A Toronto Christmas 2014

And so the seasonal madness begins….

Continue reading


A Toronto Christmas

And so the seasonal madness begins….

If you’re gonna get “stuck” anywhere over Christmas.
If you can’t be with your family somewhere far away, there are plenty of opportunities to celebrate the season to the full with a host of fabulous festive events held across the GTA.
Here are a selection of festive sound bite

Santa Clause parade
Sunday 17 November and featuring Mayor Rob Ford in all his fallen glory. Begins at St. Lawrence market, wends it’s way along Bloor street west to finish at Christie Pitts.

Cavalcade of Lights – A Holiday Tradition
Paste link below into your browser to watch 2012 Fireworks

Saturday, November 30, 2013 will mark the official start to the holiday season in Toronto with the celebration of the 47th annual Cavalcade of Lights presented by Great Gulf. Featuring the illumination of Toronto’s official Christmas tree, music from soul singer Divine Brown plus others, a fireworks show and a skating party

Twelve Trees at the Gardiner Museum – from 23 November to 15 December
Always a huge treat to see Designer dressed trees scattered and reflected off the glass cases housing the ceramic displays. This year’s theme “Celebrating All Things G”
Friday November 29, 2013, 6 – 9:30 pm
“featuring a spectacular Downton Abbey-inspired dinner by Chef Jamie Kennedy, this year’s edition will also have costumed hosts from Toronto’s Spadina Museum sharing insights into the Downton era, a sneak preview of Season Four from Vision TV”

Russ Petty’s traditional Xmas
Family show
(we call it a Pantomime) – The Little Mermaid
Nov 22 – Jan 4

The Distillery Xmas Market
Nov 29 – Dec 15, 2013.
The Distillery does ” Dickens” so very atmospherically thanks to its setting amidst Victorian industrial buildings (original home of the Gooderham and Worts Distillery) and cobbled lane ways. Gorgeous restaurants and artsy boutiques alongside the German style chalets of the Christmas vendors. Huddle round the wood burning outdoor braziers nursing a cup of Christmassy mulled wine.

One of a Kind Christmas Show and Sale
Thursday, November 28 to December 8, 2013
Weave in and out of aisle upon aisle of sumptuously decorated craft and food boutiques booths. Taste amazing Christmas fayre and leave at least half a day for hunting down those special one off presents.

Carol Singing at Montgomery’s Inn
Friday, December 6, 7:30pm
Saturday, December 7, 7:30pm
Step back in time and sing nineteenth century carols in a nineteenth century heritage Rooming Inn. $20 plus tax, savoury treats, mulled cider, cash bar for historic drinks. Pre-registration only.

Also at Montgomery’s Inn and other heritage properties in and around the GTA The Humber River Shakespeare company present Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”
Usually yummy homemade biscuits available at the Montgomery’s Inn location

Christmas Afternoons at Colborne House
Nov 23, to Jan 5,
12:00 pm until 4:00 pm
All decked out for a Victorian Christmas discover the magic of Christmas in the winter wonderland surroundings of High Park and enjoy a tour of Colborne Lodge, the picturesque home of the founders of High Park. learn about festive traditions, decorations and the foods enjoyed during the 19th-century in Toronto. Toast the season with a glass of hot mulled cider by the wood stove and nibble on special holiday treats.

Sing Along Messiah at Massey Hall
– December 22 @ 2pm – word to the wise, bring your own sheet music if you want to join in singing as they always run out of the scores. The Tafelmusik conductor dressed as Mozart very audibly directs both the orchestra and the audience. Quite the experience!

The non singalong version of Handel’s Messiah – again by Tafelmusik at the acoustically and architecturally fabulous Koerner Hall
Wed Dec 18, Thurs Dec 19, Fri Dec 20 and Sat Dec 21 at 7:30pm

The Nutcracker Ballet at The Four Seasons
December 14- January 4.
Two treats in one evening – the National Ballet’s sumptuous and magical annual performance of ETF Hoffman’s Christmas Tale and a chance to experience it in the Four Seasons Centre – a state of the art glass and blonde wood confection in the heart of Toronto’s west end. Go early for the pre-show performances and a chance to get the autographs of the prima donnas.

Kitchener Christkindle
5-8 December
Kitchener Christkindl reflects the enormous German population of this area and is Christmassy in a way that only a German Christmas Market can be! Look out for Gluhwein, the corresponding mugs; traditional wooden decorations including revolving candle holders and table decor; Bavarian imports, oktoberfest sausage and oompah bands.

Also check out Christmas events at Casa Loma – www. casaloma.org
and heritage houses in Hamilton area
Dundurn Castlehttp://www.hamilton.ca/Dundurn
Bovaird House http://www.bovairdhouse.ca
Whitehern House and Gardenhttp://www.whitehern.ca

A Merry Toronto Christmas
Over and Out


Trick or Treat





There is nothing quite like experiencing Halloween in North America – they do it bigger and better….
Yet the Halloween tradition emanates from the UK and Celtic France; it developed over 2,000 years ago from an ancient pagan festival celebrated by the Celts The original festival was called Samhain (pronounced SOW ehn), which means “summer’s end.” It marked the onset of the dark winter season and was celebrated around November 1. In the 800′s, November 1 became known as “All Hallows/All Saints Day” and this became a new Christian holiday. AND the evening before All Hallows’ was known as All Hallows’ Eve, or – and you know where this is going right? – All Hallow e’en. shortened eventually to Halloween.

Halloween’s association with the occult is longstanding In the 1500′s and 1600′s, in Europe, superstition had it that the devil made witches do evil deeds and that on Halloween witches and their black cats flew around night sky on broomsticks. It was also believed that on Halloween fairies and ghosts could be asked for help casting spells or seeing into the future. To ward off any unfriendly supernatural creatures, turnip lanterns carved with grotesque faces could be carried. In Scotland bonfires were lit on hillsides to drive away evil spirits and for centuries in Europe, people remembered the dead at All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (November 2) with bonfires. People used to leave food out on a table as a treat for spirits believed to be about on Halloween.
In England, people went house-to-house “souling” i.e. asking for small breads called soul cakes in exchange for prayers; sometimes they wore costumes when they begged house-to-house for a Halloween feast. In Wales, boys dressed as girls and girls dressed as boys to go house-to-house singing Halloween rhymes.
Jack-o-lanterns – according to an Irish legend – were named after a character named Jack, who could not enter heaven because he was a miserly, bad-tempered man. Neither could he enter Hell, because he had tricked the devil several times. As a result, Jack had to walk the earth forever with only a coal from hell to light his lantern. Originally large beets or turnips were used as jack – o – lanterns. It wasn’t until the tradition ported over to the US that pumpkins began to be used.


Over and Out

















Continued – Take a Day Out – Unforgettably Unusual Days Out of Toronto

A Peter Witt streetcar in the 1921 livery of t...

A Peter Witt streetcar in the 1921 livery of the Toronto Transit Commission, at the Halton County Radial Railway museum. The rollsigns are set as they would be if the car was operating on the Bathurst route as far as St. Clair Avenue, once its northern terminus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)








Continuing our day trips out of Toronto – here are 11 more unforgettably Unusual getaways to enjoy…….

#1 The Streetcar Museum – All aboard for a ride through history! Take a 2km scenic journey on a vintage streetcar or interurban rail car at the Halton County Radial Railway Museum. Recognize any of this museum’s exhibits? Many of these “trains” have “acted” as scene backdrops or “performed” in many a period movie. Go give then a standing ovation….. http://www.hcry.org/

#2 The First Tim Hortons – “Fresh for Fifty Years”. Tim Horton’s #1 features a small museum, a replica of the original 1964 sign and a bronze plaque commemorating one of the most iconic sites and best loved brands in Canada. Famous for its “namesake” association with one of Canada’s best loved hockey players (Tim Horton), it originally served only two products – coffee and donuts. Interesting factoid: the original donut selection included two that still remain the most popular today – the Apple Fritter and the Dutchie. http://www.forgottenbuffalo.com/forgottenontario/timhortons1.html

#3 Hamilton Museum of Steam Technology – Welcome to Canada’s Industrial Revolution. The oldest steam engines in Canada are here: housed in this 19th century architectural gem. These 70 ton steam engines pumped the first clean water to the city of Hamilton over 140 years ago. One of these old girls – now of pensionable age – is still operating demonstrations every day. Go marvel at her. http://www.hamilton.ca/CultureandRecreation/Arts_Culture_And_Museums/HamiltonCivicMuseums/SteamMuseum/

#4 Christkindl Market – Want to know what it feels like to shop in a traditional German Christmas Market – without getting on a plane. Every year for 4 days in the run up to Christmas, Kitchener’s City Hall is transformed into a magical authentic Christkindl Market. Vendors selling all those gorgeous folky traditional carved Christmas decorations (candle arches, table mobiles and carved tree decorations) compete with those hawking lederhosen, gluhwein, and delicious German delicacies. “Prost” http://www.christkindl.ca

#5 African lion safari – Go wild and take a “safari” Ontario style. Drive through the games reserves and get close to over 1,000 exotic birds and animals that roam freely in large reserve land drive through Game Reserves. Drive through in your own vehicle or take a Safari Tour Bus. www.lionsafari.com

#6 Discovery Harbour – The historic Home port ofof two replica tall ships : the HMS Bee and HMS Tecumseh, discover what life was like aboard a a rigged “Topsail schooner” in the early 1800’s and get a glimpse into the daily and working lives of all those who manned the original British naval and military base built here in Penetanguishene to protect upper Canada after the war if 1812. www.discoveryharbour.on.ca

#7 Sainte-Marie among the Hurons – Imagine what it would have been like as a pioneer settler in 1639 living in Ontario’s first European community totalling 66 people and representing one fifth of the entire population of “New France”. Sainte-Marie among the Hurons was the headquarters for the French Jesuit Mission to the Huron Wendat people and survived as such until 1649 when the community was forced to flee burning their homes behind them. Find out why at the interpretive centre! www.saintemarieamongthehurons.on.ca

#8 The Martyr’s Shrine – So after an immersion in pioneering Canadian style at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, extend that experience and make a pilgrimage to the Shrine of eight Jesuit Saints who lived worked and were martyred there (during warfare between the Iroquois and the Huron) in the mid 17 century. Pay homage to the relics of three of these which rest in the Shrine Church and learn a little more about the history and teachings of the Jesuit Mission. http://www.martyrs-shrine.com/

#9 Visit Peterborough lift lock Visitor Centre Lock 21 on the Trent-Severn Waterway Peterborough Lift Lock is a National Historic Site of Canada – Why? Because When it was completed in 1904, it was the highest hydraulic lift lock ever built, with a vertical lift of nearly 20 metres (65 feet) and was reputed to be the largest unreinforced concrete structure in the world. Even more amazing was the fact that at the time conventional locks usually only had a 2 m (7 ft) rise! www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/on/trentsevern/visit/visit6/lock21.aspx

#10 HMCS Haida – Explore the last surviving “Tribal Class” destroyer left on the planet…Designated as a National Historic Site of Canada this WW2 British built warship, was commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy in 1943, and served in Korean and Cold War missions until she was decommissioned in 1963. http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/on/haida/activ.aspx

#11 Scenic Caves – Walk amongst the treetops on a canopy walk Glide on zip lines across the dramatic Niagara escarpment. Explore the Caverns and crevices that honeycomb the escarpments limestone cliffs Or do all three at Collingwood’s Eco adventure hotspot “Scenic Caves” www.sceniccaves.com

Postcards from The Gardiner – Twelve Trees

This year all the trees are inspired by the theme “A Child’s Christmas” – celebrating Christmas Traditions and festivals around the world.

The exhibition is on until December 9 – see www.gardinermuseum.com
Cost is $15 except on half price Fridays

.and whilst you are there check out the “Go East” exhibition on the top floor which includes an amazing “chinese whispers’ inspired project involving 101 artists from across China; 101 identically shaped porcelain vases and a single theme.
The first vase was hand painted – using the traditional blue and white (cobalt) – to a specification/brief.
A blueprint of that vase plus a “spec” went to the second artist who painted a similar vase and sent only a picture of his vase plus the original “spec” and so on until you get to the 101′ nth vase.
Did vase number 1 and vase no 101 look anything like each other?
And how did the appearance of the vases in between evolve?
You’ll have to see for yourself!
oh yeah and look out for a part of that exhibition entitled “Spode’s Conceit” – Neat…..
Over and Out

Twelve Toronto Days of Christmas


So over the run up to Christmas I will be showcasing some festive soundbites.

If you’re gonna get “stuck” anywhere over Christmas.
If you can’t be with your family somewhere far away, you will have plenty to distract yourself – with a host of many fabulous festive events held across the city.

Over next few weeks why not try some of the following:

Twelve Trees at the Gardiner Museum

Kitchener Christkindl reflects the enormous German population of this area and is Christmassy in a way that only a German Christmas Market can be! Look out for Gluhwein, the corresponding mugs; traditional wooden decorations including revolving candle holders and table decor; Bavarian imports, oktoberfest sausage and oompah bands.

The Distillery Christmas Market

Carol Singing at Montgomery House

Christmas at Bovaird House Brampton

Christmas at Dundurn Castle Hamilton

Christmas Afternoons at Colborne Lodge

Jerome Godboo’s Christmas party at The Rex

The Nutcracker Ballet at ThE Four Seasons Opera House

“The National Theatre of the World” Christmas “farce” at The Passé Muralle theatre.

Mozart Magic at “Casa Loma”

The One of a Kind Show

Unfortunately we didn’t make it to:
The Santa Clause Parade

Lighting the tree at Nathan Phillips Square (although we are getting the benefit of the Christmas Lights festooning villages all over the city – we even have Xmas music blaring out of speakers on St Clair west which makes waiting for the streetcar jolly).

We won’t get to see;:
Russ Petty’s annual family show – akin to a good old British pantomime!

Handel’l sing-along Messiah

Handel’s Messiah by Tafelmusik baroque orchestra

Over and out


Halloween Horror: Der Freischütz and Phantasmagoria

Ever been to an Opera?
The Ballet?
Ever listened to a Baroque orchestra using authentic period instruments?
Want to time travel back a few hundred years or so when life was simpler?
To be transported to an era when men hunted and quaffed flagons of red wine all day – because that’s what “real” men did.

When Ladies – so bored out of their minds because for them the biggest decisions of the day involved choosing an outfit to wear whilst embroidering some useless “whatnot” in the “Morning room” – swooned and hyperventilated at the thought of the imminent arrival home (after a long day of huntin, killin and thigh slapping) of their loved ones?

You can get a fix of all of the above by visiting a performance of
“Der Freischütz”, an opera in three acts by Carl Maria von Weber with a libretto by Friedrich Kind. It premiered on 18 June 1821 at the Schauspielhaus Berlin and is currently playing at The Elgin Theatre Toronto, courtesy of the world-renowned “Opera Atelier

Aside from the expansively and painstakingly researched authentic period touches in all aspects of production – ie. the adaptation of the dances to include the crude un-evolved limited ballet steps of the early 19th century to the set design and costumes; the gothic horror of the piece heightened through the use of Henry Fuselli’s dark images (The Nightmare image of gnome-like creature atop a sleeping woman with a wild-eyed horse peering at them), the huge thrill for me was the surprising and effective use of lighting and illusion through the utilizion of mid 19 century magic lantern “technology” and a “Peppers Ghost” illusion technique (YouTube this).

Phantasmagoria was a form of theatre involving the Magic Lantern. Originally developed in the mid-17th century; one version consisted of a lantern with a candle and concave mirror inside. A tube was fitted into the side of the lantern and held convex lenses at either end. Near the centre of the tube, a glass slide of the image to be projected was held. The other version – described as the predecessor of today’s slide projector and the forerunner of the motion picture projector – involved the hand painting of images onto the glass slide until the mid-19th century after which photographic slides replaced the painted images.
The term “phantasmagoria” developed from the increasing use of these magic lanterns to project macabre and horrific images such as the devil and phantoms. In the mid-18th century, in Leipzig, Germany, a coffee shop owner named Johann Georg Schröpfer began offering séances in a converted billiards room which became so popular that by the 1760s he had transformed himself into a full-time showman, using elaborate effects including projections of ghosts to create a convincing spirit experience.
This was taken further by Étienne-Gaspard “Robertson” Robert, a Belgian inventor and physicist who was famed for his phantasmagoria productions. After discovering that he could put the magic lantern on wheels to create either a moving image or one that increased and decreased in size, Robertson moved his show. In an abandoned crypt of a Capuchin convent near the Place Vendôme, he staged hauntings, using several lanterns, special sound effects and the eerie atmosphere of the tomb, he created lightening-filled skies with both ghosts and skeletons receding and approaching the audience. In order to add to the horror, Robertson and his assistants would sometimes create voices for the phantoms”

look out for the use of this incredible effect in the scene in Wolf’s Glen where Samuel (the Devil) is called upon. Watch very carefully, remembering this is a centuries old technique used to simulate what is in essence a “vanishing act” If you understand what is being done here you will enjoy it all the more. I’ve never seen anything like this used in modern day theatre!!!

Opera Atelier’s own PR “blurb” states that it strives to create productions that would have been recognized and respected in their own time while providing a thrilling theatrical experience for modern audiences”

It sure did that for me


Playing October 17 – November 3, 2012

Opera Atelier is not in the business of “reconstruction”, rather, each production is a new creative effort and takes its own place in history. Opera Atelier