproduction of robe from 1953 production of Richard III

The interior is modest &, at this point, lacks character with its metal, stonework, & wood finishes. Nothing ornate about it. It felt like an upscale high-school facility. I was hoping for some chandeliers or wall-sconce lighting ornamentation.  

The performance space had the new car smell 🙂 The seats were plush & comfortable. The spacing was not as cramped as the old theatre which made watching more pleasant. All the drama was on the stage where it belongs.

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Richard III

 

They wouldn’t let me try it on 😦

We were eager to this Festival production of Richard III at the new Tom Patterson Theatre. A fitting choice as Richard was one of the productions featured in the first season of Stratford in 1953. It starred Alec Guinness as Richard. I thoroughly enjoyed the preview production of Ricard iii I saw earlier this week. All I know of Richard is the myth that Shakespeare’s play solidified. A myth that centres around the death of the princes in the tower. From the play one gets the idea that the years of his reign were spent solely in conflict about his right to rule while denying any knowledge off what happed to the princes.

Director Antoni Cimolino has given this  production has an amazing opening scene that gives Richard a stunning entrance. Inventive & intuitive it took my breath away. You’ll have to see it for yourself as I’m not giving it away here. Unfortunately his first monologue ‘Now is the winter’ was marred by a cell phone ringing :-(. 

I wonder that this isn’t considered one of  Shakespeare’s problem plays with the endless assortment of characters – so many one really needs a cheat sheet app to keep track of who is whose sister, wife, window, mother, grandmother, which lord is on which side. At least in this production the women were dressed differently enough one could tell them apart, but the lords & underlings wore such similarly styled & dull colour clothes & hair they were interchangeable. 

Colm Feore is excellent as the sly, manipulative Richard; André Sills is a formidable Buckingham (how long before he does Falstaff?). Lucy Peacock as Elizabeth steals every scene she is in, even with Feore. Her scene with Seana McKenna (Margaret),

 Diana Leblanc (Duchess of something) is a stand out as each truest out-do the other in their hatred of Richard. Another great scene was Richard’s ‘seduction’ of Lady Anne (Jessica B. Hill) was a fine example of gaslighting & victim-blaming ‘it’s your fault I killed your husband – you are so beautiful I had no choice’ 

The finale was puzzling as the cast morphed into modern dress for a funeral. I’m not sure who the funeral was for: Richard? A dynamic production I’d recommend to anyone, even more so to anyone who knows the historical context & can tell a mother from a daughter.

I did try this one on
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The Professor and The Psychedelic Furs

I have Professor Longhair (1918-1980): Mardi Gras in New Orleans, another of the Essential Blue Archive compilation releases. His piano style is described as a mambo-rhumba boogie thing. A legendary performer I felt I should have in my collection. Fun stuff & sound quality is good.

Next on the shelf is this mp3 cd collection of 80’s Brit pop groups that made some headway into the mainstream & others that remained fringe alternative. Starting with The Psychedelic Furs: Forever Now (1980), Mirror Moves (1984), Midnight to Midnight (1987), Made of Rain (2020). Thanks to a couple of movie soundtracks the Furs went from almost-known to sensations.  Slightly Goth-emo songs that progress into major pop hits. Similar to The Cure but not as shoe-gazer our as quirky. Songs of loneliness, love, & even some with political intent. I enjoy the production work. I am enough of a fan to have picked up their ‘reunion’ lp Made of Rain – their first recording in a couple of decades which pretty much picks up where they left off.

More 80’s with the Buggles: Age of Plastic (1980) , Adventures In Modern Recording (1981) – one of the first of many products by Trevor Horn – with excellent hooky pop songs, brilliant engineering & of course the unforgettable Video Killed. Both this lps I had at one time as cassettes. The list of acts Horn produced is endless & includes Art of Noise, Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

Another 80’s combo is Cabaret Voltaire: Red Mecca (1981) – they defined moody Goth with their dense keyboards & mystic lyrics. Electronica & easy to absorb – if you like slightly experimental emo this is a band for you.

One of my favorite 80’s bands was Talk Talk. In this mp3 collection I have The Colour of Spring (1986), Spirit of Eden (1988) – the band started electronic pop but moved away from that with a dense eclectic that moved into what I call chamber rock. Music that wasn’t based on beat-per-minute or radio sensibility. Spirit of Eden is beautiful.

Lastly a real rock group who survived the 80’s The Pretenders’ Packed! (1991) with the expected tough sound. Perhaps not a best-seller but proof that solid, non-emo groups were still alive & well. Hynde’s vocal as compelling, the songs are good if not inspired & there is a great cover of Hendrix’s “May This Be Love” that is worth tracking down. 

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Ankles Crossing The Line 

Ankles Crossing The Line

boys don’t cross ankles

when they sit

only girls cross their ankles

boys can put a foot

on the opposite knee

that is how men sit

you are a man aren’t you

you better start to act like one

how is your belt buckled

only girl have the buckle on the left side

or is it the right side

shirts for boys have buttons on the right side

shirts for girls on the left

or is it the other way

for buckles and buttons

<>

someone always looks

enforces gender appropriate

mannerisms

a code that if broken

meant derision

only girls sit to pee

only girls cross their ankles

when seated 

only girls

can part their hair in the middle

or on the left side

or was it right

I don’t remember now

but in high-school that was vital

<>

I never got any of that straight

because I wasn’t straight

I wonder if there’s a history of gender that explains how things became categorized as being gender specific. I mean things like colours (pink vs blue), actions (standing when a woman enters the room), professions: well okay I do get that one, as many depend on brute strength, but male nurses are suspect, objects (jewelry), scents (Old Spice vs Chanel No. 5). Men wore aftershave, women wore  perfume. I sometimes wear Chanel No. 5.

There are gendered versions of watches, running shoes, shirts, cosmetics etc. Man-sized meals. Real Men don’t eat quiche. Shirley Temple for the ladies, Virgin Caesar for the gents. All of which starts young – toy kitchens aimed at girls, toy tools for boys. Imprinting that never gets questioned. I don’t recall ever asking my mother why all my clothes were blues, blacks & browns – by the time I got to high school I broke free & went for multi-colour & was frequently picked on because of it. 

The desire to look ‘fashionable’ was not masculine. The male uniform was bulky jeans, scruffy shoes, blocky dark plaid shirts & shapeless jacket. If one was on a team a team jacket was permissible. If you weren’t on a team you didn’t count anyway. Boys didn’t dance well at sock hops. Masculinity was always established by violence – or rebel stuff like smoking.

Girls who smoked were sluts, boys who moved were toughs – but that’s another poem. I was a rebel who never smoked 🙂 I was a rebel who wore white shoes, who let his hair grow into a Beatles cut. I once was asked are you a boy or a girl so I guess my even my walk wasn’t masculine enough. Conformity was masculine, nonconformity was suspect.

I’d like to think things have changed but a man wearing a gown to the Oscars created a sensation. The increased notice of trans has made many uncomfortable with the changing clarity we once had thanks to defined, unalterable notions of gender.

My pronouns: it, that. 


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Well-Worn Path May 2022

There are two paths through the Ravine the most used is along the east side of the creek. It has been well looked after by the public that uses it. Over the years different lumber, sometime tinder bricks, have shown up to made the soggy area easier to hike. This walk is from the north entrance south to Gerrard E.

view from the top of the Gainsborough Rd entrance
well worn path seen from Gainsborough stairs
lumber for footing
slippery when wet
good balance practice
straight & narrow
short bridge over troubled waters
that sinking feeling
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Procol Harum

By Procol Harum I have as stand-alones their 1st 1967; Shine on Brightly 1968; as mp3: A Salty Dog 1969: Home 1970; Broken Barricades 1971; With the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra 1972; Grand Hotel 1973 (Christine Legrand). Hits compilations: Best of A&M 1972; Chrysalis Years 73-77 1989. And solo works: Robin Trower: Bridge of Sighs 1974: Gary Brooker: No More Fear of Flying 1979. I have had some of their later work but it didn’t resonate enough for me to keep it.

I remember the power of first hearing Whiter Shade of Pale. Keith Reid’s ornate lyrics (very T.S Eliot) were matched by the ornate organ work. It was, & still is, the epitome of prog-rock. I loved the Beardsley cover art which reflected perfectly the structured, decadent music within. Lush without strings, dense without feeling leadened. Classical without being apologetic. Gary Brooker sings as if he wrote these lyrics himself.

Over the albums guitar became more prominent & at times they were as riff heavy as Led Zeppelin. The organ/piano combination inspired many groups including The Band. I remained a fan & was disappointed when the group ‘retired’ after many changes in members. When they regrouped decades later I give them a listen but although the sound was still solid I found in uninspired.

Each album has tracks love. As whole I love Shines On Brightly with is mystic side 2 that takes that mysticism where even the Moody Blues never went. Simple Sister is another favourite, The Devil Came From Kansas, Michelle Legrand (of Swingle Singers) is amazing on Grand Hotel.

The engineering on the lps is amazing – so much so that the Live Edmonton recording suffers. The addition of the orchestra adds nothing to their sound & the spoken portions are nearly impossible to make out. MP3 doesn’t improve the sound quality either. My least favourite of the lps that I have. Procol was adult rock that accidentally was radio friendly.

I also have some of their solo projects. Robin Trower’s Hendrix heavy guitar work dominates his solo albums, to good effect. I love Bridge of Sighs though it does veer into Bad Company territory.  Brooker’s Flying lp is dense, interesting enough, but I can’t name a track on it off the top of my head – something for Harum completest.

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Whispered Vespers

Whispered Vespers

every word

was a secret

no matter how attentive I was

I could not hear

<>

I saw lips move

mouth close to my ear

I feel the warm breath

the urgency

<>

something I was never to repeat

a secret I could keep

because I never heard it

it was safe with me

<>

final words

never to be repeated 

for me to hear

I had my chance

<>

I failed to understand 

but knew I had been spoken to

which was enough

to sustain me

This piece was partially prompted by those scenes in a movie where a dying character last words aren’t heard clearly – the words were to reveal something important – because dying last words always reveal something important – a clue to the killer, directions to the buried treasure. They never utter things like ‘Fuck you’ or ‘More light.’

It’s also about our inability to hear unless it’s delivered in a way we understand easily, in a way we find acceptable. I prefer subtitled movies to ones that are dubbed – I like to hear the actual tone of voice which contains as much information as the words used. I have watched Asian movies, spoke in one laughs with subtitles in another & rather enjoyed creating my own sense of story from the visuals & tone of voice.

It also has become a reflection on what we don’t understand the past, how the physical evidence refuses to be translated into something we can comprehend. I’ve seen a documentary on the Phaistos Disc (from between 1850 B.C. and 1600 B.C & one on the Voynich Manuscript (carbon dated to early 15th century) – both are clear whispers that have, so far, remained, impenetrable to our understanding of language. But, maybe, like the Aztec pictograms they can be unravelled.

These whispered last words are like illusive dream memories that can’t be pieced together. There maybe an image I can recalled but it doesn’t unlock the whole dream but at least I know I’ve been asleep & that I had a dream. 

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Buds of Early May 2022

A look at some of the Spring buds springing up – some were featured last month in Best Buds

https://topoet.ca/2022/04/08/best-buds/

hostas in the front box
dame’s rockets – both pink & white when it blooms
a tulip hidden in the forsythia bush – squirrels planted it
tiger lilies
bleeding heart growing in the composter
rhubarb
poppies
peony – will it bloom this year?
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Viva Vivaldi

Did Vivaldi (1678 – 1741) compose anything other thank the Four Seasons? On my shelf I have a 40 cd boxset that isn’t 40 versions of the Four Seasons. In fact this boxset doesn’t contain his complete works either. He composed at a time when folks played music in their homes or heard it in churches. It was music for the masses & Masses, not for elitist concert halls & massive orchestras.

I do have multiple version of The Four Seasons though. As stand alone I have it by il Giordino Armonico which I heard on CBC. The sound quality amazed me – it is as if you are standing in the middle of the small chamber orchestra. I have Nigel Kennedy’s energetic romp through it. Also some fun jazz takes – Moe Kaufmann’s is  delightful & worth tracking down. Wendy Carlos’ Sonic Seasonings stretches it into the stratosphere. The Koto Ensemble version is also a delight.

The box set reveals the full extent of Vivaldi’s versatility as a composure with delightful sonatas for flute, recorder, violin, mandolin & more. All with complex continuo support, at times by organ, harpsichord or viola. There are some of his masses, motets, cantatas, concertos & songs. Even his transcription/adaptations of Bach. 

As I worked though the box set his influence on later romantic composers becomes clear. The final cd is La Senna Festeggiante which is one of his serenatas that is almost an opera. Like when listening to Mozart, you wonder

when did this man sleep. 



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The Silent Treatment

The Silent Treatment

no I have nothing to add

others have said enough

their need to be heard

is much more urgent to them

for them to hear anything

out of me or anyone else

<>

there’s no need for me to 

express myself

I’m quite content to listen 

to sort though the layers 

of this conversation

people talking over each other 

the louder the voice

the more important the message

<>

I have nothing to say

so let me remain silent

I’m not one to contradict

even when I don’t agree

nothing will be gained

by outshouting anyone

to share my truth

<>

it is clear the loudest voice

also conveys the most valid opinion

one that will echo forever

so don’t ask me to say anything 

don’t push the microphone at me

at least

not until

everyone else

shuts the fuck up

Recently I had a friend ‘B’ ask me for some advice about a situation & I said that had none. They asked why & I replied because they don’t listen. B was a little taken aback & as I explained B kept interrupting & I stopped & asked B why they don’t listen & B said because they were a rebel. Doing what people tell you makes you sheep. I said – then why ask me anything?

Don’t get me wrong it’s not as if I am free this behaviour but I have learned not to blame the rain for being wet. So I don’t complain that most people are not listeners. The American political scene is built on denying what others hear – the facts have become irrelevant. Shouting that that someone else is wrong has taken the place of being responsible for one’s own actions. Not taking responsibility is called being a rebel.

There’s a saying ‘would you rather be right or happy.’ Not that one can’t be both but often the energy of proving you are right isn’t worth the aggravation. Some time ago, thanks to those recovery defect steps, I realized that I was more interested in clever, cynical remarks than I was in having actual thought out opinions. As I curbed the need to be clever I actually began to hear people rather than listen till I had the right response.

One of best features of most 12 step recovery discussion groups it that we are encouraged to listen, commenting directly on what another member says is discouraged. members get to share without interruptions. On line once can go a step further by minimizing to audio only – you don’t even have to see who is sharing – all visual clues are removed & letting tone of voice resonate.


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