Saturday, November 14, 2015

Lots to see and do in Niagara this weekend...

As far as fall weekends in Niagara go, this has to be one of the busier and high-profile weekends you'll ever see.  And if you follow the arts at all, you know at least one of the events we'll be highlighting in this space this weekend.

It was a week ago tonight Chorus Niagara and the Niagara Symphony launched the new season at Partridge Hall in the new FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre in downtown St. Catharines.  By all accounts it was an auspicious opening with congratulations all around for a job well done.

But the real celebration is this weekend, and in fact it is going on right now.  Serena Ryder is performing at Partridge Hall this evening, at a swishy gala concert designed to show off the new venue to some of the movers and shakers in Niagara society as well as just us plain folk who want to go and see the show.

Tomorrow afternoon, though, the Community Open House will be the highlight of the day at the PAC, and everyone is invited.  Needless to say, I will be one of those streaming through the doors to catch a glimpse of what everyone's been talking about the last little while.

Tomorrow from 2 to 7 pm, Chorus Niagara's Niagara Sings! offers lots of music, guided tours of the facility, door prizes as well as a Community Art Fair.  It's all free, and I imagine the event will be very well attended.

Niagara Sings! connects six Niagara-based choirs and over 300 voices performing throughout every room of the new PAC.  Chorus Niagara will be joined by Womenchant, Queenston Ladies Choir, Choralis Camerata, Robert Wood Singers, and Sing Niagara.  All of these voices will be simultaneously tuning each performance venue.

The day wraps up with a grand finale massed choir in Partridge Hall at 5 tomorrow afternoon.

The Community Art Fair will showcase some of the PAC's partnering organizations, including The Foster Festival, The Gallery Players, Niagara Symphony, Chorus Niagara, Essential Collective Theatre and others.

It will be nice to finally walk through those doors and bask in the glory of 95,000 square feet of cultural space purpose built in the heart of downtown St. Catharines.  I along with many others were at that first public information session several years ago when architects Diamond + Schmitt unveiled the original design for the PAC.  It had to be downsized later on though, but the redesign looks just as impressive from the street if not more so than the original.

So plan to walk a bit tomorrow, both inside and outside the new facility, as parking in downtown St. Catharines is expected to be at a premium during the afternoon.

Also tomorrow afternoon, Gallery Players of Niagara will launch their new season, not at the PAC but in their familiar confines at Silver Spire United Church on St. Paul Street.  The 2 pm concert is entitled, appropriately enough, Hello Cello! as it features no less than eight cellists along with the voice of Charlotte Knight.

For the record, the eight cellists are Sandra Bohn, Gordon Cleland, Grace Coveney, Margaret Gay, Keanna Hoffe, Helen Kopec, Mark Russom and Grace Snippe.  Collectively they'll be performing music by Villa-Lobos (the Bachianas Brasileiras #5) as well as arrangements of works by Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.  Also featured will be a setting of Rilke by Canadian composer Michael Oesteerle.

Tickets should be available at the door, or in advance by calling 905-468-1525.  Incidentally, Gallery Players will be performing one of their upcoming concerts this season in the Cairns Recital Hall at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre on Valentine's Day, February 14th.  It's the concert entitled From The Heart and will feature Canadian baritone Brett Polegato with Gallery Players and musical guests performing music by Schumann, Schubert and Beethoven.

This weekend also sees the first MainStage presentation of the inaugural season for the new Dramatic Arts Theatre at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine & Performing Arts, located right next door to the PAC.

The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, in an English translation by Arnold Weinstein and Lys Symonette, opened last evening at the new venue in the school complex, and additional performances include tomorrow afternoon at 2 as well as next Friday and Saturday evening and an early matinee performance Friday at 11:30 am.

Virginia Reh, tempted out of retirement to direct the new show (who wouldn't be with a new venue to play in!?) is joined by assistant Elizabeth Amos, designer David Vivian and music director Daniel Turner, and the cast is made up of students in the Department of Dramatic Arts at Brock University.

The opera/musical's title refers to the colour "mahogany", which is Brecht's reference to the German 'Brown Shirts.'  This production sets the action in 1957 on the Gulf Coast, close to Pensacola.

The epic tale follows the lives of the residents of Mahagonny as they are consumed by the power of money, winning out against all other motivating forces such as  friendship, family, morality and philosophy.

If you want to catch one of the remaining performances of The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, call the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre box office at 905-688-0722.

Next week, I'll offer my thoughts and impressions on the new PAC after joining everyone else at the big Open House tomorrow afternoon.

Enjoy your weekend!

November 14th, 2015.

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