Keshia Chante at Bayshore

December 29, 2011 8:29 am

It was a pleasant surprise for Ottawa to see Keshia Chanté perform in Bayshore’s E-Style lounge as a part of the Candlelighters event, a non-profit organization that provides support to young cancer patients and their families. From the performance, it is clear that Chanté has been in the spotlight for a long time and loves what she does.

Julie Lan with Keisha Chante at Bayshore Shopping Centre. Photo: Q3 Studio

While most teenagers spend their down time hanging out with friends, Chanté had big dreams and was making a name of herself in the music industry. Chanté has been a Canadian pop icon since her single “Bad Boy” when she juggled finishing high school and her music career. Her success comes from always believing in hard work and being true to herself: “You have to balance life and fun. I finished school for me and for my fans, and I never preach about things that I don’t follow myself. I believe in the responsibility of owning up to your actions.”

After a departure from Sony BMG Canada, Chanté is back with a released her third album, Night & Day. Similarly to her previous album, Chanté is very involved in the production process: “I handle some legal and paper work, organizing meetings and discussions. I’m very hands-on as it’s important to have pride in your work and you want it to reflect yourself”. Night & Day features familiar dance beats similar to Chanté’s previous singles and signature style, but it also offers melodic tracks: “I love dancing, R&B and hip hop, I love how dance tracks put people in good mood, but there are two sides of me”. Table Dancer, a single from Night & Day, is a reflection of Chanté’s recent trip to Vegas: “I get inspirations everywhere. Sometimes I wake up in the morning, have a great idea and spend the day just writing”.

Chante with fan at Bayshore Shopping Centre. Photo: Q3 Studio

Even though Chanté has grown musically since “Bad Boy”, in her track “Edit, Cut & Delete” from Night & Day she’s still singing about, uh hem, a bad boy: “I definitely have a type, I love guys with an edge. Obviously every girl loves a funny and charismatic guy and so do I, but I also like one that keeps me off my toes and often take control”. Hey, what girl doesn’t?

Wind in the Willows is a Breath of Fresh Air

December 19, 2011 3:25 pm

Take a classic English children’s tale, add some whimsical puppetry and spice it up with gentle humor and you have the latest offering at Ottawa’s Arts Court theatre.

The Wind in the Willows by the Rag and Bone Puppet Theatre is a treat for younger children and adults alike. Featuring puppeteers Kathy MacLellan and John Nolan and musician Russell Levia, the production takes a journey through the lives of animal friends the Water Rat, Mole and Mr. Toad who live on the banks of the River Bank.  The classic turn of the century tale set in the English countryside comes alive during the production through the use of simple back drops such as silk scarves and falling leaves, all aided by the delicate sound of live music including an oboe, banjo, zither, hornpipe.

Based on the classic tale.

The effect is startling – a shimmering white scarf falling down on the Water Rat and the Mole as they venture into the Wild Woods represents snow falling, two green scarves moving in concert with each other represents the flow of their beloved river. Then there is the puppetry itself. MacLellan and Nolan do an excellent job at switching from one character to the next – from a washerwoman, to a judge to a baby otter – in a seamless performance. Both puppeteers artfully combine the use of smaller hand puppets with puppets that resemble soft sculptured stuff toys and the use of masks, wigs and other props. A video screen which forms part of the puppet stage adds to the special effects of the show provides moving montage such as a windy dark forest and a road down which Mr. Toad drives a car.

Wind in the Willows ~ a delightful tale for a young audience

Best of all for the young audience are the frequent touches of humor in the script mixed with Canadiana. For instance, the English picnic of cucumber sandwiches and ginger beer featured in the original tale becomes the more Canadian rice crispy squares and soda pop. Deft touches of humor throughout the show delighted the young audience. The section of the Wind in the Willows tale where the adventurous and irresponsible Mr. Toad becomes obsessed with motor cars (with disastrous results) elicited squeals of delight and laughter. A particular hit with the kids was the character of Mr. Badger with his deep voice, handle bar mustache and bowler hat who frequently interacted with youngsters during the show. All in all, the Rag and Bone Theatre did a fine job in turning a much loved but slow moving English classic into a fast paced rollic without losing any of the charm of the original story. The Wind in the Willows production by the Rag and Bone Puppet Theatre is highly recommended viewing for both children and their parents alike.

The next Rag and Bone production of the Wind in the Willows will be held at the Shenkman Arts Centre at 245 Centrum Boulevard Ottawa on April 1 and 15, 2012. For more information on Rag and Bone please visit  More information about other upcoming productions at Arts Court can be found by visiting


Honoring Shannen’s Dream

December 14, 2011 11:40 am

Long before the Federal Government’s planned delivery of mobile homes and food to the remote Northern community of Attawapiskat, there was Lady Evelyn Alternative School.

While Attawapiskat has recently become a household name across Canada after it declared a state of emergency, the native community has been on the radar of the small alternative school in Ottawa’s East for some time now. For two years, in fact.

A message from Shannen Koostachin.

But while Attawapiskat’s call to Canada was for food and shelter, Lady Evelyn’s students answered a different call.  This time, a cry for support from perhaps the bravest school girl this nation has ever known – Shannen Koostachin of the Attawapiskat First Nation.  Shannen died, at the age of fifteen, never having known the inside of a proper classroom or a decent education. She knew however, that she and every other child in Attawapiskat, deserved one, and she spent her short life fighting for it. In her words:  “School should be a time for dreams. Every kid deserves this.”Shannen’s journey began when her school (the only elementary school for 400 children in Attawapiskat) closed due to diesel fuel contamination under the building. Portable trailers were put in the playground as a “temporary school.” Nine years later, they were still there.  No school. The doors warped and the heat went off in winter. The children walked in the cold from portable to portable.

The children of Attawapiskat's call for a new school.

In 2010, Shannen died in an automobile accident – never seeing her dream – for all First Nations children to have “safe and comfy schools” come true. It’s a situation, Lady Evelyn Alternative School and others have found unacceptable.  In April 2011, months before the Attawapiskat crisis, the school took its message to Parliament Hill. Letters were delivered to politicians in support of Shannen’s Dream to “rally behind the principle of equitable education rights for First Nation children and youth.”  However, the school hasn’t stopped there. It has organized fundraising activities and recently answered the call from the Attawapiskat Food Bank to collect and send food to the James Bay community.

Let’s hope, once Attawapiskat is no longer in the headlines, Shannen’s Dream and the dreams of Attawapiskat and other struggling First Nations communities, are not left behind. For more information on Shannen’s Dream (and the efforts of Lady Evelyn Alternative School) please visit:

For more OLM articles on Attawapiskat, click HERE.

A Highrise of Events

December 13, 2011 4:07 pm

Construction in Hull is getting serious and so is the Association des Résidents de l’Île de Hull, highlighted by the lineup of events for their Mercredis de l’ARIH. “This season we wanted to cover more angles than the musical sphere,” said the President of the ARIH Paul Duval. “We wanted to reach out to more residents and members of the community,” said Duval, who unveiled the events at the Petit Chicago Bar.

The list of events

The association decided to go all out this year organizing ten events in Hull to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The line-up varies from musical shows, documentary screenings and spaghetti dinners, all taking place in Hull on Hump Day. One event which stands out is the One Thousand and One Nights dinner hosted at the Moroccan restaurant Chez Fatima, located on Promenade du Portage on January 11, 2012.

Over the years, Association des Résidents de l’Île de Hull has become more involved within the community in different ways. “We planted over 150 trees and bushes in Hull and opened three community gardens in the area one being ecological,” said Duval, the Hull native. Willing to achieve more, l’ARIH decided to host more events to finance their plans, which aim to improve the life of residents of this low-income community. “Like everyone, we need money to function and survive,” said Duval.

Establishing a small rink in Parc Fontaine is a perfect example of how the association helps improve the quality of life on the island of Hull. “We used to have four skating rinks in the area and we were down to one,” explained Duval. To help have much needed second rink volunteers maintain it during the cold winter months and offer skating classes for those eager to learn to skate. However, it’s not all smooth skating for the association.

Marie-Ève Gratton Director of Communications and the President of the ARIH Paul Duval

With the influx of residential homes and government buildings, the biggest challenge for l’ARIH remains the grocery store dilemma. “We used to have three before and now we don’t have any,” said Duval. The last supermarket metamorphosed into an SAQ Dépôt in 1999. There was a proposal to build a food store within the proposed multipurpose Robert Guertin Centre, but the plan perished when the Federal Government announced it would not participate in the project. This forced the City of Gatineau to revise its initial plan and to cut $14 million from the development, forcing the association to seek out a new site. “The ideal location for a grocery store would be near a busy boulevard allowing people to pick something up after work,” said Duval.

Until then, the biggest realisation for l’ARIH is the Grande Tablée. “This is our little baby and we proud of what it has become,” said Duval. The event which also culminates les Mercredis de l’ARIH includes live music and a dégustation of products from the Outaouais region. It takes place at Parc Fontaine from 11 am to 11 pm on Québec’s National Holiday.

The stage of the Petit Chicago where many shows will be hosted.

Big Soul Project Delivers Huge Holiday Fun

December 6, 2011 3:46 pm

“We’re here to sing about peace, love and hope.”

As the dozens of robe-adorned choir members of the Big Soul Project shuffled out from the sacristy of the Fourth Street Baptist Church last night – colourful cloth draped around their necks and ear-to-ear smiles spreading while they waved to family and friends stacked in pews – it was hard not to feel all three of these things.

The reasoning behind the Monday night show is a spot-on representation of community choirs, local arts projects and their fundamental purposes. The choir’s official holiday concert, taking place this upcoming Saturday at the Dominion-Chalmers United Church, has sold its 1000 tickets – so, for a small food or cash donation to the Fourth Baptist Church, the public were free to attend last night’s dress rehearsal and sample the full program. Holiday cheer and good will at its finest.

Photo by Jake Morrison

Roxanne Goodman, the fearless shepherd coaxing the energetic claps, steps and three-part harmonies out of the community gospel choir since 2008, modestly stood before the hundred-piece choir – a group that’s generated so much interest it can hardly fit its members behind the altar of the quaint Glebe church. Heaps of voices piled through the small venue as the crew “wet their whistles” with a fun version of the winter classic “Jingle Bells”, the first of many numbers that audience members were prompted to croon along to. The band chimed in – a lovely touch of saxophone, percussion, bass and guitar that would accompany vocals throughout the night – and over the hill we went.

Kicking off with Eric Clapton’s “Let it Rain” and sliding into gospel goodies like “Joy To The World”, and “This Little Light of Mine” – the concert received the mighty nudge it needed after a delightful interjection from Goodman, who swiveled at her podium to address the audience about the purpose of collaboration and the beauty of song.

“If someone tells you not to sing or tells you to ‘stand in the back’, something inside you diminishes,” she said to a hushed audience. “Who am I to tell someone not to sing? I don’t recall anywhere in the Bible where God says, ‘Don’t sing – you’re not in key.’

“That doesn’t matter. We’re here to make a joyful sound.” Holiday cheer and good will strike again.

Photo by Jake Morrison

After the Director herself performed a haunting solo of “Oh Holy Night” alongside a simple steel drum backing, a John Mayer hit slid its way into the set list as well as a ballad written by a member for her husband and number one fan, who stomped the night away from the audience. A soloist’s rendition of “Croire” – the booming anthem performed at Jack Layton’s funeral – spoke to much of the program’s thematic thread and this year’s concert title, Croire-Believe.

A bright moment took place near the end of the evening, when a soloist was introduced as “an example of what happens to someone who enters the choir – someone who has a little voice and then starts to believe they can sing.” Flashes of the tiny-framed yet big-voiced Sister Mary Robert from Sister Act came to mind, before the live version squeezed out from the crowd of singers – an equally as petite lady who further drew mental comparisons after shouting her powerful bluesy rasp into the free-held microphone on “How I Got Over”. Huge gospel backing, a mid-song instrumental jam and fired-up crowd didn’t stop her voice from coasting over the aisles and securing her a spot in our hearts, and Sister Act 3.

Any pitchy moment, forgotten word or nervous soloist went unnoticed, because as Goodman and the voices of her gospel devotees so clearly chanted – none of that really matters. The pats of support on each other’s backs, lively whoops in between verses, synchronized sways and beaming smiles are evidence that the Big Soul Project hopes to show, if nothing else – that a little groove and a little faith in each other are exactly what the season calls for.

Wingin’ It is the 2011 Shaw Rocket Prize Winner!

December 2, 2011 10:49 pm

Toronto-based Temple Street Productions was awarded the $50,000 Shaw Rocket Prize for Wingin’ It, as voted by Canadian children in every province. A staple for Family Channel viewers, the show also airs on Disney XD Canada and is distributed internationally by BBC Worldwide. Wingin’ It was chosen as the winner of the Shaw Rocket Prize at an award ceremony held at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa on November 29th.

A half-hour sitcom, Wingin’ It chronicles the adventures and misadventures of Porter, an Angel-In-Training and his odd couple other half, Carl, a typical high-school kid. To earn his wings, Porter has been assigned to transform hapless student Carl into the most popular kid in school. If he succeeds, he’ll earn real wings and a halo. If he doesn’t, it’ll be a millennium before he gets the chance to try again – and Carl will still be unpopular. Think of It’s a Wonderful Life with a 21st century twist.

In the second season, Carl (played by Dylan Everett) is still trying to survive high school, while Porter (Demetrius Joyette) continues to iron out the kinks in his magic. In the process, the two get into a lot of exciting and wacky escapades – with clever episode titles like “Err a Parent,” “Don’t Dimension It,” “Carl+Alt+Delete” and “Magical Kiss-tery Tour.”

“We are thrilled about winning the Shaw Rocket Prize. We feel like we’ve earned our wings!,” quipped Wingin’ It producer Ivan Schneeberg.

Porter Jackson and Carl Montclaire

The 7th annual Shaw Rocket Prize was presented by Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney at Ottawa’s venerable Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel, where the top five Canadian programs for kids aged 6 to 12 were celebrated. The other finalist shows produced across Canada made for very tough competition: dirtgirlworld, My Babysitter’s a Vampire – The Movie, Survive This, and Wibbly Pig.

“I’d like to congratulate Wingin’ It for winning this award,” said Minister Kenney. “Being selected by top industry experts, and then confirmed by a jury of child viewers – the hardest critics of all! – is a testament to the true popularity and success of this program.”

An international jury of industry experts selected five finalists for the 2011 Shaw Rocket Prize. The international jury was comprised of Adina Pitt, Cartoon Network; Joe Godwin, BBC; Tim Brooke-Hunt, ABC Australia; Nicole Keeb, ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen [Second German Television]); and Michael Carrington, Turner Broadcasting. The international jury selected Wingin’ It as a finalist because of its creativity and appeal to kids.

Wingin’ It takes the recognizable setting of high school, mixes it with the everyday challenges of young people coming to terms with growing up, and twists it with a little bit of magic to create stories which are engaging and above all great fun!,” said Michael Carrington, Chief Content Officer, Europe, Middle East and Africa, of Turner Broadcasting.

Once narrowed to five finalists, a jury of kids from across Canada chose their favourite program. They voted in October and November after viewing each finalist’s television and digital media content online.

The Shaw Rocket Fund is a not-for-profit corporation that focuses on stimulating excellence in Canadian children’s programming. To date, the Shaw Rocket Fund has invested $120 million towards 488 television productions including digital content. Contributors to the Fund are Shaw Communications, Shaw Pay Per View Ltd., Shaw Direct, EastLink Cablesystems and Delta Cable Communications Ltd.

For more information, visit the Shaw Rocket Prize website at

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