Wednesday, December 3, 2014

News & notes on the arts this week in Niagara

A few things crossed my cluttered desk this week I wanted to touch on, as a busy season for performances and other arts-related events continues unabated in Niagara.

First of all, I touched on this in my posting last weekend, about the upcoming Niagara Symphony Orchestra NextGEN concert.  This is the successor to the Family Series of years past, in which the NSO grooms future concert-goers with performances geared toward a younger, family-oriented audience.

The Niagara Symphony has announced their "draft picks" for the concert on Sunday afternoon at 2:30:  Niagara IceDogs Captain Luke Mercer and left-wing Brendan Perlini, who will be narrating Roch Carrier's winter classic tale, The Hockey Sweater.  In addition, IceDogs mascot Bones will join Mercer and Perlini in the lobby after the concert to meet and great the young audience members.

The concert is entitled "It's OUR Game", so expect NSO players to be donning their favourite team's hockey jersey, and Associate Conductor Laura Thomas to have a few words to say on the subject of hockey in Canada.

Tickets to the concert will be available at the box office prior to the concert, either in person or by calling 905-688-5550, ext. 3257.

Meantime, Suitcase in Point's annual holiday sketch comedy show takes the form of a cabaret this year, with a new show entitled "Cabaret Stretchy Pants:  A Holiday Vortex."  The collaborators on the show have been working hard to come up with an evening full of laughs at two downtown St. Catharines locations over two weekends.

The first pair of shows come up Sunday evening at 7 and 9 pm at The Merchant Ale House on St. Paul Street, and the following Friday and Saturday, December 12 and 13 at the Mikado Bar & Lounge, also on St. Paul Street, with those performances starting at 8 pm.

All the shows are pay-what-you-can, with a suggested charge of $10, plus you are asked to bring a non-perishable food donation for Community Care of St. Catharines & Thorold.  With so many going hungry right here in the city at this time of year, every donation of non-perishable food is vitally needed right now.

Yes, Virginia, this is also the weekend Chorus Niagara presents a pair of performances of Handel's beloved oratorio, Messiah, Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.  This is something they do every other year; audiences I am sure would welcome the chance to attend a performance every year, but Artistic Director Robert Cooper wisely decides to do it every other year in order to give choristers and audiences alike a little more variety.

I will be writing my weekend blog on the eternal popularity of this holiday classic, but for now, keep in mind the Chorus Niagara performances are Saturday evening at Mountainview Church in Grimsby at 7:30 pm, and Sunday afternoon at Calvary Church in St. Catharines at 2:30 pm.  For tickets, call the Brock box office at 905-688-5550, ext. 3257.  I wouldn't want to chance waiting to pick them up at the door for either performance as Messiah almost always sells out every time.

Finally, some sad news from Stratford, where renowned director and choreographer Brian MacDonald passed away last weekend at the age of 86.

Over his 60-year career, MacDonald become one of the most prolific and internationally-renowned directors and choreographers this country has ever produced.  He was a member of the Stratford Festival company for 17 seasons, as well as being a founding dancer with the National Ballet of Canada and Artistic Director of the Royal Swedish Ballet, the Harkness Ballet as well as having associations with many other companies around the world.

Mr. MacDonald was demanding, to be sure, and the stories about him are legion; however he knew what he wanted and how to get the very best out of all the companies he worked with over the years.  A Companion of the Order of Canada, he was celebrated around the world as well as here in Canada with many honours ranging from the Governor General's Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement to the Walter Carson Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts.

For many theatre-goers here in Niagara and elsewhere, he will perhaps best be remembered for his string of Gilbert & Sullivan operetta revivals at the Stratford Festival in the 80s, where he directed fresh, newly-updated variations on the originals while still remaining true to the traditions of G&S.

In all, MacDonald directed and choreographed 14 operettas and musicals for the Stratford Festival, ranging from Gilbert & Sullivan's Iolanthe and The Mikado to Cabaret, Carousel, Guys and Dolls and many others.

The Stratford Festival is dedicating the 2015 production of Carousel to Mr. MacDonald's memory, and a memorial will be held at the Festival Theatre on May 3rd.

The funeral will be held in Stratford this coming Saturday at the W.G. Young Funeral Home.

Have a good week!

December 3rd, 2014.

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