An Extravorganza, Real Theatre and Neatness Porn
Photo credit: THOMAS GRUBE AND SONY CLASSICAL as posted in Toronto Star
Okay, I might have been a little ticked that my request for an interview with Cameron Carpenter did not even garner a form reply (I've had authors, opera singers—hell, everybody I asked—all jump at the chance for more coverage) but I didn't think I was in competition with Shad, forgodssake, and Carpenter certainly ran circles around the host, whether the host knew it or no. And I was clear in my approach about not adhering to orthodoxy and actually being more interested in the arts and obviously (for anyone who takes even a cursory look at my blog and other social media can tell) being pro-LGBTQ. Ah well: biographical and interview gleanings from previous online sources will have to suffice as background to the review of his organ concert at Koerner Hall in Toronto on Friday night.
[Let me add that this review reminds me why I started this blog, lo, almost a decade ago. When I read arts reviews, I almost immediately start to fall asleep. They tend to be formulaically vague and often represent a very different event than the one I attended. I don't want to hear about the technicalities—I was there! I want to hear your review of your experience, how it made you feel. Isn't the point of art to move you? To use a baseball analogy, I don't want to read the statistics about the game, I want to hear the commentary and analysis about what we saw.]
So. First of all, I don't do certain things: I don't do line-ups, I don't fist-bump and I don't make a fool of myself, so I certainly did not take a selfie with Carpenter's International Touring Organ, a name which always makes me think of Willy Wonka or the Magical Mystery Tour. A bunch of humans and one guide dog enthusiastically responded to the concert, which included Wagner, Bach, Vierne and Gershwin. (But, oh god, that finale of "Stars and Stripes Forever" encouraged boisterous clapping; I was so thankful that I could cringe in my back row seat: see list of No-Gos, above.)
However, there were personal things that irked me, and I feel that if you are going to do an ostensibly interactive concert (i.e. you talk to your audience), you had better play nice.
I don't think it was all that nice that Carpenter, while talking about the upper range of sound the organ can make, referenced an audience member's guide dog, noticed because it barked loudly during applause. Would we accept a performer bringing attention to the glare of someone's wheelchair metal, even if it was mentioned supposedly lightheartedly? *Marge Simpson sound*
The other thing that irked me was the tone of the spoken parts of the evening. Every good teacher knows not to lecture, condescend, or make assumptions. I've heard several interviews with him now, and he does not come across like Col. Chris Hadfield in the charm department. I don't care if you were a child prodigy and hate orthodoxy and religion etc. If you're intelligent and have interesting things to teach, I think you owe it to your audience (be it in a hall or a classroom) to deliver your knowledge in a way that is accessible. I understood (most of) what he talked about last night, but he may have alienated a lot of listeners with his erudite talk about music, history, the politics of gender, etc. I know this is his wont, but I think if he is that serious about bringing the organ into the 21st century, he should work on presentation. He has the Diane Bish shoes-and-hair idea down, now he would do well to colour his in-person deliverables with nuances of character. [Says she who has Resting Bitchy Face.]
Good concert, but kind of like Buckley's in the aftertaste experience. (But I really did want to talk to him: he is very bright and interesting.)
Photo: Dylan Hewlett canstage.com
Canadian Stage has really impressed me over the last few years and I've commented on their season several times here. Yesterday we saw Chimerica (by Lucy Kirkwood, 2013, dir. Chris Abraham), much hyped by CanStage, but I went feeling clueless about the production itself. Fortuitously, the program had several pages of background info about the setting. And I'll be very frank: I have come to prefer the many arts groups around TO that have opted for shorter, uninterrupted events—the 60-90 minute options. So when we saw that it was 3 hours (with only 15 minutes' intermission), we were a little antsy. But euge! The play was absolutely gripping and did not tax our internet-age short attention spans. The cast was excellent, including Kim's Convenience's Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (pictured above, middle). Themes around censorship, media, politics, the environment and, of course, love were appealing. The really eye-popping aspect was the innovative and always-interesting set and audio-visual effects, which made concise use of video and of colour superimposed on a largely grey-scale palette. Even the direction of a torture scene was economical and yet affecting. Nothing in the script was gratuitous. As my husband said, "It was real theatre!" which is high praise indeed these days. Easily our favourite of the CanStage 15/16 season. Chimerica continues till April 17. 5 Wine and Cheeses.
Finally, I received (after dropping a hint bomb which my BFF took up) a birthday present in the form of a book for those who love neatness: Things Organized Neatly (from the blog curated by Austin Radcliffe; pub. Universe, 2016). My kind of porn. It illustrates ingenuity, creativity and beauty in our junked-up lives. Really lovely.
Re: junked-up lives, here's a nice piece on Episcopal Cafe by Charles LaFond about where holiness lies.