The NAC’s Needles and Opium Mesmerizes

June 3, 2015 2:42 pm
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Photo credit: National Arts Centre

Spectacular is the only way to describe Robert Lepage’s reproduction of his 20-year-old play Needles and Opium, currently playing at the NAC.

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Photo Credit: NAC

The play centres around three characters. Jean Cocteau shares his thoughts and impressions on his first visit to the U.S. in 1949, while Miles Davis, in the same year, brings Paris to its knees with his music while falling himself for a lady. The third character is a broken-hearted Quebecer named Robert, who heads to Paris forty years later to work on a documentary.

The play explores a number of themes, but addiction is the key issue. Opium was Cocteau’s drug of choice, heroin for Davis and love for Robert. The exploration of the themes unfolds with the haunting music of Miles Davis playing in the background. While the subject matter is not exactly upbeat, it is extremely moving and actor Marc Labrèche’s tormented Robert is supremely touching. (Labrèche also plays a convincing Jean Cocteau.)

A mix of acrobatics, optical illusions, technology and perfect acting combine to create an unforgettable theatrical experience. The play hypnotically moves from scene to scene as the stage, a cube contraption moves around, actors bouncing in, out, on and off of it. The scenes change with the help of movies, slides and photography projected onto the cube. It is entirely brilliant.

Lepage has an imagination that is off the charts: the determination to make his vision happen and the professionalism and experience to have a production that is dreamy, fantastical and yet firmly planted in reality with all the grit, pain and humour it can entail. Your heart breaks as you watch Davis (brought to life by Wellesley Robertson III) sell his instrument to get cash for drugs and yet you marvel at the same time at how Lepage has created that scenery with photography. And that’s just one example. The whole play will leave you in awe.

Feast your mind, ears and eyes with Needles and Opium. It is the best of the Ottawa theatre season so far and runs until June 6, so hurry and buy your tickets here.

Bluesfest Beats: From Electro-Synth Pop to Back Porch Folk

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Photo Credit: Steve G

The announcement that Kanye West will be gracing the stage at the RBC Ottawa Bluesfest this year was a source of great excitement for Ottawa music lovers—but Yeezy is far from the only reason to check out the festival this year.

As exciting as the headliners are, Bluesfest is also an opportunity to make new music discoveries—and there’s something here for every kind of music listener. This year’s festival is chock-full of homegrown Canadian groups, critical darlings and promising newcomers.

OperatorsOperaters
Looking for some punchy pop hooks? The newest project of Dan Boeckner, longtime member of Wolf Parade, is sure to deliver! The Operators’ newest single, “Ecstasy in my House,” pairs infectious melodies with an energetic dance beat. This three-piece group has their own brand of synth heavy indie pop at Bluesfest this year you cannot miss.
July 14 at 6 p.m.
Claridge Homes Stage

The Souljazz OrchestraThe Souljazz Orchestra
This Ottawa-based Canadian ensemble boasts a spellbinding combination of unique musical traditions. Latin, Afro and Caribbean rhythms come together for a vibrant multicultural performance. The collective has been together for 12 years now and after many years of touring and multiple Juno nominations, they are still going strong. Anyone who wants some fun should grab a pair of dancing shoes and get ready to party the night away!
July 10 at 8:30 p.m.
Monster Energy Stage

Lynne Hanson and The Good Intentions
Lynne Hanson and the Good Intentions“There’s gonna be a little swamp, a ton of grit, and a heavy groove, so I’d suggest people bring their dancing shoes and lots of water,” says Lynne Hanson.
Canadian songwriter Lynne Hanson’s “porch music” is as gritty and sharp as a strong glass of whiskey. Hanson recently released her fourth studio album River of Sand. The album, a collection of songs about personal struggle and heartbreak, is her return to the recording world after a four-year hiatus. Hanson, who calls Ottawa her hometown, says it’s “a real honour” to be playing the Bluesfest stage. Folk and country loving festival attendees can find out how good those intentions really are at this performance.
July 9 at 6 p.m.
Claridge Homes Stage

The Temperance Movement

Temperance MovementLast summer the Temperance Movement opened for the Rolling Stones. This summer, the U.K. band will bring some good, old-fashioned rock’n’roll to the Bluesfest stage. Rough and raw vocalist Phil Campbell sings in the tradition of the classic 70’s era rockers like Led Zepplin. Festival-goers can expect a show with a soulful sound.
July 19 at 4 p.m.
Claridge Homes Stage

Purity Ring

PurityRing_1This Edmonton duo’s soaring sonic sound is making waves in the music world—they’ve garnered praise for their “future-pop” sound. Their second studio album Another Eternity features a soaring sonic sound paired with complex lyrical themes. Fans of alternative techno pop won’t want to miss this live performance.
July 17 at 8:30 p.m.
Canadian Stage

The RBC Ottawa Bluesfest 2015 line-up is full of talent! Don’t miss a single band on your ‘must-see’ list. Buy your tickets here! 

Westboro Artists “Paint-Out” in Winston Square

May 28, 2015 2:45 pm
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Artist Barbara Zuchowicz paints in Winston Square. 

If you go for a stroll by Winston Square this summer you might get to witness the artistic process firsthand.

Artists from the West End Studio Tour will gather in the square to paint, sketch and display their work for the public once a week from June until August.

Fibre artist Wendy Feldberg (on left) and Faith Pickles hold up one of Feldberg’s pieces.

Artist Barbara Zuchowicz says the paint-outs and tours help artists make connections within the Westboro community.

Winston Square itself is a work of art in progress. The newly established community hub will be a center for performances and activities throughout the summer—everything from singing to beading demonstrations to dog training, says event co-ordinator Faith Pickles.

The grand opening of Winston Square will be on June 6.

Since 1995, Westboro artists have opened their studio doors to members of the public for a few weekends in autumn. This year will be the 20th anniversary of the art event. The tours will be held from 10-5 p.m. on Sept. 19-20 and 26-27.

Studio tours are an opportunity for members of the public to learn about unconventional art, says fibre artist Wendy Feldberg. Feldberg crafts elegantly coloured scarves and cloths using natural dyes. Her husband Shlomo Feldberg creates art out of garbage and scrap metal. She says studio tours are “a revelation,” for people curious about her artistic process.

Artist Shlomo Feldberg displayed a Canadian flag he made out of scrap metal and official province pins at the May 26 paint-out.

Zuchowicz says the summer paint-outs are just one way participants are celebrating the upcoming anniversary.

A show called “20 by 20 for 20” will open Sept. 17 at Exposure Gallery, she says. The show will feature artwork by tour participants that are 20 by 20 in size to celebrate 20 years of studio tours.

Landscape painter David W. Jones has participated in the tour for each of those 20 years. He says public art events foster discussion and help dispel the notion that “artists are a different kind, art galleries are for the elite.”

“You’re introducing art to people … who may not go into a commercial art gallery because they’re intimidated,” he adds. “It makes them comfortable.”

David W. Jones painting in Winston square.

Jones, along with the Feldbergs and Zuchowicz, participated in the paint-out preview at Winston Square on May 26. Regularly scheduled weekly paint-outs will begin early July.

The paint-outs are part of a larger BIA initiative to bring excitement to the square, Pickles says.

“There are so many great artists and just to give them a platform to really show their work I think is so important” she says.

Steven Wilson Brings Psychedelic Soundscapes to Gatineau

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A night of eclectic and engaging rock guitar awaits you this summer at the Theatre du Casino Lac-Leamy.

Prolific guitarist, keyboardist and composer Steven Wilson will be performing in Gatineau on June 30. It will be Wilson’s first time performing in Gatineau and will no doubt be a night to remember.

Inspired by Pink Floyd as a child, Wilson has been composing and recording music for most of his life. As a member of the band Porcupine Tree, he produced ten studio albums. As a successful solo artist, Wilson has released four albums and continues to contribute significantly to the world of progressive and experimental rock. He’s a four-time Grammy nominee and in 2012, he was awarded the “Guiding Light” trophy at the Progressive Music Awards.

A versatile artist, Wilson has worked with musicians from a variety of genres—including metal band Opeth Mikael Akerfeldtm, British rock band Jethro Tull and Israeli rock star Aviv Geffen. He’s also the creator of Bass Communion, an experimental side project involving ambient electronic music.

Wilson’s recently released album Hand. Cannot. Erase. was met with praise from music critics. The concept album has been called Wilson’s most ambitious effort. After successful sold out tours in the UK and Germany, Wilson is taking his unique psychedelic sound to Gatineau with his North American Hand Cannot Erase tour.

The June 30 concert at Lac-Leamy is a must for longtime Wilson fans and for any music lover looking to explore the world of innovative psychedelic rock.

Click here to learn more.

Everything He Plays, Turns to Gold

May 26, 2015 10:15 am
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Photo Credit: Scarlet O’Neill

For more than eight years, Toronto-based singer-songwriter Ben Kunder has been writing and producing music every Canadian can relate to. His long awaited debut solo album, Golden, will be released May 26, followed by a number of shows throughout Ontario and Quebec. One of the tour’s final stops is at the Rainbow Room in Ottawa on June 2.

“I am excited for all of the shows because it means I get to play every day,” Kunder says eagerly. “And that is the best.

Kunder has a powerful voice that drives home his music’s impressive melodies and dynamics. His work has often been compared to the likes of Ryan Adams and Jackson Browne.

“It is a sound you would recognize but I think I take a unique approach to the traditional structures and roots of folk music,” explains Kunder.

BenKunder_Golden_CoverArtThe album is produced by John Dinsmore, who has previously worked with Sarah Harmer, Great Lake Swimmers and Elliott Brood. Recorded at Toronto’s Lincoln County Social Club, Kunder (guitar/vocals/piano) was joined by what he calls “some of the finest musicians in Toronto.” A few of these contributors include Brian Murphy (guitar/piano/Wurlitzer), Rich Knox (drums/vocals) and Anna Ruddick (bass/vocals).

“I am very lucky to play with such a high caliber of musicians. Not only are they skilled technically but also creatively,” Kunder says. “It was great to have their insight in the studio and then to see them take my ideas and structures and run with it.”

Get a taste of the album by listening to its single, Half Moon, here.

“(The album) has been a couple years in the making and I am just really excited to share it and have it be available for people,” Kunder says.

Against All Odds, the final track on Golden, is his favourite.

“Its got a lot of tone and heart,” he says. “I think the sound and story of the song represents most where I am in my life.”

Right now Kunder is balancing his musical career with a part-time carpentry job.

“I think both in music and what I do on the side, is a labour of love,” he reasons. “You are affecting people’s lives in interesting ways.”

As soon as the Golden release tour wraps up, Kunder will be heading home to await the birth of his child. The staff at Ottawa Life Magazine wish you all the best!

The Kids are Alright

May 23, 2015 9:03 am
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Photo credit: David Hawe

There is only one place you should be on Sunday night at 8 p.m. and that is at the National Arts Centre to catch the only Ottawa performance by Kids in The Hall (KITH).

Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson have brought the Kids back together for a multi-city tour that thankfully includes the capital. In describing the show, Mark McKinney says the “sketches achieve a healthy level of lunacy.” Perfect. Just the way we love them! The Kids are bringing back some of the old favourites in new skits. McKinney wouldn’t specify who, but one can only hope that Chicken Lady, the Axe Murderer, Cathy and Kathy, Buddy Cole, Darill and Headcrusher will make an appearance.

skih-8Newish characters from previous tours will also grace the stage but no matter what, their wacky, sometimes irreverent, politically incorrect and often goofy antics will keep keep audiences in stitches. Nobody does it better. The Kids’ humour is something that transcends time, so even if you were too young to be glued to the CBC in the late 80s to mid-90s (or CBS and HBO if you had cable), to watch them, you will still love them today. And if you are a Kid junkie, well, there will be nothing better.

McKinney has enjoyed a varied and highly successful career in movies, tv, theatre, as a producer and of course, as a comedian. His CV is long and impressive and he has made Ottawa proud. Born here, McKinney’s dad was a diplomat so he travelled a lot. He did spend grade 1 and later grade 13 here, attending Lisgar. He says he loves coming back now. “It’s a totally different city [than when I was in high school] and it sure isn’t a sleepy place anymore. It’s amazing.”

In fact, McKinney has spent some time here over the years. Recently, he played a politician in the movie Best Laid Plans (based on the Terry Fallis novel).  Does he have any political ambitions of his own? He says he is currently involved in one campaign, One Zillion Strong, the campaign to elect Scott Vrooman to the Senate. Check out the website. It too may just bring a smile to your face, if not a hearty chuckle.

When asked why the Kids have reunited now, the affable McKinney said it was simply a matter of  “our schedules lined up and we still have some creative juices in there somewhere.” KITH fans are awfully glad there is. Don’t miss their outrageously funny sketch comedy. Grab your ticket to the Kids’ show on Sunday night at www.nac.ca.

Counting Crows rocked the NAC

May 22, 2015 2:35 pm
Lead guitarist Dan Vickrey of the Counting Crows performs in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre, May 17, 2015

Counting Crows rocked the National Arts Centre this week on a stop along their 2015 world tour. Promoting their seventh album, Somewhere Under Wonderland, the band has planned 16 dates across Canada. It’s their first tour across Canada in more than 15 years! Learn more about the album here.

Images provided by: Michael Wing | Photographer

 Lead singer Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows performs in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre, May 17, 2015

Lead singer Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows performs in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre, May 17, 2015

 

 Lead singer Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows performs in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre, May 17, 2015

Lead singer Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows performs in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre, May 17, 2015

Lead guitarist Dan Vickrey of the Counting Crows performs in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre, May 17, 2015

Lead guitarist Dan Vickrey of the Counting Crows performs in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre, May 17, 2015

 Lead singer Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows performs in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre, May 17, 2015

Lead singer Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows performs in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre, May 17, 2015

 Lead singer Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows performs in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre, May 17, 2015

Lead singer Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows performs in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre, May 17, 2015

Lead guitarist Dan Vickrey of the Counting Crows performs in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre, May 17, 2015

Lead guitarist Dan Vickrey of the Counting Crows performs in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre, May 17, 2015

 Lead singer Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows performs in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre, May 17, 2015

Lead singer Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows performs in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre, May 17, 2015

Let the End of Civilization Wind You Up

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Let The End of Civilization Wind You Up

Not exactly a plot spoiler here, but you know heading into one of George F. Walker plays from the Suburban Motel series, you are in for some great, witty dialogue and some thought-provoking commentary on the struggles of life and the existential angst that can follow.

Currently at the Gladstone, you can see one of the installments in that six-part series, The End of Civilization by Same Day Theatre Company.  Set in a gritty motel room, Henry and Lily are economically and emotionally in dire straits.  Two years prior, Henry lost his job, has been unsuccessful in finding another and has since lost his spirit, beaten down by circumstance. In a last attempt find a new start, he and Lily head to a motel to try to get their lives back together without the distraction of family. Anything but getting a new start ensues.

IMG_4802-2- David Frisch, Julie Le Gal

For starters, Henry is under suspicion for murder by two homicide cops, Max Malone (the good, reliable professional with a bit of an aggressive streak) and Donny Deveraux (the drinking, easy-going, morally relaxed cop who has an reciprocated thing for Lily whom he knew in high school).

Lily gets frustrated at the motel waiting around for Henry and after meeting their motel neighbour Sandy, a prostitute trying to make ends meet, joins Sandy on the street and the plot goes from there.  There are the themes of moral decay and all that you would expect in such a play, but even without all the social commentary, the dialogue is good, some of it biting, some of it funny, some of it sad, just as you expect from Walker.

The plot moves along in the manner of flashbacks and by and large this works well, until the end.  Everything flows until that last scene which ends the play in a very peculiar way, without any true conclusion. There is just something missing and it’s awkward and frankly the scene is just too long.  Don’t let that stop you though, because the rest of the show makes up for it.

The acting is fantastic. David Frisch is fabulous as the odd, quirky and desperate Henry who is barely holding on. Julie Le Gal perfectly captures Lily, his wife who tries to keep it all together. Catriona Leger shines brilliantly as Sandy. Brad Long is utterly likable as the somewhat sleazy cop and Geoff McBride pulls off a great Malone, showing the many sides of his character.

The play runs until May 31st at the Gladstone.

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Ottawa 10K is Living up to Gold Label Expectations

May 21, 2015 10:21 am
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Lately, it seems like everyone’s been getting into running. Whether it’s for the purpose of trying the new sport-leisure fashion trend or for health benefits, we will never know. But one thing is for sure: while many people enjoy going for a leisurely jog during the warm weather seasons, it takes a truly dedicated person to lace up and train year round.

For those that do, May is just the beginning of what they look forward to throughout the entire year: race season. Emerging from a long list of upcoming races is the much anticipated 2015 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend!

Wellington VictahThe Race Weekend hosts six different races, including the Gold label 10K race, one of just four Gold label 10K’s in the world! The race was given this prestigious award by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAFF) last November for meeting a list of strict criteria, including a roster of runners that have met the IAAF’s performance level requirements as well as extensive media coverage for the race.

“The combination of being a Gold label event and hosting the National Championship has led to the deepest 10K field that I have seen on Canadian soil,” said Manny Rodrigues, elite athlete coordinator.

From Sweden to Kenya, top runners from around the globe will be trekking to Canada’s capital to take part in the race.

World half-marathon and 10,000 m champion Gladys Cherono of Kenya is striving to beat last year’s course record and win the gender competition, where both men and women compete for a $2,000 bonus!Kiprop_WilsonFV-Ottawa14

Running alongside her will be last year’s second place finisher and fellow Kenyan, David Kogei, who finished just six seconds behind last year’s first place winner. (To see last year’s Ottawa 10K results click here.)

Canada’s Lanni Marchant, the current Canadian marathon record holder, and Eric Gillis, a 10K champion, will also participate in the Canadian 10K championships, being held in Ottawa for the first time.

With new recruitments of top male and female runners with personal bests’ already beating last year’s 10K winners’ time, this is expected to be one of the fastest 10K events in the world!

The Gold label Ottawa 10K is truly worth the Gold title.

See here more details about the Tamarak Ottawa Race Weekend.

Fast Forward to the Weekend with Boogat’s Newest Album

May 20, 2015 2:13 pm
Boogat - Leather Jacket - Photo Credit- Guillaume Simoneau - 1.8MB

Photo credit: Guillaume Simoneau

It’s everything you need on a Friday night after a long week: catchy, danceable and totally infectious music! Montreal MC Boogat’s newest album release, Neo-Reconquista, is enough reason to celebrate on its own.

He’s been recognized for constantly evolving his music. Boogat’s unique mixed Latin-urban-electro-pop sound will instantly put your mind into weekend-mode.

Boogat - Neo-Reconquista - Album Cover ArtAfter winning two Félix awards for World Music Album of the Year and Producer of the Year at the ADISQ industry gala for his 2013 album release, El Dorado Sunset, Boogat’s fan base has significantly grown. In past years, he’s performed at festivals in Mexico, the U.S. and has opened for Nortec Collective Quantic, Gilles Peterson and Chromeo.

Boogat’s music is now spreading more than ever, having been featured in popular movies and TV shows, like Homeland and the Forger. Boogat is drawing attention around the world for his style and firey tunes.

Don’t be lead astray by Boogat’s uptempo sound; his songs are fused with powerful emotionally-rich lyrics, tackling themes from love to cultural protectionism. Neo-Reconquista’s first single, Londres, featuring the 2015 World Music Album of the Year JUNO nominee Pierre Kwenders, Boogat explores human and environmental disappearances and homogenization, parading the importance of protecting our cultures in a time when we are surrounded by technology.

In Boogat’s second single, Me Muero Por Ti, directed by Mexican native Mariano Franco, he connects the audience to deep human emotions in a track combining Spanish reggae with modern pop.

“It’s when one’s vulnerability is revealed to the other, when we put ourselves completely at the other’s mercy,” explains Boogat.

You’re just a tap away from starting off your weekend early with Neo-Reconquista!

You can catch Boogat live in Ottawa on May 22 at the National Arts Centre. See here for more details and summer concert dates.

Ottawa Art Gallery Launches ArtWise

May 19, 2015 12:22 pm
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Bridging the gap between older adults and younger generations is exactly what the Ottawa Art Gallery hopes to do with ArtWise, its new volunteer programming council.

Collaborating with gallery staff, local artists and invited guests, the OAG ArtWise council will aim to provide opportunities for a broad range of ages to actively participate in projects at the gallery that reflect their passions. Some of these new programs will include lectures, showcases, field trips, workshops and events.

N7xTQdq6QK6odkab8wQRNAfsvGiFwJvt2uKBZ01oTy8 (1)ArtWise recognizes museum planning often strengthens the separation of generations by dividing audiences based on age (youth, families, seniors, etc.). OAG created ArtWise to combine people from all walks of life in a culturally embracive environment, allowing them to explore common interests together. Ensuring maximum inclusion, ArtWise will make translation and accessibility support available for anyone requesting it.

“There is so much that generations can learn from each other, but in our society, engaged interactions between older and younger people don’t often happen naturally. It is something that is well worth working at” says Petra Halkes, an Ottawa-based artist and independent curator.

OAG is Ottawa’s independent public art gallery featuring contemporary and 20th century art. For 25 years it has been a cultural meeting place for artists and community members, where they can examine and take part in exhibitions, talks, tours and publications. The Ottawa Art Gallery operates as a not-for-profit registered charity and is run by a volunteer Board of Directors.

For more information visit the OAG website.

Ottawa Art Gallery is looking for volunteers of all ages and from a diverse background to be part of the ArtWise programming council. If interested, please contact Stephanie Nadeau at snadeau@ottawaartgallery.ca or 613-233-8699, ext. 227.

Latin Expo 2015: Visit Latin America Without Leaving Ottawa

May 15, 2015 1:00 pm
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Culture, community and commerce are coming together for one high-powered event that’s sure to spice up your Sunday.

The third annual Latin Expo will take place at Ottawa City Hall on Sunday, May 17, 2015.

“It’s like going to Latin America without getting out of Ottawa,” says Red MELOG public relations officer Sonia Lara.

The event is organized by the Network of Latin American Women Entrepreneurs of Ottawa – Gatineau (Red MELOG), a non-government organization devoted to supporting the entrepreneurial and professional goals of Latin American women in the Ottawa-Gatineau area.

Bringing together more than 50 Latin American women exhibitors from the National Capital Region, the expo will include an array of professionals from visual artists to financial advisors, as well as keynote presentations, dance performances and delicious Latin cuisine.

Dancers perform at Latin Expo 2014

Dancers perform at Latin Expo 2014. Photo credit: Ima Ortega.

“It’s like travelling. People can expect to have a family day, joy and an educational experience. They can dance with us, they can sing. It’s open to anything really,” Lara says.

The expo celebrates Latin American women’s contributions to the community and the local economy with the theme “Your Tool for Empowerment”.

“It’s just about women. We want to empower women,” Lara says.

Latin American female role models, such as photographer Ima Ortega,

Ima Ortega, photographer and Latin Expo 2015 speaker

Ima Ortega, photographer and Latin Expo 2015 speaker

will speak at the event. Ortega says her speech will focus on the importance of Red MELOG. “I’ve been here for 30 years and there was never anything like that to support the Latin American community. I think MELOG is the first time that I’ve seen that in Ottawa. I think it’s important,” she says.

“I would like to think that I will be able to inspire some people,” Ortega says. “I would like to see myself as somebody that at least can tell them this is important and this is something that can really help us grow.”

Although the speakers come from a variety of professional fields, Lara says they have something in common: “They are leaders. They are great communicators. We will benefit immensely from their stories.”

Red MELOG members are all smiles at Latin Expo 2014

Red MELOG members were all smiles at Latin Expo 2014. Photo credit: Ima Ortega.

“We are telling women just to keep going, to work hard, to have high expectations,” Lara says. “We are not alone. We need comradery. We need community support, and MELOG is here to help all these Latin women and all communities in general to find a way.”

Admission is free! Get your ticket here.

Click here to find out more about the Latin Expo 2015.

To learn more about Red MELOG, click here.

Celebrating the Flower of Freedom

May 14, 2015 12:00 pm
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This month the 2015 Canadian Tulip Festival marks the 70th anniversary commemorating the close ties between Canada and the Netherlands. The close ties between the countries can be traced back to the liberation of the kingdom of Netherlands, when Holland’s Princess Juliana and her family sought refuge from the invading German military during the Second World War.

IMG_0249In 1943, Princess Juliana gave birth to Princess Margriet at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. The Canadian Government granted the newborn full Dutch citizenship; in efforts of ensuring the Princess maintain her line of succession to the throne. Canada was then presented with 100,000 tulip bulbs as an expression of gratitude from Holland. These roots stemmed the 1953 beginnings of the Ottawa Tulip Festival, which was later named the Canadian Tulip Festival.

Each year, the Netherlands sends 20,000 tulip bulbs to Canada as a symbol of their appreciation. The Canadian Tulip Festival attracts more than half a million visitors to the capital. It is the largest festival of its kind in the world.

On Saturday, May 8, I toured the first full day of the tulip festival with my son. I have heard it said that spending time with your children is more important than spending money on your children. The Ottawa Tulip Festival is definitely a great place to start!

We began our day with a complimentary horse and carriage ride—a return trip from Dow’s Lake to Somerset Street West. The tour was accompanied by great music, friendly smiles and an aura of patriotic freedom.

Wanting to take full advantage of the festivities, we cruised the Ottawa River in a canoe for an hour. A well-spent $16!

IMG_0207 (1)The festival is a garden of family-fun; with a blooming stretch of activities for children, including climbing structures, games, sports, arts workshops, souvenir kiosks, daily tea-time and cultural performances.

But what happened to the history of the festival, the patriotic ties and…well, the tulips? As I began writing this story, my six-year-old son commented, “Mom what you should write is that the tulips are not as nice this year.” Perhaps he has a valid point.

The tulips and all of their natural beauty seem to be taking a backseat in recent years to the other attractions being offered. The tulip stands as more than a flower, as it represents the liberation of the Netherlands from the grasp of Nazi Germany. We must try to remember this as we gaze at the 50 varieties of tulips on display at Dows Lake. The noted Ottawa photographer Malak Karsh spent his life photographing and capturing the beauty of the tulip and his memorable images remain as a testament to this wonderful gift from the Dutch people.

As my son and I took in the grand display of the flowers, I couldn’t help but think the real focus of the festival should be on what the tulip really stands for: the flower of freedom. After all, freedom is truly beautiful.

Make sure to catch the 2015 Canadian Tulip Festival, on now until May 18.

Click here for more info.

Folk Rock Hits the Road to Ottawa

May 12, 2015 12:07 pm
The River and the Road

Shining headlights across the country, Vancouver-based folk rock band The River and The Road are touring Canada in support of their new album. They will be stopping in Ottawa on Thursday, May 14, for a performance at Cafe Dekcuf.

the-River-and-the-Road-DinerThe band started off as a busking duo, consisting of singer and guitarist Andrew Phelan and Keenan Lawlor on vocals and banjo. In spring of 2012, they emerged as a quartet with the addition of drummer Cole George and bassist John Hayes. The band’s first full-length album was self-titled and released in the spring of 2012.

Throughout Canada and Australia, The River and The Road are recognized for their sincere lyrics, heavy percussion breakdowns and, above all, gripping live performances.

The band’s anticipated second record, Headlights, will be available for purchase on iTunes Tuesday, May 12. It features 10 diverse tracks according to Lawlor, ranging from ballads to bluesy folk.

“My favourite songs would probably be White Flag and The Bee,” he explains after much contemplation. “They turned out pretty well on the album and somehow resonate more for me than the others.”

Take a listen to the album’s single Mistakes and figure out why it is my favourite track.

“Our first album was put together by just me and Andrew with couple friends playing on it,” Lawlor says. “The new album shows off the four of us and is much bigger and a lot more exciting.”

Released through MapleMusic Recordings, Headlights is produced by Jamey Koch, who has previously worked with artists like the Tragically Hip, Michael Bublé and Ron Sexsmith.

“Jamie is probably the most passionate person I have ever worked with on a professional basis,” Lawlor says. “He just got a lot out of us performance wise and I think he really made us shine.”

Lawlor says The River and The Road have always had a good crowd at their shows in the Capital.

“We really enjoy playing in Ottawa,” he says. “Out of Eastern and Central Canada it is one of my favourite spots.”

For more information, including tour dates and tickets, check out The River and The Road website or Facebook page.

Pick Zaac For Your Weekend Concert

May 7, 2015 11:11 am
Zaac Pick - Purple Horizontal - 2015 - Photo Credit Rachel Pick - 1.2MB

Zaac Pick will have Ottawa stargazing with his performance at the Black Sheep Inn on May 7, where he will be sharing songs from his new folk-pop album Constellations.

The Vancouver-based singer-songwriter released his debut full-length album last month. Co-produced by Jonathan Anderson, the album was recorded over a span of nearly two years and across four provinces, with band members in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

Zaac Pick - Constellations - Album Cover Artwork - 1.3MB“Ultimately I am making music trying to recreate how much music means to me—how it has accompanied me through good times or helped me through more difficult times,” Pick explains. “It is always incredibly rewarding to hear that your music has done that for someone else.”

Constellations is a collection of nine heartfelt songs featuring compelling lyrics and haunting melodies. Pick’s favourite track on the album is Kites.

“It is the song that I feel allowed me to explore some new possibilities and territory with my voice that I didn’t know were there,” he explains. “I am really glad that my producer encouraged me to explore my range a little more.”

Take a listen to the track here.

Pick has released two albums before Constellations. His first solo EP, Fierce Wind, came out in 2009 and his sophomore EP, Whitewater, in 2011. After two years of steady writing and touring, Pick has seen much growth in his music.

“If the albums were a painting, the other ones would be more muted and less saturated colours,” Pick says. “This one has a lot more texture and depth for sure.”

So far in his career, Pick has earned a West Coast Music Award nomination for Best Solo Roots Recording and has shared stages with acts like Grammy-Award winning duo the Civil Wars, Bahamas and Noah Gundersen. His music has also been used on primetime TV shows including Rookie Blue, Saving Hope, Bitten and One Tree Hill.

Pick is hitting stages across the country throughout April and May. He will be stopping in Wakefield, Quebec this month.

“I have had a few small, but really good shows (in the Ottawa area) so I am really looking forward to coming back,” Pick explains. “Especially being from the opposite side of the country, it is just a really fun place.”

For more information about Constellations or its release tour, visit Pick’s website.

Eat, Drink, pARTy

May 6, 2015 10:13 am
David Kaarsemaker

Artist: David Kaarsemaker

Looking for new artwork to freshen up your home?

The Ottawa Art Gallery’s leading fundraising event Le pARTy Art Auction will lead you to the perfect piece!

On Thursday, May 21, prepare to be whisked away in a cultural fantasy land surrounded by
Ottawa’s best food, drinks and of course, art!

Artist: Meredith Snider

Artist: Meredith Snider

The event is a silent art auction featuring the art of 65 accomplished regional artists, each individually chosen through a peer-based selection process.

While some of the participating artists are in the midst of their careers, others are new talents who are increasingly rising into the scene.

Featured in the show will be a variety of media types, including ceramics, printmaking, mixed media, fashion design, photography…the list goes on and on!

The selection committee puts a strong focus on highlighting every aspect of our region’s ethnic and linguistic differences, bringing attention to important forms of cultural expression in our community.

Whether you’re replacing an old piece of artwork or looking to add something new to your home, there’ll be a painting, a sculpture or a photograph that is destined to be adopted into your household.

For nearly 20 years, Le pARTy has been a primary source of the gallery’s overall operating budget. All funds from the event go towards preparations for the gallery’s new building, curating the famous Firestone Collection of Canadian Art and supporting Ottawa’s artistic community.

When the event arrives, take a moment to glance around the room for pink stars. These mark the five pieces included in the Critics’ Choice, which is an initiative that aims to shed light on the auction’s most noteworthy pieces. After being selected by a group of Ottawa’s arts experts the Critics’ Choices’ will be announced on Monday, May 18.

Join fellow art lovers and foodies this spring in the pursuit of the perfect piece.

Are you ready to place your bid?

Ready, Set, Race!

May 4, 2015 2:05 pm
Running

There’s no denying that the Rideau Canal is the prefect route for a spring run.

Runners have already dusted off their shoes and have taken to the pathway to prepare for the upcoming races across Ottawa.

This season, Sporting Life will be hosting their first 10k event in Ottawa on Mother’s Day. The race route will run along the scenic route of the Rideau Canal with the post run party hosted at Lansdowne Park on Sunday, May 10. The run is perfect for families looking to support their community in a fun and active setting and it’s also a great opportunity for women to get out and celebrate Mom.

“We are so excited to work with Sporting Life on their first 10k event in Ottawa,” says Connie Lebrun, Corporate Development Officer, CHEO Foundation. “With net proceeds going to the children’s hospital, this event will generate essential funds to further our support of local children and families in need.”

“When you weigh the price to run and what you get with the offering participants are virtually running for free,” says John Roe, Director of Marketing Sporting Life. “Plus you add in that when you raise over $100 you get your registration fee back…it’s a win-win for both the participant and the charity. What makes the Sporting Life 10k different than all others is that all the net proceeds go to the charity.”

There is still time to register. See you there!

Click here for more information.

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