OLM Pet of the Week—Meet Adria

May 26, 2016 11:53 am
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All photos by Alex Mazur

This week we have a very special feature for our Pet of the Week. We’d like to introduce you to Adria, a two-year-old Jindo mix who was recently rescued from a horrifying situation. Adria is one of nine dogs from a South Korean dog meat farm taken in by Freedom Dog Rescue in partnership with Humane Society International. Her life before coming over here was spent trapped in a small wire cage, surrounded by hundreds of other dogs and being given no loving human interaction. After being rescued from life in a meat farm and enduring a long 20 hour flight to Canada, Adria has been given a new lease on life!

Last week we had the opportunity to meet this sweet girl and, of course, we took her immediately. Unsure of what to expect when meeting a dog who has spent her short life in a cage, we trekked out to her foster home to meet this survivor. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a curious but timid soul who was still adjusting to life outside of the cage, and making huge progress. After a few minutes of watching us from afar, curiosity won her over and Adria nervously began to investigate her new visitors with a quick sniff and even a few poses for our photographer. Her foster parents, proud of her accomplishments, described the initial difficulties they faced upon her arrival, such as getting her out of her crate when she first arrived. From then on she has discovered the great world outside and refuses to go back to her crate.

Adria is house trained and will need a quiet home with a patient and loving family who’ll continue to help her adjust to her new life in Ottawa. Her ideal match is someone who will give her the little push to try new things and explore new places. When first learning how to navigate stairs, her foster parents had to give her that first little push and wound up with a dog who was excited to race up and down the stairs just because she could.

Adria is not yet available for adoption, but anyone interested in adopting her in the future can email freedomdogadoptions@gmail.com for more information.

About the Rescue:

Freedom Dog Rescue is an Ottawa-based not-for-profit organization founded in 2015. Running entirely on volunteers and foster homes, Freedom Dog is dedicated to helping local and international dogs find loving forever homes. All dogs from Freedom Dog Rescue are spayed/neutered and are up-to-date on their vetting. Their adoption process includes an application form, a home visit and a meet-and-greet to ensure that both the owner and the dog are the right match.

OLM Pet of the Week is a weekly segment on our site which showcases adoptable pets in our Capital. Each week a new pet will be featured in order to help them find a loving forever home. Any Ottawa-based animal rescue interested in having an adoptable pet featured can email isabel@ottawalife.com.

Theatre Thrives at the 1000 Islands Playhouse

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All photos/graphics courtesy of 1000 Islands Playhouse.

The 1000 Islands Playhouse sits where local culture and some of Ontario’s most breathtaking views meet. Right now, the Gananoque theatre is gearing up for its 35th season and 10 performances that promise love, mystery, music and unforgettable performances.

The playhouse operates out of two buildings in one of Ontario’s most beautiful settings. The Springer Theatre, the playhouse’s original home, sits right on the edge of the St. Lawrence River. The building was constructed in 1909 to house the Gananoque Canoe Club, but was then renovated into the Playhouse in 1981.

The second building, known as the Firehall Theatre, has been the Playhouse’s second stage since 2004. It sits directly above the Springer Theatre, on street level, with a wide view of the St. Lawrence and a comfortable spot on the edge of Gananoque.

This year’s seasonVioletThePilot boasts the widest variety of shows the playhouse has ever put on. The season launches with a touring production of Violet’s the Pilot, presented by The Young Company from April 25 to July 3. A fun plot paired with environmental commentary, Violet’s the Pilot tells the story of a girl on the cusp of becoming the world’s youngest pilot, at least until she’s faced with a tenacious protestor.

The action-packed season goes until October 16, and Violet’s the Pilot will be followed by nine other brilliant productions. Their variety showcases almost anything you might want to see, from one-man-plays, musicals with deep lessons, supernatural stories and emotional productions examining family and love. During this season, the 1000 Islands Playhouse will also be hosting the world premiere of In a Blue Moon by Lucia Frangione. Watch the mastery and creativity unfold while each production brings its viewers insight, laughter and joy.


The Playhouse will also be hosting a series called Studio ‘S,’ presented by Eric Friesen. Friesen is a renowned music writer and host who guides the musical journey, hosted on select Monday nights throughout the summer. In Studio ‘S,’ audience members will embark on a night of sophisticated and culture-filled music in the beautiful Springer Theatre.

The 1000 Islands Playhouse experience is always exciting and unique. From the waterside views while taking the parkway there, to the locally organized, authentic plays, there really is nothing like it.

You can find out more at 1000islandsplayhouse.com, and see below for a full list of shows.

Violet’s The Pilot – Touring Show

(April 25 – July 3)

The Young Company presents a thrilling, interactive experience while delivering a strong message about young people doing big things. When a conflict strikes, it is the audience who gets to decide what the outcome will be. Join the young and talented up-and-coming stars in this wonderful production.

A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline – Springer Theatre – Musical

(May 20 – June 11)
Production in Association with the Western Canada Theatre
Directed by Daryl Cloran

Starring Alison MacDonald, this production beautifully tells Patsy Cline’s rise to the spotlight. The play explores everything from Patsy’s life in small town Virginia all the way to Carnegie Hall.


Blithe Spirit – Springer Theatre

(June 17 – July 16)
Production in Association with the Western Canada Theatre
Directed by Ashlie Corcoran.

When a novelist named Charles meets with medium Madame Arcati while researching for his upcoming book, he finds a lot more than history. His life is turned upside down when he discovers that his first wife is haunting him and his new bride. Comedy erupts throughout the whole play as Charles’ poltergeist wife tries to ruin his new relationship.


Assassinating Thomson – Firehall Theatre

(July 5 – July 17)
Created and performed by Bruce Horak, Directed by Ryan Gladstone.

With only limited vision, Bruce Horak shares the vivid images in his mind with the audience while looking deeper into the murder of the unofficial eighth member of the Group of Seven, Tom Thomson. The one-man-play is captivating and interactive as Bruce does a live painting of his audience during each production.

Beneath Springhill – Firehall Theatre – Musical

(July 19 – July 31)
Created and performed by Beau Dixon. Lyrics and music by Rob Fortin and Susan Newman. Directed by Linda Kash.

This multi-award winning show explores the emotional events of the Springhill mining disaster of 1958. The one man play, starring Beau Dixon as the African American “singing miner” Maurice Ruddick, is breathtaking as he captures the nine days that Ruddick spent underground. The play addresses the disaster’s effects on rural Canadian society, economy, community strength, hope and racism.


Into the Woods – Springer Theatre – Musical

(July 22 – August 13)
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine. Directed by Ashlie Corcoran.

Many different fairy tales intertwined together show what happens when happily ever after doesn’t go quite as planned.


In a Blue Moon – Firehall Theatre – World Premiere

(August 12th – August 28th)
By Lucia Frangione, in Association with Western Canada Theatre and Arts Club Theatre Company. Directed by Daryl Cloran.

A story of family and love tenderly emerges from tragedy when six-year-old Frankie and her mother move in with Frankie’s Uncle Will after her father passes away. The story is steeped with emotion that will move you.


A Grand Time in the Rapids – Springer Theatre

(August 19 – September 17)
By Stewart Lemoine, Directed by Ron Pederson.

This fierce comedy unravels romantic secrets and is everything but mundane. When Thalia gets caught up in a mess, Ted and her boyfriend Boyd are there when her secrets are unleashed. 

Das Ding (The Thing) – Firehall Theatre

(September 9 – 25)
By Philipp Löhle. Translated by Birgit Schreyer Duarte, produced in association with Theatre Smash, Toronto, ON and Canadian Stage, Toronto, ON. Directed by Ashlie Corcoran.

This fast-paced comedy brings problems and characters from all over the world to get a wider view of our global economy. With five actors playing 14 characters in nine different locations, you won’t be bored for a second.

You Are Here – Springer Theatre – Musical

(September 23 – October 16)
Music and Lyrics by Neil Bartram. Book by Brian Hill, produced in association with Acting Up Stage Company, Toronto. Directed by Robert McQueen.

This gripping one-woman play surrounds self exploration when the main character walks out on her husband in search for a fuller, more exciting life. With no real problems in her past, she leaves it all behind with the anticipation of adventure.

The Mechanics of Modern Art

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A glimpse of Inferno. Photo by Gregory Bohnenblust. 

Imagine if before watching a contemporary art piece, you and 24 others were strapped into robotic exoskeletons that jerked, twisted and lit up in front of the rest of the still-sitting audience. Some people might say that would be hellish, which is exactly what artists Louis-Philippe Demers and Bill Vorn were thinking when they called the piece Inferno.

Inferno, which will be taking the stage at the ELEKTRA festival on June 3 and 4 in Montreal, is partially inspired by Dante’s Circles of Hell. The people standing in the exoskeletons have no control over what the armor-like machines will make them do, as each of their movements are controlled by a computer. This suggests “an infinite and mundane control loop under which the body will be forced to move endlessly.” Only 25 volunteers from the audience will be put in the exoskeletons and become performers in the piece.

Inferno is exactly the sort of out-of-the-box performance audiences should expect at the 17th ELEKTRA festival, which is synchronized with the opening on June 3 of their International Digital Art Biennial (BIAN) – now in its third edition – for a full month of cutting edge contemporary art. Together, the festivals’ theme is AUTOMATA, which explores what could be art made by machines for machines. But don’t worry, us humans should find it more than fascinating as well.

The ELEKTRA festival will run from June 1 to the 5th, and the BIAN festival continues until July 3. They’re bringing more than 50 international artists to Montreal to show their work at Arsenal Contemporary Art.


205 prepared dc-motors, cotton balls, cardboard boxes 55 x 55 x 55 cm, 2013. Photo courtesy of Studio Zimoun.

One of the BIAN’s noteworthy exhibits will be 205 prepared dc-motors, cotton balls, cardboard boxes 55 x 55 x 55 cm, 2013 by Swiss-artist Zimoun. The outside of the piece is a massive tower of cardboard boxes which create an architectural sound platform that has a mechanical rhythm. On the outside, the piece appears very relaxing and the boxes work together to create an illusion of reliable sturdiness. In many ways, it looks like a box fort that sprung right out of an eight year-old’s wildest dreams.

A much less relaxing work is Machine with Hair Caught in It by Korean duo Ujoo+Limheeyoung. In this work, long black hair surrounds a maze of shining gears and cogs where the person’s face would normally be. It leaves the viewer with an ominous question, has the person’s head been swallowed by the machine, leaving some ‘hair caught in it,’ or is the machine the head itself?

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Machine with Hair Caught in It, photo courtesy of Ujoo+Limheeyoung.

The BIAN and ELEKTRA festivals are bringing in countless more fascinating works between June 3 and July 3 that explore the relationship between people and machines’ growing influence over contemporary thought. Inferno, and the rest of ELEKTRA’s programming will be held in Montreal’s Arsenal Contemporary Art, while the dozens of works making up the BIAN are filling up a number of different spaces around the city. You can find more information, including a full list of performances and venues, at bianmontreal.ca/en.

Shining Light on Turkish Art

May 24, 2016 12:34 pm

image001Art is just one of the many ways countries around the globe connect with one another. Different areas may have different practices, laws, traditions and cultural norms, but art is art.

The Embassy of Turkey in Canada and Terra Art is putting on an art exhibition, “Mavi Art – Colours From Anatolia and Beyond.” The opening reception will be held on Wednesday June 1 at 6 p.m. at St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts located on 310 St Patrick Street. The Turkish Ambassador to Canada Selçuk Ünal, expressed how the exhibit is focusing on furthering cultural ties between Canada and Turkey.

“The cultural ties between our countries also provide a platform for future cooperation as the two nations continue to re-discover each other in this pleasant way,” said Ambassador Ünal. “As we embark upon building a common social history in openness and respect for each other’s culture, these are the very elements we must build on today and tomorrow.”

The exhibition will feature some vibrant artwork by a number of artists, including renowned Turkish contemporary painter Mustafa Çetin. Using raw colours, shapes and textures, Cetin brings bursts of excitement into his everyday lifestyle and experiences. He paints a variety of familiar scenes like landscapes and cityscapes then abstracts them to showcase a world rich in perspective and full of life.

“The natural world is one of my inspirations. My paintings strive to capture the place where city and nature meet. There are buildings and lakes, people and birds, sounds and drama, and especially trees, which are a source of peace and perspective,” Cetin says of his artwork.

Other artists featured at the gallery include Sara Bilge Caglar with her poetic paintings, Sevim Onen, who is inspired by Turkish folklore and nature, Vladimir Topal sprinkles his happiness onto a canvas and Hulya Coskun expresses a whirlwind of emotions through her work.

“In my paintings, I use the female figure in different dimensions and forms,” says Hulya Coskun, explaining her style. “I express their sadness, shyness, beauty, ugliness and timidness in a realistic and romantic way, while I reflect on the canvas the folkloric characteristics of the women who carry the contemporary stance inside them by combining plastic elements and miniature tradition.”

At the exhibition you have the opportunity to meet the artists and see their work. The gallery is open to the public and is free of charge. Beginning on June 1, experience Turkey in all of its glory; the food, the drinks, and of course, the artwork.

To find out more about the event, you can visit St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts.

The Art Within the Tulips

May 23, 2016 2:19 pm
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All photos by Andre Gagne

Another Canadian Tulip Festival has wound down over the Victoria Day Holiday seeing many crowds fill Dow’s Lake and Lansdowne Park. This year’s festival saw spectacular arrays of fireworks, some big band jazz, magic and more but, of course, the star attractions were the tulips that bloom beautiful colour all over the city this time of year.

Tulip Abstract (2 of 109)Tulips-9Tu (13)Tu (29)Tulips-86Related: Ottawa’s Tulip Festival Kicks Off With a Bang

Ottawa Life photographer Andre Gagne has been photographing these flowers for many years and as the festival bids farewell for another season we share some of the artistic ways you can showcase the beauty of this event.

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Weekend What’s Up – May 20th to 23rd

May 20, 2016 1:52 pm
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Grease Poster - Byward Market (1)Byward Market, Grease (1978) A Capital Pop-Up Cinema Event Production, Friday May 20 (8 p.m. -11 p.m.) 

The closest thing you’ll get to a drive in movie in downtown Ottawa is coming to the Byward Market. Bring your blankets and chairs and come hang out with the Pink Ladies and T-birds. The Capital Pop Up Cinema is presenting the classic 1978 production of Grease. Admission is free and the show starts at dusk. AwesomeOttawa will be there along with local musicians. You will be Hopelessly Devoted to Grease after watching it outdoors under the stars. You don’t want to miss it.

Ukrainian Banquet Hall, Nepean Fine Arts League Spring Show and Sale, Friday May 20 (6 p.m. – 9 p.m.) – Saturday May 21st (10 a.m. – 5 p.m.) 


Come out and support your local artists at the Nepean Fine Arts League Spring Show and Sale. You can stroll around and just browse or purchase some amazing artwork. Guitarist Spencer Scharf, and harpist Sharon Baird will be entertaining the crowd with their musical talent.

sheep_shearCanada Agriculture and Food Museum, Sheep Shearing Festival, Saturday May 21 – Sunday May 22nd (9:30 a.m – 4 p.m)

Have you ever wondered what a naked sheep looks like? Probably not, but you should still stop by the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum this weekend for some sheep shearing fun. There will be many activities for the whole family including tons of demonstrations along with learning about the steps that go into making raw fleece into wool.

Canadian Museum of Nature, World Fish Migration Day, Saturday May 21st (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.) 

The second, biannual World Fish Migration Day is back at the Canadian Museum of Nature. Come celebrate the evolution of knowledge about fish migration all around the world and learn about what we can do to help. The informative and fun event consists of things such as face-painting, colouring, interactive research displays, and much more. Meet with local biologists and get a better understanding of how fish migration can affect the entire ecosystem!

Canadian Tire Centre, Selena Gomez Revival Tour, Sunday May 22 (7:30 p.m)
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Didn’t want to wait the extra couple of days to see the pop goddess herself? Well, the wait is almost over! Selena Gomez’s Revival Tour is now coming to Ottawa three days early. See her talent in person as the beautiful singer puts on great performances of all of her newest hits.

Aberdeen Tulip Pavilion at Lansdowne Park, Canadian Tulip Festival, Opens Thursday May 12 (assorted times)

clock and tulipsDon’t miss out on the last weekend of the Tulip festival. You’ve seen all the pictures of beautiful blooms around the city, but the weather is finally nice enough to get out and smell the flowers. There will be fireworks, folk music, and fun for the whole family. Just as it started, the Tulip festival will end with a bang, celebrating Victoria Day on Sunday night with their Electric Tulip Firework show. Get your tickets now and watch from the TD Place soccer field.



A Musical Farewell with Oliver Jones

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Photos by Andre Gagne and supplied by the National Arts Centre.

Oscar Peterson watches the sun set from the corner, his piano by his side. A swinging melody plays from above as a couple hurriedly approaches. “I hear he plays just like him,” the woman says, jutting her thumb towards the statue of the famed Canadian jazz pianist before disappearing around the corner of Elgin and Albert, hurrying towards the National Arts Center for the final Ottawa performance by one of Peterson’s most accomplished protégés. If he were still with us, one could easily picture Peterson, his familiar smile wide and proud, there in the front row for this night of melancholy goodbyes.

“It’s been 70 years struggling with this baby here,” the protégé, 81-year-old Oliver Jones, says addressing the audience while lightly tapping the edge of his piano. “I feel happy but I still feel sad. This is probably the last time I’ll play here.”

The audience lets out a collective sigh towards the man on stage who received a standing ovation filled with thanks and warmth before his fingers even touched the keys. As though realizing he needed to lighten the mood, Jones added: “I look forward to a career in golf.”

Oliver Theophilus Jones was born on September 11, 1934 in Montreal’s Little Burgundy. He started playing piano at a young age. In a neighbourhood filled with musicians as well as athletes, however, the young Jones’s mind turned often to baseball as opposed to his piano studies. He recalls disliking practicing and a little sister that would keep him in line, running off to squeal to their father if Jones strayed from his daily two hour lessons. Things changed, however, when a five year old Oliver first heard Peterson play.

“I saw Oscar play at our church, Union United on Atwater Avenue, and it was quite a moving experience for me,” Jones recalls in an interview with Ottawa Life.  “I had never seen anyone play at Oscar’s level and I was truly fascinated.  When my family moved to Fulford St. we ended up living just around the corner from the Peterson family.  Oscar was 15 and he had a regular radio show. To us kids he was a celebrity already! We saw him every day in the neighbourhood and we were very impressed!”


Oliver Jones with teacher Daisy Peterson.

Though he’d already discovered Boogie-woogie jazz and had dabbled in that style, Jones wanted to play like Oscar. Who better to turn to for tutelage, if not Peterson himself, than his sister Daisy. Daisy Peterson was an established teacher in the city but, to his youthful disdain, she would instruct Jones on a strict diet of classical music. Though Jones saw the value of her teaching, he continued those pieces in vein with other melodies in mind.

“It didn’t interest me as much as the latest crazes:  Boogie-woogie and swing,” he says, recalling how he’d often hear Peterson practicing from another room.  “Of course, the thing that inspired me about Oscar was his complete command of the piano at a young age and he was truly very disciplined as far as music was concerned. Extremely serious about anything pertaining to music, he didn’t fool around.”

Through Daisy’s teachings, he continued to shape his style often fooling his sister to thinking he was practicing his classical scales only to turn to jazz when she was out of earshot. He developed a sort of novelty act around the city, dancing while also playing the piano, sometimes from underneath the instrument or while hiding the keys with a sheet.  He’d even do the splits! A constant performer, Jones formed a band with some neighbourhood friends when he was about 11 and the group played dances in the area as well as some church functions. It wasn’t long before they started making a name for themselves, especially the young pianist who was already being compared to Peterson. Oscar’s career had already taken flight and, inspired by him, Jones was set to follow. By the time he turned 16, Jones was writing his own music, using scenes from the neighbourhood to inspire compositions like “Lights of Burgundy” and “Fulford Street Romp”.

oliver-jones2__largeJones began touring in 1953, though his career really took off in the 1980’s with the release of his first album, Live at Biddles. By the middle of the decade he was performing at major festivals across the country and overseas. His tour of Nigeria would become the subject of a 1990 National Film Board documentary. Shortly after its release, Jones would be named an Officer of the Order of Canada. His recordings have received 9 Juno nominations with two wins. In 2005 he was given Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. However, perhaps it’s the accolade he received in 1990 that touches the pianist the most. Second only to Peterson himself, Jones was given the Oscar Peterson Award recognizing his contributions to jazz music in Canada.

With the praise of his pears and mentor, and many years on the stage behind him, the year 2000 seemed like a nice end point for the then 65-year-old. However, somebody told him it just wasn’t time for goodbye yet. That man was the very same one the young Jones used to listen to from behind closed doors, the one whose style he so wished to emulate.

“I had spent so many years on the road, my wife and I didn’t get a chance to travel together during those years and many of our friends were retiring so, I thought, it’s time. It lasted 4 ½ years. I was prompted to come back out of retirement by Oscar. I was in Toronto at his place and we got to talking about how I was too young,” says Jones relaying how shortly thereafter the two would share the stage at the 25th Anniversary of the Montréal Jazz Festival. “I thought, maybe I’ll just keep it simple, 10 or 15 concerts a year. I ended up doing 85 shows that year.  I’ve always had a problem saying no!”

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Oliver Jones performs at the National Arts Centre on his farewell tour.

This “problem” continued in his Ottawa farewell performance on May 19. Before the second set, Jones instructed the audience to place requests in a basket (“No hip hop”), as though the musician, knowing he would not return, wished to satisfy as many of those gathered as possible before the final note was played.

Alongside drummer Jim Doxas and bassist Éric Lagacé, the trio blazed through a swinging set that included favourites such as “Cheek to Cheek” and “Body and Soul”, a soul touching rendition of “Georgia On My Mind” and a medley of Gershwin tunes.

Picking out a request for the standard “Misty,” Jones joked, “You know, every night for 45 years I think, if I get by one night without playing “Misty” I’ll give everyone a hundred dollar bill. Well,” continued Jones disregarding the request, “somebody messed it up for you.”

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Concert goers were urged to sign a guest book for Jones.

There was a sense that the band was all in, that the finality of what they were working towards fuelled the performance. From engaging in a playful duel with the bass, to ensuring a young girl in the crowd was played a lullaby, Jones moved from showcasing his masterful speed to his graceful elegance with the tender ballads. Of course, there were stops in between to pay tribute to Peterson.

“Without Oscar Peterson and his family, I probably would not have become a pianist,” he said before dedicating one of Peterson’s seminal recordings, “Hymn to Freedom”, to Oscar’s daughter Celine who was in attendance that night.

Returning to play one more song alone in the spotlight, before leaving the NAC stage for the last time, Jones urged the audience to embrace up-and-coming Canadian musicians, passionately relaying how important it is for us not to let talent go to waste.

“So many of them are finding it hard to find work in their field and it can be very discouraging,” Jones said. “In the past I have gone to schools to speak to these young men and women about my life and hopefully to inspire them to follow their dreams and continue to create – just as Oscar inspired and encouraged me.”

Oliver-JonesThough the musician admits he is looking forward to his retirement, he will miss traveling across country, from Cape Breton to Victoria, seeing fans and friends along the way.

“I hope that over the years, after having the opportunity to play with so many wonderful musicians, that they will remember me as always being pleasant and enjoyable to work with,” Jones says.  “I think probably some of the most important and inspiring moments that I’ve had is playing with and watching the performances of so many amazing musicians. There are so many wonderful memories.”

With a final wave, Jones made his exit. Some of the audience, misty eyed, stood in place as though not wanting to acknowledge that this was, indeed, goodbye. Oscar said his farewell many years ago but, like Oliver Jones, the music will remain long after the farewells have been said and the tears have dried.

As the crowd exited that night, some walked by Peterson’s statue, ever the watcher from his spot on the corner, his piano playing somewhere above them in the Ottawa night. Perhaps the drop or two on Oscar’s sculpted face are the remains of an earlier shower of rain. Perhaps.

The Duality of Claudia Salguero

May 19, 2016 6:54 am
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All photos by Andre Gagne. 

The moment you walk into Claudia Salguero’s home you know you are in the residence of an artist. Flooded by colour, various pieces of artwork adorn the walls, most of it her own. Her images burst out at you from inside the frame, drawing you into her keen eye for detail within the urban landscape. Though they look like painted works, no acrylics or oils were needed for many on display. They began as photographs and became the unique works through digital manipulation, just one of her many talents.

Pulling yourself away, following the soft music playing throughout the kitchen, you see a digital picture frame of various images in rotation, vacation shots, mostly, images Salguero wants to remember but admits she might never see if they end up pinned down inside an album. Collected art pieces surround you, making you wonder where they all came from. All this before you even walk into her basement studio where various instruments await rehearsals for Salguero’s upcoming show at the National Arts Centre.  You see, not only is she a digital artist, but she also sings the romantic songs of her homeland, Colombia.

Art above and art below, two different mediums: one of colour and brush strokes and the other in the smooth, sensual vocals of Latin America. This is the duality of Claudia Salguero. To her, however, the two are not very far apart.

“They happen in different moments and spaces,” explains Salguero. “If you listen to the kind of music I like to perform and the kind of colours and textures I like to work with I think you see the same person behind them.”

Related: Claudia Salguero–100 per cent Artist in Everything she Does

Though she’s made Ottawa her home since 2001, Salguero hasn’t forgotten her Colombian roots. She often thinks of the warmth, the people and the celebrations that centred on music. There, she grew up dancing, and fresh tropical fruits were everywhere. Leaving Bogotá presented some challenges, such as strengthening her English and learning to adapt to the colder Canadian climate.

“I have to say, I felt welcome as an immigrant since the very first day. I have gown as a human being because of that and I have made amazing friends from many different countries.”

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Salguero’s musical career in Columbia got off to a bumpy start. She loved singing, but was exceptionally shy to the point of being unable to share her voice in public. When she was 11, a friend signed her up for a soloist completion in school. A reluctant Salguero accepted. The results were disastrous.

“It was not good. I was so shy and sang so soft that nobody could hear me. They started clapping to help me finish my song and I left,” she remembers.  Though such a traumatic event could have smothered any possible desire to pursue music publicly again, Salguero returned the next year and, this time, she won.

After arriving in Ottawa, she sought out Latin American musicians and started making music while continuing her photography and art career. In 2006 she discovered Corel Painter Digital Art Studio and was quickly hooked on the possibilities of enhancing her art and photographs with the software. She is currently one of three Painter Masters in Canada and, as she likes to say, the only one who is fluent Spanish. Going from teaching the techniques of digital art to painting large murals around town to singing Boleros such as “Si Dios me quita la vida”, her mother’s favourite, were not difficult transitions. She moves between her various careers as fluidly as the digital brushes that sweep across her computer screen.

In 2011 she was offered a chance to develop a new Latin jazz show at the NAC. It promptly sold out, and it has each year since. Salguero’s May 28 NAC Studio show is set to be an international affair. Her band mates include by Sylvio Modolo (piano) from Brazil, Izzy Martinez (guitar) from Mexico, Ken Seeley (bass) from the United States, Alvaro de Minaya (drums) JL Vasqueze on percussion from Chile, Canadian Jasmin Lalande on sax, trumpet by Great Britain’s Ed Lister, Togo’s Matthieu Mikando on Trombone, and flutes by Luis Abanto of Peru.

Tickets can be purchased at the NAC box office or online but best be quick, if the previous years are any indication, the show is sure to sell out.

Salguero took a break between rehearsals to sit down with Ottawa Life and discuss the new show, CANTARES, her view on how Latin American music is locally received, as well as her work as both a musician and artist.


CANTARES poster art by Claudia Salguero

Ottawa Life: Your artwork is pretty unique, combining photos and digital painting. How did you discover a love for this process?

Claudia Salguero: Singing is something I can’t stop doing. Having talented musicians by my side and the support and view form my loved ones has been key in this aspect of my life. ​On the other hand, my hands and curiosity are my main tools and I think as a visual artist.​ I studied Graphic design in Colombia but I wanted to study art and soon after I became a professional photographer and multi-image producer. When computers showed up in the graphic world I got right into it and all that combined led me to become a digital artist. This discipline allowed me to combine my passion for photography and for painting at the same time. But the truth is that ​​being a full time artist hasn’t been easy. You have to work ​as creator ​and also promoter. You end up having two full time jobs and you don’t know if you’ll have a cheque ​at the end of the month or not.​ Not easy, but fun and always exciting.

Claudia (13 of 15)wCan you take me through your process in creating an art piece in contrast to your process in approaching a song?

Creating an art piece, a painting, a photograph or an ice sculpture is a solo action. It’s an individual process where you are asking and answering questions to yourself, and where the final product is your individual expression. Putting a song together with a ten-piece band is the opposite. The interaction, synchronization and communication between a band makes things more complex. The questions are asked and answered by many minds/hands playing many instruments at the same time. That is why it is so special to listen to and watch live music.

Can you tell me about putting together the new show CANTARES?

​Putting together CANTARES has been fun every year. ​This year I will be singing music from nine different countries for which we have included​ new instrumentation. Among the 23 instruments we have the cavaquinho, accordion, Peruvian flutes, udu, and xylophone. As a band we are so lucky to have been working together for so long. We are family now, a family that has as much fun on stage as during rehearsals.

These yearly shows have been exceptionally well received with sell-outs each year. Do you feel there is a large audience in Ottawa for Latin American music?

​Yes there is! The majority of my audience is non-Latin and I think that is because of the warmth and variety of Latin American music. The music is renowned by its rich mix of poetic content, exuberant harmonies, decadent vocal interpretation and instrumentation​and people want to listen to it. In my concert​s ​you would listen to music from many different countries​ including ​classic North American tune​s ​interpreted ​in Latin style. Also –and I think this has been key throughout the last six years– I always explain in English what the songs are about and I talk about the rhythms and instruments being used on stage. ​As you see, beside​s​ ​being fun and romantic, my concerts are also a learning experience.

This show will focus primarily on love songs. How did you choose the pieces for the show?

​You know, love is everywhere and is expressed in all kind of rhythms. ​There will be some Boleros and you will also listen to tropical rhythms, to melancholic songs with rich instrumentation and to songs that will make you feel dancing like a Beatles song we will interpret in a Latin rhythm. Lots of surprises for sure! The songs on every one of my concerts are songs that represent something to me, that take back in time and space or that I feel and I know my international audience will like or recognize.

Some of the proceeds are going to Casa Taller Las Moyas. Can you tell me about that organization and why it is important to you?

I believe in arts in general as a tool for better societies and I work in Ottawa as a Community Art Facilitator with institutions like Operation Come Home, OCISO and Ottawa Housing Corporation. I have seen with my own eyes during my workshops how participants develop self-esteem, a sense of belonging and love for life in general. Casa Taller las Moyas in Bogotá, Colombia is a small institution struggling to teach kids and youth crafts and skills that will help them get away from the streets and develop ideas for small businesses. They operate in a very low income area of the city where any help is welcome. My voice is a gift I didn’t ask for. I like the idea of paying it forward.

You believe art and music is a tool for a better society. Can you elaborate?

​Art in general is something we all need to be exposed to throughout our entire lives as individuals. ​Art is a self-expression tool that releases anxiety and tension, helps you solve your inner problems and shows you who you are. Practicing arts helps you to become the person you want to be and to solve your problems in different ways. Community arts are as important. Working as a community art facilitator in Ottawa has shown me the benefits of creating in our community. We all need a sense of belonging and inclusion and there are many members of our community in Ottawa who feel isolated and who don’t have access to creative outlets. I strongly believe that investing in arts would generate more benefits. It is also fun and our cities would have more colour everywhere!

Guantanamo’s Child: Omar Khadr

May 18, 2016 2:18 pm

Focusing on one of Canada’s most controversial cases, Guantanamo’s Child is a documentary which tells the story of Omar Khadr, a Toronto-born Canadian citizen who was captured in Afghanistan by American forces in 2002 and convicted of war crimes at the age of 15. After spending a decade behind bars in Guantanamo Bay, he was transferred back to Canada to spend the rest of his sentence in Ontario and Alberta. Omar’s case is significant since it was the first case of a minor being charged with war crimes since the Second World War. The documentary features Omar Khadr telling his story through a series of interviews conducted just days after his release on bail last year.

Guantanamo’s Child will be premiering in Ottawa from May 30 to June 2 at the Mayfair Theatre. The documentary is directed by Patrick Reed, a documentary producer and filmmaker, and Michelle Shephard, a Canadian journalist and author of Guantanamo’s Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr, which the film is partially based on.

You can find out more at whitepinepictures.com/guantanamos-child.

Jaw Slinky: A Joel of All Trades

May 17, 2016 1:09 pm
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All photos by Andre Gagne.

“This is my Jeep,” the musician in shades said reaching for the door. There was very little time for pleasantries. Even with the sunglasses you could tell he was exhausted. I shuffled my photography bag over my shoulder and slid in expecting my shoes to be buried by fast-food bags, loose change and scratched CDs but, outside of the two guitar cases in the back, this thing was spotless. This guy’s organized, I thought. I suppose, given the circumstances, he has to be.

“So, how long do you think this’ll take?” he asks, his tired eyes on the road. He spoke with a sense of urgency, a man who has 29 hours of things to do but only 24 hours in a day. It was clear a photo shoot with me wasn’t high on the agenda. With a band to rehearse, a show in a few days, a video to shoot and a new album to promote, I was surprised he didn’t take the camera out of my hand and snap the photos himself, vanishing up the road in a cloud of dust leaving me to wonder if he was ever really there.

Meet Joel Sauvé. His new album Mezzanine was produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by Joel Sauvé. It also features guitars and vocals by Sauvé, drums by Sauvé, Joel Sauvé on bass guitar, flutes and harmonica, all recorded in a studio built by Joel Sauvé with videos shot by, you guessed it, Joel Sauvé. He also goes by the stage name Jaw Slinky and, yeah, he’s got things to do. He always has things to do. It’s like the man wasn’t manufactured with an off switch.

Both Sauvé and I grew up in Cornwall, Ontario. Our paths wouldn’t cross until many years later when, walking into a local bar, I heard him on stage belting out a rocked out cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” that almost made me forget the original was a pop song. As a teen, when I was reaching for my Nintendo controller, Sauvé was reaching for his guitar…and his bass…and his drum sticks. Trying to master as much as he could was sort of a trend with him. In school, not satisfied with one sport, Sauvé played, and excelled, at all of them. This Jack, or Joel, of all trades would take a similar approach to music, wanting to be a guitar player but being edged towards the bass at jams by his already guitarist friends.

Joel (9 of 10)b web“I was handed the bass and was a little apprehensive about it because, well, let’s face it, the bass isn’t cool when you’re 14-15 years old.  You want the guitar.” recalls Sauvé.  “I devoted my time to learn the bass lines for what we were doing anyway and I learned to love it.  We also had a singer at the time that would jam with us but eventually he decided he couldn’t devote his time to our little get-togethers, so I stepped up and said: “I’ll sing.”  And so I started working on my vocals while playing the bass – which is pretty much like taping one hand on your head while rubbing your belly with the other.  It taught me a lot about coordination.”

After these sessions, with everyone gone, Sauvé would sit behind the drum kit and start teaching himself how to play that as well. He’d spend hours pressing stop, play and rewind on a cassette player listening to bands like Pearl Jam or The Tea Party and trying to mimic exact notes or chords. Even though he didn’t know he was doing it then, this was how he developed and trained his ear.

He played his first gig in front of a crowd at Cornwall’s Aultsville Hall and, later that same year, in a local bar where he wasn’t even old enough to buy a drink. Cornwall, like it did for a lot of us, suddenly felt really small and Sauvé moved to Montreal where he studied music at Concordia. He later found work in a music store, started to do sound in a local club and, of course, formed a band.

“Concordia taught me the theory and history of music.  However, working as a server, sound man, open-mic/jam night host and just performing in the Montreal bars taught me the beat of the city when it came to understanding the rhythm of the musical nightlife and scene.”

After his first two bands dissolved, Sauvé found himself back in Cornwall playing gigs of mostly cover tunes nearly every weekend while teaching music on the side. There, things just weren’t moving fast enough.

“I’ve always said that once you come back to Cornwall, it’s like Velcro – you get stuck,” he explains. The pull back to a bigger city –with the help of his girlfriend, Jill, who lived in one– had him packing it all up again and moving to Ottawa, a place Sauvé feels is one he can possibly settle into.

Joel (3 of 10) webIt was here that he decided to go solo and create an alternate persona. Using his initials, and inspired by his own crooked jaw, he settled on Jaw Slinky. He had a name, now he needed a studio and, when you’re Joel Sauvé, you don’t just rent time in one, you build your own. After striking a deal with Jill –she got the third bedroom and he got the basement– Stuck in a Tin Can Studios was created, functioning out of their east-end townhouse where Sauvé spent countless hours learning software and studying YouTube tutorials to piece the place together.

“Sometimes you just can’t rely on anyone else to do something for you or, for that matter, the right way,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to have my own studio so I took it upon myself to just do it.  It was quite the unique process because being by yourself, recording in a studio is, for lack of a better word, weird.  There is no one there to encourage you or to tell you to do a take again. You have to be the one to say that the take was good enough and move on.”

Being a multi-instrumentalist, Sauvé always wanted to try to record an album himself. To him, it was about reaching another level. Mezzanine became that level. From the moment the opening punch of power chords from “Led by the Light of the Devil” hit you, well, square on the jaw, you’ll find it hard to believe this wasn’t produced in a huge studio, let alone that everything you’re hearing is by the same guy. The album is a testament to Sauvé’s detail oriented, focused vision.

Joel (10 of 10)b webSome stand outs include the blues-based “Dynasty” as well as “Crossfire,” a rocked out track with some catchy rhythm guitar. Sauvé releases his grip on you a little with the gentler “Hummingbird” which evokes some late 60’s prog-rock with a wistful flute that carries you through the upbeat track, flying. Though much of the album speaks of loss and betrayal, Sauvé explains that these are elements from his past that finally found a way to break out of him, little voices that needed to be heard before fading out.

“Some themes are better left for other people’s interpretation.  I’ve been in dark places. For some reason, I have an easier time completing a song about loss and deception, than I do about good and happy things.  The songs on the record that share these themes may have happened years ago to me, but I still needed to put them down and lay them to rest since they were never previously recorded.”

Though it’d be interesting to see him try to pull it off alone, Sauvé will be backed by a band for a coming CD release party on May 20 in Barrhaven’s Greenfield’s Pub. No, he didn’t build the venue, but I wouldn’t put it past him. Watching the Jeep drive off towards rehearsals, video tweaking and whatever other one of the dozen things Sauvé had to complete before the show, I realized that a guy like Jaw Slinky is somebody who makes you feel you just have to be doing more in life, moving forward, challenging yourself. There is always a higher level to reach for.

“I think the theme of rising above and pushing through speaks for itself as in everyone can relate to a situation that they have gone through,” says Sauvé. “This album was definitely a cathartic experience for me.  I killed many birds with one stone – recording a full-length record on my own, getting those songs out of my head and building my own studio, and learning a whole bunch of things about myself along the way.”Joel (6 of 10)web

Tickets for the show can be purchased by writing info.jawslinky@gmail.com. You have one guess who’s looking after those ticket sales.

The Fantastic Cosplays of Comiccon 2016

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Harley Quinn – Ottawa Comiccon 2016 – Photo by Geeks are Sexy

All photos by Yan Fortin. 

Although Ottawa Comiccon began on Friday the 13th, the convention was anything but unlucky. The Pop-culture fan convention showcased sci-fi, horror, anime, video games, tabletop games, comic books and of course, plenty of amazing cosplayers dressed as their favourite characters. This year’s Comiccon featured some of the best costumes that the convention has ever seen. To catch up on what you missed if you didn’t attend, take a look at the slideshow below.

You can find more Comiccon fun and the full slideshow here.

Four Amazing Canadians that Make us Proud

May 16, 2016 12:24 pm
(Image Source: ancedu.com)

Not all symbols of national greatness come in the form of the tallest skyscraper, a country’s economic standing or its position in global rankings. Sometimes national greatness is achieved by something as small as one individual. Canada has many reasons to be proud of its celebrities, and here are just a few of the most noteworthy experts in their fields who have filled us with pride by their global achievements.

Dan Ackroyd

One can’t think of Saturday Night Live without thinking of Ottawa native Dan Aykroyd. Born and raised in the Canadian capital, his father was the policy advisor to the longest running Prime Minister Canada has ever had, Pierre Trudeau.

Dan’s early dreams of becoming a priest changed, luckily for us, to becoming a comedian when he dropped out of college and eventually joined the Second City troupe in both Toronto and Chicago.

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(Image Source: vikefans.com)

He has appeared in over 75 films and 22 television shows, not including Saturday Night Live.  He was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Driving Miss Daisy, won two Emmy Awards and was nominated for another two for his work in Saturday Night Live. During the years Aykroyd was on the show, the late night comedy sketch series saw it’s highest ratings ever; 4 out of every 10 television sets that were turned on late Saturday night were tuned into the show.  Ratings such as these have not been seen since that golden age.

Dan continues to support Canadian productions such as fellow Ottawa actor and writer Peter Michael Dillon, who wrote the short film The Game Changer.  Aykroyd is proud to be a Canadian and his achievements are certainly something for Canadians to be proud of. The Ghostbusters and Blues Brothers legacy is strong and he’s certainly proven his worth in dramas too.

Daniel Negreanu

A Toronto native, Daniel Negreanu has become a force to be reckoned with within the world of professional poker. Daniel began playing in the gambling halls of Toronto and quickly became skilled at reading the table, winning against much more experienced players.

Always challenged by competition, Daniel set his sights on Las Vegas.  He didn’t win big right away; in fact, he lost his entire bankroll in Vegas and returned to Toronto for a time to rebuild his capital. But, he was unwilling to quit and he worked hard to improve his game. Obviously, it paid off.



(Image Source: richestnetworth.org)


Daniel has since gone on to win six World Series of Poker bracelets and two World Poker Tour championship titles.  He was the youngest player ever to win a WSOP bracelet.  He has also won player of the year several times in both tournaments.  He is happy to do interviews and is very friendly with his fans, making him an easy celebrity to love. As of 2016, his poker earnings exceeded $32,412,000, which places him as the top grossing professional poker player in the entire world.

According to RichestNetWorth.org, he is currently worth $50 million. Negreanu has written books, numerous articles, and has tutored amateur poker players online. His magnetic personality and stellar success garnered him his own documentary, Kid Poker, which was produced in 2015 by internet poker brand PokerStars to chronicle his rise to success. He is also a spokesperson for the same brand, often taking the time to practice his game on their servers. He loves the game and his easy-going attitude makes him a favourite amongst poker fans. He certainly shows no signs of slowing down, despite having already reached the top of the world.

Wayne Gretsky

While he may not be one of the top 25 people in the capital this year, Wayne Gretzky would definitely be named by many as one of the top 25 Canadians ever. The man who immortalized the words, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” began playing professional hockey right out of high school.

Gretzky played 20 seasons in the NHL for four different teams, beginning with the Edmonton Oilers in 1979.  He led his Canadian team to four Stanley Cup Championships.


(Image Source: www2.tsn.ca)

Over the next 20 years, he became the leading scorer in NHL history and he is the only player to score over 200 points in one season. During his career as a professional hockey player, he won nine Hart Trophies as Most Valuable Player, ten Art Ross Trophies for most points in one season, two Conn Smythe Trophies for MVP in the playoffs, and five Lester B Pearson Trophies for most outstanding player as judged by other players.

When he left the rink in 1999, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and also the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2000.  He went on to have part ownership and then become head coach for the Phoenix Coyotes.  He also served as the Executive Director for the Canadian Men’s Hockey Team in the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics and was the final Olympic torchbearer in the 2010 games.

Gretzky has made appearances in over 60 films and numerous television shows, including hosting Saturday Night Live.  He remains active in business and politics in the United States and Canada and will continue to be known as “The Great One” in Canada as long as he lives.

Peter Jennings

Toronto born and Ottawa raised Peter Jennings was also a college dropout, like Aykroyd. Far from hindering his success, at the age of 26 Jennings was hired on at ABC, becoming the youngest anchor the network had ever put on air.


(Image Source: newenglandone.com)

Pitted against the likes of Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley, Jennings chose to leave the position and instead set up the network’s bureau in Beirut, making ABC the first to have a news bureau in the Arab world.  As his expertise on the Middle East grew, he produced several documentaries on the area’s leaders, including one that won him his first of two Peabody Awards. He continued to be a groundbreaking correspondent and anchor for the next 30 years.

Peter Jennings earned a multitude of awards for his honest and in-depth reporting, including 16 Emmys and two lifetime achievement awards, The Paul White Award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association and the Edward R. Murrow Award from Washington State University.

Eight days before his passing in 2005, he was informed he was to be inducted into the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian award. While he spent many years in the United States, his love for Canada never waned and, after his death, his ashes were scattered at his Quebec farm. Truly, a Canadian legend.

Canada has produced some of the most talented people the world knows today, those mentioned above and more; musicians Alanis Morrisette, Neil Young and Celine Dion, director James Cameron, actors William Shatner, Jim Carrey and Michael J. Fox, and countless scientists working for the betterment of Canada and the world.  Canadians do not boast or brag loudly, but rather are quietly proud of their own. And clearly, we do have a great deal to be proud of.

Weekend What’s Up – May 13th to 15th

May 13, 2016 1:51 pm
Weekend Roundup-01

Aberdeen Tulip Pavilion at Lansdowne Park, Canadian Tulip Festival, Opens Thursday May 12 (assorted times)


This weekend marks the beginning of the annual historic Tulip Festival. Indulge in Canadian culture while appreciating the beauty of our city. The new space at Lansdowne Park is filled with the beautiful tulips as well as live music, art exhibits and local beer, wine and food. Don’t miss out on one of Ottawa’s biggest festivals of the year. The festival will be running Sunday to Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Thursdays to Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 12 a.m. from May 12th to May 23rd.

Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience, Opens Friday May 13 (assorted times) 


The day has finally come! The Star Trek exhibit is now open at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum as of today. Get the real life experience of the Academy and see what it would be like as one of the Star Trek characters. With real science behind the science fiction, the possibility of discovery is endless. This interactive and unique experience is waiting for you.

LeBreton Flats Park, Ottawa Children’s Festival, Tuesday May 10 – Sunday May 15 (assorted times) 

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The Ottawa Children’s Festival is a huge event full of fun and games for all (since we all are kids inside really). The experience of the festival is like no other. The interactive activities, performances, games and entire atmosphere is devoted to enhancing the creativity and imagination in the young generation. Since 1985 the festival has impacted children’s lives in a positive way. See you there!

Festival Plaza City Hall, Ottawa Wine and Food Festival, Friday May 13 (4 p.m. – 10 p.m.) – Saturday May 14 (12 p.m. – 10 p.m.) PatioLife (1)

Did your mouth just water at the sound of that? Ours too. Come out to enjoy live entertainment by DJ Andrew Carter, Jeff Rodgers and some of the best local music Ottawa has to offer. You can eat, drink and be merry all in one weekend. $20 admission will get you into some pretty sweet workshops on cooking and hosting and you will be supporting the Ottawa Mission. Eat Drink Spring awaits!

The Gladstone, The Marvelous Wonderettes, Friday May 13 – Saturday May 14 (Assorted times)

Take a blast to the past because Roger Bean’s award winning musical comedy, The Marvelous Wonderettes is coming to Ottawa. The iconic sounds of the 50’s and 60’s girl groups will fill the theatre and have the audience tapping their toes. All profits from the show will be donated to the Catholic Education Foundation. You can find more about the musical synopsis on their website in the link above. Enjoy the show.

Ey Centre, Ottawa Comiccon, Friday May 13 – Sunday May 15 (Assorted times)


Are you ready, because Ottawa’s Comiccon is back! All of your favourite heroes and villains will be at the EY Centre this weekend for the biggest Con yet! Many of the Dr. Who cast will be attending. You can also check out the Cosplay and many other actor panels that will be held. Dress up in your finest costume and head on down and participate in one of the world’s biggest fan bases.

135 Barrette St, Beechwood Village, Bikes and Biergarten, Saturday May 14 ( 1 p.m. – 7 p.m.) photo
Live music, new brews, local food, and of course you can’t forget about the bikes. The event is hosted in support of re-Cycles, a non-profit bike shop in the heart of Ottawa. This all aged, pet and bike friendly event will be the first of hopefully many Bikes and Biergartens that Bicycle Craft Brewery will be hosting. Beers will be poured, games will be played and fun will be had. This event is free admission so nothing can stop you from riding into Beechwood Village this Saturday.


Ottawa’s Tulip Festival Kicks Off With a Bang

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All photos by Arizona Lanceleve.

The 2016 Tulip Festival kicked off yesterday at Lansdowne Park in a big way. Guests were invited to come see a spectacular bout of fireworks to celebrate the 71st run of Ottawa’s famous spring festival. People flocked to the opening festivities last night to see what the Tulip Festival’s new location, the Aberdeen Pavillion at Lansdowne, will have to offer, and even Mayor Jim Watson joined in on the tulip-tastic event, donning a themed tie for the night.

Roughly 400 tickets were sold for the fireworks that lauched around 9:30 p.m. at TD Place Stadium. As the theme song to Game Of Thrones rang through the stadium, families and on-lookers cuddled close together, watching the sky light up, starting off the tulip fest with a bang. It was a magical night with lots of laughs, beautiful tulips, and art; truly a night of celebrations. 

The festival runs from May 12 to May 23. The hours for Sunday to Wednesday are from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and for Thursdays to Saturdays, hours are 9 a.m. to 12 a.m.

The Tulip Festival is actually a representation of the peace and unity between Holland and Canada. The NCC has donated over 1400 tulips for the event, tulips you will be able see all over the city, as well as in the Aberdeen Pavillon where the floral sculpture garden will be held till the end of the festival. The festival brings in about $8 million during those 10 days, with roughly 400 dedicated volunteers and a core staff of 6, it’s truly a boon to the nation’s capital.

There are also 200 tulip sculptures peppered around the city, with nearly a dozen new designs every year. That means there will be plenty for the eye to see around Ottawa over the next couple of weeks.

Check out the following slide show for a few snapshots of last night’s festivities:

The Ottawa Children’s Festival, For the Child in Us All

May 11, 2016 11:45 pm
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All photos by Andre Gagne

Catherine O’Grady clears her throat and raises the microphone to her lips. There’s something she needs to say. She asks for silence from the crowd gathered, even the smallest for whom her message is most directed. This isn’t an easy task considering the families gathered inside the tent with her have just seen a rambunctious Australian dance troop and their kids, most up past their bedtimes, are bundles of energy that want to move. Still, the din lowers to a mummer and O’Grady begins to speak.

“An entire generation of young people have been left behind. The system has negotiated badly on their behalf. Our children have trusted us to do the right thing: to teach them, yes, but teach them more than failed principles designed to make them good little soldiers in our society’s unending quest for capital success. Somewhere along the road, we forgot that our children are not merely tiny versions of ourselves, we forgot that they are children, a type of creature all its own.”

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Festival artistic producer Catherine O’Grady serves up some cake.

Her message, met with resounding applause, is a clear one: children need to be creative, use their imaginations and, in short, need to just be kids.  The Ottawa Children’s Festival, which O’Grady is the artistic producer of, is now over 30 years old and still continues to foster that mandate through art, dance, music and lots of imaginative discovery for kids. Some, who first attended in 1985, that are now taking their own children.

“We may not often enough give them credit, but children are thoughtful and intelligent. They comprehend complicated ideas, and sometimes they have complicated ideas of their own,” explained O’Grady, the sun setting behind her while some of those children danced in the grass outside the tent.

The 31st annual festival, running from May 10-15 at LeBreton Flats, is now the only one of its kind in the province completely dedicated to child-centric entertainment. Adam Zimmerman, puppet maker and one of the performers in the festival’s zany Mad Hatter Tea Party, realizes the importance of these types of events not only for kids but, also, for the performers who entertain, work and play with them. He says festivals like this gave him his career.

“In terms of saying what’s valuable for children, there’s no measurable aspect of play which you can say is not worth doing,” Zimmerman says.  “These types of festivals, though there may be fewer, are venues that allow us to work within these modalities. What families and kids get out of it is they get to attach to something which is rudimentary in all of us: the joy of being a kid, the joy of performing, the joy of being seen and the fun we can have together. Those things are very much vital.”

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Australia’s RAW Metal perform on opening night.

There was lots of fun to be had opening night with Australia’s RAW Metal. Backflips and basketballs, flippers and sandals, as well as a whole lot of tap dancing wowed the crowd. The group, put together by Andrew Fee when he was only 19, likens their style to what it would be like to watch Fred Astaire if he had performed in zero gravity.

“The idea was to create a new, exciting way of delivering tap dance for younger audiences ranging from 5-25 years old,” Fee tells Ottawa Life. “Tap is a very hard style of dance to master; in fact it would probably be the hardest!”

The group, which employs over 50 people from all over Australia, vigorously rehearses there shows in Brisbane though, Fee admits, the turnaround time before heading into Canada gave them only a week to put things together. The crowd was none the wiser with the laughs coming as large as the eyes were wide in the audience. The group incorporated the all ages crowd into the show, urging them to clap, stomp and sing in rhythm to their movements. Adding songs like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Old Time Rock and Roll” to their repertoire had the adults joining in on the fun.

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You never know who will show up at a Mad Hatter Tea Party!

“Without really trying much we seem to be able to appeal to quite a wide demographic from young kids to adults to senior citizens. I think it’s because everyone loves dance and the joy and energy of great music,” says Fee, though he adds that the group sometimes have to keep themselves in check when performing for younger audiences.  “We have to watch certain parts of the show when performing to young crowds.  Our performers are fairly cheeky on stage, but some of the jokes and movements need to be toned down to be more suitable.”

The festival utilizes both the outdoor space at Lebreton, housing tents on the grounds such as the one Raw Metal performed in, as well as stages inside the War Museum. There’s a lot of space for free roaming young ones to blow off some steam and, with a strong emphasis on motion and movement at this year’s festival, adults can expect a workout if you want to keep up with the kids and performers.

You’ll have to keep up with them inside this year’s unique addition to the festival: dotMaze: Get Lost! The huge hedge maze doubles as a performance itself as various sounds, musical numbers and oddball characters await you at each bewildering turn. Live actors will roam about offering you some help. Or will they?

Each walk-through is different and, oh yes, there could very well be a Minotaur involved. If that isn’t enough activity for you, the kids can get climbing on the Altitude Gym this weekend.

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“Mr. Eric” Litwin

If needing a break from the dancing, jumping, climbing and Minotaur avoiding, be sure to sit and listen to New York Times bestselling author “Mr. Eric” Litwin. The “lit” in his name carries a stronger meaning for him. A former third grade teacher, Litwin noticed a gap in enthusiasm between kindergartners and his class when it came to reading. He would begin to dedicate his life to rectifying that while creating lovable characters like Pete the Cat and the Nut family, memorable songs and, most importantly to Litwin, a more enjoyable approach to literacy.

“The way we used to teach children to read failed before and for so many it’s failing now. That’s why I’m an advocate for multi-learning books,” says Litwin, whose blend of comedy, music and repetition had a Wednesday morning group singing sometimes before they were even prompted only proving the success of his method. “There are solutions to these problems. We just have to grab them. What I believe is if you take traditional reading methods and you blend them with music and movement, call and response and all sorts of wonderful ways to learn what you end up with is a successful reading experience.”

Other performances at this year’s festival include the Netherlands percussionists, The Box Brothers, Songs from Above –an interactive storytelling event with Denmark’s Lisa Gertum Becker–, and the music of CBC television’s Will Stroet and his Backyard Band. There is also the strange tale of Alvin Sputnik, Deep Sea Explorer. Told both in puppetry and animation timed perfectly to the performance, Alvin swims through a land where the oceans have risen and humans now farm on the roofs of skyscrapers, desperately seeking a way to save our species. Heavy stuff, perhaps, but this festival is all about creatively expanding both the mind and the bodies of the youngsters who visit it.

“These performances are art, but they are also a true thing,” says O’Grady. “When (children) come to the festival, they enter a world that reflects their own innermost self, not the person they are at school, or the person society is impatiently waiting for them to be, but who they are now. The festival allows the people who love them best in the world, their families, to share that experience with them.”

Tickets and further information can be found on the festival’s website.

Once Upon a Kingdom Steps Onto the World Stage

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The young thespians ready themselves for their big performance.

All photos courtesy of Once Upon a Kingdom.

Ottawa’s Once Upon a Kingdom (OUK) children’s theatre company is preparing for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They will be performing The Legend of Parvana Lake at the 14th World Festival of Children’s Theatre held in Stratford this year. Although the roving festival returns to its birthplace Lingen, Germany every four years, the festival has never been held in a North American venue, until now. Also, the children from the OUK group will be the only Canadian representatives participating in the festival in Stratford, therefore representing Canada on a world stage.

Luckily, if you can’t make it all the way down to Stratford from June 5-14, the OUK theatre company is putting on a production of The Legend of Parvana Lake, on May 21, at the University of Ottawa’s main theatre space, the Academic Hall. The production has been crafted under the guidance of University of Ottawa alumni and the direction of Ekaterina Vetrov, OUK’s artistic director. Vetrov, who is originally from Russia, earned a MFA at the University of Ottawa, then founded OUK in 2008. Since then, the theatre company has travelled to numerous festivals around North America, and garnered national attention in 2015 at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival.


An example of shadow theatre in action.

Performed by children aged 9-14, The Legend of Parvana Lake represents both a culmination and a collaborative expression of what these students have learned under Vetrov’s tutelage. The young performers have learned styles such as physical theatre (telling stories primarily through body language), shadow theatre (which is exactly how it sound, using shadows to tell stories), and contemporary dance, all of which are incorporated in the production. The creation myth also incorporates Russian, English and Armenian in the script, making it not only a rich experience for the children, but the audience as well.


The young actors rely on their body language to express the story behind the Legend of Parvana Lake.

Inspired by the country of Georgia’s picturesque Parvana Lake, the play depicts the story of a princess in search for a husband. She sends eligible knights off on a quest to find the “Eternal Flame,” announcing that the one who succeeds in bringing it to her will also win her hand in marriage. Alas, none of the men return, and the princess is left desolate and alone. She begins to cry, and her tears collect, eventually amassing to create what is now known as the great Parvana Lake.


To support Ottawa’s young actors, you can buy tickets at the door or online at:


Joyce El-Khoury Opera Adventure

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Photo by Fay Fox.

Thankfully, Joyce El Khoury didn’t follow her original game plan for life. With post-secondary dreams of becoming a nurse or a doctor, her parents advised her to think again.’ Joyce, you should be singing. You have a voice, you have this musical talent. It would be a shame if you didn’t use it,” El-Khoury recalls them saying.

Accepted into University of Ottawa’s School of Music, she trained with the distinguished voice teacher and bass-baritone Ingemar Korjus. The young soprano then studied at Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts and trained with the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindmann Young Artist Development Program.

El-Khoury is taking the opera world by storm. She has performed in La Traviata by Verdi close to 60 times including tackling the role of Violetta in eleven different productions. She also has played Rusalka by Dvo ák and completed two major recordings, both rare Donizetti operas.

Her recording of Belisario featured the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and garnered the performer nomination for Best Young Singer at the London Opera Awards. Then second recording, featuring the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, was a performance of Les Martyrs and was also met with wide praise.

In honour of her mentor Korjus’ retirement, El Khoury recently performed with the uOttawa Choir which consisted of pieces she last sang at her own graduation recital.

It hasn’t all been easy. El-Khoury has faced some challenges along the way. The competition has been stiff and sometimes daunting. “Most cities have opera companies, and thousands of singers are vying for one job. For a young soprano to get work is extremely rare. You have to have your eye on the prize.”

It is clear that El-Khoury does. Along with the uOttawa performance and the part of Musetta in Munich’s Bayerisch Staatsoper production of La Bohème, El-Khoury has many roles on the horizon. Upcoming performances include the role of Tatiana in a concert version of Eugene Onegin with the North Carolina Opera, as well as the title role in Donizetti’s Maria Sturda with the Seattle Opera in February and March.

She is definitely one to watch. It’s truly a good thing she listened to her parents.

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