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The Art Within the Tulips

May 23, 2016 2:19 pm
The Art Within the Tulips

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
Weekend What’s Up – May 20th to 23rd

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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A Musical Farewell with Oliver Jones

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.

AGOOA Jewelry: Giving Back to the Earth

11:06 am
AGOOA Jewelry: Giving Back to the Earth

Lately it seems that everything we buy, wear and eat comes with a bit of contention. As consumers, it’s becoming more important to understand how our products are made, and who or what will be affected by choosing what we consume. It’s a big responsibility, and sometimes it’s difficult to be vigilantly critical when navigating the big world of stuff. That’s why we love AGOOA jewellery; it takes the guesswork out of shopping and allows you to wear beautiful jewellery sans the guilt or worry.

AGOOA is a company that cares, and you can tell from their website. Their mantra is “fashion with a purpose,” and their cause is the plight of elephants, and a fitting one at that. Elephants have long been hunted for the ivory of their tusks to make jewellery, and are now an endangered species, often hunted illegally and brutally killed for their ivory tusks.

AGOOA does use ivory for some of their pieces, but not ivory from elephants. It uses something called Rainforest Ivory (Phytelephas aequatorialis). Found in the tropical rainforests of Colombia, this botanical version of ivory comes from a palm tree! They use a part of the seed from the nuts of the palm, which is as hard as elephant ivory by nature. AGOOA also buys directly from the small growers of this palm in the Pacific area of Colombia, in order to support their communities. 

They use this alternative to ivory for their “Rainforest Collection.”

They are also partnered with 1% for the Planeta charitable organization that enables companies to donate a portion of their revenue back to the planet. In AGOOA’s case, a portion of their sales goes to support the environment, under-resourced communities and preservation of African elephants. This means that when you buy a piece of jewellery from AGOOA, you’re also contributing to the efforts to save an endangered species.

As for the gemstones, AGOOA buys them from certified manufacturers and exporters mainly from Brasil. This isn’t that coloured glass stuff made to look like gemstones, these are real gems harvested from the earth.

Based out of Sugar Land, Texas (yes, that is a real place), AGOOA jewellery places “harmony with the earth” at the heart of its business. The materials used for their jewellery – such as amethyst, stalactite, agate, citrine – are usually plated in silver, and come with what AGOOA calls the gem’s “spiritual quality.”


Image courtesy of AGOOA.

According to AGOOA, the amethyst earrings above are meant to help the wearer find inner strength, to promote good dreams, and to offer calmness through mind, body, and spirit. The following necklace, named “In Fate’s Hands Hamsa Necklace,” made out of colourful agate, uses the ancient Egyptian symbol of Hamsa to strengthen the wearers aura and energy. Who knows if it works, but it certainly can’t hurt!


Image courtesy of AGOOA.

Because the designs are crafted with good ecological intentions, it’s easy to understand how AGOOA might make you feel more connected to the world around you. AGOOA takes from the earth, and does the incredible thing of giving something back to it too! Not to mention AGOOA just has some really beautiful and unique pieces. Check out the following slideshow and visit their their website to see more.


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