November 2013

Ross Petty Returns with The Little Mermaid

Ross Petty's The Little Mermaid.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham

Every year at Christmas time Ross Petty Productions has brought  their unique brand of family entertainment to the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. This year instead of the Brothers Grimm he has chosen Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid as his story of choice. Ontario’s O-Fish-Al Family Musical is the 18th year of his holiday production.

This is theatrical fun at its best; a fractured fairy tale.  The humour is aimed at the entire audience with enough grown up content to keep the adults attention and the humour that has kids laughing loudly and booing and hissing at Petty’s character, the evil  Ogopogo.

“I love it” says Petty who is a serious actor with some serious stage and screen credentials behind him, “I get to be a kid again, put on the mascara and  be the villain. The more they BOO me the better.”

The story has little to do with the Disney movie. Too high a cost for the use of the brand and more to do with the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale , which as a song and dance routine in the prologue says is completely “public domain.”

In typical Petty fashion, 18 crowd pleasing years and counting, the comedy content was topical and current, with thankfully very few Rob Ford references.  I think people are tired of hearing about him so we didn’t do much about him this year,” Petty said.

Sultans of String-Symphony in the House

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Story: Lenny Stoute

It’s a simple concept Chris McKhool had, the bringing together of a tapestry of world music from Sultans of String, with the exalted discipline of Western symphonic music. Simple idea, wicked complex in the execution, the kind of challenge that makes McKhool a happy guy. While the Sultans have pulled off collabo recordings and concerts with Symphony orchestras before, current album Symphony, recorded and to be performed by a handpicked orchestra from Toronto’s finest classical ensembles, is reckoned to be their gold standard.

Arguably Canada’s best-known practitioners of world music fusion, Toronto-based Sultans of String recently added to their laurels with a Folk Award as Best World Music Group in the land.
As to the ‘Best Band’ thing, McKhool humbly demures , noting the presence of hundreds of gifted musicians from all over the world who call Canada home, many of whose voices are yet to be heard. As befitting a pro in the biz, he heaps praise on the business team behind the band, without which it’s acknowledged it would be way harder to get as far as they have.

Winter Child – Ed Henderson

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

Ed Henderson has had a diversified career, from performing with Leon Bibb and his brother Bill’s band Chilliwack, his work composing scores for theatre, documentaries and network television.  He has been commissioned to compose works for many including the Vancouver Chamber Choir, Elektra Women’s Choir, The Dance Centre, Canadian Music Centre, the Vancouver InterCultural Orchestra and musica intima.   He has been nominated for numerous awards and is the recipient of many including a Juno (Ancient Cultures, El Camino Real), Jessie Richardson and Dora Mavor Moore (theatre), Leo (TV score) and Cannes (TV score).

Winter Child is his new solo guitar release and hopefully radio is smart enough to embrace this on their seasonal rotation, as it is a refreshing offering of holiday music.

Carol of the Bells/That Bell Thing is a wonderful opening track reminiscent of Fernando Sor while The First Nowell brings back the spirit of Christmas long ago, memories and family.  Carol of the Drum incorporates The Little Drummer Boy with bassy, deep playing and an intricate jazz style.

The Child’s Dream feels like just that; with snowflakes and frosted windows, waiting for Santa to come.

Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabela is pleasant and easy to listen to while Blessed Child takes you back to the first track with the Spanish influence. O Come O Come, Emmanuel is a rich recording, with an ancient feel of times gone by and the title track Winter Child is a pretty tune with a jazz arrangement.

Proudly Canadian: Harmonium

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Submitted by Sandy Graham

The origins of Montreal’s Harmonium date back to when lead vocalist and guitarist Serge Fiori met Michel Normandeau (vocals and guitar) in a theatre music meeting on November 1972. In 1973 they met bassist Louis Valois and became Harmonium. The legendary radio station on Montreal, CHOM FM, was instrumental in breaking the band, playing three tracks;"Pour un Instant", "Un Musicien Parmi Tant D'autres", and "Un Refrain Parmi Tant D'autres". The first 2 songs were demos and were later recorded in the studio and  put on their first album, Harmonium. The last song was a sequel to "Un Musicien Parmi Tant D'autres", but never made the album cut, staying unreleased. The single ‘Pour Un Instant’ stayed in steadfast rotation for many years on FM Radio, both in the English market as well as French.

George Jones The Final No Show

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Submitted by Don Graham
Photo at right: Big and Rich

George Jones was booked for his farewell tour in 2013 with the final show of his illustrious career scheduled for Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Broadway.  Jones passed away seven months before the November 22nd date, at the sage of 81, but the show went on without him. George Jones was famous, or infamous, during his addiction days to being a “no show” at many concerts so it was fitting to make this show his final “no show”. I think George would have got a kick out of it.

Martina McBride and George StraitMartina McBride and George Strait"During the funeral, we mourned George; tonight we celebrate," former Grand Ole Opry announcer Keith Bilbrey told the crowd at Bridgestone Arena. The night was billed as ‘Playin' Possum: The Final No Show’and the sold-out concert featured acts ranging from Garth Brooks to Kid Rock, from Megadeth to George Strait. Big & Rich opened the show, taking the stage in on a pair of John Deere Green riding mowers and singing “Love Bug”, a 1965 hit. Then John Rich introduced Kid Rock, who sang “White Lightning”.Early in the show, co-host Charlie Chase announced that 112 artists would appear on the show, which ran longer than four hours.