Saturday, May 1, 2010

Niagara Symphony and the sad tale of the Good Shepherd

It is the first of May today, or May Day as many will remember it; a time for dancing 'round the Maypole if you wish, and generally lots of springtime revelry. The first annual May Day celebrations are on today at historic Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake, incidentally, hosted by Lord Mayor Gary Burroughs.

Also this weekend, the Niagara Symphony wraps up their current season with the final two Pops! concerts of the season, conducted by Diane Wittry and featuring vocalist Juliet Dunn. The concert, titled "It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing!" features a slew of swing-era jazz hits performed both instrumentally and vocally with the orchestra backing up Juliet.

This will be the final chance for one of the candidates for the Music Director's position with the symphony to "seal the deal" as it were, and make their case for being offered the post next season. Wittry impressed many at her Masters debut in January; her conducting style was relaxed and fluid, her direction firm and her comments to the audience both enlightening and entertaining without going overboard. I liked what I saw then, and I am very interested to see how the Pops! programme goes. As I mentioned in an earlier entry here, conductors tend to try to be overly friendly and enthusiastic at Pops! concerts, and I do hope that will not be the case this weekend.

The programme includes such stalwarts as the Theme from New York, New York and All The Way, along with a number of swing-era standards like Take the A Train, String of Pearls and In The Mood. It should give the orchestra - particularly the brass section - a real workout. If nothing else, most if not all of the music will be readily identifiable to most in the audience, so you'll likely leave the theatre in a very good mood if you plan on going.

Juliet Dunn is making quite a name for herself these days; the Niagara-based jazz singer and her pianist/accompanist husband play regularly throughout the peninsula, and for the past several months have been out of the country performing on a cruise ship travelling the world. I talked to Juliet on Friday and she tells of cruising through the so-called "pirate alley" near Somalia, and how nervous they all were sailing through that stretch. I suspect she'll have some stories to tell this weekend with the Niagara Symphony!

Tickets are still available for the concerts, although better seats for this evening's performance at the Sean O'Sullivan Theatre, Centre for the Arts, Brock University. The Sunday afternoon performances tend to sell out faster, but you can try that one as well if you like. Tickets are available through the Brock box office at 905-688-5550, ext. 3257, or at the door if you dare. I will be in the lobby before, after and at intermission, by the way, with my table full of great music from the era and other great music available for purchase from A Web of Fine Music. Can't find what you want? Call me or email me at or go to my website at and I will do my best to find what it is your looking for. See you at the concert!

Now, just one added note before I go; I sometimes write about things outside the realm of music, which is my forte, of course. However, I share a love for good food with my good friend Lynn Ogryzlo, the local food and wine writer for Niagara this Week, who shares her thoughts weekly on her Niagara Cooks blog ( A couple of weeks ago, she wrote of the untimely demise of the Good Shepherd farm in Vineland, which closes for good at the end of business today. You can read the whole sad story on Lynn's blog, but suffice it to say Franz and Denise have developed a great following over the years with their organic, safe meat and chicken products. They are being forced to close, and that is very unfortunate. I, along with many others, plan to visit the farm today to offer our support, and if you have the time and have never been, I would suggest you do as well. They are open to 4 pm today, and I am sure many will be out to lend their support to Franz and Denise on this very sad day.

Enjoy your weekend!

May 1st, 2010.