Sunday, June 5, 2011

Awesome Saturday - Great Dinner, Visual Art and Music

The main highways through Toronto's core are closed to cars today for the annual Ride for Heart. Click to see the great detail I am getting from my new Canon SX220!

I had just a great day yesterday. Not only did I get my errands done as 11 Ikea boxes sitting before me are evidence of, but I had a fabulous evening thanks to my son Eric.

Eric had invited me along to enjoy the Zoe Keating Concert and we ended up having a chock full evening with dinner and an art show added onto our itinerary.  Eric was even heading out after the concert for his 1st Saturday in the month standing group Rock Band event at Rockie Raccoon's Eatery afterwards.  More energy than I! 

The Gladstone Hotel - Dinner and Art

We were able to meet and catch up on chit chat at The Gladstone for dinner before the show. Eric was not familiar with the Gladstone as a visual arts showplace and so after dinner we snuck upstairs for a quick look at whatever was on the walls.

I have written about the Gladstone Hotel before. It is a small (37 room) boutique hotel located 10 minutes north of Liberty Village in the trendy Queen St West strip. The rooms are fabulous, each uniquely designed and a must stay place for the well moneyed in the arts.  You might want to check out the Gladstone and the Building Storeys exhibit where I  provided background information on the hotel and wrote about an exhibit of photos of old Toronto Industrial Buildings, many which were taken by "Urban Explorers" (who explore urban areas which are mostly off limits to the public).   In researching this blog, I noticed that the Gladstone web site now has a video which gives a walking tour of the hotel, restaurant and art spaces, so I will say no more but direct you there is you are not familiar with the Gladstone.

The Hotel has gallery space on the top 3 floors and often there will be a show open to the public, which is why Eric and I wandered upstairs. When we got there we discovered that there was a charity art event happening, "Make It", a show and sale of stuff produced by 30 local artists, designers and craftspeople in aid of the Furniture Bank. We hurried through and had a quick look at the art on display as we were anxious not to be late for our concert. I was struck by the interesting pieces by Natasha Kudashkina, some of which were 3D art pieces. Actually, I preferred looking at them without the 3D glasses, but it was kind of interesting to see how the 3D effect changed the look of the works.

The Great Hall - Music of Zoe Keating
The venue for the main event of the evening was Toronto's Great Hall.
The building was constructed in 1898, the same year as the Gladstone Hotel was built.  From their Website:
... It housed the first west end YMCA in Toronto. The "Y" offered athletic facilities that included a gymnasium with a raised running track, and a basement swimming pool. Canadian native marathon star Tom Longboat worked out here when he won the Boston Marathon in 1907, as did chocolate magnate and accomplished amateur wrestler, Morden Neilson, it was also home to some of the earliest basketball games ever played in history.
  As a sidebar, the Neilson Ice Cream and Chocolate Factory was an important employer in the greater Parkdale area (which includes this area of the Queen West strip as well as Liberty Village) with their factory located on Gladstone Avenue.  My own mother started her first job there having left school and moved out on her own at age 16.

Photo from The Great Hall Venue Website.

The Great Hall is located on the upper two stories of the 3 1/2 story building utilizing the old gym and running track area of the building.  The acoustics were fabulous and my only complaint was that there were no chairs put  out - it was a standing event.  Which did make it easy for me to scootch up stage side and get some spectacular photos and video, but also meant that at the end my feet thanked Zoe for not doing an encore. 

I would have forgiven the long wait outside to get in if we had been seated upon entrance, but when you add the wait standing outside to get in, the hour wait inside until the show started and then the standing time for the show - it was too much for many of us in the audience.  Now that I have gotten my complaints out of the way, let me tell you how impressed I was with the musician!

Zoe Keating - Avante Garde Cellist

This close-up was taken with my Canon sx220 using the low light settings and zoom from about 15-20 feet.

Zoe Keating is a Canadian Cellist from Guelph - a city which is a few hours north-west of Toronto.  Her music is very hard to describe - its root is classical, but it is too experimental to describe just as classical.   She has many film and multimedia credits in her portfolio as well as an impressive list of venues she has performed her "layered" solo cello compositions.  According to Wiki:
Zoë Keating (born February 2, 1972) is a Canadian-born cellist and composer based in San Francisco, California.
In her solo performances and recordings (particularly the ongoing project she calls "One Cello x 16"), she uses live electronic sampling and repetition in order to layer the sound of her cello, creating rhythmically dense musical structures. Zoë's self-produced album One Cello x 16: Natoma has four times made it to #1 on the iTunes classical charts. Keating is the recipient of a 2009 Performing Arts grant from the Creative Capital Foundation.

It is evident that this music requires more than the normal focus to perform the piece.

The part that I found very interesting is that integral to her sound is the use of a sampling board and a Mac computer, which she activates with a foot pedal during the performance.  She slowly builds up layers of the sound by sampling a number of bars of the song and replaying it while she adds other sections of the Cello to her "orchestra".  Combine that technique with some pretty innovative compositions and you have some mighty fine listening.  Never mind we were all standing on our feet for quite some time.

I recorded a video to bring to you a small sample of one of her compositions - "Hello Night".  You will agree, I am sure, that it is a very interesting sound.

Zoe is herself a very interesting person.  She comes across very genuine and bursting with creativity during the performance.  She did explaining some of her thoughts behind a few of the peices, but said that she encouraged everyone to ascribe their own meaning to the music.  I purchased her CD, "Into the Trees" at the show and am enjoying it now as I write this blog.  It does match my mellow mood these days.

If you want to know more about Zoe and her music you might want to watch this You Tube documentary  I found.  It is from the Intel Visual Life series, which brings us a personal look at some very interesting folks - uploads to a contest on Visual Life.

Zoe also did a 5 minute live recorded Ignite Events presentation titled "Should you quit your job to go on tour with a rock band" - because that is exactly what she did. Go here if you are interested to hear her tell more about her transition from a career in technology to an award winning "Layered Cello" composer and musician.

You can go to Zoe's website for more information on her music and concert schedule.   Another interesting article is this interview in Music Think Tank which talks about her tech savy with social networking and her free song download in exchange for a tweet offer.

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