Thursday, October 31, 2013

Choral music abounds in November!

There is something about the cooler days of November that makes me want to enjoy the glorious sound of a great choir singing some of the great choral masterpieces in a church somewhere.  Although many choirs today utilize a more modern setting if available, I still enjoy sitting in church pews and revelling in the sound of voices filling a beautiful sacred space.

There are three great choirs scheduled to perform this month I want to write about in this space today, and all three are worthy of your attendance if you have the time and inclination.

This weekend, Chorus Niagara kicks off their new season at Calvary Church in St. Catharines, with a programme entitled Handel - Grand and Glorious!  Sure, Handel is known for his oratorio Messiah, but he wrote so much more.  His list of oratorios alone is large, including Athalia, Israel in Egypt, Jephtha, Judas Maccabeaeus and many more; his Coronation Anthems are also exceptional works.  Let's not forget his many operas, orchestral works and more.  In short, Handel was certainly a musical genius.

Many of those choruses, airs and overtures will be featured this weekend as Artistic Director Robert Cooper celebrates his 25th season with the Chorus, and his programming talents in the past suggest this will be a well-balanced and varied programme.

Also performing will be the Talisker Baroque Players along with soloists Isaiah Bell, tenor, and Meredith Hall, soprano.

The concert is Saturday evening at 7:30, and tickets can be had from any Chorus Niagara member, or by calling the Brock box office at 905-688-5550, ext. 3257.

Another choir I have long admired and enjoyed is the Guelph Chamber Choir, directed by Gerald Neufeld.  Smaller in size than Chorus Niagara, the Guelph Chamber Choir still manages to fill a hall with the wonderful sound of voices ringing out, as they will when their new season gets underway Saturday, November 9th at St. George's Anglican Church in downtown Guelph.  I have visited this magnificent church many times for performances, and it is acoustically and artistically a jewel in the Royal City.

The concert will feature a special screening of The Passion of Joan of Arc, Carl Dreyer's haunting 1928 silent film, with live music performed by the choir and organ.  Should be quite interesting.

Incidentally, the National Competition for Canadian Amateur Choirs was held recently, and the Guelph Chamber Choir placed second in the competitive mixed-voice adult choir category just behind Calgary's Spiritus Chamber Choir, the overall winner of the competition.

Gerald Neufeld commented after the announcement "We are an amateur choir but strive for a professional level performance that is achieved by the hard work of the singers in our choir."  And that is the joy of hearing a choir such as Chorus Niagara or the Guelph Chamber Choir:  they are amateurs, albeit very accomplished amateurs, and they sing simply for the love of it.  Doesn't that make the experience all that more special and even richer knowing that fact?

Anyway, the performance begins November 9th at 8 pm and tickets are available through the River Run Centre box office, but calling 519-763-3000 or going to

Locally, another amateur choir worthy of note will perform November 16th at 7:30 pm at St. Thomas Anglican Church in downtown St. Catharines.  The Avanti Chamber Singers, conducted by Dr. Harris Loewen will be accompanied by the St. Catharines Chamber Music Society Strings and organist Lesley Kingham.

The programme will include the concert premiere of John Butler's beautiful Requiem, and the choir will launch their latest recording, Voices of Niagara 4:  The Gate of the Year.  Naturally, the concert will feature selections from the new CD as well.

The Avanti Chamber Singers is made up of members from Brock University's Department of Music, and they perform regularly in the area, most often at St. Barnabas Church on Queenston Street.  This concert will be a little different as they moved the venue to St. Thomas, a larger church at the other end of the downtown.

Tickets to the concert are available at the door or in advance from any choir member or at Ryson's Music Studio on Court Street downtown.

So there you go:  three great amateur choirs, two in the area and one outside the area, and all worthy of your patronage during the month of November.


October 31st, 2013.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Music festivals worth visiting this season

Along with the wide variety of musical events throughout the area courtesy the Buffalo Philharmonic, Hamilton Philharmonic and of course, our own Niagara Symphony Orchestra, there are many smaller, more intimate musical events and festivals taking place through the fall/winter/spring months.  I thought this week we'd highlight some of the more prominent ones close by or not that far a drive away, should you wish to escape for some exceptional popular or chamber music in a warm, intimate setting.

I started thinking of this week's column after I read John Law's article in the Niagara Falls Review about the long-running Niagara Concerts series falling on hard times as of late.  Hard to believe, really, when you consider there was a time every concert was a sellout with a waiting list for subscriptions.  Considering the value offered, you can see why:  even today, five shows can be yours for the bargain price of only $ 100.00.

But times change and inevitably, their audience has aged and stopped coming to concerts.  The younger generation has not been brought up on this sort of thing; going to a subscription series of just about anything must seem foreign to many today, living in a faster-paced time when planning ahead seems almost impossible.

So this year, Niagara Concerts' 40th, could very well be their last.  With many older audience members simply unable to attend, finding a new, younger audience to pick up the slack is proving to be a difficult task.  As other arts organizations have found out already, the greying of their audiences continues unabated and reaching out for new subscribers of every age group is now the only way for survival in the 21st century.

The situation with Niagara Concerts has been complicated by July flooding of their local home base in Niagara Falls, the aging Niagara Centre for the Arts inside Kingston College, formerly NFCVI.  The flooding produced mould, which is still being removed, so the first three concerts of the upcoming season have been moved to the ballroom of the Scotiabank Convention Centre.  That turned out to be about all that was available in order to save the current season, so that is where they will be.

The Niagara Concerts season looks like another interesting, varied affair:  Louise Pitre kicks things off tonight, in fact.  The rest of the season includes the Montreal Guitar Trio with the California Guitar Trio November 30th; Big Band Christmas on December 14th; in the new year the venue changes to the old location for the remainder of the season, including The Sounds of Chicago on April 12th and Jesse Peters Trio on May 10th.

I have attended Niagara Concerts performances in the past and they are usually well-attended and exceptional value, so let's hope they can weather the current storm and live to entertain another day.  For tickets and more information, go to or call 905-358-6174.

Beyond Niagara Concerts, there are plenty of opportunities to hear some great music of almost every description this season, including Gallery Players of Niagara, who perform some of their concerts at the acoustically-perfect St. Barnabas Church on Queenston Street in St. Catharines.  Their new season kicks off November 24th with, oddly enough, a concert titled The Spring Sonata.  The Spring Sonata by Beethoven will be featured in a transcription by Patrick Jordan, paired with Arensky's String Quartet scored for violin, viola and two celli.  The annual Christmas concert, Glissandi Christmas, comes up December 20th at Grace United Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake and December 21st at Rodman Hall Arts Centre in St. Catharines.  The Christmas concert will feature Shaw Festival actor Guy Bannerman reading Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales", by the way.

The new year kicks off for Gallery Players with a co-production with Primavera Concerts featuring Brett Polegato and the Eybler Quartet on January 19th at Rodman Hall, with a concert titled A Poet's Voice.  There is the annual Movie Night event co-produced with Niagara Artists' Centre at their downtown St. Catharines venue February 15th, with improvised music accompanying the silent film The Crowd from 1928.  On April 6th, the Vesuvius Ensemble paints a portrait of Naples in a concert titled In the Shadow of the Volcano at St. Barnabas Church; the season concludes with The Beethoven Cycle Continues on June 8th, also at St. Barnabas, featuring the Beethoven Piano Trio Op. 1, # 3 and Schubert's Trio Op. 100 in E-flat major.

For tickets to any of the Gallery Players concerts, call 905-468-1525 or go to www.galleryplayers .ca.

The aforementioned Primavera Concerts kick off their new season with that co-production with Gallery Players January 19th; it continues with Forbidden Music February 9th with special guest artist Jacques Israelievitch joining soprano Sharon Azrieli and pianist Shoshana Telner; Jayme Stone's Room of Wonders comes up March 23rd and May 25th sees Jacques Israelievitch returning to perform with pianist Christina Petrowska in an all-Mozart program.

With the exception of the first concert at Rodman Hall, all the Primavera Concerts take place at St. Barnabas Church in St. Catharines, long one of my favourite venues for small concerts, and from performances I have attended in the past, they are always of a very high calibre.  For tickets, call 905-329-9987 or go to

Just over the border in Western New York, the Buffalo Chamber Music Society is now underway with their current season, which kicked off earlier this month with a performance by the Attacca Quartet.  The BCMS is celebrating their 90th season this year, with performances held in the Mary Seaton Room at Kleinhans Music Hall on Tuesday evenings at 8 pm.

The rest of the season includes the New York Woodwind Quintet on November 12th; the Jasper String Quartet on December 10th; the Szymanowski Quartet on January 28th; Quatuor Ebene on February 25th; Artemis Quartet March 18th and the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio on April 29th. I just discovered this ambitious chamber music series earlier this year when I was visiting Buffalo and stopped by Kleinhans Music Hall and found their brochure in the lobby.

The Buffalo Chamber Music Society is definitely worth discovering for yourself!  For tickets, call the box office at 1-716-462-4939 or go to

Back on this side of the border, up in Kitchener-Waterloo, the K-W Chamber Music Society serves up a full year's worth of chamber music concerts, most at the KWCMS Music Room at 57 Young Street in Waterloo.  The setting is very intimate, indeed, with only 85 seats, but they boast one of the finest Steinway pianos in Ontario.  The concerts go year-round, so I will only highlight the coming month's concerts in this space.

Tomorrow the Penderecki String Quartet performs; November begins with Leslie Ting and Sarah Hagen on violin and piano respectively on the 1st; G8 on November 7th; Janacek Quartet November 13th; the Attacca Quartet November 16th and 17th; pianist Kit Armstrong on the 18th; Boston Trio on the 21st and the Dave Young Trio performing a concert titled "Oscar Peterson Remembered" on the 28th of November.  That's all just in the next month!

I really have no idea how they manage to squeeze so many concerts into the season, but they do, and the payoff is some great music for residents of Kitchener-Waterloo.  For tickets and more information, call 1-519-886-1673 or go to

Finally, the Elora Festival kicks off their fall/winter season tomorrow afternoon with a concert I am very much looking forward to attending, as the Elora Festival Singers perform Nine Lessons and Carols for Harvest, a nice seasonal play on the customary Christmas Nine Lessons and Carols concert they are known for.  On November 30th they perform Menotti's ever-popular Amahl and the Night Visitors; December 8th the annual presentation of Handel's Messiah; the traditional Festival of Carols concert on December 18th; the winter Soup Concert featuring the Brahms Requiem comes up January 19th and the winter season concludes with Bach's St. John Passion on April 6th.

The December 8th and April 6th concerts will be at St. Joseph's Church in Fergus, with the rest of the concerts held at St. John's Church in Elora, the choir's home base.  I have heard the choir at St. John's Church in the summer, and they sound amazing in that intimate setting.  If you can make any of their concerts this season, you will be in for a treat, I can assure you!

For tickets and more information, go to, or call 1-519-846-0331.

So there, who says you have to go big or go home?  You can go small and go out and have some great entertainment in the bargain!

October 26th, 2013.

Friday, October 18, 2013

News and notes this weekend around Niagara and beyond...

Since I will be busy Saturday morning teetering in heels to benefit Gillian's Place in the 8th Annual Walk a Mile in HER Shoes Event at the Pen Centre, I thought I should write my weekend blog early before I head out, since I might not feel up to the task after another turn around The Pen in heels, so let's get going.  By the way, the walk kicks off with speeches at noon and the walk itself at 12:30 if you'd like to come by and show your support...

This week on my radio programme, Inquisitive Minds, airing Wednesday mornings at 11 on CFBU-FM 103.7, the Brock campus radio station, I had an interesting chat with Brock Professor of Political Science Leah Bradshaw about the decline of the downtown core in many cities and what city fathers and other interested individuals can do to help alleviate the problem.  We got into so many topics, I decided to extend the interview to two weeks, so Leah will be joining me again this coming Wednesday morning as well on the topic.

The reason I mention this is she is very involved with an intriguing one day conference entitled Public Space and Urban Crisis, which will be held Saturday from 9 to 5 at Rodman Hall Arts Centre.  Several panel discussions and speakers will take the floor over the course of the day, including discussions on Urban Space and Architecture at 9 am; Food Deserts, Urban Gardening and Farmers' Markets at 10:45 am; Management of Cities at 1:30 pm; and the Afternoon Keynotes at 3:15 pm.  All the events are free and the public is welcome to attend; in fact, you can come and go as you please as you don't have to be there for the entire day.

Essentially, Leah is a big believer in people returning to live in the downtown area, and the more people who do, the more vibrant the downtown core will become for everyone.  Some interesting ideas will be discussed at the conference for sure, and Leah has some very cogent comments when she joins me next Wednesday morning at 11 on Inquisitive Minds.

Saturday evening in Hamilton, the HPO presents the first of their Pops concerts this season, with multi-faceted conductor/trombonist David Martin joining forces with trumpeter Larry Larson in a programme titled For the Love of the Screen, featuring music from both the big and the small screens.

The two performers Martin and Larson are known as the infamous Men with Horns, and have performed their special brand of musical virtuosity all over Canada.  Music on the programme this weekend includes Gershwin's Summertime, Raskin's Laura, the Tom Jones hit What's New, Pussycat?, the Judy Garland classic Over the Rainbow and a Tribute to Henry Mancini.

The concert begins at 7:30 in the Great Hall at Hamilton Place, and tickets are available through the box office by calling 1-905-526-7756 or by going online to

Sunday afternoon at 2:30 our own Niagara Symphony (NSO) presents their first Pops! concert of the season, with Toronto-based jazz crooner Matt Dusk the featured performer with the orchestra.  Also featured will be guest soloist Eleanor McCain, and Music Director Bradley Thachuk will be conducting.

The programme will include a Tribute to Irving Berlin, A Salute to the Big Bands, and several Sinatra classics including Nice and Easy, That's Life, All the Way and The Lady is a Tramp.  Should be a great show, and I hear there will be a youthful jazz ensemble from Welland performing in the lobby before the concert and at intermission.

Also in the lobby, before, after and at intermission, I will be there as usual with a table full of great musical ideas for you to satisfy your musical cravings, from pop to classical.  And if I don't have what you want, let me know and I will do my very best to get it for you.  Be sure to stop by and say hello and see what I have to offer on Sunday afternoon!

The concert takes place at the Sean O'Sullivan Theatre at the Centre for the Arts, Brock University, and tickets are available through the box office by calling 905-688-5550, ext. 3257, or by going to

That's just scratching the surface, of course, but should be enough to take your mind off the cooler weather we're expecting this weekend.  And like I always say, there is never a shortage of things to do in Niagara!

October 18th, 2013.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Are YOU man (or woman) enough to sponsor me for Walk a Mile in HER Shoes?

I am deviating once again from my usual arts beat this weekend to write about an event coming up next Saturday that is a lot of fun, but also brings with it a very important message:  we are taking a stand on the issue of violence against women.  Yes, it is time for the 8th Annual Walk a Mile in HER Shoes at the Pen Centre, presented by TD Bank next Saturday at noon.

This has become a huge event in Niagara and with good reason.  It is fun, it catches your attention, and it raises a considerable amount of money for a very worthwhile cause.  Last year, for example, over 200 walkers helped to raise $ 81,000 in support of the work of Gillian's Place, empowering abused women in Niagara.  This year, the goal is to have 250 walkers and raise $ 100,000 for Gillian's Place.

Some background is in order here, I think.  Gillian's Place moved to the renovated Victoria School on Niagara Street several years ago from their downtown St. Catharines location when they were known as Women's Place.  The mission didn't change:  provide shelter, help and support to abused women looking to escape their own difficult situations at home and find a better life.  What changed, unfortunately, are the numbers.  Every year the larger facility is full, and that suggest more work needs to be done to educate the public on the importance of this resource in the community and the constant need for funding.

In a perfect world, Gillian's Place and similar shelters around the world would not be needed.  But the reality is, they are needed.  Very, very badly.  And that is where you - and I - come in.

So, what happens next weekend?  Men from every walk of life come together to take a stand against violence against women by donning high heels and walking a mile around the Pen Centre, all the while experiencing their own pain as they struggle to walk in heels for the better part of half an hour.  Simple, right?  Well it is, really, compared to what the women who find the need to go to Gillian's Place are experiencing.   But the benefits of the walk go beyond the time spent teetering in heels and having some fun in a public display of awkwardness.

So here's the deal.  In the past, I walked as part of a corporate team of dedicated like-minded males who  worked at CKTB/HTZ-FM/EZ-ROCK, the media sponsors of the event.  Since I am no longer employed there and still want to help out Gillian's Place, I am walking next week as a team of one, doing my part for the cause.

What that means is I have to fundraise for the walk, and that's where you come in.  I am willing to strap on the heels again if you are willing to sponsor me.  Sound fair?  You don't have to sponsor a lot if you don't want to, although if you do it would be very nice, indeed.  But any amount is appreciated and let me tell you, I will be walking even more proud next weekend knowing I am walking for you as you support this very worthwhile cause.

There are several ways to sponsor, and you can get all the information on the event by going to  Every participant has their own page once they register to walk and I received mine last evening.  Here is the link to my personal page in order to pledge for the walk next weekend:

You can pledge right there online with little or no effort at all, and it is fully secure.  I did it myself last night when I started the page.  Alternatively, go to and look for the sponsor a participant link.  There you can type in my name (Mike Saunders) and that will take you directly to my pledge page.  They even have a mobile app available so you can pledge on the go.  Or, if you like doing things the old-fashioned way, I have a paper pledge sheet I am taking everywhere I go this week in hopes of gathering pledges before next weekend.  Just message me or email me at and we'll make arrangements to fill out the sponsor sheet and collect your pledge.

Remember, it doesn't have to be a lot of money.  But it means the world to us walkers and even more to Gillian's Place, so won't you do your part?  If you want to walk yourself, hey, the more the merrier!  They supply the shoes; you supply the feet and the pledges.

As for me, I am toying with making this a real event for my first solo walk next week and wearing my tux on Saturday.  That means I have to find dressy shoes to match...hmmm, what goes with a black tuxedo...well, we'll figure it out.  And if anyone has a line on where I can get a pink scarf, I'm in!  Just let me know.

Okay, did I miss anything?  Call for pledges; locate the website and my personal pledge page; call for more walkers.  Oh, you need to know where and when, right?  Everyone - whether you are walking or not - are invited to come down and have some fun.  We'll start out at Sears Court at The Pen, with registration starting at 10 am; there are special guests on stage at 12 noon and then at 12:30 we begin the walk.  Afterwards, all participants receive lunch and if needed, a massage for those sore, aching muscles you have not used since last year at this time.

So, that's my deal for you this week.  Sponsor me for the walk next weekend, and I promise to put in a good show, post pictures to Facebook after the event, and I promise not to ask you again until this time next year.  Sound good to you?  I thought so.

Gentlemen, almost time to strap up and lurch forward...are YOU joining The Men's March to End Violence Against Women?

October 12th, 2013.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Another season gets underway at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts

Now that I have a few weeks under my belt as host of a new interview show on Brock Radio CFBU-FM, I thought I would write this weekend about a couple of things coming up on next week's show that tie in with one of my favourite arts entities in Niagara, the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts at Brock University.

First of all, if you have not listened to the show yet, it is called Inquisitive Minds and airs Wednesday mornings at 11 am on CFBU-FM, 103.7.  Archived shows are available on the website, It is proving to be a most interesting project for me as well as challenging, as every interview brings with it a new subject I have to learn about.

Two interviews are already recorded for this coming Wednesday's show, and both deal in some way with the arts.  I spoke earlier this week with Dr. Patricia Debly, an associate professor in the Department of Music at Brock, who is heavily involved in the innovative new Music Ed Plus programme for Brock music students.  I also spoke Friday morning with British author and educator Patrice Baldwin, President of the International Drama, Theatre and Education Association, who is spending a week at Brock teaching students and giving workshops and demonstration classes both to Brock students and students in several Niagara-area schools.

Baldwin's week ends with a public lecture scheduled for this Wednesday evening at 7:30 at Pond Inlet at Brock University, titled "Neuroscience, Creativity and Learning:  Recent Research and Connections to Drama in Education and Arts-Based Learning."  It proved to be a fascinating conversation on the role drama can play in the education of young students, as well as other aspects of the arts in education. I might be able to free up some time to catch the lecture myself Wednesday evening, as it promises to be an most enlightening event.  Patrice was gracious and knowledgeable, and a pleasure to meet this past Friday morning.  The lecture is free and open to all, by the way.

The lecture by Patrice Baldwin is part of the 2013-14 Walker cultural leader series at Brock, which includes public talks by David A. Walden, long-time senior manager in the Canadian cultural sector, on the role of culture in international development; Althea Thauberger, a Vancouver-based artist who will collaborate with Visual Arts students at Brock to develop an experimental documentary video on the future move of the Walker School to downtown St. Catharines; Jill Dolan, a Professor of English and Theatre at Princeton University, who will give a masterclass in online arts criticism; and Ensemble Vivant will perform in a public performance as well as give a masterclass, both next March.

For information on all of the events coming up in the Walker cultural leader series, go to

The Department of Music, meanwhile, has a full season of performances scheduled at several locations in and around St. Catharines, including of course at the Centre for the Arts at Brock University.  This evening, for example, the Avanti Chamber Singers will be presenting a concert as part of the Viva Voce! choral series, at St. Thomas Anglican Church on Ontario Street in downtown St. Catharines.  The choir will host both American and First Nations choral ensembles from New York State in a concert celebrating the two centuries of peace following the War of 1812.

Guest choirs include the Youngstown Presbyterian Choir of Youngstown, New York, and the Tuscarora Hymn Singers, a First Nations choir from Niagara County, New York, joining the Avanti Chamber Singers conducted by Harris Loewen.  They will perform separately and also together as an 80-voice massed choir.

The concert will feature both traditional and new music, featuring composers and arrangers from both sides of the Niagara River, including Niagara's own John Butler's arrangement of MacDonnell on the Heights by Stan Rogers; Peace by WNED Buffalo host Marty Wimmer; and Harris Loewen's setting of Peaceful Niagara.

You can pick up tickets at the door this evening for the concert, which begins at 7:30 pm.

Lots of other concerts are planned for the season in several series, including the ENCORE! Professional Concert Series, the aforementioned Viva Voce! choral series, the Wind Ensemble series and of course, the newly-renamed RBC Foundation Tuesday Music@Noon series of free concerts featuring faculty and student recitals at several locations on the Brock University campus.

All in all, there is something for everyone this season, both on campus and off, and all very affordably priced or even free in some cases.  All the events are listed now on the Calendar page of my website, at, or you can go to to find out more.

Enjoy some great music and cultural events this season courtesy of the Department of Music at Brock!

October 5th, 2013.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The bane of a theatre-goers existence: the advent of the smart phone

Now that I have finished up my annual reviews of shows at Shaw and Stratford, it is time once again to enter what I call the High Rant District and get something off my chest that seems to get worse every year:  distractions at live theatre events.

Time was all we used to have to worry about were those unthinking individuals who chose to unwrap candies and cough lozenges during the performance, usually doing it slowly but still noisily, thereby prolonging the agony for the rest of us seated nearby.  That does not happen quite so much anymore, although I did have one lady seated next to me at a performance this summer at the Tom Patterson Theatre who was sitting there quietly waiting for the show to start for several minutes, and then like magic, thirty seconds into the show, out comes the candy and the painful wrapper striptease that followed.  This happened not once, but twice during that particular performance, with the same person.  Good thing there were only two acts...

Now, the worst offender is the technological marvel known as the smart phone.  Today it is hard to imagine life without smart phones; they almost become physical appendages for some people.  I think it is time we sever the offending appendage and liberate ourselves, at least for a couple of hours while socializing.

Unless you are the President of the United States, I doubt there is anything so important it cannot wait until after a theatrical performance for you to find out about it.  Yes, I know some people have sick friends and relatives in hospital and want to know if anything happens immediately.  But that is what the vibrate function is for on your phone in situations when you might not want to disturb the people around you.  Assuming, of course, you care at all about the people around you.

I would suggest in many instances, people don't care.

At my second Stratford performance this season, The Who's Tommy at the Avon Theatre, when the curtain fell at the end of the performance and most sane individuals would want to applaud and even cheer the work of so many talented individuals who worked so hard that evening to bring the show to the stage, the gentleman seated directly across the aisle from me already had his head buried in his smart phone, checking God knows what.  Really?  You couldn't wait another five minutes until you left the theatre to check messages and your social media site of choice?  C'mon, there is more to life than what's on Facebook.  Rather than read about other people's lives, how about living your own life at that particular moment?

At Shaw this summer, one older gentleman, who obviously got his new smart phone not long before the performance we attended, didn't bother to shut it off before the show started, and sure enough it rang several times during the first act.  People around him grew increasingly annoyed he left it ringing for so long, and an usher eventually had to help him shut it off.  Turns out he hadn't bothered to learn how to turn the thing off when he got it.  Note to cell-phone users:  read the basic instructions that come with it before venturing out into public!

Back at Stratford, as the announcement was coming over the speakers asking patrons to kindly turn off their pagers and cell-phones for the performance of Romeo and Juliet I attended, the gentleman behind me wasn't paying attention and his phone started ringing.  Unbelievably, he answered it!  As the show was getting underway!  Again, hate to tell you sir, but you are just not that important, so turn off the phone before you enter the theatre.

There were several instances at both theatre festivals this summer where people obviously hadn't turned off their phones and tried to sneak a peak to see what is happening in the outside world during the performance.  Trouble was, everyone else knew what they were doing thanks to that bright, luminescent screen lighting up the entire section.  How much did you pay for these tickets, ma'am or sir?  You can't just sit and watch the show?  Pity.

I know I might be coming off a bit heavy-handed here, but I see an increasing encroachment on people's rights and space with the ever-increasing use of smart phones in daily life.  I haven't seen anyone try anything with a tablet yet, but give it time.

For me, the phone is always off before I enter the theatre, if I have it with me at all.  Often I leave it either in the trunk of the car or back at the hotel room, safely shut off and stored away.  I can't imagine anything so important happening that I can't wait a couple of hours in order to find out what it is.

The fact is, too much of a good thing is, well, too much.  And an addiction starts weaving its way into your life in the most insidious of ways.  It may not be smoking, gambling or over-eating, but a smart phone addiction can be just as serious and yes, just as annoying to others not so digitally inclined.

I admit I like my smart phone, and use it quite often to keep in touch with the world.  I even accept calls from my far better half asking where the heck I am at the moment.  I even dutifully downloaded the latest iOS 7 operating system when told to do so, and gave the requisite oohs and ahhs when I saw the end result.

But really, is it all that important you can't do without it for the time you attend a public event?  That's a shame.  Of course, having it there means you can also try to sneak a picture of the performance too; again against the wishes of the theatre and to the annoyance of those around you.  But  wait, that's a tirade for another day...

Enjoy the theatre...without your smart phone!

October 1st, 2013.