JWR Articles: Commentary - The Magic of Fine Art (Featured artists: Jason Cadieux, André-Michel Schub, JoAnn Falletta, James Hiscott) - October 20, 2002 id="543337086">

The Magic of Fine Art

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A version of this article appeared in the October 16, 2002 edition of the St. Catharines Standard
The writer's soul is wondrously revived

I thought the first day of October would never end. On the home front my toilet bowl was threatening to outdo Niagara Falls. I’d been meaning to buy a plunger.

At work, I learned that the new project manager of our major funder had a much different view of the guidelines than her predecessor. My proposal would have to be completely re-done.

But nothing could have prepared me for the attack of the office machines.

Our five-figure photocopier digested the re-drafted application hungrily, but like the throne-seat in my apartment, blocked the sheets in the passageway. Soon after, the fax machine played editor and forwarded four pages instead of 16 to an adjudicator who was investigating our organization’s capacity to manage a large grant. And then the coffee-maker had the audacity to refuse starting the brew-cycle until I remembered to turn it on.

Ignoring the chuckles of my co-workers, and using freshly installed software, I set about updating the website. But I had to fight back tears when I realized that the file I’d slaved on for hours had vanished from my hard drive, even though I was pretty sure I’d saved it prior to the installation of the Web-publishing program. Fortunately, I’d neglected to empty my wastebasket, so the recreated month-end results were ready to upload by lunch.

But then, having successfully published the reconstructed information to the server, the few remaining brown hairs on my over-heated head blanched entirely when I tested the result only to see that none of the new features (search-tool, navigation bar and background wallpaper) worked. The best our internet service provider’s helpdesk could do was to assign the “trouble-ticket” an “administrative escalation” designation. Failed by technology—again!

Enough. Reeling from visions of missed deadlines, cyberspace embarrassment and collusion amongst electronic timesaving devices, I stormed out of work and flew to the Pen Centre determined to finally purchase the bathroom aid that would at least permit me to have one successful download that day.

I stomped into the mall; wary shoppers made way. Suddenly, in the midst of composing a scathing memo telling the Master-of-Microsoft where he could put his mouse, my attitude swung from darkness to light as I heard in the distance the unmistakable sound of live toe-tappin’ jazz. It was a miracle on Glendale Avenue.

Uncontrollably grinning from ear to ear, I shuffled to the food court where the Bill Stevens Dixieland Band was playing a set of authentic N’Orleans charts in celebration of International Music Day. The Canadian Ministry of Heritage and the recording industry’s music performance trust funds had provided the cash for this daylong buffet of free music. No stranger to Dixie myself (licorice-stick in a band called the Muskrat Ramblers), I’d put my performing career on hold as other parts of life demanded more attention.

Reluctantly leaving the band to get up close and personal with my wooden-handle slush pump, I celebrated the re-discovery of the unfailing remedy for life’s trials and frustrations: fine art.

Rejuvenated by “When The Saints Go Marching In,” I vowed that investigating the fabulous array of artistic expression that’s available in Niagara would go to the top of my to-do list.

Forty-eight hours later, I took in Unleavable, a comedy by local resident, Jason Cadieux, (presented by Theatre Arts Niagara), which was a one-act exploration of spousal-relationships, greed and “useful” lies. While it didn’t leave me rolling in the aisles, there were many clever moments and Peter Higginson’s performance as the conniving publisher was first-rate. TAN’s next production Be Wearing Wolf, opens at the Old Court House Theatre Space on November 21—I’ll be there.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s Sunday matinée offered a marvellous program of Mozart, Mahler and Brahms. It was a great pleasure to savour the acoustic excellence of Kleinhans Music Hall, just 46 kilometres from Welland and Bunting. And, driving home, still dazzled by the technical brilliance of guest pianist André-Michel Schub and the artistic integrity of music director JoAnn Falletta, I was finally able to laugh off any lingering angst of October 1.

Surprisingly, a common thread to all of these outstanding performances was the large number of empty seats.

OK—I’m guilty, too. It took an exceptionally stressful day and an incredible coincidence to rekindle my dormant passion for live artistic expression; to be reminded how its power and beauty can have such positive effects on the human condition in ways that pre-packaged mass-market entertainment never will.

Why not prove it to yourself? Join me on October 27, 2:30 p.m. at the Sean O’Sullivan Theatre for the Niagara Symphony Orchestra’s concert that includes works by Bartók, Brahms and St. Catharines composer James Hiscott. For two glorious hours, let this magnificent music take you to places you’ve never been and in the company of those who also relish the experience. JWR

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