Sunday, January 15, 2012

TorQ percussion therapy

Last night I was back down at Keyano Theatre for the third night in a row.  I am afraid this is becoming quite a habit.  Not that I intend to break this one, in fact I fully intend to feed it!  A friend and I are here on a Saturday night to see TorQ.

This young Toronto Quartet (or the shortened version TorQ) was quite frankly amazing. These intrepid musicians have hit the open road with the help of Prairie Debut and their partners to bring percussion therapy to the prairies. The artists, Dan Morphy, Adam Campbell, Jamie Drake and Richard Burrows, bring  with them musical backgrounds, degrees and a passion for percussion. They have a repertoire that has their own compositions and those of better-known and quirky John Cage to delight the audience. 
Now I do not pretend to know all the names of the instruments that they played this evening, however I don't think that you need to in order to enjoy the experience. I did recognize some of instruments from my days attending the Oilsands Rotary Music Festival throughout my son's elementary education so I am not a complete newbie.  What this group of performers did with a menagerie of unusual instruments, from a lion's roar to a conch shell, and the tamer caxixi, wooden blocks and mallet percussion instruments, was absolutely entertaining. If you have a chance to spend an evening with TorQ I strongly encourage you to block it off in your will not regret it.

And things keep getting better with TorQ.  In addition to promoting percussion they are committed to helping further music education in schools across Canada.  By performing percussion-only concerts, TorQ hopes to encourage young percussionists (and other musicians) to become more engaged in music, and to learn to seek out interesting musical experiences. TorQ is partnered with Prologue to the Performing Arts for their educational work and your school or school group can book them through Prologue. I feel that the promotion of  music is an integral part of a child's education and needs to be fostered in both the home and education system. Different musical styles are to be appreciated for their offerings and while one might have a preference of one over another there is definitely room for all. During the evening the musicians provided educational pieces in between songs which I loved.  Not only did I get to enjoy mesmerizing music I learnt quite a few things about the history of percussion and a better understanding the instruments themselves.  

I will admit that while I enjoyed some pieces more than others it was a great evening exploring the world of percussionists. There was a piece of "found music"that had two women volunteering from the audience by Ann Southam called Natural Resources(what to do until the power comes on) that I think would be fun for students to do and had the audience giggling in amusement. While I enjoyed the mellow music of "Sleep" by Eric Whitacre, which conjured up mental images of mist and rolling green meadows, I was thrilled by the flamingo inspired "El Mosquito Marron" composed by TorQ's very own Adam Campbell. 
My favorite piece was not listed on the program, but I was delighted when that TorQ came back on stage to perform Stinkin Garbage. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The righteously spectacular, outstanding and mind-blowing Banff Film Festival

The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour is something that I have attended since it first came to Fort McMurray. At first it was just my husband and myself who faithfully attended from the inaugural event 13 years ago (yes, I know I am dating myself by saying that). When our son got older we began making this a family affair.  So every year around Christmas we excitedly start looking for the dates that the migratory tour will land at Keyano Theatre.  Every year the Fort McMurray Public Library  brings this most amazing series of films to quite a diverse gathering of people here in Wood Buffalo. You would be correct to assume that you will see a plethora of North Face attired outdoor enthusiasts in the audience, however you will also see a large amount of individuals who enjoy quality National Geographic documentaries.
This is the first time that we have attended both nights.  At first we did not realize that they had a completely different line-up each night, then it was because one night was on a school night so we had to pick only Friday nights.  However this year because of a change in the school calendar there was no school on Friday so that meant for the first time ever we all got to see both nights. And a collective cheer rises to the household rafters!

On Thursday night we decide to start things off right.  A quick bite to eat at Mucho Burrito's before the 7:30 pm has been decided upon by the boys and I going to disagree with the fact I don't have to cook supper?  Shout out to  for helping us with our decision - Thank you.  While standing in line I notice that our son is kinda' confused about the ordering process and what he may want to eat so I begin the usual conversation regarding the "How to Order Sign" and menu choices.  My husband chimes in with a couple of suggestions and because we have quite a few people ahead of us we settle into our own struggle to decide on what we want to eat for the night.  In the silence of thought our son suddenly announces to all within ear-shot...." Oh...I get it! It's a Mexican Subway!"  At least he liked the food.
We arrived early at Keyano Theatre with tickets in hand so we could find parking, which is notoriously difficult on evenings that have both classes and events.  It is all smiles as we find our seats and settle in for what we know will be a stunning array of adventures. We were not disappointed and well... frankly.... there has not been a time we have attended the Banff Mountain Film Festival where we were.  Each year the quality of the films has gotten better as technology enters into the world of adventure enthusiast.  Thursday night is full of incredible images from rock climbing  in the Ennedi Desert of Chad where veteran climber Mark Synnott brings young climbing stars Alex Honnold and James Pearson to the Ennedi to explore the Towers of the Ennedi, breath-taking footage of scuba-diving beneath the North Pole to the funny animation of a skiing cave-man in "The Man and The Mammoth" (our son's favorite).  Although I like all of the night's films if pushed I would have to say it was "Ski Bums Never Die".  This was a short 4 minute film that starred a group of seniors who meet each day to carving it up. My favorite was the only woman of the group who happened to be 76 years old and could put most young people to shame. After a day of skiing, and yes...biffing.. this group of geriatric plankers pile into the back of the pickup for the ride down to get their cars. Makes you re-evaluate what it means to be a senior after watching that. We can hardly wait for the next night's line-up.
The next night when our travelling BMFF road warrior asks the audience, "Who was here last night?" I am not entirely surprised to see almost half the hands shoot into the air.  This is a dedicated group of people who attend each year.  I am guaranteed to see many of the same people year after year....some for the full 13 years.  We start off the night with an absolutely amazing nine-year-old girl, Ashima Shiraishi, from New York City who is taking the bouldering world by storm in the film "Origins".  We are inspired by Tim Cope, his band of horses, and his dog Tigon in "The Last Frontier" as they travel overland 10,000 km from Mongolia to Hungary, following the footsteps of legendary warrior and nomad Genghis Khan which takes 3 years to complete. I liked it quite a bit although our son says he drank too much vodka.  The inspiring story of Josh Dueck who was an aspiring skier and coach until a ski accident in 2004 changed his life forever and left him paralyzed.  Not to give up his dream he came back to win gold in the Paralympic Games in his sit-ski. The end of the film festival had more than one person in audience shaking their heads over insanely fearless slack liner Sketchy Andy and his nude antics. The one that all of us could agree on was the hilarious 8 minute one man quest to revolutionize the world of animal avalanche rescue through the use of the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Cat Association. Not to give away the ending or anything, but the rapid deployment method of avalanche cats was a cannon full of fun.
All of us had another fantastic mind-blowing evening of the most righteous and spectacular kind.  Thank you to everyone at the Fort McMurray Public Library and all the local sponsors who work so hard to get the Banff Mountain Film Festival to Wood Buffalo.  I know that our family looks forward to this yearly family tradition. And with Radical Reels looking like it will be an annual event we are more than happy to add this to the family tradition list.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Convoluted Reflections

It is the year 2012 and the world is still spinning.  The world did not self destruct in some Mayan apocalyptic calendar reset. And if you have stock piled a bunch of supplies....well... good excuse as any to throw a party I suppose.
As for most people this is a time for reflecting on the past year and making resolutions. Me?...I am not so big into resolutions as I think that we constantly need to strive to be more than we are so saving it up for one big burst is pretty much pointless. Life constantly challenges me and each time I need to decide to either accept that the universe's gauntlet has been slapped down in a direct challenge or carefully step aside. In life, we do both.
Life has dealt me some pretty big challenges this year...some new...some old.  Life has also dealt me some big blessings or gifts this year as well...some new...some old.  Sometimes it is hard to see where the challenge ends and the blessing begins and vice versa.  I guess it is just how you look at it.
Like many other people I could list everything off like life's laundry list, but what would happen if I missed someone or something? How could I explain that they or that was just as important?  I could make this blog into that yearly Christmas brag letter that some people write every year, but what would be the point?  No one likes a braggart.  Besides who am I to brag about something?  It could be that my brag moment is another person's she's a bitch moment. So what can a person do?
So what do I do about putting down those yearly reflections and resolutions that happen each year around this time....nothing. I will carry on trying to do the best that I can do regardless of the date on the calendar or what year it might be. I know that sometimes I will accept the challenge and sometimes I will chose not to, and in the end it was my choice.  I will understand that at times I will fail, and I fully expect to, and that's OK. I will understand that sometimes I will not, and to accept the victory with humility and gratitude.  I will understand that people come in all personalities, shapes and sizes and I don't have to fit into someone else' cookie cutter ideology of what a person should be. I will continue to make new friends while understanding that not everyone who enters my life is one. I will accept that life can be both a cruel and giving task master and enter into it with the reckless abandonment of one who is grateful to be alive.
To everyone who has made this past year know who you are.... I  give you all a heart-felt thank you. I will keep you close to me forever and love the joy you have given to my life.  To everyone who has made this past year challenging and times painful, I thank you as well.  That's right.  I said thank you. How else am I suppose to know what not to do?  Each person that has entered my life has shaped that path I walk, lessons I have learnt and all the steps that I will take in the future. Hmm...I guess I did have some reflecting to do after all.
Come on 2012...Bring it.