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As usual the Symphony of the Americas put a smile on everyone's face and a warm glow in every heart with their annual Christmas concert in Ft. Lauderdale.

Maestro James Brooks-BruzzeseStar of the show, under the usual masterful baton of James Brooks-Bruzzese (shown here in his festive red vest and bow tie) was guest soloist Frank Loconto. He was the lead singer with The Lane Brothers from 1957-1979, a group best known for the 1958 recording Boppin' In A Sack (you can hear it on YouTube). The title refers to a 'sack dress' that was popular at the time; it looked like a sack because it did not taper in at the waist. Not exactly high fashion, but it made for a groovy song!

Frank currently hosts a daily public policy show, Countyline, on local cable television throughout South Florida.

With a resounding voice that has been his trademark for decades, Frank delighted the audience with the classics Winter Wonderland and Silver Bells before doing a duet with the evening's other soloist, Cathy Van. She put her heart into the song and really made a connection with audience in post-World War 2 tune by Bob Wells and Mel Torme, The Christmas Song.

It was one of the selections highlghted in a pre-concert talk, which was merely summarised as the host of the talk was unable to deliver his address. The song was said to embody "Home, safety, togetherness, chestnuts, warmth: all these wonderful things that make a relaxing Christmas. Their song has never gone out of style. In good times and bad it has always spoken of the true spirit of the holiday in a different way than the Nutcracker."

Singer Frank Leconto with Sylvia RivasIt was two selections from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker that opened the holiday concert, and a rousing rendition of Havah Nagilah that opened the second half. The audience happily clapped to the beat on that one!

Whiule the inclusion of a tune from Phantom of the Opera gave another chance for the soloists to perform a duet, it hardly fit the theme of the evening. The second half did, however, feature more intriguing inclusions: Dear Granma, and There's Christmas in the Air. The former tune, sung by Cathy Van, was arranged by orchestra member Peter Graves. 

The slide show on the screen behind the orchestra was a great idea although some of the slides seemed to embody little emotional  contact with the songs, and the images were sometimes hard to discern because of the bright lights shining on stage.

Connie Francis with Dr. EmanueleThere were three special guests in attendance at the concert. Shown here is the great and much beloved singer Connie Francis, who graced the Broward Center with her presence in the audience.

Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance towards the end to help the audience sing Feliz Navidad, although the tune itself was somewhat lost in the excitement of the arrival from the North Pole. Let There Be Peace ended the concert on a note of hope with the audience singing along. An uplifting way to end another Christmas concert from Symphony of the Americas, now in their 29th season.

Their next concert, on Jan. 10. 2017. will feature the keyboard duo of Dunlap & Pennington.  For more info visit their website: www.sota.org

This review due to the combined effort of Dr. Matt Emanuele and Sylvia Rivas.

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What would Christmas music be like without Santa Claus, Jingle Bells, and Bing Crosby? For those fortunate enough to be at St. Patrick's Church in Toronto on December 3, the Vespers of Christmas Eve by Claudio Monteverdi gave new meaning to the Christmas season. Quite a feat for music that was composed 400 years ago, delivered with gracious solemnity by Toronto's Tallis Choir.

 

 

 

MonteverdiMonteverdi was originally commissioned to write this music by the Doge of Venice in his position as choirmaster of St. Mark's, his state chapel. The Vespers are structured around the singing of five Psalms, the first of which features a divine battle. It is relieved by two lyrical interludes dominated at the outset by female voices.

 

 

 

Between the Psalms are Antiphon Concertos, the first of which is a showcase for any soloist daring and talented enough to attempt it. It is quite simply a master class in vocal ornamentation, performed with evident relish by Joel Allison. It was like a frilly bow on a Christmas gift, made all the more delightful by the fact it achieved such astonishing variety without greatly varying in key. No High C's here!

 

 

 The second Psalm features a soaring solo by the angelic-sounding voice of Alexandra Hetherington, and a glittering Amen. The third has a lovely rhythm one could imagine as deriving from the waters lapping the very walls of Venice. This rhythm drives from the use of the recurring refrain Beatus Vir, qui timet Dominum, which means Blessed is the man who fears the Lord. Fortunately one does not have to subscribe to irrational fear to enjoy the music.

 

 

Soloist Joel Allison and the audience in St. Patrick'sThe fourth Psalm actually includes a bit of astronomy, where the Sun's passage is depicted by the rising and falling of the solo bass voice. The fifth Psalm is the shortest, and features the female soloists Rebecca Genge and Alexandra Hetherington. They sometimes singly and sometimes together establish a continuous conversation with the choir that one wishes would extend further. But like a sorbet it must be enjoyed quickly before it melts away, or in this case ends in a great paean of praise enhanced by the excellent acoustics in the church.

 

 

The final Antiphon includes the line "Praise him on cymbals of joy,' from which I took the title of this review. The Vespers concluded with a scintillating Magnificat which was likely written in part for some Venetian military triumph. Featuring a soprano duet and ample scope for the solo tenors to dazzle the audience, the Magnificat was a suitable ending for this enduring seasonal treat by Monteverdi.

 

I give due credit to the excellent programme notes by Douglas Cowling, which gave both the Latin and translated English text of the compositions.

 

 

 

Upcoming concerts by the Tallis Choir, under the direction of Peter Mahon, include:

 

 

Requiem for a Renaissance King on March 4, 2017

 

 

Luther & Lassus on May 13, 2017

Visit their website for details: www.tallischoir.com

 


 


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Scandinavian design is so ubiquitous we often forget it was a startling innovation at one time. A beautiful exhibit at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto shows how this Nordic tradition of design entered Canada and changed our own concept of what Canadian design is.

 

The exhibition was designed by Canadian Andrew Jones. He drew inspiration from the boreal forest, a dominant feature of both the Canadian and Scandinavian landscapes, using the image of the enveloping forest as a backdrop. This is evident in the lead photo with this article, which shows several iconic chair designs against the sinuous wooden backdrop.

 

Objects range from large desks, which would go well in a Minimalist room (sort of Zen), to small sculptures, such as the delightful Goofus illustrated here. It was created by Erica Deichmann who, together, with her husband Kjeld, were Canada's first full-time studio potters (located in New Brunswick). The Goofus is a whimsical hybrid: part horse, part sheep, and part giraffe.

 

Playing on the wall beside the case that displays their work is an example of pure 1950s innocence: a National Film Board of Canada production on the Deichmann's entitled The Story of Peter and the Potter. The film tells the story of a young lad who fell and broke his Mother's birthday gift, and how the Deichmann's crafted a new gift for him at their pottery. It's educational, of course, since it shows how such objects are fired and glazed, but it is also a charming story. It's about 20 minutes, and well worth spending the time to watch.

 

The exhibit is nicely balanced with informative information on the wall about the artists, some born in the late 1800s, with display cases highlighting some of their work in front of each wall board. A lot of Ontario-produced art is here, including furniture made in Stratford and hand-screened fabrics by A. B. Caya Ltd. of Kitchener, done to the design of Thor Hansen (1903-1976) who served as art director of the British American Oil Co.

 

Many household items are on display, including a futuristic-looking stereo unit made in Toronto, pictured here.

 

The word that keeps coming to mind about Nordic design is “endure”. The chairs are surprisingly comfortable, which is one reason they have endured. And the lamps are iconic in their form and simplicity. It's style, not just a design.

 

My only quibble with the presentation relates to the signage. In several of the signs that give details on the furniture displayed, the numbers go right to left, while the pieces on display are numbered left to right. A bit disorienting.

 Covering nearly a century of artifacts, this is an exhibit that will well repay a carefully studied tour.

 

 

True Nordic will be on display at the Gardiner from October 13, 2016 to January 8, 2017, before travelling to the New Brunswick Museum from March 3 to September 5, 2017, and the

Vancouver Art Gallery from October 21 2017 to January 21, 2018.

Visit

www.gardinermuseum.com

 

 

Photo of lead picture, showing a sweeping view of one portion of the exhibit, by C. Cunningham

 

Photo of record player by C. Cunningham. Designed by Al Faux (1931-1978) and Hugh Spencer (1928-1982). Manufactured by Clairtone Sound Corp., Toronto, in 1966. Rosewood chassis, painted cast aluminum speakers, Plexiglas dust cover. Design Exchange Permanent Collection.

 

Photo credit: Kjeld Deichmann and Erica Deichmann, Goofus, 1950–1963.Collection of the Gardiner Museum, Gift of Gail and GerryCrawford. Photography by Toni Hafkenscheid

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The 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor, which is today (Dec. 7), is being marked throughout the month in the Christmas Pageant in Ft. Lauderdale. The first portion of the annual extravaganza is dedicated to the events of that terrible day in 1941 when Japan attacked America, but here the commemoration is one of song and dance that brings back the feel of the 1940s. The lead photo shows the ladies wearing the Hawaiian flower leis.

 

The Pageant incorporates a salute to the military, with the presenter asking the audience to rise while shown on the big screen are videos of military men reuniting with their families. The song I'll Be Home For Christmas poignantly plays in the background, evoking an emotional response from everyone present in the Baptist Church on Broward Blvd.

 

The audience gets to travel with Santa to five places: Tennessee, Hawaii, LA, New York City and Las Vegas; in each place you feel like you are there with him and the cast, amazed by the music and the costumes.

 

The second half of the show is largely the same from year to year, as the Nativity scene plays out: Mary arrives on a donkey and the Three Wise Men come beautifully dressed on camels. The whole church is filled with shepherds and sheep. One of the most engaging aspects of the Pageant is that all the animals are real, although perhaps not so many as in previous years.

 

When the actor portraying Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, more than 250 cast members fill the church, all celebrating with the palms. Some selling fish and fruits, making it an immersive experience for the audience.

 

The portion of the show where angels fly down from heaven was extremely well done, and seems to me even more technically proficient than in past years. Most impressive!

 

The Pageant this year paid tribute to its cast member Rosalind Tennie, who died recently. She was a part of the Pageant for nearly 20 years, and last year sang Jesus, What a Wonderful Child.

 

To see this delightful event, visit the website:

www.christmastickets.com

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Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. That was a reply to the most famous Santa Claus letter of all time, but there have been millions more. “Santa letters provide an interesting lens through which we can understand Christmas,” said author Alex Palmer at the Flagler Museum (Whitehall) in Palm Beach on Dec. 4. He spoke during the annual Christmas tree lighting event at Whitehall, which is the finest place in Florida to celebrate the Christmas season.

 

Palmer has just authored a book about Santa Claus letters, focusing on one man in particular, who just happens to be a relative of his.

 

As the nineteenth century progressed Christmas moved from being an outdoor drunken holiday into the household “as a family holiday with children demanding treats from adults. Overseeing all of this was the character of Santa Claus.” Adopting a folksy style that suited the topic, Palmer outlined the origins of the American version of Santa. One slide he showed, which is also in the book, dates from 1821; it is the first known depiction of Santa in a sleigh drawn by a reindeer (just one, not a dozen).

 

It's impossible to say who wrote the first Santa letter, but it was almost certainly from Santa rather than to him. The earliest Santa letters were didactic in their tone, encouraging good behaviour in their children,” Palmer said at Whitehall. These letters were typically written by Mothers to their often naughty children.

 

By the 1860s kids were “dropping their Santa letters into the mailbox. It was only a matter of time before children viewed the postman as a conduit to the Christmas saint. As the cost of postage dropped, the mailbox replaced the chimney as Santa's inbox.”

 

When toys began to be mass produced in the later 19th century, children expected Santa to bring them for Christmas. The production of letters to Santa grew along with this demand. “Some newspapers published the letters, and invited readers to respond, but the post office sent most of them to the Dead Letter office. By the turn of the 20th century the public complained about treating the children's letters with such neglect,” explained Palmer.

 

In 1912 the Post Office changed their policy and released the letters to charitable organisations; some post masters even answered the letters themselves. A New York businessman named John Gluck, who was born on Christmas Day, got approval of the post office to answer the letters. “In 1913 he launched the Santa Claus Association which operated out of a Manhattan restaurant. Gluck's approach required hard work but virtually no overhead. He would match the children's request with individual New Yorkers who bought and then hand-delivered gifts to the letter writers as Santa's ambassadors.”

 

Star power soon joined the effort. The great actor “John Barrymore donated the box office receipts from one night of his Broadway show to the Santa Claus Association; the original power couple Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford launched the Associations' 1923 season from their suite in the Ritz Carlton hotel. President Coolidge promoted their work and Pres. Harding tapped the organisation to send a message of Merry Christmas to the children of the United States. More than he could have imagined, Gluck had found his calling with his work in the Association.” Palmer curated an exhibit on the Santa Claus Association for Brooklyn's City Reliquary in December 2012.

 

The group continued for 15 years until New York’s commissioner for public welfare discovered Gluck was using the Association as his personal piggy bank. Gluck left New York in disgrace and moved to Miami where he died at age 73 in 1951.

 

In the book, Palmer writes that “If Gluck has a legacy, it is that once he moved the children's wishes out of the Dead Letter Office, it proved hard to send them back. In 1962, the New York City Post Office formalized the process of answering Santa letters under the program Operation Santa Claus,” and in 2006 it went national.

 

Palmer's book is an engaging read, although the first chapter would have been better left as a flashback chapter on Gluck's career before the Association. Launching directly into the Santa Claus story would have been far preferable.

 

The book provides a wealth of detail about the Association, which Gluck tried to unload onto the Salvation Army in 1919. “Publicly Gluck stated he was giving up the association because it had become too successful,” writes Palmer. It would have been better for Gluck if they had accepted; his life with the Association reads like a Greek tragedy. The proposal for a Santa Claus building in Manhattan can be seen in mythic terms as a temple to Gluck himself. For good or ill, it was never built, but Santa lives on. Yes Virginia, there still is a Santa Claus.

 

 

Palmer, left, with Dr. Matt EmanueleSanta Claus Man: The Rise and Fall of a Jazz Age Con Man and the Invention of Christmas in New York.

Published by Lyons Press, 2015.

 

This article prepared by Dr. Matt Emanuele and Dr. Cliff Cunningham

 

 

 Holiday Evening Tours at Whitehall:

December 18 and 19:
Tours begin at 7:05 p.m., 7:15 p.m.,
and 7:25 p.m.

December 20 through 23:
Tours begin at 6:50 p.m., 7:05 p.m.,
7:15 p.m., and 7:25 p.m.

$25 for adults
$15 for children under age 18
Advance purchase required
Please call (561) 655-2833

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The world's most famous architect visited his home town of Toronto this past weekend, and what better place to make a public appearance than one of the buildings that has been transformed by his own genius?

 

Frank Gehry spoke before a capacity audience at the Art Gallery of Ontario on Dec. 3. Now 87, he was asked 'how do you find the creative fire' to keep going strong? “I don't know what else to do,” he replied. “I think it's an emotional necessity that you become used to.”

 

He elaborated to say “I like the precarious feeling I'm not sure what I'm going to do next. I like the unknown. It's much more exciting looking for something else.”

 

Gehry now has a 140-person team to make his architectural vision a reality. “It's taken a long time to get the team behind me to create the delivery system.” And they are loyal. When Donald Trump was elected, Gehry said “people in my office were crying. They all said that if I relocate from the United States they would go with me.” French President Hollande has already offered Gehry a place for him to set up shop in France.

 

“I'm very worried about him,” Gehry said of Trump. “I heard Hitler's speeches on the radio, and it sounds similar to me. It's frightening.” Gehry changed his name from Goldberg many years ago, at the behest of his wife, who did not want to have such a Jewish-sounding name. That story and many others are detailed in a marvellous biography published last year by Pulitzer Prize winning author Paul Goldberger.

 

He was in conversation with Gehry on stage at the AGO, who said the subtitle of the book could have been “Toronto to LA,” as it deals in depth with Gehry's early years in Toronto that set the stage for his great career in Los Angeles.

 

Goldberger, who has known the architect for 40 years, said to Gehry that criticism of his buildings as “just sculpture seems to drive you over the edge.” Gehry replied to great laughter: “That's when I become Trump.”

 

Gehry is best known for the museum in Bilbao in Spain, but he is very much looking forward to other projects. One of these is the Eisenhower Memorial for Washington DC. “He was considered the golf-playing president” at the time, but Gehry only realised later how much he did. “I literally fell in love with the topic of Ike.”

 

After some six years of controversy, the Memorial has received final approval and “is going to be built.” This will include Gehry's design for a “tapestry in stainless steel so it will last a hundred years.”

 

As for Toronto and its architecture of today, Gehry had some harsh words. “A lot of buildings are being built, but they don't say anything. You can make architecture with the same budget as you can make crappy buildings. Demand better buildings!”

 

Photo by C Cunningham

 

 

 

 

 

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If small is beautiful, the current exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario is absolutely gorgeous.

 

Boxwood carvings, mostly from the 1500s and 1600s, are experiencing their first international exhibition. The AGO owns some of them, ten prayer beads and two miniature altarpieces having been collected by Lord Thomson and donated to the AGO. Other examples from across Europe are now on display together in a stunning debut exhibit.

 

The most historically important item is a rosary belonging to King Henry VIII, and given to his first wife Queen Katherine of Aragon. But as with all the objects on view, the figures and other details are so small as to evade even the finest vision. Magnifying glasses don't help, nor do microscopes.

 

When the curators of the exhibit first tried X-ray analysis that failed too, as there is no contrast, since the entire sculpture is made of the same material. A new type of X-ray analysis, micro CT scanning, was developed which has finally revealed the secrets of the carvings.

 

In one of the prayer beads of the Henry VIII piece, for example, images of the King and Queen appear on a balcony that is hidden from view no matter what angle you look at it. These images have been secretly looking down on a palace scene for 500 years.

 

In another carving, researchers knew a very tiny bird cage had been carved, but the X-rays revealed something quite astonishing: birds inside the cage! I don't know the exact size of these bird carvings, but something on the order of a tenth of a millimetre is probably close. How it was all done with instruments centuries ago is still unknown.

 

A day-long conference in Toronto about these fine objects was attended by researchers from across Canada, the United States and Europe. Frits Scholten, Senior Curator of Sculpture at the Rijksmuseum, is one of the three curators of the exhibit. He said that in their day, these prayer beads were called apples.

 

Dr. Scholten is an exhibit curator“Some prayer beads are in the shape of dice of the period. It united the pleasing with the useful. It was not seen as idle or sinful but rather playful and devotional,” Scholten said. In looking at the scenes depicted, Scholten said “real time is compressed to the time of the micro carving leading to meditation and reflection.”

 

Scholten drew an analogy between the nearly invisible scenes of the carvings and a text from 1458 by Nicholas of Cusa who describes polishing a piece of beryl into a lens and then looking through it. “Thus he sees things previously invisible to him,” wrote Cusa. “When a rational beryl is applied to the spiritual eyes, we penetrate with its aid to the indivisible origin of all things.” To see what is truly in these micro carvings, one must look with spiritual eyes.

 

For those not so enlightened as to contemplate such heights of self-awareness, the AGO offered a virtual reality tour of one prayer bead. It is the first case of VR in the museum art world. The opportunity to see one of these tiny beads as a large object, maybe seven feet high, was astonishing. I was able to walk right into it and look at the micro carvings from all angles, even from behind the object itself.

 

Coinciding with the conference, the website for the carvings went live. It is the result of taking 26,000 photos in 21 collections around the world. Anywhere from 15 to 100 photos of each object was required to develop, by focus stacking, an image of the entire object in perfect focus. The database is massive, as some images are 350 Mb each. Even the US space agency NASA was enlisted to scan some of the data as 30 gigabytes are required for just one object.

 

Prayer beads open to reveal detailsWhile some of the images are benign, such as the Three Wise Men offering gifts, others are more troublesome. There is a brutal imagery in these tiny precious objects, including the Devil taking chained people to Hell. Perhaps it is just as well the images are so small.

 

The exhibit is on at AGO until Jan. 22, 2017. Combined with the Mystical Landscapes exhibit I also reviewed for Sun News, these are two extraordinary shows in one place, not to be missed!

 

photos with this article by C. Cunningham

 

 

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“Because I am an astronomer, I am apt to see the problems of to-day set against a background of time in which the whole of human history shrinks to the twinkling of an eye, and to think of these problems specially in relation to man's past history on earth.”

 

So said James Jeans in 1930. As a popularizer of astronomy, he was the Carl Sagan of his day in the 1920s and 30s.

 

Have things changed since 1930? Sure, but set against Jeans' “background of time” is it really that different? Both American authors of a new book on the fate of our planet spoke recently at the Centre for International Governance Innovation auditorium in Waterloo. And both are still reeling from the election of Trump.

 

Elizabeth Hadly at Stanford University said “as a scientist this has really rocked me to the core. I haven't fully processed it myself- grief has many stages. My heart says just keep doing it. I'm talking to everybody outside of academia to try to shift people's perception of the future.”

 

Anthony Barnosky at the University of California, Berkeley, was more sanguine. “It doesn't mean all is lost, but the big danger is we don't have several decades. I don't think we're doomed but it is a setback.”

 

The authors identified three groups of people: 20% are altruists, 20% are free riders (“I'm going to do what's best for me”) and 60% are willing to cooperate with anyone depending on circumstances. In assessing the election results, they said the “free riders were great at getting their message out.”

 

Political considerations tend to muddy the message they are trying to deliver in both the lecture and the book. I spoke to one person in the audience, who said “they lost me” due to their terrorist-related comments on Palestine on pg. 214. He said their Western-centric viewpoint fails to see the whole world. I also found the doom-laden scenario laid out over several pages in the War chapter to be misplaced. One could write a whole book of future scenarios, but how reasonable would you consider any of them to be from people who could not even predict the outcome of a presidential election?

 

The book is a curious mix of academic-report style and the folksy style that leads off most chapters. “Sitting around the campfire, life was good. We' just watched the kind of nightfall you can only experience in the desert. The heat-shimmering sky had faded...” and it goes on like a novel. And I found the bleating about trying to change the want-more lifestyle of the developed world, and what constitutes happiness, to be purely utopian. Human nature is not going to change.

 

It is not unusual to find upwards of 15 to 20 numbers on a single page, either printed in words or numerically. The number of phones, the number of Barbies, the number of fires, the number of metric tons, the number of jobs, and innumerable percentage and dollar figures does take its toll on all but the most dedicated green reader. A raft of numbers relating to something termed Disability-Adjusted Life Years on pg. 157 would be far better placed in a table.

 

So what about the tipping point? Will it be a point for good or bad? Barnosky says “we have to invent our own future, and we know how to get to the good future: stabilise population growth, stop climate change, increase global cooperation and make more efficient use of food and water.” Whatever happens, looking at it as an astronomer will help cushion the shock.

 

 

Tipping Point for Planet Earth (264 pages) is US $25.99 from St. Martin's Press.

 

 

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“Mysticism will always be with us,” declared Edvard Munch whose large canvas The Sun (1910-1913) dominates an entire wall in an exhibit currently on show at the Art Gallery of Ontario. It was created to inspire students in the wake of his nervous breakdown.

 

The title of the exhibit is Mystical Landscapes which immediately prompts the question as to what mysticism is. For this I turn to remarks by the English metaphysician Thomas Whittaker, who wrote this in 1934 about the great philosopher Spinoza.

 

“It has been disputed whether Spinoza himself was a mystic. If the state of the mystic is a peculiar experience attained by shutting off all grades of articulate knowledge, he was not a mystic; for the highest grade of insight includes a kind of knowledge.” Anyone who approaches this exhibit with what Whittaker called “definite thought” will derive the 'kind of knowledge' intended by the AGO curator of the exhibit, Katherine Lochnan.

 

While many will argue at the degree of mysticism inherent in any particular canvas, each one deserves a careful look. That is not always easy as relatively small paintings in subdued colours are sometimes juxtaposed with larger ones that are bursting with colour.

 

A case in point comes at the very beginning on the show, which comprises several large rooms showcasing 37 artists, often with two or more paintings from each. Try to block out Farewell to Gauguin by Paul Serusier from 1906, that sits just below Breton Landscape by the obscure Danish artist Mogens Ballin (1871-1941). It consists of various shades of dark green, very dark blue and black, with a startling golden yellow sky. All evocative of a mystical landscape.

 

Trees figure prominently in the exhibit. A message on the wall in the first room tells us that “trees are painted in symbolic colours” without explaining what that means. It can mean different things at different times, with blue for serenity and yellow for intelligence being two that seem to be widely employed. Look at Woman Asleep in the Enchanted Forest by Maurice Denis in 1892. It is very Arthurian, with a white horse and figure of a man in the background. Denis was attracted to ancient Celtic Christian traditions of Brittany, and the viewer has a unique opportunity of seeing this as six canvases in both private and public collections are here.

 

Poplars by MonetMore trees are evident in Poplars by Monet, and Blue Trees by Gauguin. They should have been hung side by side. Both feature tall narrow trees with curves in their trunks, not too far above ground level. The ones by Monet are yellow and brilliantly lit. A critic at the time (1891) saw them as “a modern temple of the sun.” The Gauguin canvas is from a gallery in Copenhagen, the Monet is on loan from Philadelphia.

 

A show stopper is a selection of four paintings by the gay artist Eugene Jannson. His use of curvilinear clouds in his Stockholm landscape paintings of 1898 and 1899 is quite hypnotic. The paintings are large blue canvasses with whorls of bright, white light cast by gaslights. Commentary with the exhibit says they represent a “mythical quest for a truth beyond experiences.” A third canvas, Hornsgatan, also features gaslights, but this time in rows. The fourth is, in my opinion, the best. It is Evening Mood Lidingo of 1900, on loan from Cleveland.

 

Done largely in green and brown with a resplendant reddish sky glow that again allows him to express the curvilinear shpae of clouds. The canvas is dominated by billowing trees that resemble a dust storm. Venus is in the sky at left.

 

Some paintings on show generate a visceral reaction. I heard one young woman say to her friend, “it's too dark, let's go back to the Monets!” She was looking at the deeply disturbing The Pool of Blood by de Nuncques.

 

The 1958 painting Jotunheim by Jens Willumsen, on loan from a Danish museum, sports the most extraordinary frame I have seen. It looks to be inspired by Gauguin, with figures of people and foliage. Mountains surmounting it continue upwards the peaks in the wooden canvas.

 

I found Cosmos by Marsden Hartley to be a weak entry in the collection, just a mountain covered in bright foliage with 4 white clouds above. A far better choice is in the AGO collection: an untitled mountain landscape by Lauren Harris that shows rays of light and knowledge descending onto a fabulous peak.

 

But the exhibit does end on a high note with Crystal Castle at Sea by Wenzel Hablik, on loan from Prague. Done at the beginning of World War I in 1914, it conveys his vision of a post-war utopia through the prism of a crystal castle.

 

A great and thought-provoking exhibit! Go see it before it ends Jan. 29, 2017.

 

Photo credits: The Sun by Munch: The Oslo University, Oslo, Norway

Poplars (Autumn) by Monet: Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Collins Formal Wear will once again be donating tuxedos worth several thousand to a Fashion Show and Silent Auction. In an interview today, sales manager Joel McDonough told me he is very proud to participate in the 8th annual fundraising gala hosted by Community Living Cambridge.

Last year the event drew about 300 participants, The fundraiser helps developmentally challenged adults find a place in society or the workplace.

The event will be held at Bingeman's Marshall Hall at 6pm, with the fashion show at 7. General admission tickets are $35. Visit the website: www.ticketscene.ca

Collins Formal Wear at 1780 King Street East in Kitchener is one of the official sponsors. Anyone looking for the finest Canadian fashion for sale or rent should head there for a much more personal experience than one typically gets at a formal wear shop. Instead of getting a tuxedo from a catalogue that may or not be a perfect fit, at Collins you can get measured, try on a selection first, and then decide. They have been in business for 51 years and are highly recommended!

www.collinsformalwear.com

 

Photo by C. Cunningham

 

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