Les Coquettes Cabaret – Burlesque with a twist



In the follow up to Burlesque week here in Toronto it seems timely to do a sound bite on “Les Coquettes Caberet”

Having been to some predictably cheesy drag shows in my time I thought I should do a little research before dragging along my poor unsuspecting partner. There is a world of difference between your average “hen night” drag show and sumptuous Burlesque, the definition of which – and I quote – is a literary, dramatic or musical work intended to cause laughter by caricaturing the manner or spirit of serious works, or by ludicrous treatment of their subjects”. As a theatrical art form it is historically rooted as far back as the 17 century and at its most extravagant peak as an entertainment outlet for the repressed Victorians.

What Les Coquettes presented was Dita Von Teese meets “Pirates of the Caribbean” meets Village People with a passing nod at “Moulin Rouge”.
The show called “Exhibition” was – in the true tradition of Burlesque – loosely woven around the seriousness of projected images of famous art masterpieces.
The Mistress of ceremonies La Minouche – “Bred for love in both New York and Paris” was stellar as the hostess moving the show along with raunchy “tongue in cheek” intros relating the artwork to the stage showpieces. Articulate, eloquent, cheeky and and stunningly coquettish La Minouche was a consummate raconteur, a delicious parcel of bawdy vivaciousness, wrapped in boudoir stripes, a bodice that barely held her credentials in check and topped with wayward tumbling red curls beneath an enormous feathered pirate hat!
Les Coquettes is a rousing, sexy, edgy revue of cirque, comedy, song, dance and striptease. Conceived in 2004 by Catherine Skinner and Kathryn Romanow, its’ talented roster offers the following ways to blow your mind:

Classic Striptease
Torch Songs (complete with fire, if you are so inclined!*)
Stand-Up Comedy*
Boylesque (burlesque with male performers!)
Aerial Silks*
Aerial Hoop*
Fire Dancing*
Pole Acrobatics*
Live Musicians*
Interactive characters to add atmosphere*

Admit it
Your interested is “piqued” just a little isn’t it?
Over and Out



The McMichael Canadian Art Collection Kleinburg


The marvellous McMichael Collection of Canadian Art located in the picture -perfect village of Kleinburg is (relatively speaking) just a short hop north of Toronto.

Located cheek by jowl to the Kortwright Centre – a delicious wilderness of maple trees and trails, capped by an excellent Visitor Centre (with Maple Syrup tapping in the Winter) – a trip to Kleinburg makes for a wonderful day trip.

That said there is enough to do at the Gallery itself to warrant a full day. A gorgeous building designed to blend harmoniously into the surrounding 100 acres of conservation land. With thirteen galleries housing a stunning collection of works by the Group of Seven and their contemporaries, there is a special focus on the works of Tom Thompson, alongside works by First Nations and Inuit. And should your taste be a little more eclectic then the McMichael regularly injects new life into their Gallery spaces by hosting major exhibitions of the works of other artists who have made a contribution to the development of Canadian art.

Currently the Museum is hosting two “guest” exhibitions: a “Mary Pratt” retrospective and “Changing Tides: Contemporary Art of Newfoundland and Labrador”

The Gallery – styled like a huge log cabin perched high up on the valley escarpment is a nook and cranny delight for slumping into a “Stickley” armchair to contemplate the art or to gaze out onto the stunning scenery – on a good day, and from the right window it is even possible to see the CN Tower way out in the distance. A stark reminder in this peaceful serene space of the proximity of our sprawling metropolis.

When Robert and Signe McMichael discovered Kleinburg, they felt that the area evoked the images of the Canadian wilderness they so loved. They consequently purchased ten acres of land in the village and in 1954 – with the help of architect Leo Venchiarutti – built a pioneer-style home (complete with barnboard walls and fieldstone fireplaces) and named it Tapawingo (believed to mean “place of joy”), the forerunner of today’s Gallery space.

Initially the McMichaels started their “Group of Seven” collection with a painting by Lawren Harris called “the Montreal River”. This was followed by a purchase of Tom Thomson’s “Pine Island” and by 1965, their private collection numbered 194 paintings and had been visited by hundreds of people who flocked to the McMichael’s frequent open houses. Realizing they were the custodians of a national treasure, the McMichael’s donated their collection, home and land to the Province of Ontario in return for an assurance that the buildings be maintanied and the art retained and conserved in the spirit of the original intent. Eight months later in July 1966 the “McMichael Conservation Collection of Art” officially opened.

Today the collection has expanded – through purchases and donations (from private individuals and artists) to about 5500 works of art. Despite extensive additions the Gallery retains many of its original rustic features; classically smart it radiates the warmth and charm one imagines the original home to have held almost as if the current custodians had had a hotline to Robert and Signe during all the remodellings.

And when you are done with the art, the restaurant – located in the split level basement – has a beautiful outdoor patio area open during the summer with drop-away views of the forested Humber River valley.

The hiking trails are open year round but occasionally one or two are closed during winter because ice and steep slopes are a treacherous combination.

Before you head out take a moment to admire the totem pole in the Grand Hall, entitled “Where Cultures Meet”, which was carved specifically for the Gallery by artist Don Yeomans.

Beforep embarking upon a trail have a stroll around the new Sculpture Garden and peer through the windows of Tom Thomson`s original log cabin.

website: https://www.mcmichael.com/

Telephone 905 893 1121 or 1888 213 1121



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


Ripleys “You’d better Believe It” Aquarium

You’d better Believe It
Best Aquarium I have ever visited and I am an Aquarium “freak”
Costly at $39 for the entrance fee but worth every penny
Don’t miss the baby shark eggs hatching, the seahorses, the Travelator that wends its way under the enormous glass fish tank, and oh everything else.

Surreal Disney meets spa music playing on a loop enhances the feeling of being in an alternate reality!













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

















Phantoms of the Organ

Toronto surprises me yet again, this time with the annual free “Halloween” event held at Metropolitan United Church. Featuring ten pieces played by members of the Royal Canadian College of Organists on the largest pipe organ in Canada (over 8300 pipes).
Described as a mostly pagan affair where the audience is invited to dress up in Halloween costume to listen to this incredibly atmospheric music genre in a darkened Gothic style church complete with candles and smoke machines.
Renditions included the evocative Toccata & Fugue in D minor along with a couple of other “made for organ” compositions by J S Bach, and a couple of really really dark film noire” style pieces by composer Louis Vierne who lived an absolutely tragic life and died at the console of the organ on Notre Dame Paris at the age of 75
Just for the record this church hosts an entire Music Series – “Music at Metropolitan”
Many of the “organists” were young immensely talented musicians, who whilst consummate keyboard players had only been “at” the organ for 2 months or so. Amazing how these guys can pick up the technical skills needed to navigate such a complicated “instrument” in such a short time – it’s not as if you can practice at home!!


My Toronto Island Scrapbook

Welcome to just a few of the hundreds of photos I’ve taken round and about the island.
I’ve tried to capture the essence of this unique cluster of island communities and record the diverse nature of this Toronto Park.
In choosing just a few pictures I’m not sure I’ve done justice to the artsy, folksy and whimsical ward and Algonquin island communities. You have to visit to truly imbibe the sense of peace and serenity, the summer cicadas, the autumn colours and the winter shadows on the boardwalk and beaches.
My city escape













20131017-160440.jpg20131017-160516.jpg20131017-160732.jpgIphone Oct 2013 2101Iphone Oct 2013 1786