Internationally known for its summer bounty of theatre, chamber music and jazz festivals, the wide variety of performing arts presentations throughout the Peninsula from now until the coming of spring clearly demonstrates the ever-growing, year-round activity that draws patrons out of their warm cocoons and into the magic and mystery that awaits them in our theatres.
Celebrating its 60th birthday, the Niagara Symphony and music director Daniel Swift launch this year’s Pops! with a pair of performances (October 27 & 28) featuring best-loved Americana from Joplin ragtime to Bernstein’s classic, West Side Story. Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony (“Pathétique”) anchors the “Passion of Angels” Masterworks program (November 25). Guest artists range from CBC host Barbara Budd (May 3 & 4) who will narrate a show based on books to violinist Marc Djokic (April 13) performing Edouard Lalo’s incredibly challenging Symphonie espagnole. Classical buffs will be treated to works by Schubert, Beethoven and Mendelssohn. In all, eight programs are planned.
Chorus Niagara, under the perennial leadership of conductor Robert Cooper is offering four concerts that are as varied as their locations. First up is Sir Paul McCartney’s Ecce Cor Meum (Behold My Heart – An Oratorio for Our Times) with Orchestra London in the pit (November 4, Lake Street Armoury). Meditation-inspired, Latvian composer Rihards Dubra’s Nativitate is the featured work on December 8 (The Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandra). On March 1 also at the Cathedral of St. Catherine, well-known conductor/composer Derek Holman’s Requiem will be presented. The series closes in Calvary Church where on May 10 Handel’s mighty oratorio Joshua will stir hearts and souls, reminding all that there is life beyond Messiah.
For the Gallery Players of Niagara, the 2007-2008 season also has some venue changes. Rodman Hall is out. Scheduling difficulties with the landlord (Brock University) means that the octogenarian Steinway will never have to be endured again. But the picturesque setting of master chamber works being brought to life surrounded by contemporary art is lost. Instead, the four-concert series will have single readings (Sundays @2:00 p.m.) in St. Catharines. Three of those (January 20, February 17, April 6) move to St. Barnabas Church and will include favourite selections by Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn as well as more contemporary fare from the likes of Shostakovich, Ibert and Nielsen). Don’t miss the opener (November 18, Knox Presbyterian Church) where David Louie makes a welcome return to perform (with Julie Baumgartel and Margaret Gay) piano trios by Mendelssohn and Brahms.
Never forgetting that the Shaw Festival keeps some of its shows afloat until Halloween, other theatre companies are more than willing to fill the gap once the famed repertory company takes a well-deserved rest.
Theatre in Port’s intimate venue (and first-rate cuisine) makes dinner-theatre a fine art. Little Shop of Horrors opens October 12. The musical-based-on-the-movie will engage and delight audiences until November 4. Then, ever-popular Canadian playwright Norm Foster’s Wrong for Each Other hits the boards on November 23 and runs merrily along until New Year’s Eve.
Niagara’s newest theatre troupe, Lyndesfarne Theatre Projects takes over the Sullivan Mahoney Theatre for two productions. A.R. Gurney’s correspondence tour de force, Love Letters, runs December 5 – 16. Prolific and much-admired Canadian writer George F. Walker’s Problem Child (February 20 – March 9) couldn’t be more topical as family matters from adoption rights to privacy violations continue to grab the headlines.
Atop the escarpment, Brock’s Centre for the Arts is chock-a-block full with four dozen presentations of specially selected artists from Canada and beyond.
No one will want to miss Nova Scotia’s bad-boy fiddler, Ashley MacIsaac (October 17) as his music and Celtic tap hit the stage for James Devine’s “Tapeire – Driven by Rhythm.” Dancing of an entirely different ilk comes to town on November 2 with an appearance by Taylor 2 (they’re so popular a second troupe from New York City’s Paul Taylor Dance Company has been formed to keep up with audience demand and the budgets of smaller venues). Music ranges from Baroque to American folk. Don’t miss this incredible display of bodies in motion.
Music lovers will have lots to cheer about before 2007 winds up: International Guitar Night (November 28), a tribute to James Taylor the following evening, José Feliciano (December 6), the Irish Rovers (December 9) and the Nylons to celebrate Christmas (December 13).
In 2008, the winter blahs can be banished by attending such diverse attractions as the East Village Opera Company (January 23), The Spirit of Harriet Tubman (February 19 and back by popular demand as part of Black History Month) and a spectacular celebration of International Women’s Day (March 8—just two days after Lesley Gore) featuring Kiran Ahluwalia, Ndidi Onukwulu and Tanya Tagaq.
With a season like this, there’s no doubt about it: artists of the world are beating a path to Niagara. JWR