Monthly Archives: May 2019

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A SALUTE TO QUEEN VICTORIA

Happy Victoria Day weekend! How many of us really understand the relevance of this national holiday other than marking the time to open the cottage, stock up on beer and gather the family for a giant BBQ? Thanks to Reader’s Digest and OCanada.com, here are a few facts about Her Maj and why we celebrate her.

Despite being dead since 1901, Britain’s second-longest-reigning monarch is more popular than ever with a hit TV series (Victoria) and a recent major film about her life (Victoria & Abdul). The woman who became queen at 18 years of age, and ruled for 63 years, has never really been forgotten. In the 118 years since her death, she has cropped up as a central character in dozens of films and as a minor character in everything from episodes of Monty Python to Dr. Who. The seemingly endless fascination with Victoria may even have planted the seeds for today’s worldwide obsession with the Royal Family.queen-victoria-1-1514485068Canadians are particularly well acquainted with Victoria. We’ve been celebrating her birthday since 1845. The Victoria Day holiday – called everything from May Two-Four Weekend to Firecracker Day – is the unofficial kick-off to summer in Canada. It’s a federal holiday in this country, and a provincial one in six provinces and all three territories. Despite her enduring fame, Victoria’s birthday is not a holiday in Britain. Except for a small part of Scotland, where Victoria Day is often combined with another holiday, Canada is the only country that marks the event on a grand scale.victoria-4-1514486528Schools, parks, counties, roads, everywhere you look in our country, you’ll find variations of her name or royal title. Not one, but two provincial capitals, Regina and Victoria (pictured below), can thank the Queen for their names, and there are hundreds of Queen Streets dotted all around the country. Even her family got in on the name game: the province of Alberta is named after the Queen’s daughter Princess Louise Alberta, and Prince Edward Island was a tribute to Victoria’s late father. thQueen Victoria may have been one of the longest reigning monarchs, but she was also one of the luckiest. On at least eight occasions, most of them while riding in her open carriage, would-be assassins tried to kill her. She also had a stalker. A man by the name of Edward Jones broke into the royal residence at Buckingham Palace several times, and was eventually caught—but not before he sat on her throne and stole her underwear!th (1)So get out there, enjoy whatever sunshine you can find and thank Her Majesty Queen Victoria for the welcome time off…and hang on to your knickers!!th (2)

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AUSSIE CHANTEUSE ALI HUGHES to unveil “TEA AND ORANGES” EP @ LEONARD COHEN KOANS CONCERT SUNDAY JUNE 2, HUGH’S ROOM

Just in time for her upcoming concert at Hugh’s Room in Toronto, ALI HUGHES will be bringing her live recording of 4 songs from her highly successful 90 minute tribute concert LEONARD COHEN KOANS  with her so Toronto audiences will be able to enjoy her voice and arrangements of Cohen’s legendary ballads long after she returns home Down Under. I spoke with her last week and asked about the recordings….

You’ve just completed recording your new EP, TEA AND ORANGES, containing 4 tracks from your Leonard Cohen Koans project – tell us about the experience of working in-studio on your own project? It was wonderful – the musicians on the album have been playing this show with us for a long time. Bassist Michael Galeazzi has played with Daryl and me since the inception of the show, backing vocalist Gerard Carroll joined in 2011, and Michael Quigley (Quigs) started playing drums and percussion with us in 2016. There’s a kind of shorthand when you play with people for a long time and we recorded the entire EP in 5 hours!

recordings are done!

recordings are done!

I wanted the recording to carry the vibe of our live show, and so we recorded live in one room together with Sean Carey at Church Street Studios in Camperdown, Sydney. That’s the way it used to be back in the day – big bands, everything….I LOVE that, and Sean helped make that happen. I hope you’ll come see & hear for yourselves at Hugh’s Room in Toronto on June 2nd

Sean Carey

Sean Carey

Our arrangements are quite dynamic which made for a few obstacles, but everyone was on their A-game. I had a quick listen with Sean in the booth after the recording session – he’d just given a quick general mix and I couldn’t believe how he made it work so beautifully. And I must give a huge shout out to Sean Carey and the team at Church Street Studios for their recent Emmy Award win – they won in the category of outstanding sound mixing on a preschool animation on Beat Bugs.

Engineer Sean Carey and assistant Matt getting the bass mic'd for Michael Galeazzi

Engineer Sean Carey and assistant Matt getting the bass mic’d for Michael Galeazzi

The musicians who recorded with you – have you worked with them before and what did they bring to the recording sessions?   Yes, we’ve played together for a long time; they’re all incredible musicians with many other beautiful projects. I love playing with them, and I’m so lucky they always say yes when I call :>)  Every time we play Leonard Cohen Koans we find a new depth, especially in Suzanne where we open out into quite a free rave in the second half. This recording was no different – the sensitivity and the boldness of these musicians is extraordinary.
Michael Galeazzi is a member of the ARIA* award winning Karma County and played on Indigenous Australian legend Jimmy Little’s ARIA award winning album, Messenger. He and Michael Quigley have a super long history together playing in APRA nominated jazz outfit Java Quartet and Quigs is involved with Australian/Japanese experimental project Enough to Escape; Gerard Carroll is a highly talented vocalist and actor with a long theatre credit list including on the Australian cast of Once directed by Tony Award winning director John Tiffany, as well as recording and touring with Keegan Joyce on Snow on Higher Ground; and the spectacular Daryl Wallis‘ vastly varied career includes playing piano for Barrie Kosky’s Women of Troy as well as being an integral player in CIRCA’s regional Australian piano based verbatim storytelling show, Reclaimed Pianos.
*Australian Recording Industry Association music awards

Michael Galeazzi

Michael Galeazzi

Gerard Carroll

Gerard Carroll

Michael Quigley

Michael Quigley

Did you have a personal hand in the production process or did you relinquish full control to your producer/engineer?   Daryl and I had a very strong vision for the recording, and Sean’s sensitivity and clarity helped to enhance it beyond what I thought was possible.

Ali's long-time collaborator Daryl Willis

Ali’s long-time collaborator Daryl Wallis

Why “Tea and Oranges” – where did that title come from?   The reference to ‘tea & oranges’ is from the first verse of SUZANNE – he’s observing and feeling at the same time, and his description of her feeding him tea & oranges is one of the divine in the ordinary….exquisite.

Will “Tea and Oranges” be available for sale at your Toronto performance, June 2nd?    Yes! CDs will be on sale for $15 and I’ll be around after the show to say hi and autograph copies.cd coverLEONARD COHEN KOANS – presented by Jane Siberry
Sunday June 2 @ 8:30pm
HUGH’S ROOM, 2261 Dundas St West, Toronto
www.hughsroomlive.com
Tkts: $40 advance / $45 at the doorToronto poster

Toronto poster

LEONARD COHEN KOANS – 1 night only with Australia’s ALI HUGHES, presented by JANE SIBERRY

I’m thrilled to announce that Australian vocalist/recording artist ALI HUGHES is bringing her inspiring celebration of the spirit, music and poetry of one of the greatest songwriters of the modern age to Toronto for a 1-night only performance:  LEONARD COHEN KOANS, presented by Jane Siberry, takes the stage at Hugh’s Room, 2261 Dundas St West, Toronto, on Sunday June 2nd (8:30pm)

This passionate, sensuous vocalist “more than embodies the energy that one expects from an evening celebrating Cohen”, her startling range and remarkable ability to hold the stage meeting this exceptionally well-crafted curation of Cohen’s poetry, prose and song – Avalanche, Chelsea Hotel #2, and the beloved Suzanne – to offer a stirring meditation on the legend and his legacy.AliHughes-Triad1128181(42)__.jpgPart-concert and part-homage, these exciting and original interpretations explore Cohen’s music through jazz, gospel and rock genres, cracking wide open the incredible musicality in his work. Intertwined with excerpts of poetry and prose, and delivered through the lens of his Zen Buddhist spirituality LEONARD COHEN KOANS weaves a new pathway into your experience of this glorious Poet of the Holy Sinners. Accompanied by masterful Toronto pianist ADREAN FARRUGIA, this electrifying, vigorous 90min narrative concert is Cohen like you’ve never heard before. Inspiring, passionate, intimate and sincere, Leonard Cohen Koans gives you another chance to savour the creative spirit with which he so exquisitely courted the world.

I recently spoke with Ali back home in Sydney, Australia, about the show and her career highlights as she prepares her 4-track EP featuring songs from the show (available for purchase on show night)…..

What is your musical background or training – were you a singer/performer during childhood or teens? I don’t have formal music training, as such – I learnt to sing via my parents’ record collection!  The Andrews Sisters taught me how to harmonize, Tina Turner taught me rhythm, Bette Midler taught me emotional range, Annie Lennox taught me vibrato control and Aretha taught me to sing out!!arethaI went to drama school in my mid-20s and in my graduating year met my creative collaborator, Daryl Wallis – he is an incredible musician and artistic mind – when we started playing shows together, I was always surrounded by highly skilled, older musicians. That environment really allowed my intuitive musicality to develop.
You’ve performed in Canada before – when/where might we have seen you?  You might have seen me singing backing vocals on tour with Jane Siberry sometime over the last few years; or at Ori Dragan’s lovely 120Diner with my collaborator Daryl Wallis and Toronto locals John Alcorn, Bucky Berger and Terry Wilkins. Daryl and I also played an awesome house concert in The Annexe (hoping to do it again!!) and were super lucky to play in Northern Ontario on the magical Manitoulin Island.ALI_2710So why Leonard Cohen? What was the inspiration for this amazing project?  Actually, this show was built for a project-based unit of university study.  A theatre director friend of mine had suggested I do an interpretation of Suzanne. I sat on it for a long time… waiting for the way in.  In January 2010, I did a creative intensive as part of some further theatre training at university. It was a super intense, incredibly challenging course, held in a remote area, led by a small older woman who had the energy of a dragon and the presence of a Zen master. Every day pushed the students closer to breaking through our self imposed artistic limitations, and every evening ended in an exhilarated exhaustion and deep sleep. One night when I was super exhausted and almost asleep, I started hearing beautiful chords in my mind and realized they were the way into an arrangement of Suzanne! I made notes, called Daryl straight away and we started working on the arrangement as soon as I returned to Sydney. We played the arrangement at a show the following week and I knew something else was coming.LeonardI had the opportunity to do another unit of study with that same teacher. I made the proposal to create a show using only the words and works of one artist (none of my own personal patter, so to speak) and started devouring Cohen’s work. Researching his Zen Buddhist spiritual practice offered an entirely new way for us to conceptualize celebrating his work. The result is a unique experience of Cohen’s work which is accessible to Cohen devotees and newcomers, practitioners and non-practitioners of meditation, and people who just want to hear some really great music.
You’ve sung back-up with some pretty amazing artists (k.d. lang, Suzanne Vega, Rufus Wainwright) so why step into the spotlight now? What was the push that propelled you to take charge up front?  Being up front isn’t really new to me, I’ve always sung lead on projects at the same time as doing backing vocals on others. I love doing both. I love blending with another voice as a backing vocalist. When you’re really connecting energetically and vocally with someone, you feel you’re moving together like a murmuration of starlings.  And leading a room is an altogether different feeling – but has a similar sensibility to it in that, for me, its about opening oneself in order for the music resonate with the audience in all the ways it needs to.
A previous musical collaborator and Canadian icon, Jane Siberry, is presenting your concert – how cool is that? Did she approach you or visa versa?  Ah, my gosh, it’s the coolest. Jane is extraordinary – she is a close friend and such a huge supporter of this show; she saw an opportunity for us to work together in Toronto and she made it happen.Jane-SiberryOf all Cohen’s songs, are there one or two that you can relate to on an emotional level or that inspire you intellectually?  One or two?? Ha! Ok, I’ll try to keep it at one or two. Suzanne – I have a deep resonance with that song. My favourite line, ‘you know that she’s half crazy – that’s why you want to be there’. and, of course, Dance Me to the End of Love – there’s nothing I can say.
What can Toronto audiences expect to see/hear at the Leonard Cohen Koans show?  Audiences can expect to see a tall Australian woman singing some beautifully and dynamically arranged interpretations of Cohen favourites, including Chelsea Hotel #2, Sisters of Mercy, Suzanne and Famous Blue Raincoat, and some less well known tunes like The Guests and The Butcher, interwoven with a little spoken word and some story telling.  Jane Siberry will be performing as our very special guest opening act, and will also be moderating an artist Q&A session with me at the end of the show so make sure you stay for that.on stageAnything you’d like to share with those Leonard Cohen fans considering buying a ticket?  I am so happy you’re thinking of joining us at Hugh’s Room, and I really hope you decide to come along. We are excited to be just moments from releasing a 4 track EP, titled ‘TEA & ORANGES’. It’s our first recording of tunes from the show – you can find information about the EP, Leonard Cohen Koans, and also about Daryl and myself at www.bigsbabs.com or by connecting with us via our Facebook band page, Ali & the Thieves.

Inspiring, passionate, intimate and sincere, LEONARD COHEN KOANS gives you another chance to savour the creative spirit with which he so exquisitely courted the world.

WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING:
Heart-stopping” (www.theatermania.com)
Spine-tingling” (SX Magazine)
“… Hands down the best I’ve ever heard!” (nytheater.com).
“…  Sensual, enigmatic… intense warmth, startling range.”  -Veronica Hanlon, SX Magazine
“… Exceptionally well-crafted…3 1/2 stars out of 4 “ – Michael Giltz, Huffington Post NYC

Get your tickets now for Sunday June 2nd from www.HughsRoomLive.com  $40 Advance/$45 at doorposter

HUANG Fukushima No 1 Okuma 2017

URBAN GALLERY PRESENTS PHOTOGRAPHER PENG-KUEI (BEN) HUANG – SCOTIABANK CONTACT PHOTOGRAPHY FESTIVAL

After yesterday’s successful launch to the annual Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Urban Gallery invites lovers of photography and art to visit BEN HUANG‘s haunting solo exhibition “SOLEMN PINES, FADING THINGS” running throughout the month of May.20190504_140133

 

In the beginning there was an earthquake, then a massive wave took everything.  But just as things couldn’t get any worse, an explosion at Fukushima coast released dangerous amounts of radiation. Survival instinct took over: residents left behind things that were precious to them as they escaped. And the trauma remains, like ghosts of the dead lingering upon the land. Over time, as debris is cleared and towns are being rebuilt, the sorrow persists. HUANG Relics Okuma 2016HUANG Rikuzentakata 2013 HUANG Rikuzentakata 2017Ben Huang began visiting Tohoku coast in Northeastern Japan in 2012 with an idea of documenting the transformation in the aftermath of the disaster. Throughout his numerous journeys since then, he learnt how a supposed recovery effort has had a profound impact on the environment and the people living there. These photographs are a testament to such a change; they tell a story of hope and uncertainty of the future, as well as grieving for the lost. It is hopeful yet somber, fragile yet strong, and vulnerable but determined as the region and its inhabitants come to terms with the tragedy.HUANG Okirai Port Ofunato 2018 20190504_130746 20190504_130813 20190504_130831ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Native of Taiwan, Peng-Kuei “Ben” Huang first moved to Indonesia in 1990 and later to Los Angeles, California in 1993. In 1997, he attended Pitzer College where he studied international politics. He began to take an interest in photography in 2001 and left for San Francisco where he earned a BFA degree in 2004. In 2008, he attended the Magnum Workshop Toronto under the guidance of renowned photographer Larry Towell and was selected as one of the finalists for the Scotia Bank Prize.  Ben has been living in Canada since 2005 and splits his time between Canada and East Asia. www.benhuangphotos.com

Ben was thrilled to welcome family and friends to Urban Gallery which was soon packed and buzzing!20190504_141335 20190504_141451 20190504_141509Toronto arts journalist, Mark Hasan, interviewed Ben (below) who was happy to share his thoughts on the current state of the environment, esp. around the Fukushima reactor that released dangerous amounts of radiation and is still impacting the world’s oceans.20190504_134532You have another opportunity to meet Ben in person – Saturday May 25th (2-4pm) – the gallery looks forward to welcoming those interested in the art of photography and learning from Ben’s first-hand accounts of how Japan is recovering from the earthquake & tsunami. All photographs are available for purchase – the archival pigment prints are 16″ x 24″ (framed or unframed) and are in limited editions of 20.  Further details: www.urbangallery.ca20190504_130715