Monday, November 11, 2019

Proving you can come home again

This Friday November 15th a homecoming of sorts will take place at the Niagara Artists Centre on St. Paul Street in downtown St. Catharines.  Longtime folk musician and teacher Jane Lewis, born and raised in St. Catharines, will return to the city with musical partner Eve Goldberg to host a local launch of their new CD collaboration, All That's Real on Borealis Records.  They perform under the moniker Gathering Sparks, which is an apt description of what they do.

It's been awhile for Lewis, as she moved from the city to Guelph several years ago to pursue a music career full time.  Why Guelph?  Why not?  I've always found Guelph and much of Wellington County to be a hotbed of creative organic folk music, much of it making it on to the airwaves of Canada's national broadcaster CBC as well as selling strongly in the Canadian music marketplace.

I used to work in a music store on Carden Street in downtown Guelph years ago, Twelfth Night Music, and it had a relatively large selection of Canadian-grown folk music, and it always sold quite well.  So it should come as no surprise Lewis would follow her folk inclinations to the city.

Somewhere along the way, while recording her solo album Stay With Me, leading music workshops on singing harmony and singing backup vocals for other artists, Jane hooked up with Toronto-based musician and vocalist Eve Goldberg and things just seemed to click.  Goldberg, originally from Boston, moved to Toronto in 1981 and has been a busy performer at festivals, folk clubs and concert venues across Canada and the US ever since.

Eve has released three albums on her own, Ever Brightening Day in 2006, Crossing The Water in 2003 and A Kinder Season also in 2006.  Like Lewis Eva is also an experienced teacher who engages aspiring musicians in private lessons, workshops and classes.

Jane Lewis plays piano, ukulele, accordion as well as sings; Eve Goldberg also sings, plays acoustic guitar and ukulele.  For the CD launch on Friday they will be joined by special guest Cheryl Prashker on drums and percussion, who also appears on the new CD.

Together, Lewis and Goldberg perform as Gathering Sparks and their new collaboration is entitled All That's Real, produced by Jeff Bird of Cowboy Junkies fame.  Joining them on the new disc, which first launched back in early October in Guelph, are the aforementioned Cheryl Prashker on percussion as well as Anne Lindsay on fiddle, Joel Schwartz and Kevin Breit on guitars and a host of harmony singers, all of whom presumably worked at one point or another with Lewis!

Already the lead-off song from the album, Bringing in the Light has been recognized with a 2019 Folk Music Ontario "Songs From The Heart" Award in the Singer-Songwriter category.  That's on top of the group being nominated for a 2014 Canadian Folk Music Award for Vocal Group of the Year for their six-song debut CD.

Their inclusive style embraces folk, pop, blues and gospel influences all played on acoustic guitar, piano, accordion and of course the ukulele.  They had me at the ukulele, actually.  Although I've never played one I've always loved that humble stringed instrument ever since I first heard British singer George Formby on the instrument many years ago.  Who doesn't love the ukulele?!

Anyway, this is the very first time Lewis and Goldberg have written together but you'd never know it.  They have brought together their passion for wordplay, strong melodies and harmony to create 11 new songs plus one cover of a Pete Townshend classic.  The end result is a collection of songs that are decidedly hopeful and upbeat as well as reflective and full of great storytelling.

Perhaps that's not such a bad combination in these divided times we seem to live in.

If you want to join in on the CD launch yourself, you can pick up tickets for $20 in advance or $25 at the door Friday night.  Advance online orders can be made by going to www.gatheringsparks.com.  The concert/launch begins at 8 pm and NAC is located at 354 St. Paul Street.

Have a great week!

November 11th, 2019.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Bravo Niagara! Voices of Freedom Festival coming up this week

I'm a little late getting to my weekend blog this week as it is now Monday but hey, better late than never, right?

Anyway, I don't want to leave this for another day as an important and interesting music festival is coming up later this week in Niagara.  The entrepreneurial souls at Bravo Niagara! Festival of the Arts in Niagara-on-the-Lake have organized a three-day festival around this Friday evening's concert featuring pioneering jazz pianist Monty Alexander and musical friends.

The concert, Friday evening at 7:30 in Partridge Hall at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in downtown St. Catharines, promises to be one of the jazz events of the fall season in Niagara.  Jamaican-born pianist Monty Alexander, who now makes his home in the United States, headlines the concert.  Opening performances will feature award-winning drummer Larnell Lewis of Snarky Puppy fame along with his band, and special guest, South African bass player Bakithi Kumalo, who has performed with Paul Simon.  Needless to say with talent like that, jazz and Afro-Caribbean music aficionados alike will want to be there.

Kicking off the festival will be a special interactive student workshop with Bakithi Kumalo featuring iconic Paul Simon music at Laura Secord Secondary School Thursday afternoon at 1 pm.  Kumalo will discuss growing up in Soweto, South Africa during Apartheid and the influences of Nelson Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid leader who just happened to be a personal acquaintance of Kumalo.

The workshop is free and open to the public.

Thursday evening at 7:30 pm the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library will host the screening of the film Under African Skies with special guest Bakithi Kumalo.  Kumalo, of course, appeared on the ground-breaking Paul Simon album Graceland and he will introduce the film in which he is featured.

The documentary explores the cultural and political climate of South Africa 25 years ago and follows Simon as he returns once again to South Africa.  Under African Skies features appearances by anti-apartheid activists and musical legends including Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte, Sir Paul McCartney and David Byrne.

Sadly, the film screening presented in partnership with the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library is already sold out, but you can join the wait list if you choose.

Friday morning at 10 a second interactive student workshop will be held at Laura Secord Secondary School with drummer Larnell Lewis.  The Toronto native and musician, producer, composer and educator has established himself as one of the most diverse and in-demand drummers around, and has worked with such well-known names as Etienne Charles, Gregory Porter, Benny Golson, Lalah Hathaway, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Lisa Fisher and Kurt Elling among others.

The workshop is free and again, open to the public.

Saturday morning at 11 the Niagara Historical Museum will host an Artists as Activists Roundtable, exploring the role of artists in society and the historic and present-day interaction of music and social change.  Moderated by Jazzcast.ca's Garvia Bailey, featured participants include Bakithi Kumalo, producer and artist manager Celine Peterson, and Stanford Thompson, founder and executive director of the El Sistema-inspired organization Play On, Philly!

The Saturday roundtable is presented in partnership with the Niagara Historical Museum, is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required.  Go to www.bravoniagara.org for more information.

Finally, there is a film screening at the Film House at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in downtown St. Catharines I plan on attending this Saturday afternoon at 4 pm.  Entitled Crescendo:  The Power of Music, the screening will feature special guest Stanford Thompson.

Thompson's organization Play on, Philly! is one of the schools that have embraced the concept of Venezuela's phenomenal youth orchestra programme El Sistema, founded in 1976 and which has brought social transformation to several million disadvantaged children in the country.  Want proof?  Superstar conductor Gustavo Dudamel came through El Sistema.

The film documents the journey of three students, one in Harlem and two in Philadelphia at Play On Philly!, along with their teachers and the community around them, all responding to the mysterious power of music.

I've seen the trailer for this Jamie Bernstein directed film and it looks absolutely inspiring, so I am looking forward to seeing the full film on Saturday afternoon.  You can too as the event, co-presented by Bravo Niagara! and the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, is free and open to the public.  But again, you have to register in advance.

So that sounds like a lot of musical inspiration coming our way this week in Niagara, all presented by Bravo Niagara! Festival of the Arts.  Want more information on events and on ordering tickets?  Just go to www.bravoniagara.org and you'll find out all you need to know.

Have a great week!

November 4th, 2019.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Choral season is now upon us!

There are many things I look forward to in the autumn:  the crisp, clear days beneath a bright blue sky, showing against the bright colours of the trees ready to shed for another winter;  the abundance of produce and other good things in our farmer's market; the hot apple cider waiting for me Saturday mornings when I arrive at the market; and of course, the music of the season.

For me, nothing celebrates the cooler fall days musically quite like great choral music.  It goes hand in hand with warming yourself in a church with history all around you.  And it also celebrates the very fine performing arts spaces much of our music - choral and otherwise - often calls home.

So this weekend we'll highlight a couple of choral concerts coming up this weekend and next, featuring performances in Guelph and here in St. Catharines.  In both cases, you will not be left wanting for great music of the past and present.

There is no country on earth I think with a better choral lineage than Great Britain.  Going back to Elizabethan times up through the 19th and 20th centuries, there has never been a shortage of great purveyors of choral music originating in the British Isles.  Two modern-era British composers will be front and centre for both concerts I'm highlighting this weekend.

Tomorrow afternoon in Guelph, the Guelph Chamber Choir under newly-minted Artistic Director Dr. Charlene Pauls will pair up with the GCVI Chamber Choir to celebrate the good that is all around us with a concert entitled Five Days that Changed the World.  The title work is by British composer Bob Chilcott and joins other works that focus on bringing people together.

The Chilcott work highlights five moments that connected and advanced humanity:  the invention of printing, the abolition of slavery, the first powered light, the discovery of penicillin, and the first human in space.  The music reflects humour along with wonder and a touch of poignancy throughout its movements.

Other works on the programme tomorrow afternoon include Winnipeg composer Andrew Balfour's welcoming song Amba (sung in Ojibway), American composer Joan Szymko's It Takes a Village, French composer Maurice Durufle's introspective Ubi Caritas, Canadian composer Sarah Quartel's Sing, My Child, and Paul Simon's familiar Bridge Over Troubled Water in a new gospel arrangement by Kirby Shaw.  Also on the programme will be Eric Whitacre's Cloudburst.

The concert will be at 3 pm tomorrow afternoon at Harcourt Memorial United Church in the heart of Guelph, and tickets are available in advance through the River Run Centre box office by calling 519-763-3000.

Next Saturday evening at 7:30 pm, Chorus Niagara kicks off their new season with the Canadian premiere of Michael Tippett's 1941 oratorio A Child of Our Time.  This powerful work was composed in response to the horrors of Kristallnacht, when Nazi Germany ramped up fear and terror in the country.  Tippet's work remains a compelling call for unity in a divided world, which perhaps seems as cogent a comment on our own times as much as it was on mid-20th century life as the world found itself again embroiled in war.

A Child of Our Time draws inspiration from African-American spirituals such as Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen, Steal Away and Deep River among other works, and will be performed by the combined forces of Chorus Niagara and the Orpheus Choir of Toronto, 160 voices strong, the Orpheus Concert Orchestra and featured soloists Johane Ansell, soprano, Lauren Segal, mezzo-soprano, Andrew Haji, tenor, and James Westman, bass.

Of course, Robert Cooper, Artistic Director of both Chorus Niagara and the Orpheus Choir of Toronto will conduct in Partridge Hall at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in downtown St. Catharines.

For tickets for this and the entire Chorus Niagara season, call or visit the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre box office at 905-688-0722 or email boxoffice@FirstOntarioPAC.ca.

There you go, two reasons to embrace the cooler autumn weather by warming your heart and soul with great choral music with meaning, this weekend and next.  What could be better than that?

Enjoy your weekend!

October 26th, 2019.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Men with big hearts wearing big heels...for a great cause

Taking another diversion this weekend to write about today's 13th annual Walk a Mile in HER Shoes fundraiser for Gillian's Place held at the Pen Centre.  It is an event I have attended since the very first one held downtown at Market Square, and very near and dear to my heart.

The first year men walked the streets downtown, circling King Street, Queen Street, St. Paul Street and James Street, ending up again on King and winding up at Market Square.  I remember that first year the weather was not all that nice and although the relatively small group of men who took part were game, at least one went down with a serious injury, I'm told.

So after that organizers wisely chose to move the event indoors to The Pen Centre, where it has been held every October since then.  The location is ideal as it is enclosed, the floor is smooth and level for the most part, and it is easier to create an audience with all the shoppers already in the mall to begin with.

I think it was the second year onwards I decided to don heels myself to walk with the men, but I never really got a lot of donations, which you need in order to register.  I made it, but just barely.

The last few years, however, I have been on the sidelines as a financial supporter, cheering on the men in heels.  I opted to heed the advice of a lawyer friend of mine who suggested, quite rightly, considering my new career path as a letter carrier for Canada Post, an ankle or foot injury would not be in my best interests.  Especially considering in those early days I didn't qualify for benefits, so if I couldn't work I wouldn't get paid.

So an enthusiastic bystander I became, although maybe before I retire I will don the heels once again for old time's sake.

Those who chose to walk today were all ages, from all walks of life, sharing a common goal:  to end violence against women.  They are to be commended for their determination and willingness to endure a one-mile walk in heels for the betterment of the community, but it is only one day.

Women who seek shelter at Gillian's Place and other women's shelters in communities large and small across the country endure tremendous pain both mentally and physically at the hands of their spouse or partner for great lengths of time.

It shouldn't be that way, and in a perfect world it wouldn't be.  But the reality is it is happening on a daily basis right here in our communities, perhaps right on your own street without you even knowing it.

An acquaintance of mine confessed to me earlier this year she was once in an abusive relationship and frankly, I was shocked to hear it.  A very kind soul with a good heart, she could certainly hold her own in a difficult situation.  Or so I thought.  She told me she ended the marriage and escaped with her children when the situation became untenable.

That story plays out every day in most every community, so she is no different.  But she is a survivor, and I admire her so much for digging deep down inside herself to gather up the courage to leave for a better life elsewhere.

So men walk on this day every year, in a fun event with a very serious purpose:  to raise much-needed funds for Gillian's Place to keep doing what they do, helping those who need it the most.

I don't have numbers on how many participants there were today although it was as large as ever, if not moreso.  But collectively the men who walked raised $125,000 to continue the good work done every day at Gillian's Place, and that translates into a job well done.

Men walk as individuals, as I always did, or as part of a group from a company or club.  No matter how they walk, the result is the same.  And the money raised is greatly needed now more than ever.

Yes, in a perfect world we would not need a Gillian's Place.  But I can't see that happening anytime soon, unfortunately.  So it is vital we do this every year, either by walking ourselves or supporting those who do.  Because you just never know who might benefit from what Gillian's Place can offer them.  It could be someone you never imagined would be in need at all.

So thanks, gentlemen, for a job well done today.  But keep those heels handy, as next year you will be called upon again to show the community just how much you care, and how much we can change the lives of so many each and every day.

Have a great weekend!

October 19th, 2019.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Giving thanks this weekend for a special place set to close

It's Thanksgiving weekend in Canada and many of us were out in force today getting what we need for a big family get together and feast to celebrate the annual harvest.  The farmer's market in downtown St. Catharines, for example, was bustling with people packed in cheek to jowl looking for just the right additions to their dinner table.

No matter how you spend your time this holiday weekend and with whom, I want to take a moment of your time to offer my thanks for a special little slice of peace and tranquility just around the corner from our house that is soon to close.

Gwen's Teas moved from downtown on St. Paul Street to a lovely period home at 90 Welland Avenue a while ago, and for the longest time I would drive by early in the morning on my way to work and say to myself I should go in again sometime and check out the new digs.  I did finally do that just over a year ago, and I have been going back regularly ever since.

Gwen's Teas is full of just about every variety of tea you can imagine, available for you to purchase and take home or brewed on the spot in their charming tea room at the front of the house.  There you will also find loads of tea-related gifts for sale along with a few tables for people to sit at as they "take tea".

I have always had a soft spot for tea rooms and have been known to go out of my way to visit one on my travels over the years, no matter where I happen to be.  But this one, located steps from our home, is amongst the finest you'll encounter anywhere.

First off, it is peaceful, as any good tea room should be.  It's not a library, of course, but there are books on tea on the shelves if that's your preference.

Secondly, the shop knows how to brew a proper cup of tea.  That's vitally important in a world where people accept tea bags in tepid water at many dining establishments, accustomed as they are to catering more to coffee lovers.

When I would visit, as I did again this week, I always opt for Scottish Breakfast tea which I find strong, bracing and very much to my liking.  Pair the tea with a scone or two with all the trimmings and you have an afternoon tea fit for a king.

Many visits have included conversations with the friendly proprietor of Gwen's Teas, Pam Cicci, a single mom whom I believe lives upstairs looking after her two teenage children.  Lately though, Pam has been absent more and more from the tea room, and the reason, as reported in The St. Catharines Standard last year, is very sad indeed.

Pam, you see, is battling colon cancer that has already spread to her liver.  Regular visits over the past year to the Walker Family Cancer Centre have not produced the desired result.

Through it all this past year as I visited for tea Pam was always upbeat and cheerful in the face of such heartbreaking news, serving tea with a quiet grace you cannot help but admire.  About a month ago when I visited, I saw Pam for the last time and she confided things had not been going well.  But she remained optimistic and that wonderful smile was there as always.

Volunteers have been running the shop while Pam was battling her cancer but at the beginning of this month Pam made the difficult decision to close the business so she can devote all her remaining time to dealing with the cancer and to take care of her young family.

It was a difficult decision but I think it is the right decision at the right time, and I am sure her many customers will agree as well.  As much as we will miss the tea room and of course seeing Pam there, the focus has to be elsewhere at this moment, so today was the final day for regular tea service at Gwen's Teas.

On Monday, a store closing sale will begin, and run through to next weekend with all tea-related merchandise marked down for quick sale.  There will be no tea service, I'm told, just the sale for this final week.

I spent part of a sunny Thursday afternoon there for my final afternoon tea before the sale begins, and although I was sad, I was also glad.  Glad Pam can spend the time needed to focus on what matters most, and glad I finally chose to stop in over a year ago to rediscover this little gem in our city.

Should you choose to visit the sale this week, be sure to share a memory of one of your favourite things about Gwen's Teas.  Pam I am sure would love to hear it!

Cancer can be ruthless and doesn't play favourites.  But we can at least celebrate a life well lived and richly rewarded in so many ways, offer positive energy, and hope for a better outcome this time.  If ever someone deserves our support, Pam does and it is needed now.

Let's celebrate with tea, shall we?  Pam would never want it any other way...

Be thankful for those around you this weekend, and never underestimate the power of love and hope.

Have a great Thanksgiving weekend.

October 12th, 2019.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Elora Festival Choral Concert Series gets underway next month

A sure sign the seasons have changed and we are heading on that downward slide towards winter is the fact all the fall/winter concert schedules are out and the selection is almost endless.  We'll be looking at some of the very best concert seasons over the next few months as time allows, beginning today with a favourite destination of ours.

Elora is one of those places you can visit any time of the year and have a great time.  The trip there is scenic, the village is bursting at the seams with interesting shops to explore, there are great restaurants to tempt you, and of course the familiar Elora Mill Inn is back in business again.

All good reasons to go anytime of the year, to be sure.  But the so-called off-season also brings with it the fall & winter Choral Concert Series for the Elora Singers, and this year looks pretty interesting.

This will be the 40th year for the Choral Concert Series in Elora, and it begins November 17th at the cozy confines of St. John's Church in Elora with a concert entitled To The Hands.  The title comes from the major work on the programme, Caroline Shaw's moving To The Hands.  I have always loved hearing the Elora Singers in their home church any time of year, so if you have the chance you should definitely go.

Any choral group worth their salt performs Handel's great oratorio Messiah on a regular basis, and Elora is no different.  The annual performance takes place December 8th in Fergus at the larger St. Joseph's Church.

Messiah is one of those choral works we all know and yet, year after year choral groups perform it and year after year, we flock to those concerts.  Some, like Chorus Niagara, perform it every other year in order to keep things fresh.  Others, like Elora, perform it every season and bring a fresh perspective to it every time.  This year an interesting aspect will be the fact members of the Elora Singers themselves will be featured as soloists.

Closer still to Christmas the Singers will host their very popular Festival of Carols at St. John's Church in Elora, complete with candles lighting the church for each performance.  There are four in all, in order to accommodate the crowds and they still sell out:  December 17th & 18th, at 5 and 7:30 pm each day.  Plan to book your tickets early for these concerts to be sure you don't miss out!

The new year brings with it another annual tradition to the Elora Singers, the Soup & Song concert.  This season the concert features two early Bach Cantatas with lead in conversations by conductor Mark Vuorinen:  Nach dir Herr verlanget mich and Weinen klaxon morgen zagen.  The concert begins at 2 pm at St. John's Church, Elora, with lunch served prior to the concert at 12:30.

Finally the season closer this season will feature both the Elora Singers and the Elmer Iseler Singers, both celebrating their 40th year this season, coincidentally.  The double choir concert will feature music by Mendelssohn, Brahms and more, with the highlight being the magnificent 36-voice motet by Ockeghem.  The concert moves to Guelph and the much larger space known as the church on the hill, the Basilica of Our Lady.

That sounds like a lot of great music, and certainly worth the drive to Elora for sure!  If you're tempted, you can call the box office at 1-519-846-0331 or go to www.elorasingers.ca.

Have a great weekend!

October 5th, 2019.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Culture Days underway this weekend in downtown St. Catharines

This is a busy weekend throughout St. Catharines, what with the final big weekend of the Niagara Wine Festival underway.  The annual Grande Parade always fills the downtown streets with partygoers, many of whom repair to favourite watering holes such as the Mansion House or the Merchant Ale House after the parade, or if they prefer their imbibing al fresco and in the company of many other like-minded souls, at Montebello Park.

For many of us, however, we prefer a somewhat more subdued celebration in the heart of the city, and for those of us who fall into that category there are the annual Culture Days in St. Catharines on all weekend long as well.

Friday and Saturday were both busy days for activities and events relating to Culture Days, but you have by no means missed the boat if you have been elsewhere the last couple of days.  Sunday promises to be just as busy and full of interesting events to take in downtown.  And the best part is, it is all family-friendly and relating to arts and culture in Niagara.

The weekend long Community Collaborative Mural-Making event is on from 12 noon to 4 pm again tomorrow, presented by the St. Catharines Downtown Association along with artist Jana Simms-Bergsma.  This interactive activity takes place at the corner of St. Paul and Court Streets near the NAC shop/studio, and is suitable for all age groups.  Families can spend up to 30 minutes creating and contributing to the collaborative mural, all guided by a professional artist.

Meantime inside the NAC shop/studio at 433A St. Paul Street you can experience an introduction to screen printing with artist Colleen McTigue.  The 30 minute make & take event runs from 12 noon to 5 pm and participants are encouraged to create their own stencil, or "pull" a unique print from a stencil provided by the artist.  Again it is a family-friendly event.

Over at the Rodman Hall Arts Centre at 109 St. Paul Crescent the art exhibition Task at Hand by artist Carolyn Wren will be open to visitors from 12 to 5 pm.  There will also be guided  tours of the historic home at 2 pm and a tour of exhibitions at 3 pm.

Also at Rodman Hall, artist David Figueroa will capture visitors in a photo to use while they explore creating their very own self-portrait by using an embossing drawing process.  The make & take event runs from 12:30 to 4:30 pm.  There is another make & take event running at the same time featuring artist Rhiannon Barry entitled Keep Calm and Adjust Your Mermaid Crown.  Male & female visitors are encouraged to create their own crown using marine-themed materials.

Artist Metka Manfreda will be offering a make & take event called Printmaking a Monotype Hybrid, in which visitors of all ages can create a hybrid creature by exploring monotype printmaking.  This is created by applying colour to plexiglass and then transferring using a special technique, thereby allowing interesting images to appear on paper.  This also runs from 12:30 to 4:30 pm.

During the same time period at Rodman Hall another make & take event will involve artist Janice Low called Creative Cards for Caring.  This event encourages participants to have fun, learn an art technique and engage in designing and painting greeting cards that can then be given to friends and family members to show they care.

As you would expect, the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre would be a hive of activity during Culture Days, and once again tomorrow the PAC is home to a full slate of events beginning at 12 noon in the Algoma Lobby with Happy Birthday PAC!  Yes, it is the 4th birthday of the new Performing Arts Centre with cake and a community photo event taking place at 250 St. Paul Street.

Also in the lobby from 12 to 3 pm the Niagara Symphony Orchestra presents their popular Instrument Petting Zoo, where visitors can try a variety of instruments with instruction from professional symphony musicians and student volunteers.

In Partridge Hall an interactive dance workshop will be held at 1, 2 and again at 3 pm, presented by Contact Improv Niagara, with artists Dahlia Steinberg, Lisa-Ann-Emmons and Holly Treddenick.  The introductory dance workshop will allow audience members to experience movement and partnering technique, known as Contact Improvisation.  This is a 5+ age event with an adult companion, incidentally.

In the Recital Hall interactive theatre will be held every 30 minutes from 11am to 2 pm, presented by The Foster Festival.  Play with a Pro! allows those ages 14+ to join professional actors from Niagara onstage to read scenes from one of Norm Foster's 60 plays.

The RBC Innovation Studio and the Recital Hall will both play host to interactive improv presented by Improv Niagara.  In the studio it runs from 11:30 to 1:30 and in the Recital Hall from 2 to 4 pm.  Suggested for ages 12+, participants will learn about improv by joining in fun scenes and games with some of Improv Niagara's best performers and educators.

If poetry is your thing, from 2 to 4 pm in the RBC Innovation Studio Mini-Poetry Zines will be presented by the St. Catharines Poetry Slam collective.  Participants can learn how to make their very own mini poetry zine from one sheet of paper.  Hey, you might even find out just what a zine is!

In the Robertson Theatre from 11 am to 4 pm there are five activity events planned involving The Human Bee-In interactive puppet theatre.  From 11 am to 2 pm artist Karen Waterman directs the Make a Pollinator Puppet Workshop; The Busy Bees Band Workshop will feature artist Aaron Robillard; Waterwood Theatre presents a shadow puppet demonstration from 2:15 to 2:45 pm; The 'Bee There for Me' show participatory puppet theatre will be presented by Waterwood Theatre from 3 to 3:30 pm; and that will be followed by an artist meet & greet post-show artist question period with all of the participating puppet artists from 3:30 to 4 pm.

Poetry returns to the RBC Innovation Studio from 2 to 4 pm with the interactive Poetry in Motion event presented by Twitches & Itches Theatre.  Poetry in Motion is a participatory piece in which the audience contributes titles or sentences the ensemble will use to create and present a spontaneous physical "poem".  This event is also accessible for ASL visitors who wish to contribute with sign language.

In the Joy Williams Lobby from 11 am to 4 pm, the Carl Beam:  Us & Everything art exhibition will be featured, including works by contemporary indigenous artist Carl Beam.  The St. Catharines Poetry Slam returns from 2 to 4 pm in the same location for Make a Micro-Poem, where members of the collective will offer a crash course in micro poems and haikus.

Also in the Joy Williams Lobby interactive story-telling will take place from 11 am to 12 pm with Indigenous Storytelling being featured.

The upper Film House mezzanine will host Poetry at the PAC from 12 to 4 pm, featuring artists Kevin Hobbs, James Millhaven and Kim Van Stygeren, where you can have a discussion with a poet and return later for a poem based on that very conversation!

There will also be a series of short films curated by ImagineNATIVE in The Film House, running continuously from 11 am to 3 pm.  The six short films are curated by the largest presenter of Indigenous films.

In the Cogeco Lobby at The Film House entrance, there will be an interactive display of Historical Architecture presented by the Niagara Society of Architects from 11 am to 3 pm.

Once you leave the PAC there is still plenty more to explore around St. Catharines.  For example, in the Oddfellows Temple downtown at 36 James Street on the third floor, Essential Collective Theatre will present Essential Designers Behind the Curtain.  Sessions will be held at 12:00, 12:45, 1:30, 2:30, 3:15 and 4pm, and visitors will learn more about costume and set design courtesy ECT.

The St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre at 1932 Welland Canals Parkway will host a number of museum exhibits throughout the day from 9 am to 5pm, illustrating the history of St. Catharines and its people.

The Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts downtown will host the art exhibition Home, From Above by artist Kira Pretty in the VISA Gallery at 15 Artists' Common from 12 noon to 6 pm.

And finally, Start Me Up Niagara will host a couple of make & take events at their Work Action Centre at 203 Church Street:  Make a Fall Centrepiece with artist Linda Phillip at 12:15, 1:15, 2:15 and 3:15 pm, and Introduction to Linocut Printing with artist Steve Plews at 12:30, 1:45 and 3 pm.  This event is for ages 15+ due to safety concerns, and you need to pre-register for both Start Me Up Niagara location events by going to www.stcatharines.ca/culturedays.

So there you go - lots to see and do beyond the Wine Festival in St. Catharines on a Sunday.  For more details go to www.stcatharines.ca/culturedays.

Enjoy your weekend!

September 28th, 2019.