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June 11, 2009

Summer is here by the summer month name - June - looking forward to feeling the weather to back it up!  Happy Father's Day to all those men who inspire us to be better people. 

Big on the sports scene this week is the arrival of Usain "Lightening" Bolt to Toronto.  What a privilege to have him race here tonight (Thursday) in order to bring back the love of track and field to Canada.  I hope to have some special photos available next week. 

Now, check out all the exciting news so please take a walk into your weekly entertainment news!

This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members. 


World's Fastest Man Flies Into Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com - Randy Starkman,
Sports Reporter

(June 09, 2009) Usain Bolt can fly.

The Superman sprinter's feet spend less time on the track in a race than any sprinter in history.

Canadian Olympic champion Donovan Bailey usually took 44 strides to cover 100 metres. For Bruny Surin, it was 45 to 46.

The 6-foot-5 Bolt does it in 40 to 41.

So the pride of Jamaica will make approximately $6,000 per stride in his featured 100-metre race on Thursday at the Festival of Excellence track and field meet at Varsity Stadium.

"He has huge levers," said Dan Pfaff, who coached Bailey and Surin. "He's incredibly elastic when he strikes the ground. There's a lot of bounce to his contact. His ground to flight stage ratios are incredible."

Okay, so the guy can fly. But can he bring back the dead?

That's essentially what Bolt's being asked to do here, to help resuscitate the outdoor track and field scene on the same site crowds of 20,000 once watched the likes of homegrown running greats Bill Crothers and Bruce Kidd in the 1960s.

Kidd, dean of phys-ed at the University of Toronto, said they're hoping this meet will only be the start in attracting people back to track and field. They see a big-time headliner like Bolt as someone who can stimulate the interest needed to launch a new era in the city.

"It creates a culture for the sport," said Kidd. "It's a great feeling and we're trying to bring that back."

No one but Bolt would stand a chance of getting Torontonians to pay attention. The 22-year-old phenom is that kind of performer right now, on the scale of a Michael Jordan or a Wayne Gretzky. Three Olympic gold medals in Beijing won in world-record times with a ton of personality and panache will do that for you.

"You have the diehard fans that watch track and field, but he has completely transcended that," said Perdita Felicien, former world champion hurdler from Pickering. "He's gone beyond the basic track fanatic.

"People who know nothing about athletics want to come out and watch Usain Bolt or want to see what he's going to do. I don't usually pay a lot of attention to people outside of my event, but he has a fan. I'm a fan of his. I love him."

Such a fan that Felicien plans to park herself at the finish line immediately after her own race, where she'll face Olympic bronze medallist Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Whitby in the 100-metre hurdles.

"I'll be watching, trust me," said Felicien. "Cool down can wait."

Bolt's rise stunned most observers, but not Pfaff and Surin, who had their eyes on him as a junior.

Surin was working as a colour commentator for Radio Canada at the 2003 world youth championships in Sherbrooke when he first spied the gangly 15-year-old.

"At that time, he had zero muscle. And his technique was like awful. He was running all over the place," recalled Surin, a two-time world championship silver medallist in the men's 100 metres.

But even then Surin knew something incredible was unfolding. He said Bolt would veer from right to left when he was sprinting because he didn't have the power or technique to keep straight, yet he was still running international level times.

"In my mind, I was like, `Okay, as soon as you put some muscle on this guy and you correct his technique, he's going to do damage.'"

Damage, indeed. The question that seems to hover over Bolt is: Just how fast can this guy go?

Surin believes he has an inkling.

"If he's not injured and he keeps being serious, he's going to go run 9.5 for sure."

Bolt made it look so easy in capturing the gold medal in the 100 metres in Beijing, easing up with about 20 metres left to beat his chest and begin his celebrations before crossing the line in a world record of 9.69 seconds.

His coach Glen Mills suggested he would have posted a time of 9.52 seconds if he hadn't slowed down, while sports scientists who studied the matter predicted it would have been between 9.55 and 9.61.

There are debates over the human limit when it comes to the 100 metres. One group of scientists, using previous world record progression, put it at 9.45 seconds. Another researcher, Mark Denny at Stanford University, predicted it was 9.48 seconds by studying athletes, racehorses and greyhounds dating back to the 1920s.

Pfaff throws in a note of caution.

"It's so hard to say," said Pfaff. "A sprinter's one severe injury away from a career ender. Do the injuries pile up or does he continue to get better as he ages? Does his body type change a little bit?

"Another thing is how he handles success. We've had people that were superstars at a young age and they didn't handle success probably as well as they could and they're out of the scene in a couple of years. There's a lot of variables to a long career."

One thing about Bolt is that he certainly seems to enjoy himself. This is the guy who talked about his 100-metre win being fuelled by chicken nuggets and likes to strut around joyfully and strike his now famous arrow pose which he calls "To the World."

International Olympic Committee boss Jacques Rogge admonished him for the showmanship. Felicien praised him for it.

"He is the best thing for the sport in a really long time," she said. "If you think about it, track and field is always in the news with people taking drugs and people cheating. And all of a sudden you have this guy who for all we know is going to be dominant for the next how many years, so let's not put him down for having fun and making the sport appealing and approachable to people."

In fact, Felicien reckons it's Bolt's buoyant spirit, more than his gargantuan strides, that really makes him so fast.

"He's talking about eating chicken McNuggets at the Olympics, while the rest of us are eating Boston lettuce," she said. "So this guy truly does not take himself too seriously or the sport so intensely that it ties him up. I think that carefree attitude about him is what allows him to excel."

And he's a good guy, too, according to veteran American sprinter Bernard Williams, who will be in the 100-metre field on Thursday. Williams recalls being at a meet without any access to massage, only to have Bolt give him access to his own therapist.

"Most people who are in the position he's in, they don't do that," said Williams.

Williams doesn't expect any favours on the track Thursday. He's reluctant to talk about Bolt as a sprinter at first, feeling words cannot do him justice, but then can't help himself.

"He's a monster," said Williams, with a chuckle. "He looks like a grown man racing his children."

`If he's not injured and he keeps being serious, he's going to run 9.5 for sure'

BRUNY SURIN, Olympic relay gold medallist in 1996

Usain Bolt Wins World Sportsman Award

Source: www.thestar.com -
Associated Press

(June 10, 2009) Sprinter Shawn Crawford has a surefire plan to beat world record holder Usain Bolt in Thursday's Festival of Excellence track and field meet in Toronto.

"I'm going to go down to the front desk and I'm going to tell them my name is Usain Bolt," Crawford said Wednesday during a news conference in his hotel. "Hopefully they'll give me a key. I'm going to go up to his room, tie him up, he's going to miss the track meet and it's going to be easier for me.''

That might be the best chance anyone has of slowing down Bolt, the 22-year-old Jamaican who on Wednesday was named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award for his record-breaking performance at the Beijing Olympics.

Last August, Bolt became the first man to win gold in the 100 metres, 200 metres and 400-metre relay in world record times in the same Olympics.

He received the award from two track greats, Laureus World Sports Academy member Michael Johnson and Academy Chairman Edwin Moses.

Bolt will compete Thursday against a field that includes Crawford, the gold medal winner in the 200 meters at the 2004 Athens Olympics and Bernard Williams, who won gold in the 400-meter relay at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Crawford finished second to Bolt in the 200 metres in Beijing.

Bolt said he is working hard to regain the form he was in during last summer's Olympics.

"This is my first major 100 metres for the season," Bolt said. ``Pretty much its just go out there and see where I'm at and just stay injury free.''

Told of Crawford's plan, Bolt laughed but said he doesn't underestimate any of his competitors.

"I'm not unbeatable, that's the first thing I want to say,'' Bolt said. "I go out there always focused and ready, prepared for anything.''

Bolt is the fifth track and field athlete to win Laureus award, snapping a four-year run by tennis star Roger Federer. The previous winners were cyclist Lance Armstrong, Formula One driver Michael Schumacher and golfer Tiger Woods.

"I don't think there will be a sixth (winner) until I retire,'' Bolt joked.

Bolt won the award over Olympic swimming sensation Michael Phelps, Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal, motor sport racers Lewis Hamilton and Valentino Rossi and Portugal and Manchester United soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo.

An avid Manchester United fan, Bolt met Ronaldo after a race in that city on May 17 and passed along some running tips to the speedy forward.

"Manchester United is my team so to beat Cristiano Ronaldo is a great feeling, really," Bolt said. "To know that I watch this guy, emulate this guy and now I beat him for a great award like this. I'm happy.''

That meeting came hours after Bolt's most recent race. Competing on a temporary street track, Bolt ran the world's fastest 150 meters in 14.35 seconds, breaking Canadian Donovan Bailey's 12-year-old record of 14.99 in the seldom-run distance.

The race was Bolt's first since a car accident in April, when he crashed his BMW into a ditch along a highway. Bolt required surgery on his left foot after stepping onto thorns while getting out of the wreckage.

This year's Laureus Awards ceremony was scrapped in April because of the global economic crisis. Instead, winners are receiving their awards individually at a series of smaller presentations around the world.

The lavish, televised ceremony – often called the "Oscars" of the sports world – was held in Monaco from 2000-2003. It moved to Lisbon, Portugal, in 2004 and was then hosted in Barcelona, Spain, from 2005-07 and St. Petersburg, Russia, last year.

Gary Beals : Almost Famous, Freshly Excited

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Pop & Jazz Critic

(June 09, 2009) Five years between albums can be a career squasher for nascent pop musicians, but Canadian Idol runner-up Gary Beals's absence couldn't be avoided.

"I lost the passion for music," explained the 26-year-old vocalist, who said he worked at regular jobs – call centre, mutual funds – after wrapping the promotion and tour of his 2004 Juno-nominated debut.

"I was frustrated (with the music industry)," said Beals. "I had no direction. Instead of me going back into it again kind of lost, I said `Let me just back up.'"

For several years, the Toronto-based Nova Scotia native, who honed his smooth, pliant pipes in church choirs, only sang in the congregation at Sunday services. Eventually, the singer, whose current full-time gig is desk job in the Ministry of Community and Social Services, concluded "I was blessed with a gift and I can't sit idle on it."

The Rebirth of ... is a primarily self-financed endeavour on Beals's label, Liberated Entertainment.

With dashes of reggae and dance music, the disc, which fans of Ne-Yo and Usher will appreciate, is typical R&B – lots of begging and apologizing that the singer/songwriter says is and isn't autobiographical.

The album closes with "Giving You All," a straightforward gospel tune, but it's difficult to discern whether some other songs address spiritual or human love.

" I didn't want to be real specific, because I want everybody to be able to relate – if it's between you and God, or you and a girl, or you and a guy, or you and your mom," Beals said. The disc was recorded in Toronto over six months last year with five different producers, including Marcus Kane and Orin Isaacs, who worked on the singer's last record.

The strongest track is the Positivibes-produced "Excuse Me," which showcases his lush, layered vocals over a strings-bolstered groove sexy enough to give depth to potentially icky entreaties like "Did it hurt when you fell from heaven, angel?"

Asked about a standout track, Beals reacted like a parent reluctant to name a favourite child but cited "You Never Left," an ambiguous song of gratitude, among his highlights.

"One of the reasons I did come back is people were always on me, encouraging me to reach toward my dreams. This song is dedicated to those supporters who showed me genuine love."

When the Star caught up with the entertainer last week he was on his way into rehearsals with a seven-piece band for tonight's show. The shoulder-length braids are gone, but the endearing manner that engaged 2003 Idol viewers remains.

He copped to being "nervous and really excited" about performing again but maintained, "I can still hit all the notes!"

Just the facts

What: Gary Beals CD release show

Where: Revival, 783 College St.

When: Tonight @ 8pm

Admission: $8

Patio Patrol: Harlem Restaurant

Source: www.thestar.com - Raju Mudhar,
Entertainment Reporter

(June 04, 2009) Another instalment of our summertime series on hidden outdoor gems in the GTA.

Carl Cassell and Carl Allen should just pack up their restaurant business and go into beautifying patios around town.

The partners started with Irie Food Joint on Queen W., which already has an outstanding half-covered, colourful back patio, but what they've created
Harlem Restaurant (67 Richmond St. E., 416-368-1920) is remarkable.

"Really, it used to be a crack alley. I was just sick and tired of cleaning up the condoms and the needles. It was just crazy," says Cassell.

Built in the alley space next to the restaurant, the 30-seat patio is the definition of urban beautification. The alley walls are covered by a graffiti mural created by renowned local artist, Eliscer (who recently had some of his work displayed in the ROM) themed around the restaurant's namesake New York neighbourhood.

It's brightened up this part of the former concrete jungle, and gives it a great mellow vibe, perfect for enjoying a Red Stripe. The front part of the patio also has sliding garage door. When lowered, it hides the patio from street view (and offers some interesting private patio party options). Open, it gives this gritty area a very cool side patio in an area that for the most part is bereft of al fresco dining and drinking.

Cassell admits that the garage door was a practical requirement to keep some of the old alley patrons out. He also says he had to work for two years to get the patio open, dealing with permits and concerns from neighbours. Originally the plan was to put a patio on the roof, but there was too much local resistance.

"This one is just for them to realize that I'm there to make the neighbourhood better," Cassell says. "It's weird how people react to change and just the name (of the restaurant), but now that people see what we've done, they are coming around. We just want to make the street beautiful."

He adds he's planning on putting in some flowerbeds and also plans to have theme nights, like barbeque or sangria specials, in hopes of attracting the after-work crowd. As well, there are plans for acoustic performances, particularly for weekend brunch.

Up and running just over a week, Harlem's side deck is a perfect example of how a formerly neglected space can be made wonderful. We've got nothing but love for it.

I am Barack Obama : Book Review by Kam Williams

Source:  Kam Williams

I am Barack Obama
by Charisse Carney-Nunes
Illustrated by Ann Marie Williams
Brand Nu Words
Hardcover, $16.95
36 pages, illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-9748142-4-7

“This book tells a story of how a child can change the world. It creates a space where children can experience the extraordinary life of President Barack Obama while imagining the possibilities for themselves. I am Barack Obama includes accounts of children already using this inspirational moment in history to imagine their futures in compelling ways, as captured by the powerful statement, ‘I am Barack Obama.’”

Excerpted from the Preface (page 3)

Barack Obama’s ascendance to the Presidency was undoubtedly moving

to anyone old enough to have endured Jim Crow segregation during those shameful days before black folks were allowed basic human rights like access to restaurants, hotels or even the voting booth. Understandably, it might now be satisfying enough for elders who suffered such indignities simply to sit back and bask in the reflected glory of Obama’s historic achievement.

But that feat ought to have a very different meaning for children growing up today. For given Barack’s rise from some rather humble roots, his life story of beating the odds should serve as an inspiration to them and to impressionable young minds for generations to come that they can turn any dream into reality, however big, however improbable.

That’s precisely the message of I am Barack Obama, a priceless biography of our new President by Charisse Carney-Nunes, a mother of two who designed it for kids still in their formative years. In the preface, we learn that the author also happens to know her subject personally, having attended Harvard Law School at the same time as Obama. In fact, there’s even a picture of them together, taken in April of 1991.

 The tome’s uplifting narration, written in a bouncy rhyme, is not so much strictly about Barack as about the incredible potential inside each and every one of us which is waiting to be unlocked. But the book’s  beautiful illustrations by Ann Marie Williams do feature familiar tableaus of Obama at every stage of his development, from learning to ride a tricycle all the way to his finally standing at a podium in front of the President Seal.

Fitfully, I am Barack Obama closes with over a dozen testimonials by children representing a diversity of ethnic backgrounds. Each one essentially affirms, as 10 year-old Raequan eloquently puts it, “No matter where you come from, when you put your mind to it, you can do or be anything.“

What more proof do you need that times have certainly changed?


Magic of the Maasai Mara

Source:  www.thestar.com - Mark Sissons,
Special To The Star

(June 05, 2009) MAASAI MARA, KENYA–Without question, this is love at first sight. Nature, in the embodiment of feline perfection, crouching atop a termite hill barely 10 metres away.

In my imagination, she's here to greet me after my flight from Nairobi landed on one of the Maasai Mara's grass landing strips.

As dusk descends on the cheetah's palette – the Mara's tall savannah grasses, woodlands and tree-lined rivers – the fastest, most graceful creature on Earth locks her caramel eyes onto mine. I wonder what she makes of me as I stare back at her.

She breaks the spell to rapidly scan the horizon, alert to any hint of movement and its promise of nourishment lurking beneath the swaying sea of sunset rusted green.

Click here for more photos

For the next three days, my Kenyan guide, Elphas Njuki, and I have one of Africa's most famous game reserves virtually to ourselves.

Partly because it's the traditional low tourist season, when the Mara's grasses are high, often obscuring game from being easily spotted.

But also because tourists have been slow to return to Kenya since last year's political and ethnic strife left more than 1,000 dead.

Njuki, a powerfully built man in his mid 40s, possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of the Maasai Mara and its inhabitants.

"No troublemakers would dare enter this park with its legions of predatory guardians," he says as we track our spotted sentinel. "It will always be peaceful here.''

For me, peaceful doesn't begin to describe the privilege of roaming this 300-square-kilometre wild kingdom.

"She must be still searching for her dinner,'' Njuki whispers as we creep closer to the cheetah.

``It's getting late and very dangerous for her to be out. Cheetahs normally hunt by day, leaving the nocturnal shift to the lions. If they catch her, they will kill her.''

We leave my new-found love to focus on feeding her family and drive the final couple of kilometres to Mara Explorer, a permanent tented luxury camp on the thickly forested Mara River.

At check-in, manager David Lewayanna delivers a sobering introductory briefing.

"Under no circumstances,'' he informs me, "are you to leave your tent unescorted after sunset.''

Instead, I have to call the main lodge by walkie-talkie to summon my well-armed escort.

"It's because of the wildlife,'' he explains. ``There are no fences surrounding this camp and predators sometimes wander through at night.

"A couple staying here once discovered a pride of lions camped out on their tent's porch when they awoke early to go ballooning. But such encounters are rare."

Not entirely reassured, I follow Samuel, my personal butler, along a winding trail to my lodgings, an enormous canvas tent with permanent attached bathroom.

An antique claw-foot bathtub graces the spacious deck overlooking a bend in the river where a group of snorting hippos splashes in the shallow water, occasionally wandering ashore directly beneath me to forage.

A crocodile, its jaws gaping open, sits motionless on a sandbank among them.

As I drift off to sleep amid a comical nocturnal symphony of belching hippos, laughing hyenas and shrieking monkeys, I wonder if the cheetah managed to catch anything for dinner.

Over the next three days, I go on twice-daily game drives with Njuki and encounter dozing lions, graceful giraffes, herds of nervous zebras and wildebeests, roving bands of baboons, and even an elusive leopard stalking its prey by the riverside as giant crocodiles bake in the equatorial sun.

I watch, awestruck, as a family of elephants emerges from the foliage right across the river from my tent. I enjoy elaborate bush breakfasts, champagne sundowners on the hood of our land rover, and sumptuous multi-course dinners, animated by Njuki's lectures on Maasai culture and wildlife.

But the most memorable private Mara moment comes during my first game drive just after dawn the morning after I arrive.

It's chilly, with mist rising over the river, and the reserve's waist-high grasses are still wet with dew.

As we slowly climb a winding track along a ridge, Njuki taps the driver on the shoulder and whispers something to him in Swahili.

Then he hands me his binoculars and points toward a thicket three metres away.

``She's there," he says breathlessly. "Watching us. Waiting for you.''

And so she is, the cheetah that had so elegantly introduced me to the magic of the Mara, nestled deep in the underbrush with her two stuffed-toy-like cubs nuzzling up against her.

We inhabit utterly different worlds, yet on this morning as the sun rises over her magnificent East African home, I find myself under her spell again – a beast humbled by the face of beauty.

Mark Sissons is a Vancouver-based freelance writer. His trip was subsidized by Heritage Hotels, Micato Tours and the Kenya Tourism Board.


Malian Musicians Take Blindness In Stride

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Li Robbins

(June 04, 2009) Amadou and Mariam would like to live in Canada. The middle-aged Malian couple whose multilingual, hook-laden hits have out-charted the likes of James Blunt and Green Day (in Europe) currently split their time between Paris and Bamako, the capital of Mali. But they “just love” Canada.

Admittedly Canada's appeal is in part because they have relatives in Montreal. But as guitarist Amadou, speaking by phone on behalf of himself and Mariam, explains, “It's mostly because of the way Canadians approach us, they are so welcoming. And respectful.” The latter is something that the couple, being blind, appreciate.

Elsewhere in the world, things can get a little overwhelming.

“In Paris everybody recognizes us and wants pictures. And it's even worse in Bamako,” says Amadou.

Not that they mind success, and they're proud of the fact that many Malians regard them “kind of as ambassadors for the country.” But the couple, together since they met at the Institute for the Young Blind in Bamako in 1977, and deeply in love ever since, just want to make music. Together.

“It's such a pleasure working together, playing music together. We understand each other really well,” says Amadou. “Even when we do our own compositions by ourselves we always get back together to share ideas, our identity together.”

Part of that shared identity is their blindness – Amadou's since his teens, Mariam's since early childhood. In a way it's been their “brand,” ever since they began performing in Côte d'Ivoire in the 1980s and were billed as “The Blind Couple from Mali.” To some this might seem a decidedly creepy way to market talented musicians, but Amadou says they didn't and don't have a problem with it.

“At that time in Africa it was normal to be described that way. Nowadays, we are known more as Amadou and Mariam, though. Everything takes its own time, and we are fine with that.”

When they hit it big internationally in 2005 with Dimanche à Bamako (produced by maverick musical polyglot Manu Chao), the media treated their blindness as the astonishing capper to an already astonishing success story. After four years and collaborations with the likes of Blur's Damon Albarn, Somali-Canadian rapper K'naan and Malian superstar Toumani Diabate (among others), do they just wish people would quit asking about it?

“No,” says Amadou, decisively. “The fact of being blind is part of our lives. Being a musician and being blind at the same time, having this kind of career – we want to show that's it's possible to do this – it's part of our mission.”

Embarking this week on a tour that includes a string of dates opening for Coldplay, Amadou and Mariam continue to experience as much interest from non-African musicians in their music as they do from journalists in their story. It could be construed as bordering on novelty, or the once-in-a-blue-World-Music-moon success of, say, Youssou N'Dour championed by Peter Gabriel or Ladysmith Black Mambazo by Paul Simon. But the range of musicians interested in Amadou and Mariam seems broader; the audience-base ditto.

In recent years they've begun performing at festivals best known for indie music, or at least for music mostly sung in English. Festivals like Coachella, Lollapalooza and Glastonbury. (Not to mention events like the opening ceremony of 2006's FIFA World Cup.) “Tastemaker” website Pitchfork included the song Sabali , from the duo's last recording, Welcome to Mali , at No. 15 on the Pitchfork 100 Best Tracks of 2008, right behind Lil Wayne's A Milli .

Amadou doesn't think their appeal – spanning cultures and generations – is such a big mystery, though.

“We listened to so much different music when we were younger, rock and blues, and we've been open minded about all kind of music. It makes our music a little bit different, but also there is also something in it for everyone to recognize. So maybe it's more universal. Maybe that is the reason so many people seem to like it.”

The secret to being such a happily married couple who love living together, working together, having children together (and “sometimes argue but never fight,”) is even more explicable.

“We listen to each other,” says Amadou.

Amadou and Mariam play Thursday night in Toronto at the Phoenix and Friday at Montreal's Metropolis.

Jazz Saxist Found Calling At Age 10

www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry, Pop & Jazz Critic

(June 6, 2009)
Boston area saxophonist/vocalist Grace Kelly will have most of the family in tow for her Canadian debut at the Rex tomorrow tonight.

There's her manager-father, who drove the rental van that squired the 17-year-old's quintet here from Massachusetts. The stylish mother, who has perfect pitch – but doesn't play an instrument – ensuring that Kelly is suitably accessorized and in tune. And five-month-old pooch Asher, taking his first road trip.

Kelly, who is in her second year in the prestigious Berklee College of Music's jazz program, has racked up more than a dozen elite student awards, performed with heavy hitters such as Wynton Marsalis, Harry Connick Jr. and Dave Brubeck, and just released her fifth album, Mood Changes.

Lauded for her natural ability and an expressive sound (she reigns on alto sax, but also plays soprano and baritone) the young player embarks on an extensive European tour this summer, in guest roles and with her quintet comprised of musicians at least a decade her senior.

Mood Changes is a jazz-based mix of standards, originals and Beatles and Bill Withers covers, but Kelly is not beholden to that genre. "In the future, straight-ahead jazz is not exactly where I picture myself, because I have so many interests," said the vivacious musician in a phone interview, citing Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and John Mayer among influences.

"I would really like to have a career like Harry Connick Jr. I just am absolutely amazed and admire everywhere his career has gone. When I was really young I loved to act and it's still something I do."

Kelly can't recall if talking or singing came first. She and older sister Christina (a linguistics student at Harvard) began classical piano at age 6. When Kelly heard jazz saxophonist Stan Getz, she fell in love with his unique sound and the sound of the saxophone. But when it came time to choose an instrument in the fourth grade, Kelly picked clarinet.

"I wanted to play saxophone and you have to do clarinet before saxophone; but I was awful at clarinet and I sounded terrible, so that was discouraging.


"So I decided to take up saxophone privately and not wait for school. And the first time ... I blew into it, I got a really beautiful sound and it just clicked.

"Six weeks after picking it up I had my first performance, playing `My Funny Valentine' at a Borders book shop. I couldn't really hold the saxophone, so I put my case on the floor, I sat on the case and rested the saxophone on a pillow and played it like that sitting down."

At age 10, Kelly had found her calling. "I'd never thought of becoming a musician. I have an aunt who is a classical violinist and went to Julliard (school of music), and my mom knows that the life is very tough, so she never wanted her kids to become musicians. But ... I realized it's the only thing I can imagine myself doing."

Born Grace Chung, she came by her royal moniker when she and Christina were adopted by stepfather Bob Kelly following their parents' divorce and mother's remarriage.

"The ironic thing is ever since I was little I totally idolized Grace Kelly, because I watched a lot of old movies. In school I would sign my name Grace Kelly and my teachers would yell at me – `You have to use your real name!' – and then it actually turned into it. You can imagine I was delighted."

Just the facts

WHO: Grace Kelly Quintet

WHERE: Rex, 194 Queen St. W.

WHEN: Sunday @ 9:30 p.m.


Toronto Falls Short In Guinness Guitar Bid

www.globeandmail.com - James Bradshaw

(June 6, 2009)
Toronto — Backed by the appropriately dubbed band, The Heartbroken, 1,623 people watched helplessly Saturday as they fell just short of vaulting Toronto to a new spot in the record books.

The crowd had gathered for the
Luminato Festival's Great Canadian Tune event, an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for largest guitar ensemble by bringing nearly 2,000 people together at Yonge-Dundas Square to play Neil Young's “Helpless.”

But shortly after 5:30 p.m., Guinness judge Carlos Martinez pronounced that the attempt had come close, but fallen 179 bodies short of the current record of 1,802 people, who simultaneously played Deep Purple's “Smoke on the Water” in the German town of Leinfelden-Echterdingen in 2007.

The rules were strict: only six or 12-string guitars were allowed, and the square was fenced in, forcing guitarists to check in and out at its boundaries in order to stop people from registering and leaving early.

Mr. Martinez, a Spaniard who flew in from New York City to judge the attempt, was also the judge for the record-breaking German performance, though in that case the evidence was mailed to him.

Early signs suggested Toronto might just win the day. Several days ago, Luminato reported that more than 3,000 people had downloaded the tablature for the song, designed to help less expert players learn the chords. By 2:20 p.m. Saturday, shortly after registration opened, the lineup of guitarists waiting to sign up had completely encircled Yonge-Dundas Square as registrars rushed to enlist about 25 people per minute. And players from outside Toronto were flowing in to join the attempt, including from a music store in Picton, Ont. which drove down a busload of 50 people.

Even with the afternoon's fortuitously warm and sunny weather, emcee Seamus O'Regan announced towards the end of the countdown that the crowd was still short of the target and appealed to everyone present to call in reinforcements. The cell phones came out, but the extra players didn't.

For some dedicated musicians, earning the record for Canada had been the main attraction. Nick Love, who works for the Songwriters Association of Canada, arrived with the maple leaf plastered on his guitar and tattooed on his right calf.

“It's always been a lifelong dream to be in the Guinness Book of World Records, but I never thought I'd ever be in. I sometimes think up random ideas, but I'm not going to grow out my finger nails or anything like that, so this was exactly up my alley,” he said.

Still, all was not lost. When the crowd took up “Helpless,” one could actually feel the resonant hum of thousands of strings vibrating through the famous D-A-G chord sequence. And the song ended memorably, with the crowd letting out a deafening roar and raising all 1,623 of their guitars to the sky.

Throughout the afternoon, impromptu jam sessions sprung up across the square as strangers gathered to play a variety of Neil Young classics and their other favourite fare. One pair of men even used a tablature application on an iPhone to learn a new song on the spot.

“It's great to get out and meet other musicians and see what other people are doing,” said Joel Wallman, who came in from Ingersoll, Ont. for the event. “It's fun to see people who like metal and people who like folk music just come together and jam.”

And for many, there was great sentimental value in celebrating Neil Young with so many others strumming along, shoulder to shoulder.

“I've been playing for almost 30 years. I'm a huge Neil fan. And Helpless is the first song I ever learned to play, so I had to be here,” said Toronto resident Astrid Bellem.

The crowd was also treated to a concert performance by Canadian band The Heartbroken. The group played a countdown of the nine other songs which lost out to Helpless in a public vote on the Luminato website that was hosted to choose a song for the record-breaking attempt.

Smatterings of guitarists across the square played along as the band belted out renditions of Tom Cochrane's “Boy Inside the Man,” Sarah Harmer's “Basement Apartment,” Feist's “1234,” The Band's “The Weight,” BTO's “Takin' Care of Business,” Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah” and Blue Rodeo's “Hasn't Hit Me Yet.” Artists Kim Stockwood and Justin Rutledge made guest appearances to sing Bryan Adams's “Cuts Like a Knife” and The Tragically Hip's “Courage.”

Still, Toronto is slated to play host to another crack at Guinness World Record glory in less than a month. In 2004, jazz-groove group the Shuffle Demons led 900 saxophonists in a rendition of the famous and long-standing Hockey Night in Canada theme, only to see Taiwan break their record by a mere 18 people in 2008. The Shuffle Demons hope to assemble enough people to reclaim the crown on Canada Day, playing “O Canada.”

And Luminato CEO Janice Price even jokingly floated an idea that would have an even more striking sound pouring out of the square.

“I don't play the guitar. Bagpipes, I could do,” she said.

Idol Finalist Adam Lambert Dishes To Rolling Stone

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(June 09, 2009) NEW YORK – American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert has landed the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, where he talks about sex, drugs and his Idol experiences.

The 27-year-old singer from San Diego acknowledges in an interview that he's gay and says it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.

"I'm proud of my sexuality," he says. "I embrace it. It's just another part of me."

Lambert says he was inspired to audition for the Fox network singing competition after having a "psychedelic experience" at the Burning Man festival in Nevada. There, he says, he experimented with ``certain funguses."

"I knew that it was my only shot to be taken seriously in the recording industry, because it's fast and broad," he says of Idol.

Lambert emerged as an early front-runner and judge favourite, thanks in part to his soaring vocal range.

When he moved into the show's Bel-Air mansion with the other finalists, he roomed with Kris Allen, who won the Idol title over Lambert last month.

"I was like, 'Oh, (bleep), they put me with the cute guy,"' Lambert says. "Distracting! He's the one guy that I found attractive in the whole group on the show: nice, nonchalant, pretty and totally my type – except that he has a wife. I mean, he's open-minded and liberal, but he's definitely 100 per cent straight."

According to Rolling Stone, Lambert was open about his sexuality backstage at Idol. In March, photos surfaced online of Lambert kissing his ex-boyfriend.

"Going into Idol, I assumed, 'okay, people are going to talk,'" he says. "I mean, I've been living in Los Angeles for eight years as a gay man, I've been at clubs making out with somebody in the corner. But photographic evidence? Didn't count on that. Wasn't ready for that."

He says he worried that a public announcement would overshadow his singing, so he decided not to respond and largely kept his personal life under wraps on the show.

"I'm an entertainer, and who I am and what I do in my personal life is a separate thing," he says. "It shouldn't matter. Except it does. It's really confusing."

Lambert says he isn't interested in being the poster child for gay rights. "I'm trying to be a singer, not a civil-rights leader."

He also reveals that he began smoking pot and tried Ecstasy for the first time while performing in a European production of Hair in his early twenties.

"I've finally checked in to my self-worth for the first time in my life, and the fact that it has coincided with Idol is so sweet," he says. "I mean, I still have moments where I think, 'Oh, my skin is terrible, and I'm a little fat, I should really go to the gym more.' But for the most part, when I look in the mirror now, I finally see someone who can do something cool."

Jack Gets The KISS-Off

Source: www.thestar.com - Greg Quill,
Entertainment Columnist

(June 09, 2009) It was no big surprise in the Toronto radio industry when the 1980s and '90 hits station JACK-FM jacked it in on Friday – without notice – to be replaced by the contemporary "hot hits" format and name, KISS 92.5, of its predecessor.

But the move will likely send ripples through the local radio market as other stations targeting women aged 18 to 34 tweak their formats to fight off the new contender, insiders say. "While the JACK format was a smashing success in other parts of Canada, getting 10 per cent and 12 per cent shares, it never really worked in Toronto," says radio analyst David Bray, senior vice-president of Hennessy & Bray, a Toronto electronic media advertising company. "A lot of its playlist was already covered by (classic rock station) Q107, and by (adult contemporary stations) CHFI-FM and CHUM-FM.

The JACK format, sometimes renamed BOB, was developed in 2002 by Winnipeg CHUM broadcasting executive Howard Kroeger and vigorously marketed by competitor Rogers Broadcasting.

It was a big new radio idea in a tired, tightly niched market back then: music for male and female listeners in their late 30s to early 50s who are too young to remember first-hand the classic rock of the 1960s and early '70s, and too old to give a hoot about the grunge, hip hop and rap of the '90s and later.

JACK/BOB spread across North America like wildfire in 2003 through 2005, promoted by Sandy Sanderson, national programming director of Toronto-based Rogers Broadcasting.

He tried every way possible – reducing commercials by as much as 30 per cent, developing playlists three to four times the size of its narrow-niche competitors, running ad campaigns declaring "We play what we want" and even dropping on-air announcers – to impress Toronto listeners and lever JACK92.5 out of the 2 per cent share doldrums where it has languished since replacing KISS-FM in 2003.

In a statement issued Friday, as the new KISS 92.5 kicked off at 3 p.m. with a promise to play 10,000 songs in a row, commercial-free, Sanderson finally admitted defeat.

"We did an incredible amount of research and it came back loud and clear," he said. "It told us there was a huge, unfulfilled demand for a station that would play all hits and nothing but today's hits.''

Available on-air at 92.5 FM in Toronto and online at kiss925.ca, the new station features artists more than familiar to Toronto pop radio audiences: Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West, Nickelback, Katy Perry, T.I., Justin Timberlake, Kardinal Offishall, Britney Spears, Ne-Yo, Kelly Clarkson and Rihanna, among others.

"The KISS 92.5 hot hits format will cause some disruption in the local market among stations that already have a strong contemporary hits component," Bray predicts.

"There'll be a lot of jockeying and adjusting of playlists in the next few weeks. In a market as tightly hits-oriented as Toronto, when one station moves, everyone else has to move too."

Justin Hines Faces The Music

www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

– Justin Hines, Courage (Come Out to Play)

(June 5
, 2009) He scored his first points at a Toronto Raptors game in front of 17,000 people, but Justin Hines wasn't there to play basketball. Crippled since birth, the 13-year-old boy's job that day was to sing the national anthem, which he did very well, his “glorious and free” thrilling enough to set a music career in motion.

Fourteen years later, Hines is a successful singer-songwriter. His second album, Chasing Silver , came out this week. A current television commercial for Ontario Tourism – “There's no place like this” – boosts his profile.

Talking to Hines and watching him zip about in his motorized wheelchair, you realize there's very little stop in the young man who sings convincingly about chasing suns, touching stars and running down dreams.

On a visit to The Globe and Mail offices last week, he talked about the challenges he faces, compared to the bothers of others.

He suffers from Larsen syndrome, a congenital condition that stunted his physical growth, leaves his joints oddly angled, and has put him in a wheelchair. “This is my reality,” he says. “For me to get up in the morning and to function, I've got to do whatever I've got to do.”

He contorts a bit, raising his right shoulder, wringing one hand with the other, and fingering his wedding ring while talking about his album, an uplifting collection of acoustic soul in the middle-of-the-road vein of Amos Lee or bearded seventies cats like Jim Croce.

Is he in pain? Not really, he says. “Nothing that stops me on a day-to-day basis.”

Raised north of Toronto in Stouffville, Hines's “situation,” as he refers to it, is serious enough that he had to shut down his music career as a teenager – a break to “get things back in order.” Earlier on, as a child, the boy who could sing before he could talk was taken by his grandmother to churches and old-folks' homes to entertain. It's still sort of his thing: Because of his inspirational back story and heartening, motivational lyrics, he plays a lot of charity shows and corporate concerts rather than numerous club gigs.

The album's first single, Say What You Will , is sweet, emotional – “Say what you will before it's too late” – and poignantly melodic. “If I were to die today,” Hines sings, “my life would be more than okay.” It's a line that could be seen as cloying, but the songwriter assures that it's his reality. “I have no sense of angst. I don't know a different life. I'm fulfilled.”

In a way, Hines, a Top 40 version of Terry Fox, is Canada's answer to Irish tenor Ronan Tynan (a double amputee) and blind opera singer Andrea Bocelli. But his musical talent needs no crutch. He plays piano just well enough to write stirring songs that are extremely easy on the ears. He describes one of them, Courage (Come Out to Play) , as liberating.

“My life has changed a lot in the last two years,” he says. “I've had to step out of my comfort zone. The song is a declaration about being able to face more than I thought I could.”

It's funny that Quebec singer Bernard Lachance was able to snag an invite to appear on Oprah (and land a subsequent record deal) after inviting the big-mama talk-show host to see him perform at a Chicago theatre he had rented out himself.

Hines is talented, and has something to say other than “Look at me.” He'd be easy to root for even if he were 10 feet tall and in pristine health – he's someone you would imagine underdog champion Winfrey would dearly want as her guest. Really, it seems like a slam dunk.

Pat Martino Lives In Same Family Home He Left As A Teen To Pursue His Musical Career

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry,
Pop & Jazz Critic

(June 04, 2009) Pat Martino was born and raised in South Philadelphia, but like many jazz musicians, the renowned guitarist came of age in the Big Apple.

"If you really want to grow up, you need to live in New York for awhile," says Martino, an only child who took off to the city at 15 to pursue his musical ambitions. Anxiety rather than bravery fuelled the decision to leave his large extended Italian family (his parents had 17 siblings between them) in 1959, he says.

"I feared participation in the family's endeavours," explains Martino, 65, by phone recently.

"They were deeply involved in the tailor and clothing industries. I grew up watching my father pressing lapels in a factory and my mother sewing lapels. Many of my cousins did the same thing and I didn't want to."

Though his father was a music aficionado who purchased the youth's first guitar (at age 12) and took him to jazz clubs, Martino's parents were dismayed when he dropped out of school in the Grade 10 to devote himself to music.

The virtuoso started off in rock 'n' roll, playing with the likes of Bobby Rydell, Chubby Checker and Bobby Darin, then was recruited by R&B singer Lloyd Price for a band that included burgeoning jazzers Slide Hampton, Jimmy Heath and Stanley Turrentine.

"I had the ability and I had the guidance and compassion of the elders in the group who were startled by my technical facility at that early age," says the self-taught Martino who performs with an organ trio at the Art of Jazz festival at the Distillery District on Saturday.

He made his recording debut as a headliner in 1967 and, with a concentration in jazz, became noted for an elegant sound and lightning quick tempos.

Martino, who had eventually settled in L.A., returned to Philadelphia in 1980 to have a brain tumour removed.

He scheduled the operation in his hometown to be close to his parents "in the event I didn't come all the way through, at least I'd be with them."

After the surgery, it was several years before Martino recovered his memory and the ability to play guitar. Resuming facility with the instrument was "like a child relearning playfulness," he says.

The musician remained in Philadelphia to support his aging parents and currently lives in the family home, which he gutted and restored after their deaths.

"I learned about my roots here, and neighbours who had seen me leave at age 15 finally had a chance to say hello," he says.

Martino is in the midst of writing music for a live quartet recording at Washington, D.C.'s Blues Alley at the end of the month.

"The most formidable element is worry," he says of the composing process.

"I worry about what's going to be on the new album and I put it off, mainly because I have so many other priorities and responsibilities. The closer (the recording date) gets, suddenly there's a magic that takes place; I awaken in the morning and there's a song in my heart and on my mind and it just begins to pour out.

"I get the feeling sometimes I'm placed on neutral and I'm used by a completely different identity that is productively creative for that purpose alone.

"And I'm used for that song, for that music, for that composition, and I can never figure out how to do it again, because it doesn't belong to me."

Just the facts
What: Pat Martino Trio with Tony Monaco and Jason Brown.

When: Sunday @ 3 p.m.

Where: Trinity Stage, Distillery District

Tickets: Free

Sharon Temple Concert Program Starts Sunday

Source: www.thestar.com - John Terauds,
Classical Music Critic

(June 04, 2009) Nestled in the remains of a Loyalist village on the northern fringe of Newmarket, the Sharon Temple is a remarkable place to appreciate a rare intersection of pastoral beauty and fine music.

Since resurrecting the summer concert series at the 177-year-old wooden meeting house two years ago, artistic director Stephen Cera has shown a knack for bringing in artists and programs well-suited to its suspended-in-time aesthetic.

The square building seats slightly more than 200 people inside its boxy openness.

Usually, the setup places the performers somewhere near the centre. It gives concerts an intimate, salon-like feeling.

Plus, there is the lush greenery outside to tease the eyes on a beautiful afternoon.

This year's five-concert series begins Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. with veteran Russian pianist Nikolai Demidenko. He plays with a compelling combination of tight control and a particularly broad expressive range. His intensely Romantic program includes Robert Schumann's Carnaval suite as well as all 24 Preludes from Op. 28 by Frederic Chopin.

Toronto's own star pianist, Anton Kuerti, is up on June 14, with a program of pieces by Haydn, Mendelssohn and Beethoven's fabulous Diabelli Variations.

On June 21, the Elmer Iseler Singers perform an all-Canadian program with conductor Lydia Adams and bass clarinet player Jeff Reilly.

Vocal-music buffs will want to catch mezzo-soprano Krysztina Szabó on June 28. She's promising an eclectic selection of art songs.

The 2009 series closes on July 5 with Brainerd Blyden-Taylor's Nathaniel Dett Chorale.

For full festival information, visit sharontemple.ca. Tickets are available from the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at 416-597-7840.

The Blues, From Mississippi To Mali

www.globeandmail.com - Brad Wheeler

(June 5
, 2009) Toronto — "Y'all ready for some blues?” That's a question that's often asked, at a festival or in a funky Chicago room, usually by a presenter of some sort of gregarious blues music. It's a trite crowd-exciter but it's also a proprietary matter, with a performer self-defining a genre to his liking in a way that lets an audience know that what's being played is the “real deal” variety, and that you should accept no substitute.

Blues veteran
Taj Mahal has collaborated with Hawaiian, Caribbean, African and rock musicians.

What is and what isn't authentic is a constantly evolving concept with blues. With today's free
Travelling Blues concert today at Metro Square, Luminato programmers have assembled a globally diverse lineup that supports the theory that the music never simply journeyed a one-way road from Africa to Mississippi to Chicago.

Headliners include veteran Taj Mahal, who brings a tireless imagination to his “natch'l world” music. He's collaborated with Hawaiian, Caribbean, African and rock musicians, everybody from the Rolling Stones to Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté. Diabaté's cousin, fellow kora player Mamadou Diabaté is on today's bill as well. The kora is a 21-string, plucked, resonating, harp-lute instrument. It isn't such a bluesy device, the kora, but there are connections to African music and the malleable Mississippi Delta blues traditions: Malian song forms rely on minor pentatonic (five-note) scales, which are similar to the blues scale.

African music influenced American blues, which in turn circled back to the mother continent in different, contemporary shapes. This kind of cross-pollination is at the heart of the Travelling Blues show, which is one component of Luminato's broader celebration of the guitar. “It's 10 days of looking at the guitar in many different ways,” says festival artistic director Chris Lorway. “We're looking at the guitar as an instrument, and how different cultures and different musicians around the world play with the instrument and its variable sonorities.”

Today's variable sonorities include multi-Juno winning trio Tri-Continental, Guinean-Canadian Alpha Yaya Diallo, acoustic delta-blues stylist Michael Pickett, Alvin Youngblood Hart (solo and then with a louder trio), and the inquisitive guitar duo of Kevin Breit and Harry Manx, the Salt Spring Island-based player of the guitar-sitar hybrid, the mohan veena.

It's at a different venue, and they're not calling it blues, but tomorrow's wide-ranging World of Slide Guitar program will appeal to blues fans in a big way. Stars include Hawaiian kona guitarist Don Rooke, sacred steel gospel band the Campbell Brothers, the legendary Sonny Landreth, the sublime Daniel Lanois, and Derek Trucks, who roars stunningly and with a spiritual touch.

Blues historian Robert Palmer put it this way: “How much history can be transmitted by pressure on a guitar string?” We're about to find out.

Travelling Blues, Saturday, 1 to 10:30 p.m., Metro Square, 225 King St. W., Toronto. The World of Slide Guitar, Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto.

Singing The Blues In The Financial District

Source:  www.thestar.com - Greg Quill,
Entertainment Columnist

(June 07, 2009) It's not easy to imagine the bleak canyon that is Metro Square, a concrete space surrounded on three sides by some of the ugliest and most forbidding architecture in the core of Toronto's financial district, as a setting for musical magic. But thanks to some impressive programming by the presenters of the Luminato Festival's Traveling Blues concert, that's just what happened there yesterday afternoon and last night.

And it was free.

The site's shortcomings notwithstanding, a long list of international blues artists included American headliners Taj Mahal and Alvin Youngblood Hart, Canadians Michael Pickett, Isle of Man expat Harry Manx and Toronto guitarist Kevin Breit, Madagascar expat Madagascar Slim, Australian blues belter Fiona Boyes, West African guitarist Alpha Yaya Diallo and North Carolina-based Malian kora master Mamadou Diabaté. They drew a deep and ragged line from Southern blues back to its origins in Africa, with a side-trip — thanks to Manx — to India and other sub-continental musical hotspots.

It was an impressive and enriching journey, showcasing the blues as a multi-faceted art form that is being reshaped and reinvented constantly by new converts in every cultural milieu.

It the heat of the afternoon the crowd was relatively sparse, but engaged, in the contributions of Diallo and blues-rocker Hart. But it wasn't till later in the day, when the clouds moved in and the temperature dropped, that the blues heat was cranked up, and the crowd started building for Taj Mahal's 9 p.m. closing spot.

Boyes, performing solo on an acoustic guitar, was rewarded with an encore for her vigorous and muscular finger-picking, accentuated by a heavy rhythm thumb and a beat box beneath her pounding right foot, and for her growling vocals and ribald lyrics.

Her rough, unpolished style and friendly banter earned her new fans, about a hundred of whom lined up enthusiastically to buy autographed CDs immediately after her set.

By then the stage — split into two halves to ensure a seamlessly tight schedule — had been taken over by Diabaté, dressed in colourful traditional robes, and his magnificent kora, a rare and exotic instrument that looks like a primitive harp fashioned from an oversized gourd from which 21 strings stretch to a long, mast-like pole.

Using his thumbs and finger tips Diabaté set up unimaginably complex, syncopated rhythm and harmonic patterns that formed the bed for shimmering solos that poured from the higher registers like luminous, liquid silver, darting between the foundation arpeggios as fast as sheet lightning. It was a mesmerizing performance that brought the crowd, now numbering around 3,000, to its feet.

Diabaté was also on hand for Taj Mahal's first song, a typically ambiguous, deep-groove major-key blues with infectious Afro-Caribbean overtones, played on an acoustic guitar and embellished with bass and drums.

For the rest of his performance, the American roots music legend relied on a big-box electric guitar, more familiar blues grooves and lots of punchy solos. By then it was clear the audience was ready to dig in and dance.

And Toronto loves its blues down and dirty.

Toronto Soprano Competes In Met Documentary Coming To Cinemas Today

Source:  www.thestar.com - John Terauds, Classical Music Critic

(June 6, 2009)
Yannick-Muriel Noah is ambivalent about The Audition, a feature documentary New York's Metropolitan Opera is beaming into movie theatres this afternoon at 1 (with a second show Monday at 7 p.m.).

"I'm not sure how I feel about lifting the veil," the Toronto-based soprano says after an advance screening. "I want people to see me as the singer on stage," she adds, and not as a nervous contestant.

Noah sits quietly, then smiles. "But, you know, I'm always fascinated by everything that happens backstage."

Just 10 days ago, the 30-year-old former member of the Canadian Opera Company's Ensemble Studio won the $15,000 second prize at the Montreal International Music Competition. In March, she earned a top spot at the George London Foundation competition in New York City, and is a decorated veteran of several other competitions. She even made it to the semi-finals of the Metropolitan National Council Auditions, the subject of this engrossing film.

The Met's annual talent search helped launch the careers of fellow Toronto soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian and Rochester's Renée Fleming. Every year since 1952, the Met competition has started with local auditions throughout the United States and Canada. It shakes out about 10 true talents from among 100 or so local winners for an intense week of coaching and final auditions in New York City.

At the end, five or six finalists perform in concert at the Metropolitan Opera House, with orchestra. Each also gets a cheque for $15,000 (U.S.) to help further their careers.

The Audition, conceived by filmmaker Susan Froemke, follows the class of 2007 – all nerves, neuroses and boundless hopes – from arrival to final curtain call. It's a well-paced, engaging story that, both Noah and I conclude, doesn't diminish the magic that is opera.

The 105-minute documentary is followed by a filmed panel discussion featuring Renée Fleming and two other former Met finalists: mezzo Susan Graham and baritone Thomas Hampson.

One of the 2007 winners in The Audition is American soprano Angela Meade. She beat Noah at last month's competition in Montreal, earning a $30,000 (Cdn.) first prize.

"Our paths have crossed several times. She usually takes first place, and I take second," Noah says, smiling. "Sometimes, it's the other way around."

She recognizes other familiar faces among the singers. "It's always good to be friendly with each other because you know, you'll usually see them again somewhere," she says.

As the film reveals, the smiling faces get strained when the rehearsal-room door is closed. The exercise demands a fine balance. "You have three minutes to make an impression," Noah explains. "The person who gave more will get more – but there is such a thing as giving too much."

I ask Noah, a mother of two, how she copes. Her solution is not to second-guess herself. "I'm working on instant forgiveness," she says of the imperfect notes that inevitably spring from any throat.

Why put yourself through this? For Noah, competitions are a way to catch the eyes and ears of casting directors and artistic administrators. The sense of personal challenge also beckons. "You don't have to win a prize to make it useful," she says. "The best way to learn is to perform, to learn who you are."

Early in The Audition, the new arrivals emerge on the Met stage for the first time. You can see their eyes light up as they take in the wedding-cake hall with the gilded ceiling. "That's the best view," Noah comments, beaming. "That's when you know what you are singing for."

Toronto will have a chance to see Noah in action again in September, when she sings the role of Cio-Cio-San in the Canadian Opera Company's season-opening production of Puccini's Madama Butterfly.

As in a good opera, The Audition captures the emotion and drama central to the story of these young artists' lives. Before we know it, we are sweating with them as they prepare for their final aria.

Be warned, there's a devastating, totally unexpected twist at the end of the story that reinforces how attached we have become to the people on screen.

Neil Young, Massey Hall, Jan. 19, 1971

www.globeandmail.comBrad Wheeler

(June 08, 2009) It was noisy at the fair, and all his friends were there. In many ways, Neil Young’s two-show stand at Toronto's Massey Hall on January 19, 1971, was his Sugar Mountain moment – the coming of age for a gloomy singer-songwriter, stepping outside his past associations with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills and Nash, while moving up from the coffee houses into a much bigger spotlight. The concerts were taped, eventually released as an album in 2007 and now again as part of the just-out Archives Vol. 1: 1963-1972 box set.

Young has accomplished so much since 1971, but his greatest legacies will be his songs. Some of them are to be heard at Wednesday’s Luminato presentation, The Canadian Songbook: A Tribute to Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall. The concert, held at that building, will mostly run true to the original set list, with material performed by various artists – some of whom elaborate on what they have in mind:

On the Way Home

The Bill Frisell Trio

Originally recorded by Buffalo Springfield (and sung by Richie Furay) on 1968's Last Time Around . It really was the last time around for that band, as documented by Young, who wrote “Now I won't be back till later on / If I do come back at all.” Spryly strummed, and forlorn.

Tell Me Why

Tony Scherr, with Bill Frisell

The opening track to 1970's After the Gold Rush . In 1988, Young told an interviewer that he eventually stopped performing the song because of its nonsensical chorus: “Is it hard to make arrangements with yourself?/ When you're old enough to replay and young enough to sell.” Later he would confess, “You know I don't edit my songs.”

Old Man

Holly Cole

The “old man” is the foreman of the ranch Young had recently purchased in northern California. Says chanteuse Cole: “The songwriting is so organic, with lyrics that are poetic but also bare, honest and quite vulnerable. The song has a beautiful sense of melancholy, and I'm dying to sing it.”

Journey Through the Past

Steven Page

A pensive, homesick new song (on piano) written while on tour: “Now I'm going back to Canada, on a journey through the past.” Like Old Man , it's about his ranch, and the woman who was waiting there for him.


Danny Michel and the Sisters Euclid

A spare, awesomely beautiful ballad, Helpless gets two renditions, first by singer-songwriter Michel, followed by an instrumental version by slide-guitarist Kevin Breit and the Sisters Euclid. The lyrics, though evocative, won't be missed on the lyric-free version – we know the words so well by now.

Love in Mind

Cowboy Junkies

Like Journey Through the Past , the downcast Love In Mind was issued on Time Fades Away , a live album from 1973. Junkies guitarist Michael Timmins remembers when he first heard it: “For some reason this very slight piano tune hit my 13-year-old psyche very hard, its melody and imagery imbedded in my subconscious for over 35 years. Time to set it free.”

A Man Needs a Maid

Stevie Jackson (of Belle and Sebastian)

Young at his most chauvinistic, and his most vulnerable: “Afraid, a man feels afraid” is the first chorus, later dropped. Cinematic and grandiose, even in its bare voice-and-piano form.

Heart of Gold

Colin James

In 1971, Young performed A Man Needs aMaid and Heart of Gold as a suite. For the Luminato concert, the latter is done by singer-guitarist James, who attempts to add a touch of “old-school rhythm and blues” to the original country-flavoured radio hit. “As with any song that is so widely known,” James explains, “you have got to forget what you know about it and approach it like you're hearing it for the first time.”

Cowgirl in the Sand

Kathryn Rose, Emilie-Claire Barlow and Melanie Doane

Chunky-chorded, with three verses for a trio of voices. Says Rose: “We decided that just organ and guitar would be beautiful and would give our voices lots of room, so we broke it down and dug for buried treasure.”

Don't Let It Bring You Down

Cowboy Junkies

On the Massey album you can hear Young tuning down his guitar to a D-modal tuning, also used for the dark, droning tone of Mr. Soul, Ohio and Cinnamon Girl .

There's a World

Issa (Jane Siberry)

A dramatic, slow-moving piano number, written in Vancouver. A fully orchestrated version appears on 1972's Harvest .

Bad Fog of Loneliness

Roxanne Potvin

A previously unreleased track, with an easygoing melody and a daydreaming lament. Says Potvin: “On the Massey album, Neil talks about writing it especially for a performance on The Johnny Cash Show, to play with Carl Perkins and the Tennessee Three. But the taping got postponed and he ended up playing another tune on the show. My interpretation is inspired by how they might have played it together.”

The Needle and the Damage Done

Chocolate Genius Inc

Young hit the city (Los Angeles) and lost his band (to heroin). For Luminato, New York's Marc Anthony Thompson of the Chocolate Genius collective performs the harrowing ballad on piano. “I learned it on the guitar, but every time that I came back to Neil's version I realized that it was the definitive version, and that it would be impossible for me to pick up the guitar and play that song without feeling like anything but an imposter.”


Carole Pope

A quick, bold response to the Kent State shootings in 1970. As Jimmy McDonough wrote in his Young biography, Shakey , “In 10 lines, Young captured the fear, frustration and anger felt by the youth across the country and set it to a lumbering D-modal death march that hammered home the dread.”

See the Sky About to Rain

Jason Collett, with Tony Scherr and Kevin Breit

Another frowning piano number. A reviewer of the 1971 Massey concert said of Young: “He comes on wearing his private rain cloud like a halo.”

Down by the River

Harry Manx

A soaring death ballad, more familiar in its epic, grungy Crazy Horse form. British Columbia-based folk-blues artist Manx will do it solo. “Neil sang this one in a high range, so I've had to bring it down to a key that I can work with. Unlike Neil I'm playing it on a lap-slide guitar – 1970s Martin I bought off Randy Bachman – in a tuning which I created.”

Dance, Dance, Dance

Colin Linden

“Everybody make noise,” said a suddenly upbeat Young at Massey Hall in 1971. A clap-happy audience heard a frolicking Young go all smiley and John Denver-like – “Never thought love had a rainbow/ Used to think a cloud was a nightmare.”

I Am a Child

Sarah Slean

A sweet, simply plucked tune that considers the turnabout of parenthood – “I gave to you, now you give to me” – while still posing juvenile riddles, “What is the colour, when black is burned?”

Luminato's The Canadian Songbook: A Tribute to Neil Young's Live at Massey Hall takes place Wednesday, 8 p.m, Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St. (416-872-1111).

Andy Summers In Black And White

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Guy Dixon

(June 09, 2009) Andy Summers of the Police is famous for his trademark guitar, an old, modified Fender Telecaster. But there's another instrument equally integral to the musician – his Leica M6 camera.

Summers first gained attention as a photographer with black-and-white, behind-the-scenes shots taken during the band's tours in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Groupies, hotel corridors and the faces of ecstatic fans were captured with the graininess and rich blacks that were making a comeback in the photography world, particularly by the mid-1980s. That was when the members of the Police were starting to go their separate ways and Summers had become engrossed in photography.

“Depending on your own genetic makeup, it can get obsessive. Towards the end [of the Police's heyday], I seemed to be doing photography so much, so full on. And also being in the band, it was completely intense,” Summers said during a stop in Toronto last week, where his photos are currently featured in Shadow Notes, an exhibition created for the Luminato festival continuing until Sunday.

Summers has described Roxanne and other Police songs as material he has long left behind, despite the group's 2007-2008 reunion tour. He has since branched off in jazz and fusion directions. Still, his photography is very much rooted in that era of black and white's comeback, a time when photography was re-establishing a link back to Robert Frank's seminal 1958 book The Americans and other mid-century masterworks. This might seem almost retro today, as photographers explore digital tools. But Summers sees it differently. For him, black and white is not something that comes and goes: “For some of us, it never left.”

With his Leica, and sometimes even a down-market point-and-shoot camera, Summers tries to shoot in situations where he's inconspicuous. Sometimes he'll wear a hat to cover his blond hair. But other times he shoots where “everyone knows who I am, and when I pick up a camera, they think it's funny. I get a lot of great shots that way. I shot the audience a lot on the last [reunion] tour.”

Of his style of photographs, he added, “The thing that I love purely from an instinctual and emotional response is black and white. It seems so powerful and has this element of truth in it that seems to be missing from colour photography. Colour photography seems so banal in comparison, while black and white always seemed to have a stronger emotional truth.”

It's no surprise then that the two other photographers being shown with Summers at Luminato are Danny Clinch and Ralph Gibson, known for a similarly straightforward style. Gibson, another Leica aficionado, is eager to drive into the dust the idea that digital has permanently trumped film. (And incidentally, just as Fender made a limited-edition replica of Summers's unique Telecaster, Leica has a custom Ralph Gibson signature model of its MP film camera – a camera that has the older, more tactile feel of manually changing the f-stops and shutter speeds and demands that photographers get relatively close to their subjects.)

“What with the nature of cellphones taking images,” Gibson said, “you can probably opine that there are more digital images made today or this afternoon than in the entire history of light on film. However, I would like you to give me the name of one masterpiece. This work is made for and designed to be ephemera. There seems to be no criteria, no interest in producing works of staying power or endurance from the digital media.”

Gibson, who once worked for Robert Frank and Dorothea Lange, has often aimed for iconic work, and that's reflected in the advice he gives other photographers. He tells them to destroy any negative of theirs that reflects the work of another photographer they admire: “Show me something that's so specifically you, something that has no point of reference to anything that has come before. Any photographer we admire has a visual signature. You recognize his or her work from across a parking lot.”

“Getting a visual signature in a medium where all you do is press a little button is not the easiest thing in the world,” he added. Much of Gibson's signature is a playfulness and intentional simplicity, which steer him away from the weightier and socially conscious works of the generation before him.

Gibson is among Summers's many influences. Summers is also particularly drawn to the work of Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama, who pushes the Robert Frank aesthetic into a rich, Japanese cosmopolitan dreaminess. “I think what I move toward is, in a sense, a kind of low-key, more subdued thing in art, where it's more ambiguous, slightly obscure. It's like playing minor keys and complex chords, rather than big, bright major chords,” Summers said.

Summers often talks about hitting “colours” when playing guitar, despite his preference for black-and-white photography. It's not a contradiction. It's the way he seems to explore other directions as he heads toward a final outcome in his work, looking left to turn right. With the Police, that often meant adding augmented guitar shimmers to Sting's bass melodies. In photography, it's found in nighttime street scenes and dark, abstract shadows in the bright sun. He's recently back from a trip to shoot market scenes in Morocco.

“With digital of course, there are some people doing incredible things with colours. But I don't think it has the same power as black and white,” he said.

Photographs by Andy Summers, Danny Clinch and Ralph Gibson can be seen in Toronto's Yonge-Dundas Square until Sunday.

Jonathan Roy: A Lover, Not A Fighter

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Guy Dixon

(June 10, 2009) Accompanied by light guitars and soft-rock arrangements, Jonathan Roy sings of longing and regret – sensitive stuff for a 20-year-old who remains the archetype for on-ice brawling in Quebec junior hockey.

In March last year, Roy, a goalie for the Quebec Ramparts and the son of famed hockey netminder Patrick Roy, won infamy for his part in what he describes as “the biggest thing that happened in 2008” in Quebec City. The incident is behind him, he says, as he gears toward a musical career, even if he admits it's still very fresh in the minds of the hockey public.

For those outside that cultural sphere, a little background: During a major fight among a number of players, Roy skated across the rink and began punching opposing goalie Bobby Nadeau of the Chicoutimi Saguenéens. Video footage of the incident became a YouTube sensation, of course, and polarized hockey fans, particularly those who also knew of Roy's singing ambitions. He was suspended for seven games that season and will return to criminal court this summer to face charges.

But ask him whether sensitive, nylon-string melodies like Everybody's Been Hurt and What I've Become (also the title of the album), are an effort to change his public image, and Roy will tell you “no.”

“Not at all. These songs are things that happened in my life. What I've Become is about my uncle passing away from cancer. So, no, none of the songs are trying to change the image,” he says.

 “ Me and my father, we don't know what we're doing. This is new for us. We've only been in hockey, so we need somebody to make sure we're going in the right direction. ”

His appearances on Quebec talk shows, though, are a different matter. He has made the rounds on TV to re-introduce himself publicly. “Going on shows, going on [the widely popular talk show] Tout le monde en parle , yeah, those were for the image. Those were to show people that I wasn't the person they saw on TV [fighting],” Roy says by phone from Quebec. “I went on about 15 or 20 talk shows, trying to show everybody that I wasn't that person.”

The music also isn't about hockey, he adds, even though the song All Because of Me is about his experience of going through the aftermath of the fight and the media glare, he says. But the music, in general, isn't a grand attempt to make amends. It's something he has been doing since he was a teen, he notes.

“I started when I was about 13 or 14 years old. I started writing poems at school. I loved writing, and it was a way for me to express myself. And at the age of 16, 17, I started to put my poems into songs and that's just where it started.”

His gigs are still centred around the province, but “I'm talking to René Angélil to get out of Quebec.” Angélil, a celebrity in his own right, is more widely known in the Anglo word as Céline Dion's husband and manager, and he is offering advice to Roy. That connection is thanks to Father Roy's input.

As Roy explains, “[Angélil] is a great friend of my father's. He's the one that helps us out. Me and my father, we don't know what we're doing. This is new for us. We've only been in hockey, so we need somebody to make sure we're going in the right direction.”

Roy won't express regret about the fight per se, noting that he isn't allowed to talk about it at all due to the pending criminal case. But he has apologized many times for giving the finger to the opposing team's fans.

Hockey isn't something he plans to disassociate himself from. His last season was one of his best ever, even though it may also be the final one of his hockey career, since his prospects of continuing into the top ranks are slim because he isn't good enough, he says. Music has become the fallback, with his radio-friendly sound and sufficiently hoarse voice to avoid sounding too soft – placing him at the lighter end of a continuum that stretches to other ubiquitous singers like Nickelback's Chad Kroeger.

“I never actually thought I was going to make a CD. I was doing hip hop at the beginning when I was around 14 years old. Here in Quebec, it was very popular. It was just something I liked, and at the age of about 16, 17, that's where I pretty much changed style.”

Fans on the Internet haven't always been kind toward the goalie-turned-singer. Have teammates given him a hard time? “Never. All my buddies and teammates, they come to the shows. They like my music. Music is for everyone. Everybody loves it. So I don't think I need to be shy about it.”

Roy sings in English. He speaks French fluently, he can't read or write it, he says, having gone to school in English. When he started performing under the hip-hop moniker Daking, as in “the king” (some past references on the Internet mention him as J.O.E. Daking, but Roy insists it was simply Daking), he recorded the song Perfect Vacation . The lyrics aren't exactly hardcore: “ Went down to Florida, didn't know what to do/Turns out, turns out, it was you/Didn't know how to fall in love with you/But I guess it was meant to be .” The song received 600,000 listens by users of his MySpace site, he says. “So we said, Wow, it works.”

Even though it's party rap, Roy was listening to what was going on around him, incorporating a hint of the wait-a-half-a-beat lyrical pauses popular at the time with more cutting acts like England's Lady Sovereign. Perfect Vacation now appears on the self-released new album, even though it runs noticeably counter to the trend toward the rest of the disc's John Mayer and John Mraz-inspired songs.

“Me, I don't have enough talent to play in the NHL, that's for sure. Maybe play in Europe one year. I mean, I have limited talent,” he says. “If music keeps going the way it's going, for sure I'm going to have to leave hockey.”

Musicians Claim Intimidation By Radio Stations

Source: www.thestar.com - Jennifer C. Kerr,
Associated Press

(June 10, 2009) WASHINGTON–Which top-selling artist purportedly had his new single yanked from some U.S. radio stations' playlists in retaliation for supporting royalties for musicians?

No one involved will name the recording artist, but his no-play treatment by several radio stations is alleged in a complaint filed with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and obtained by The Associated Press. It claims recording artists are being threatened and intimidated.

In the filing, the music-first Coalition says the top-selling artist – there are hints it could be U2 front man Bono – recently released a new album and spoke during April in support of an effort to require radio stations to pay musicians royalties similar to those paid to songwriters.

Soon after, it said, "several stations within a major radio broadcast group notified the artist's label that they would no longer play his single on the air."

Representatives for music-first refused to identify the artist. The complaint said artists asked to remain unidentified "to protect against further reprisal."

U2's album, No Line on the Horizon, was released in March with its leadoff single, "Get on Your Boots."

In April, Bono issued a statement on behalf of pay for musicians, saying, "It's only fair that when radio makes money by playing a recording artist's music ... the recording artist should be compensated just as songwriters are already."

Calls and emails to a spokeswoman for Bono were not immediately returned.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which represents about 6,500 radio stations nationwide, denied any attempt by stations to retaliate or intimidate artists. A statement by NAB Executive Vice-President Dennis Wharton called the complaint a "stunt" and said artists who support royalties, such as Will.i.am, get great play on the radio.

"His group Black Eyed Peas are currently Number 1 on Billboard's Pop 100 Airplay Chart with the song 'Boom Boom Pow,"' said the statement. The single was distributed in May, and the group's new album, The E.N.D., was first distributed in June.

The filing by music-first also alleges unfair treatment of other artists by radio stations in Florida, Delaware and Texas. It does not identify any of the stations but accuses them of unlawfully putting their own financial interests above their obligation to serve the public. The group asks the FCC, which regulates the public airwaves, to investigate.

The controversy centres on legislation in Congress that would require radio stations to pay musicians royalties. Satellite radio, Internet radio and cable TV music channels already pay fees to performers and musicians, along with songwriter royalties. AM and FM radio stations just pay songwriters, not performers.

The NAB opposes the bill, called the Performance Rights Act. The group says it amounts to a tax on U.S. radio stations and threatens thousands of jobs.

The filing by music-first, made late Tuesday, also said:

– A Delaware radio station boycotted all artists affiliated with music-first for an entire month.

– Before an interview, an artist was pressured by a Texas radio station to state on the air that the Performance Rights Act would cripple radio stations.

Other artists involved with music-first include Don Henley, Céline Dion, Christina Aguilera and Wyclef Jean.


New Amerie Video To Premiere On BET

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(June 4, 2009) *The video for
Amerie's new single "Why R U," from her forthcoming Def Jam debut "In Love & War," will premiere on Monday, June 8 on BET's "106 & Park."  Born Amerie Mi Marie Rogers, the singer will join hosts Terrence and Rocsi to present the Ray Kay-directed clip.  "In Love & War," due in August, features production from Teddy Riley, Sean Garrett, Eric Hudson, Jim Jonsin, Rico Love and The Buchanans, who crafted the first single. So far, no collaborations have been officially announced, but, there are rumours that she will duet with Trey Songz on a remake of Mint Condition's 1991 hit "Breaking My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)." Amerie, 29, signed with Def Jam in spring of 2008 after leaving Sony Records, which released her previous two albums (2005's "Touch" and the Europe-only disc "Because I Love It" in 2007). Her Columbia records debut "All I Have" featured her breakout single "Why Don’t We Fall In Love."  Her new single "Why R U" will be serviced to radio on June 15.

New Whitney Album Due In September

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 5, 2009) *Arista Records has announced that the release date for
Whitney Houston's new album is Sept. 1.  The set, her first studio CD in seven years, was shepherded by her mentor Clive Davis with hopes that it will put the pop star back on top of her game.    The 45-year-old Grammy-winner is one of the best-selling artists of all-time, but in recent years, she's been in the headlines more for her drug problems, marital drama and erratic behaviour. In recent months, Houston has sought to put those problems behind her with well-received public performances, including a rousing set at Davis' pre-Grammy party in February. 

Wyclef's Anti-Poverty Efforts Honoured

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 5, 2009) *Wyclef Jean will be honoured in New York Monday (June 8) by the World Hunger Year (WHY) organization for his global efforts in fighting against poverty. WHY is a leading advocate for innovative, community-based solutions to hunger and poverty, and combats these issues by promoting methods for creating self-reliance, economic justice, and equal access to nutritious and affordable food. The one-time Fugees member will receive the organization's ASCAP-Harry Chapin Humanitarian award at the 2009 WHY-Chapin awards dinner, which will take place at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers in New York City.  Musician/actor/activist Harry Belafonte will be on hand to present Jean the award, reports Allhiphop.com.  In 2005, Jean established his Yéle Haiti foundation, which works towards long-term progress for Haiti via small-scale, manageable and replicable projects. The effort is credited with changing the lives of children and adults through education, health, environment and community development programs.

Alicia Keys To Receive ASCAP Honour

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 5, 2009) *ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) will honour 12-time Grammy Award winner
Alicia Keys with the prestigious ASCAP Golden Note Award during its 22nd Annual Rhythm & Soul Music Awards.  The invitation-only event will take place on June 26, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles and will also honour the songwriters and publishers of the most performed ASCAP songs on the 2008 R&B/Hip-Hop, Rap and Gospel charts. The ASCAP Golden Note Award is presented to songwriters, composers, and artists who have achieved extraordinary career milestones. Past recipients include Sean "Diddy" Combs, Jermaine Dupri, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Jay-Z, Quincy Jones, LL Cool J, New Edition and Lionel Richie.  "Since joining the ASCAP family at the age of 17, Alicia has grown into one of the most highly recognized and influential songwriter/performers of the past decade, whose artistry puts her in league with many of her musical idols," said ASCAP President and Chairman Paul Williams. "We are especially proud to spotlight Alicia's extraordinary achievements by honouring her with ASCAP's Golden Note Award."  The Awards celebration will also feature a special presentation of ASCAP's Songwriter of the Year award to the songwriter with the most award-winning tunes of 2008. Past recipients of this top honour include 50 Cent, Johntá Austin, Mary J. Blige, Kandi Burruss, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Dr. Dre, Jermaine Dupri, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Alicia Keys and Timbaland.  Special awards will also be presented to Publisher of the Year, Top R&B/Hip-Hop Song, Top Rap Song and Top Gospel Song. The evening will feature performances by several award-winning songwriter/performers.

Lil Wayne Records 'Kobe Bryant' Tribute


(June 08, 2009) *Rapper and ESPN blogger Lil Wayne released a new song on Wednesday honouring No. 24 of the NBA Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers.       Titled "Kobe Bryant," the track opens with clips of former ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith and others praising the player's domination of the game.  In his rap, Wayne calls the athlete “King Bryant” and draws comparisons between himself and the Laker.

The E.N.D.: The Black Eyed Peas

Source: www.thestar.com - Ashante Infantry

 http://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gifhttp://www.thestar.com/images/misc/sb_star10.gif(out of 4)

(June 09, 2009) Never mind inspiration, enlightenment and other high-minded ideals of music; entertainment is where it's at and the
Black Eyed Peas have delivered the summer's party soundtrack with their fifth album, whose title is an acronym for "The Energy Never Dies."  If you've heard lead single "Boom Boom Pow" then you know what to expect: prominent drums; repetitive, nonsensical lyrics; electro-disco undercurrent; lots of synthesized vocals. Highlights include the Rob Base-sampling "Rock That Body" and "Meet Me Halfway" which finds singer Fergie channelling `80s Madonna.  Near the end of the disc, the quartet (rounded out by will.i.am, apl.de.ap and Taboo) serves up a politically minded global anthem "One Tribe," but the unity message doesn't sync with the rest of the mindless dance tracks.  If you've been enjoying the recent discs from Akon and Kanye West, then you'll appreciate this album.  Top Track: It's a tough call between the swaggering, hip hop laden "Imma Be" and saucy booty call ode "Ring-A-Ling."

Deborah Cox Goes 'Green' For LGBT Event


(June 09, 2009) *Singer Deborah Cox has been named National Ambassador for the Green With Pride initiative, which will launch at the 39th annual Los Angeles LGBT PRIDE Celebration taking place in West Hollywood, June 12-14.  The multi-platinum singer/actress has been a supporter of the LGBT community for years. She also has been a believer when it comes to green issues and doing one's part to help the environment.  "Green With Pride presented by Clear2Go" is designed as a fun, accessible and "edutaining" experience that will feature sustainable products, services and easy-to-use green tips over the 2-day festival. PRIDE attendees will get an exclusive chance to meet Cox during an autograph session in the "Green With Pride presented by Clear2Go" area on Saturday, June 13, from 5-6 p.m. next to the main stage. "Thankfully I have a job that I absolutely love and a family that I am so blessed with but that means everything I do has to be efficient and I have to feel really good about it," said Cox. "I literally was just having the light bulbs changed out and I got a call from my friends at 'Green With Pride.' I was so excited about the initiative, and that the area is designed in a way that informs me and I don't have to turn my world upside down to make an impact; even one small change collectively makes a huge difference." Click here for more details about LA PRIDE 2009: http://lapride.org/  

R&B And Gospel Stars Record Maze Tribute CD


(June 09, 2009) *A who's who of R&B and gospel artists have recorded an all-star tribute album recognizing the nearly 40-year career, 12 albums and 30 hit singles of Maze featuring Frankie Beverly.  Mary J Blige, Musiq Soulchild, Raheem DeVaughn, Ledisi, Donald Lawrance and the Clark Sisters have been named as participants so far. More are to be announced in the coming weeks. Due in August from Brantera Music Group and 101 Distribution, the 10-track project is being executive produced by Frankie Beverly's son, Anthony Beverly, to properly honour his father's contributions to the music industry in a way that has never been done before.  "Not only is this an accomplished group of artists with diverse and distinctive voices, they are all Frankie Beverly and Maze fans," said Anthony. "They come to this project with their own personal Frankie Beverly experiences which adds to the impact of the project. I am excited to pay tribute to my father's legacy by working with this incredible group of artists who embody the spirit, appreciation and talents consistent with Maze's sound and message."  Mary J. Blige sang "Before I Let Go," Musiq Soulchild is handling "Silky Soul" and Donald Lawrence is producing a gospel rendition of "I Wanna Thank You," originally released on Maze's 1983 "We Are One" LP. This project marks the first time the Clark Sisters have recorded since July 2006, when they released their last album, "Live...One Last Time."

Stevie, Alicia, Latifah Booked For 'Mandela Day'


(June 09, 2009) *Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Queen Latifah, TLC, Aretha Franklin and Wyclef Jean are among the artists scheduled to perform at the July 18th "Mandela Day" concert to honour former South African President Nelson Mandela's 91st birthday. The celebration will take place at New York's Madison Square Garden and include more than two-dozen musicians who find the humanitarian and Nobel Peace Prize winner an inspiration. France's First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is scheduled to be in attendance, along with other confirmed performers Dave Stewart, Cyndi Lauper, Jesse McCartney, and The Soweto Gospel Choir, as well as several African musicians such as Angelique Kidjo, Baaba Maal, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Chris Chameleon, Freshlyground, Emmanuel Jal, Loyiso, Sipho Mabuse, Vusi Mahlasela, Thandiswa Mazwai and Suzanna Owiyo. More performers will be announced in the coming weeks. Tickets are available now via Ticketmaster.

Jeffrey Osborne To Drop First Live Album

Source: www.eurweb.com

(June 10, 2009) *
Jeffrey Osborne is gearing up to release his first ever concert album, "Greatest Hits Live!," on July 7 via E1 Music.  This comprehensive collection showcases live renditions of all the Osborne classics from his three decades as a solo artist, and includes songs by his former group, the legendary L.T.D.  Osborne began his professional singing career in 1969 with L.T.D., spending more than ten years fronting the band before leaving to pursue a solo career.  During this time, Osborne recorded five gold and platinum albums which spawned such Top 40 hits as "Don't You Get So Mad," "Stay With Me Tonight," and "Love Power," which he performed with Dionne Warwick. His single "On The Wings of Love" became an international hit in 1982. 

1.  We're Going All The Way
2.  Don't You Get So Mad/Don't Need No Light
3.  Only Human
4.  We Party Hearty
5.  Stranger
6.  Stay With Me Tonight
7.  Close the Door
8.  On The Wings Of Love
9.  Holding On
10. Concentrate On You
11. We Both Deserve Each Other's Love
12. Love Ballad
13. You Should Be Mine (The Woo Woo Song)
14. Back In Love Again
15. I'll Be Around


Carradine's Death Forces Local Producer To Postpone Filming

By Marke Andrews, Vancouver Sun

(June 6, 2009) The unexpected death this week of actor David Carradine has caused a Vancouver producer to push back the shooting of the feature film Portland, in which Carradine had a pivotal role.

The drama, about how the death of a young man affects those closest to him, was to begin shooting in July in Portland, Oregon and Laguna Beach, Calif. That date has been moved back to August or September, as the producers seek to recast an actor for Carradine's role of a priest.

"As much as we would like to take some time to let this loss sink in, we have to regroup quickly," said Elizabeth Levine, the Vancouver-based executive producer of Portland. Levine and business partner Adrian Salpeter run Random Bench Productions from Vancouver and Los Angeles.

Levine said Carradine's death is a big loss to independent filmmakers.

"He was an iconic actor who was so long a supporter of indie films, and that made him special to us in the independent film community,” said Levine. "It means so much for an actor with that résumé and that stature to get behind an indie film, because that's what makes indie films move and get made."

Carradine, 72, was found dead Thursday hanging from the closet of a Bangkok hotel room He was in Thailand to make the movie Stretch. On Friday, Times Online quoted Bangkok police stating that the actor died from a sexual practice called auto-erotic asphyxiation.

This is the second Vancouver-produced feature film to lose a major star in the last 18 months. In January, 2008, Vancouver's Infinity Features was co-producing The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus when actor Heath Ledger died of an accidental drug overdose.

Kung Fu Actor David Carradine Found Dead

Source: www.thestar.com -
The Associated Press

(June 04, 2009) BANGKOK – Actor David Carradine, star of the 1970s TV series "Kung Fu", has been found dead in the Thai capital, Bangkok. A news report said he was found hanged in his hotel room and was believed to have committed suicide.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, Michael Turner, confirmed the death of the 72-year-old actor. He said the embassy was informed by Thai authorities that Carradine died either late Wednesday or early Thursday, but he could not provide further details out of consideration for his family.

The Web site of the Thai newspaper The Nation cited unidentified police sources as saying Carradine was found Thursday hanged in his luxury hotel room.

It said Carradine was in Bangkok to shoot a movie and had been staying at the hotel since Tuesday.

The newspaper said Carradine could not be contacted after he failed to appear for a meal with the rest of the film crew on Wednesday, and that his body was found by a hotel maid at 10 a.m. Thursday morning. The name of the movie was not immediately available.

It said a preliminary police investigation found that he had hanged himself with a cord used with the room's curtains. It cited police as saying he had been dead at least 12 hours and there was no sign that he had been assaulted.

A police officer at Bangkok's Lumpini precinct station would not confirm the identity of the dead man to The Associated Press, but said the luxury Swissotel Nai Lert Park hotel had reported that a male guest killed himself there.

Carradine was a leading member of a venerable Hollywood acting family that included his father, character actor John Carradine, and brother Keith.

In all, he appeared in more than 100 feature films with such directors as Martin Scorsese, Ingmar Bergman and Hal Ashby.

But he was best known for his role as Kwai Chang Caine, a Shaolin priest traveling the 1800s American frontier West in the TV series "Kung Fu," which aired in 1972-75.

He reprised the role in a mid-1980s TV movie and played Caine's grandson in the 1990s syndicated series "Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.''

He returned to the top in recent years as the title character in Quentin Tarantino's two-part saga "Kill Bill.''

Nicole Ari Parker : The “Imagine That” Interview

Kam Williams

(June 07, 2009) Nicole Ari Parker is the better half of Boris Kodjoe, the hunky star of such films as Brown Sugar and Madea’s Family Reunion. Married in May of 2005, the attractive power couple have two children, Nicholas, 2, and Sophie, 4, who was born with Spina Bifada, a birth defect involving an incomplete spinal cord. Nicole and Boris have created a foundation called Sophie’s Voice [http://www.sophiesvoicefoundation.org/] to bring attention to the affliction and to raise money for an expensive experimental surgical procedure for their daughter and 20 other children.

Here, the Baltimore-bred beauty talks both about Sophie and about her latest film, Imagine That, a family comedy where she plays the wife of Eddie Murphy.

KW: Thanks so much for the time, Nicole. I really appreciate it.

NAP: Oh, thank you!

KW: What interested you in Imagine That?

NAP: In two words: Eddie Murphy.

KW: This was your first time working with Eddie. What was that like?

NAP: Just being around him was a big deal, because he was such a huge star when I was a teenager. So, being offered a chance to work with him, let alone play his wife, was an opportunity I had to jump on. It was also great to witness him working, and to see how he gets his “funny” across on the screen. And it was at a tough time, because we were filming during the writers’ strike, a time when there was a lot of turmoil and commotion in Hollywood .

KW: Did Eddie have to do a lot of ad-libbing during the filming because of the writers’ strike?

NAP: He actually had to do more ad-libbing off-camera because of the strikers disrupting the set. But we still had a great time.

KW: And how did little Yara Shahidi, who plays your daughter, handle her pivotal role in the film?

NAP: Well, she was a natural. She felt very comfortable. I attribute a lot of that to her mom, who was on set with her the whole time, and who had a very calming presence. She really kept her daughter safe, so she was just free to be her really beautiful self, and that really came across on camera.

KW: Is this more of a kiddie movie or a family movie?

NAP: That’s the great thing, it’s right on the edge there because Thomas Haden Church’s character keeps the adults happy, while Yara just makes everyone relate, especially parents and little kids. So, it’s for everybody

KW: Tell me a little bit about how you approached playing your character,

NAP: Eddie’s character starts off as a deadbeat dad, and I have to walk a line between being positive and not letting him get away with slacking off on his parental responsibilities. I just try to find the realness in a character, because I’m a mom, and I know that a lot of moms out there are dealing with stuff, and that keeping both parents on the same page can be tough. I was just trying to take as lighthearted yet real approach to the character as I could.    

KW: I told my readers that I’d be interviewing you, so I have some questions sent in by some of your fans. Reverend Florine Thompson asks: What is your greatest challenge in being a mom to a special needs child?

NAP: Wow! Well, once you get into the practical rhythm of taking care of your child, you realize what a blessing it is in a way, because you see how capable you are of meeting great challenges. But I think the hardest part is to not worry about the future, and to just believe that she’ll be okay when she’s not under the care and love of mommy and daddy. That’s really the hardest part, to not fill the house with worry and fear.

KW: Another fan, Laz Lyles, asks how things are going with your charity, Sophie’s Voice?

NAP: My husband and I started it not to reinvent the wheel so much but to make sure that we’re keeping our finger on the pulse of financing surgical studies that can improve the quality of life of children who already have Spina Bifada, and also to educate more people about prevention, and to make sure research efforts towards prevention get funded. So, we just picked up the ball on a couple of things that we thought needed attention.

KW: Reverend Thompson also asks: What is your greatest source of strength and hope in facing the daily challenges of life?

NAP: I just reach deep down inside and try to find that place of peace. Nervous feelings, worry feelings and upset feelings are just feelings, not facts, and I try to remind myself of that. I constantly reach to that place of peace that’s inside of me and inside of everyone, and try to live and make decisions from that place. And I also ask for guidance, and I’m usually gently, intuitively nudged in the right direction, thank God.   

KW: Reverend Thompson and Rudy Lewis asked a similar question: If you had a chance to meet and be mentored by one person today who would that be and why?

NAP: That’s a really good question. Gosh, you’re catching me off guard, Kam. I don’t know… I need to think about it.

KW: That’s okay, but be ready with an answer for that question next interview. Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

NAP: No, they basically ask me everything, Kam. [LOL]

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

NAP: Yeah.

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

NAP: Oh, yes.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good belly laugh?

NAP: [Chuckles] With my husband, yesterday, on the phone. I’m such a woman, sometimes, and he’s such a man. Out of exasperation, he went along with my point of view about something, but it was horrible acting, and I just had to laugh so hard. He cheers me up with that bad acting. 

KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What music are you listening to? 

NAP: I just finished dancing in my bedroom to Ne-Yo’s “Miss Independent.”

KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?

NAP: They’ve done so much for me already that I feel like I owe them.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

NAP: I see a fighter.

KW: What is your favourite recipe?

NAP: I make a mean butter pound cake from scratch, and a killer cornbread stuffing.

KW: How do you feel about Barack Obama’s becoming President of the United States ?

NAP: My heart is just open for my children’s future because of what he’s doing for the world. I’m overwhelmed with joy and ecstasy.            

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

NAP: Always, always, always be prepared.

KW: I’m on the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee, so I know that you’ve been nominated 7 times, but you’ve never won. You’ve done such great work over the years; we’ve got to make sure you win one next time.

NAP: Kam, oh man, that would be great! Thank you.

KW: Well, thanks again, Nicole. Good luck with Imagine That. Please Give Boris my regards, and tell him I’d like to interview him again when his new movie with Bruce Willis comes out in the fall.

NAP: Will do. Thank you.

To see a trailer for Imagine That, visit HERE.

Why 2009 Is Shaping Up As The Year Of No Stars

Source: www.thestar.com - Peter Howell,
Movie Critic

(June 09, 2009) A good script, great chemistry and brilliant marketing helped make The Hangover the surprise No. 1 movie in Canada and the U.S. last weekend.

What this comedy about a disastrous Las Vegas bachelor party didn't have was anything remotely resembling star power. Key talent Bradley Cooper, Justin Bartha, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis could be chump-jumping answers on Jeopardy!

In normal years, such marquee anonymity would be considered a liability. But in 2009, which is fast shaping up as the Year of No Stars, it's almost a blessing. The glitter just gets in the way.

The Hangover's $45 million (U.S.) opening box office stunned Hollywood. The Todd Phillips laugher is now the third most successful R-rated comedy in history, after Sex and the City and American Pie 2, and it slipped by Pixar's hit cartoon Up on its way to the top.

Few people saw this coming, or that Land of the Lost, the Will Ferrell supposed blockbuster that also opened Friday, would tank with a take of less than $19 million.

Ferrell can take solace that he's in the doghouse with Christian Bale, whose star power as Batman wasn't enough to make Terminator Salvation, another supposed blockbuster, do more than so-so business.

Meanwhile, other movies without A-list names above the marquee have been doing similar boffo business to The Hangover.

The recent reboot of Star Trek was considered risky for its dearth of boldface. Who had heard of Chris Pine (Capt. Kirk) or Zachary Quinto (Mr. Spock) before last month? But the film hit the ground running and it has big legs, being the first this year to cross the $200 million mark.

Most people have heard of Paul Blart: Mall Cop by now, and may even have seen it. But few could have named star Kevin James before the film's January release; many would still have trouble picking him out of a police line-up of pudgy guys.

Ireland's Liam Neeson was considered a solid B-list actor heading toward character roles and retirement. His rescue thriller Taken was deemed a dumper at the top of the year, since it had already been released outside of North America in 2008 and had been widely pirated on the Internet. But the film connected big-time with North American audiences, transforming Neeson into the most unlikely of A-list action stars.

The message, loud and clear, is that the "bankable" star is fast fading, and may already be gone. Very few actors can guarantee a picture's success by virtue of their name alone, and that includes the previously unassailable Will Smith. His hot winning streak of eight consecutive movies topping $100 million (and beyond) was snapped by Seven Pounds, his critically reviled recent drama that stalled just shy of $70 million.

In uncertain times, audiences want genre films that make them laugh or give them the willies – in both cases, taking them out of the humdrum anxiety and dullness of their everyday lives.

They don't particularly care if the movies have stars. Celebrities are actually liabilities in certain circumstances. The Hangover wouldn't have worked as another star-driven Vegas romp like Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven franchise, because part of the fun is figuring out who these characters are.

Ditto for Star Trek, which would have been sunk by stunt casting if Brad Pitt played Capt. Kirk and Johnny Depp played Spock. Viewers would be too busy admiring the gift wrap to see the present.

Indications are that this trend will continue. One of the year's most anticipated fall movies is New Moon, the sequel to the smash vampire romance Twilight. Few people who aren't teenaged girls can name the top three stars of New Moon.

And then there's Avatar, coming near Christmas as the supposed 3-D adventure to end all adventures. James Cameron, who made bank with Titanic more than a decade ago, directs it.

The real star of the movie is the idea of it, which is shrouded in secrecy. It's some kind of outer space adventure that is rumoured to be very cool, and Cameron is promising to make eyes pop with his groundbreaking technology.

Yes, but who's in it?

The answer in 2009 is: "Who cares?"


Freeman's Mandela Film Gets A Premiere Date


(June 08, 2009) *Warner Bros. has announced Dec. 11 as the opening date of its Clint Eastwood-directed film "Invictus," starring Morgan Freeman in the role of South African president Nelson Mandela.  Based on the John Carlin book "Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation," the film follows Mandela's attempt to use the 1995 Rugby World Cup to heal his nation following his release from prison, the fall of apartheid and his election as president of South Africa.  Matt Damon portrays Francois Pienaar, the captain of the South African rugby team.  The film was to be titled "The Human Factor," but Eastwood instead opted to name it "Invictus" after a short poem of the same name often recited by Mandela. "Invictus," penned by William Ernest Henley, speaks to the will to survive in the face of adversity.


Canadian Bachelorette 'So Happy' With Outcome

Source: www.thestar.com - Nick Patch,
The Canadian Press

(June 09, 2009) Apparently, it's not easy being a Bachelorette.

Earlier this year, Internet commentators relished in taking shots at Jason Mesnick, the indecisive star of The Bachelor who proposed to a contestant but then publicly dumped her six weeks later in favour of the second-place finisher.

Jillian Harris, the first-ever Canadian star of The Bachelorette and a third-place finisher during Mesnick's run, says while she still doesn't like the way he handled the situation, going through the process herself has given her a bit of perspective.

Turns out, it's not such an easy gig.

"In The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, you get to a certain point with somebody where there's a proposal," Harris said during a promotional stop in Toronto. "But really, you're really only at that place where you're comfortable saying: `I really like you, I really want to start a relationship with you.'

"How many times in our life have we done that with somebody, and two or three months down the road realize that they're the wrong person for us?

"So I think, though I do take a proposal or an engagement very seriously, people also need to understand how quickly these relationships develop, and it's a lot of pressure. I don't judge him at all for what he did."

Having said that, Harris makes it clear she won't waver in her decision.

While only four episodes have aired, the season has already wrapped. And Harris, who hails from Peace River, Alta., says she's thrilled with the way things turned out.

"There were ups, there were downs, but I'm in an extremely happy place right now," she said.

The fourth episode found her returning to another "happy place" – Vancouver, where she lives.

The episode practically constituted a Vancouver tourism ad – Harris and her hopeful suitors waltzed around several of the city's landmarks, including Stanley Park, Granville Island and Grouse Mountain Resort. They even went curling, though most of the contestants treated the sport like an exotic oddity.

Harris says she was "adamant" that the show feature the town where she lives, and producers were eagerly on board.

"We got to spend a lot more time there than I anticipated, which was a big surprise and a huge perk for me," she said.

But after they finished curling, the fourth episode found contestants throwing stones of a different nature. A few of the competitors warned Harris during their dates that some of their rivals actually had girlfriends at home, and weren't on the show for the right reasons.

The news had Harris in tears, but she said that she's come to feel better about the situation over time.

"There are 30 grown men who all signed up to do this, they're not going to go celibate for six months before," she said. "I think a lot of people don't understand I'm legit, I'm actually looking for someone to fall in love with. And all of a sudden they sign up for this and they meet me and realize it's for real."

The fourth episode also found Harris ditching three suitors – including David, who complimented Harris effusively on the shape of her behind and pouted petulantly when she refused to kiss him.

She said that watching the show now has changed her opinion of some of the guys.

"This is the whole process of the show, and it's designed in such a fashion that I don't get to see a lot of their behaviours, but I did end up seeing David's," she said. "But when I watch the show, certainly, there are a lot of different personalities (that) shine through. Some people I wish I had let go sooner and some people I had wished I would have kept longer.

"But in the end I made the right decision, and I'm in the place I wanted to be in."

Meanwhile, she continues to weather criticism for her taste in men. One outgoing contestant, Sasha, said in interviews that Harris might be attracted to jerks.

Harris says she expects the issue to keep coming up, and clarified what it is she looks for in a man.

"I'm not looking for that poster child of a husband, someone that says: `I promise I'll make you happy and I promise I'll do everything right,"' she said. "I'm looking for somebody that's really raw and who has energy and who has depth.

"And sometimes ... maybe people can assume that they're there for the wrong reasons, or that they're bad guys."

She says she has trouble watching herself on TV – "I'm like any other viewer, I'm sitting there watching the show and I'm going, `Jill, come on! How could you have not seen that?"' she explains – but tries to remind herself that the show is meant to be entertaining.

"This is the part where everybody gets to enjoy it – I've already done all the hard work, now everybody can sit back and laugh at us and make fun of us, like they're supposed to," she said.

But watching the show now, does she have any regrets?

"Of course there are certain things that maybe you wish you could have done differently, but no, no regrets," she said.

"In the end, all that matters really to me now is that last final decision that I made. And that's why I'm so happy and so I guess, no regrets."

One Laugh Changed Carol Burnett's Life

Source:  www.thestar.com

(June 6, 2009) Being funny came late to
Carol Burnett, but it saved her life.

The star of TV and stage is appearing Friday night at Massey Hall for an evening called Laughter and Reflection with Carol Burnett, but she was already sharing both those qualities in a recent conversation.

"Do you want me to tell you about how I grew up? I can if you want me to, but it still hurts every time I have to do it, even after all these years."

Fortunately, I can spare her the pain. Her autobiography, One More Time, and Hollywood Arms, the play she wrote with her late daughter, Carrie Hamilton, make the facts abundantly clear.

Born in San Antonio in 1933, Burnett's childhood was marked by the pain of having two alcoholic parents who fought constantly and finally shipped her off to live with her grandmother.

After her parents finally divorced, Burnett, her half-sister and her grandmother moved to a bottom-of-the-barrel rooming house in one of the poorest parts of Hollywood.

All through those years – and during her stay at Hollywood High School – Burnett's dream was to be a writer.

"I thought that one day I could put all these things down on paper and maybe that would free me from them," is how she explains her logic at the time, but as Burnett was to learn, in ways bitter as well as sweet, "life never does exactly what you hope it's going to."

On a scholarship in her freshman year at UCLA, Burnett learned she had to take an acting class before they'd let her into the playwriting program. "I wasn't really ready to do the acting thing, but I had no choice. The first show I was ever in was a student-written one-act script and I played a hillbilly girl.

"Don't ask me why, but when we were in front of the audience, I suddenly decided I was going to stretch out all my words and my first line came out `I'm baaaaaaaack!'"

Burnett pauses, the long-ago moment still resonating for her.

"They laughed," she says quietly. "They laughed and it felt great. All of a sudden, after so much coldness and emptiness in my life, I knew the sensation of all that warmth wrapping around me. I had always been a quiet, shy, sad sort of girl and then everything changed for me. You spend the rest of your life hoping you'll hear a laugh that great again."

Burnett was to tap into that magic on numerous future occasions, but it would take a while before her next success. After becoming popular for her theatrical work at UCLA, Burnett and her then-boyfriend (later her husband) Don Saroyan moved to New York in 1954 with the aid of a cheque they received from a stranger who admired their talents.

But once they got to the Big Apple, things became less attractive.

"I was a hat-check girl, I was an usher, I was everything except an actress," says Burnett of that period, although she did land some forgettable TV roles like the girlfriend of the ventriloquist's dummy on The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show. She was almost ready to give it up by 1957, when fate intervened again.

"I had a short-lived gig at The Blue Angel," she recalls, referring to a popular Manhattan nightclub of the period, "and I was looking for something special to do.

"It was the time of the Elvis Presley craze and (TV writer) Kenny Welch said to me, `What if you were a girl who didn't flip out over Elvis, but over somebody far less appropriate?'"

They put their heads together and came up with John Foster Dulles, the dour, thin-lipped Secretary of State under then-president Dwight Eisenhower, who was best known as the man who brought the concept of "brinksmanship" to the Cold War.

Welch wrote a song called "I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles," and Burnett's rendition of it stopped the show every night at The Blue Angel.

The talent booker for Jack Paar's Tonight Show put Burnett on the air on a Tuesday. "Of course there was no TiVo or VCRs then, and Dulles hadn't heard the song, so Paar had me back on Thursday night ... just so Dulles could watch it.

"The press asked him what he thought the next day. He smiled, for maybe the first time in his life, and said, `I make it a policy to never discuss affairs of the heart in public.'"

Burnett was off and away on a whirlwind career. A hit Broadway musical called Once Upon a Mattress was followed by a stint as a regular on Garry Moore's popular weekly variety show. Next came a variety series called The Entertainers, which she shared with two other performers (Bob Newhart and Caterina Valenti), another Broadway musical (Fade Out, Fade In), and then it was 1967.

That's when The Carol Burnett Show went on the air, the last – and many still say the greatest – of all the classic TV variety shows. With her family of "regulars" – Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner and Vicki Lawrence – Burnett and her show won 23 Emmys, staying popular until it finally went off the air after 11 seasons.

Burnett's trademark character was a slovenly cleaning lady, complete with mop and bucket, who always delighted the audience.

When the series went off the air, Burnett kept busy with a wide variety of work in all media, playing tragedy as well as comedy.

Tragedy, however, was starting to follow her offstage as well. Her 21-year second marriage to producer Joe Hamilton ended in divorce and one of their children, Carrie, became addicted to drugs. Carrie recovered from that, only to die of cancer in 2002 at age 38.

When it comes to that part of her life, Burnett prefers to echo Dulles: "I make it a policy to never discuss affairs of the heart in public."

But generally, Burnett loves answering questions from her public, and much of Friday's event at Massey Hall will be made up of just such dialogue. Burnett admits that some of her answers surprise even her. Recently, someone asked her: "If you could be a member of the opposite sex for 24 hours, who would you be and what would you do?"

Without a pause, she answered: "I'd be Osama Bin Laden and I'd kill myself."

Just the facts

Where: Massey Hall

When: June 12, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: masseyhall.com or 416-872-4255

Lisa Marcos : Ex-Model Cops New Series Role

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(June 04, 2009) In the seven years since the remarkable Lisa Marcos gave up modelling for acting, she has travelled the typical career path of almost every new Canadian actor, starting with anonymous walk-on roles in locally shot series, generically credited as "Bar Maid" and "Waitress" (Street Time), "Concerned Nurse" (Tarzan), "Attractive Nurse" (Wonderfalls) and "Bride" (The Visual Bible).

Gradually, around 2003, some of the roles began to have names. Episodic appearances became character arcs, then a regular role in an American series (Kevin Hill) that unfortunately lasted less than a season. Five episodes as Nikki on 'da Kink in My Hair, four as Sally LaFlamme on Flashpoint ... and now, at last, a leading role in a series, as Det. Charlie Marks in the new psychic/crime drama The Listener, which debuted last night on Space and CTV ( the second episode airs on CTV tonight at 10) and hits U.S. network prime-time tonight with two back-to-back episodes airing on NBC at 9 and 10. But that's not the remarkable part. Marcos's acting success is a minor accomplishment next to the baptism of fire she experienced as a naive young model, all alone on her first visit to Milan – or anywhere, for that matter – at the tender age of 12.

"I was going through a tough time," the actor explains. "My parents had gone through a divorce and I needed something to kind of focus on. I worked really hard and saved up money from babysitting, and decided that I would take a course. Not thinking, honest to God, that I would ever be a real fashion model. I always thought I was too short and too fat, too whatever ..."

She was of course wrong, and even at that young age had already blossomed into stunning, statuesque model material.

"I was scouted to do a competition in Los Angeles and ended up coming in second place out of 3,500 girls. I got a contract to travel all over the world ... Milan, Japan, Germany, Spain ..."

This, again, at the age of 12, travelling by herself. "I didn't have anyone with me because no one could afford it," Marcos confirms. "So it was literally about trying to make some money, to keep the family going and help out as much as I could.

"I turned 13 in Milan," she says. "I pretty much looked then like I do now. One of my first jobs was for a major magazine and there were three girls doing a swimsuit editorial, and you really couldn't tell that I was so much younger than the other girls, who were 24 and 27 (which Marcos is now)."

Even at that impressionable young age, her grounded upbringing spared her the industry's many temptations. "It's easy to get sucked in," she says. "But for me, it was all about the work. It was my job. I'd wake up, I'd come home. No going out, no parties.

"There were a lot of hard times. There was no one else my age. It was really lonely. That's what killed me."

But there were other dangers over which she had no control.

"No one knows what it's like, the things that happened ... being pursued by strange men, getting cornered, things that ... would panic even an adult."

Her eyes start to moisten. "I look at it now and I really do believe that I have angels that guard me."

Eventually, she decided her future lay elsewhere. "My last really long, long (modelling) trip was to South Africa," she says. "I knew that was it. I had done a few commercials by then and I had a passion for acting, but I knew that if I was going to pursue it, I would have to cut out modelling and give up that income."

And now, with those anonymous, day-player roles apparently all behind her, that hard work is finally starting to pay off.

Her Listener role as a cop with a chip on her shoulder teams her up with Craig Olejnik (Runaway) as a gimlet-eyed, crime-solving, mind-reading paramedic.

"She is new in law enforcement and really determined to prove to everyone that she is capable of doing the job better than anyone else, despite all the sarcastic snarks and comments about the way she looks."

Even better than the role, she says, is being able to shoot in Toronto. "I think that is one of the best things ever," she enthuses, "to be able to be with my family and friends, to get to sleep in my own bed ...

"Sometimes you forget how beautiful your city really is, and when you see it onscreen like this you get blown away. You re-fall in love again with your own city."

Mark McKinney Joins Comedy Heavyweights As Ustinov Winner

Source: www.thestar.com - Cassandra Szklarski,
The Canadian Press

(June 08, 2009) BANFF, Alta.–Kids In The Hall member Mark McKinney says it's an "off year" for comedy.

How else to explain the decision to award the funnyman – known for creating such ludicrous characters as a sex-crazed chicken lady and a head-crushing grouch – the Peter Ustinov Award for comedy?

"I just didn't think I was there yet, you know, wherever 'there' is," McKinney says of his surprise at being chosen for the annual honour.

"But I saw the, my God, the list of the other people who've won it, you know. It was really impressive."

Past recipients of the award, presented at the
Banff World Television Festival, include comedy heavyweights Bob Newhart, Tracey Ullman, John Cleese, and Martin Short.

McKinney called the honour "a gigantic thrill," but can't resist taking a self-deprecating swipe at himself.

"I didn't think I was in that class, and who knows, maybe this is an off-year," he jokes.

The Ottawa-born comic has had a varied career since he shot to fame alongside fellow KITH members Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Scott Thompson, and Kevin McDonald in the late 1980s and early '90s.

When their self-titled sketch show ended a six-year stretch on CBC-TV, McKinney followed that up with a stint as a writer and performer on NBC's Saturday Night Live.

That led to a slew of cameos in film and TV, and gigs writing and performing on the acclaimed Canadian satire Slings and Arrows and NBC's short-lived drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. McKinney agrees that both shows allowed him to flex the more serious side of his writing range, but says he has always comfortably tread the line between dark and comic material.

"I've always had a feeling that comedy and drama were interchangeable, you know – comedy is drama interrupted, drama is comedy interrupted by drama. So, Slings and Arrows was to me very funny, but I liked the moving points. I love it when something slips from funny to sad back to funny again," says McKinney, currently executive producer and writer on the dark Citytv comedy Less Than Kind.

"It's not an easy thing to do, it can go skin-crawlingly wrong. A lot of comedians have foundered at the door of, `The clown can cry.' It really can get ugly but I think all comedians have a sentimental streak in them somewhere, so I'm just hoping I get the pitch right."

McKinney says his approach to writing has matured since his early days with Kids In The Hall. Back then, writing typically involved him physically acting out his scripts. Today, McKinney says he understands the factor of "just hard work."

"I used to just sit around and wait for inspiration, you know, and of course it doesn't work that way. It's something you work at and there's a little bit more intention behind what I do now. But then sometimes you're writing or moving so fast that wonderful things come out or horrible things come out from your subconscious."

McKinney's next big project will be to help hammer out a script for the Kids In The Hall's long-awaited return to TV. The gang is reuniting for a serialized half-hour show called, Death Comes to Town.

"High likelihood that I will be playing Death," says McKinney.

The eight-episode miniseries, to air on CBC-TV, is set to showcase the quirky comics playing a multitude of roles and feature an ongoing narrative. Shooting begins in August.

"The first draft scripts are already out and we will be meeting in Toronto in a couple weeks to bash notes and butt heads," says McKinney.

He adds that the show's characters will most likely be hybrids of quirky personalities already familiar to Kids fans.

"There might be some Cathy-looking characters coming up and stuff like that," he says.

There's no word yet if they will be handing out cameos to performers outside the troupe. That will be determined closer to shooting.

"The Kids in the Hall are very greedy performers so we seize all the best parts," McKinney says. "If we put on a truss, some of us might still possibly, at a distance, with a lot of Vaseline on a lens, pass for a woman."

Other honours handed out at the fest include an award of excellence for Canadian-born performer Victor Garber and a lifetime achievement award for broadcast trailblazer Trina McQueen.

The Banff World Television Festival runs through Wednesday.

Not Just Another Dr. Drama

Source: www.thestar.com - Rob Salem

(June 08, 2009) There is a point early on in tonight's premiere episode of Nurse Jackie (10 p.m., TMN), a new starring vehicle for ex-Soprano Edie Falco, where you realize this is not going to be just another one of those earnestly angsty soap-opera hospital dramas. And that Falco's snarky, stressed-out Jackie is a world away from her compromised suburban Jersey mob wife, Carmela.

Or is she? Can it be a mere coincidence that the hospital pharmacist with whom the happily married Jackie is having sweaty supply-closet sex is played by Paul Schulze, who was also The Sopranos' Fr. Phil, the priest that Carmela tried to woo with food.

Okay, so maybe it is a coincidence. There is otherwise no mistaking Jackie for Carmela, if only by the relative lustre and length (or lack) of Falco's hair and nails.

"We never really talked about it that much," Falco shrugs, "except that, when we finished shooting that other show, I very much wanted to cut my hair. I just wanted my hair back."

The differences are more than superficial between both the characters and the two shows, and indeed any of the countless doctor dramas already on the air.

"Every medical show out there is about the doctors and the intrigue, and how fascinating doctors' lives are and how great," says co-producer Liz Brixius. "You know, heavy is the head that wears the crown ...

"(But) it's nurses. I mean, we realized that the great stories come from the nurses. And ultimately they're more relatable for us as writers, because they're the ones who are behind the scenes. They're not the stars. You know, they're the ones holding the hands of the loved ones and breaking the news and doing the heavy lifting. So we like the nurses."

And why should the doctors get all the sex and drugs? Nurse Jackie spreads the sin around with a flawed protagonist who not only cheats on her good-guy spouse but also pops unprescribed pills and powders – at one point grinding up her daily triple dose of OxyContin and disguising it in resealed pouches of coffee sweetener.

Any similarity to a certain TV doctor with a Vicodin habit is entirely incidental.

"I really can't answer to that," insists senior producer Linda Wallem. "As far as Hugh Laurie (and) Vicodin ... I didn't know he chews Vicodin on (House), because I have never seen that show. I don't know why."

That particular character quirk, she says, comes largely from personal experience. "She's (Jackie) an addict and personally, I'm 17 years sober. What I love about this character is she's complicated. And part of being an addict is you always want more. If one is good, 12 is better, you know?"

Adds Brixius: "I've been sober for ... I turned 21 in my third rehab. So we get struggle. We understand what it is to fight your demons and fight temptation every day. It's great for us to be able to create this character that battles it on some level every day."

So Nurse Jackie is as much a reflection of the TV industry as it is of the nursing profession. Which is to say: not.

"She's one individual," Brixius insists. "She's not representative of all nurses. She's just one woman, you know, at a certain point in her life, and she's just doing the best she can every day to show up for the commitments that she's made.

"She's not meant to represent all nurses, any more than Dr. Carter on ER is all doctors or George Clooney is all pediatricians. I mean, it's just one woman and we want to tell this woman's story at this sort of complicated time in her life, and having a multifaceted actress play a multifaceted character is a writer's dream come true."

And does that multifaceted (if, as you may have noticed here, not very talkative) actor anticipate any backlash from the generally drug-free nursing majority?

"Any more backlash than there was from doing a mob show with Italians?" Falco laughs. "Are you kidding me? I welcome this particular backlash.

"I never have any idea ... people's reactions to shows are as individual as the people that are reacting. So I have no way of knowing what to expect and I am not even remotely concerned, to be honest with you."

The family – her family – may have other thoughts. "It's the funniest thing in the world," Falco says, shaking her head. "My aunt is a nurse. My Aunt Carmela. I just realized that the other day. How crazy is that?"

Actors Ratify Hollywood Movie, TV Deal

Source: www.globeandmail.com -
Associated Press

(June 10, 2009) Los Angeles - After a year of nasty infighting, members of the Screen Actors Guild decided by a large margin that the show must go on.

The Guild said Tuesday that 78 per cent of voting members decided to ratify a two-year contract covering movies and prime-time TV shows made by the major Hollywood studios.

It was a show of unity after dragged-out negotiations left the Guild further behind than when it started talks in April last year. And it repudiated the strategy of replaced union leaders who had once called for a strike.

“At least for a period, I think what this vote represents is the membership's desire to move on,” said David White, who was installed as the Guild's interim national executive director after a boardroom coup by moderates in January.

About 110,000 SAG members were sent ballots and more than 35 per cent cast votes.

The new contract immediately raises actors' minimum pay by 3 per cent and grants another 3.5 per cent raise in the second year of the deal, which along with better pension benefits and some Internet compensation gives them $105-million (U.S.) in overall gains, the union said.

But it is no better than a deal signed a year ago by a smaller actors union, AFTRA, nor did it improve upon the Internet terms that other unions already accepted. Negotiators that were replaced in January had sought more lucrative Web compensation.

SAG fought alone for better terms than were secured by writers, directors and AFTRA. The battle ended up hurting it as TV studios like ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS sent most of their new work AFTRA's way. SAG maintains exclusive jurisdiction over feature films.

The deal comes nearly a year after the last contract expired, meaning SAG actors lost out on the first year of proposed raises that the studios estimated totalled nearly $80-million.

“We were behind the eight ball to some extent with the amount of time we had been working without a contract at all,” said Adam Arkin, an actor who was elected to the Guild's board last fall. “Whatever gains are to be made in the future are going to have to start with us not going down the road of this level of fracture within the community of SAG.”

The new contract took effect after midnight and expires on June 30, 2011, about the same time as those of other unions, allowing SAG to maintain the future threat of a joint strike. That expiration date had been one of the final points of contention, but studio heads appeared to give in when faced with the prospect of a never-ending bargaining process in which SAG would be out of sync with other unions.

The past year's internal struggles came to a head in January when recently elected moderates moved to oust the Guild's national executive director, Doug Allen, and muzzle president Alan Rosenberg. Both had considered a strike vote a key negotiating tool but never could muster the support to send one out.

Many board members opposed the strike push as the economy dipped further into recession. Movie studios cut back on their film slate and laid off staff, while TV producers were finally returning to life after a strike by writers last year shut down much of Hollywood for 100 days.

Most actors weren't ready for more turmoil and joblessness.

After Allen and Rosenberg were removed as negotiators, White worked to salvage a deal in backdoor talks with executives such as Walt Disney Co. chief executive Bob Iger and Warner Bros. chief executive Barry Meyer. Warner Bros. is a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc.

A tentative deal was reached in April, about a year after talks first began.

White said work on the next round of negotiations would begin immediately, starting with enforcing contract terms that give actors the right to see studio finances on Web productions.

He added that he would also begin to repair damaged relations with other unions. As an executive who is appointed by the board, White has largely steered clear of the political battles that have torn SAG apart.

SAG and AFTRA split acrimoniously last year and decided to negotiate deals with the studios separately for the first time in three decades.

Rosenberg acknowledged Tuesday that actors did not agree with his executive team's hard stance. But he said he would run for a third term as president in the fall and hope to be part of the contract talks in two years.

“Our point of view was rejected for now. I don't think it was because they said necessarily we're wrong,” he said. “You need solidarity. We weren't able to build that this time.”

Every major segment of SAG voted for the deal, with 71 per cent of voting Hollywood actors, 86 per cent in New York and 89 per cent in other U.S. regions voting in favour.

Sam Freed, an actor and president of the Guild's New York division, said the vote showed that actors disagreed with Rosenberg's approach even in his power base in Hollywood.

“The way that he perceived it was declined by 71 per cent of the Hollywood membership. And that's all that needs to be said,” Freed said.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the coalition of major studios, on Tuesday called the ratification “good news for the entertainment industry.” The directors' guild and AFTRA also issued congratulatory statements.


TCA Nominates 'No. 1 Detective Agency'


(June 08, 2009) *HBO's "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," starring Jill Scott and Anika Noni Rose as gumshoes in Botswana, was nominated for best new program by the Television Critics Association. The group's annual TCA Awards will take place August 1 in Pasadena, California, and will be hosted by E! personality Chelsea Handler.  FX's "The Shield" leads the pack with four nominations, including program of the year. Among networks, NBC received a leading 11 nominations for "30 Rock," "The Office," "Saturday Night Live" and other shows.  HBO earned six nominations in addition to "No. 1 Ladies" and dominated the movies and miniseries category. For program of the year, critics favoured serialized dramas, nominating the final season of Sci Fi Channel's "Battlestar Galactica," ABC's "Lost," AMC's "Mad Men," FX's "The Shield" and NBC's "Saturday Night Live."


Canada's Billy Elliot, 15, Wins A Tony

Source: www.thestar.com - Richard Ouzounian,
Theatre Critic

(June 08, 2009) David Alvarez, a 15-year-old from Montreal, won a Tony Award last night for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical for his performance in Billy Elliot.

He said he found the whole experience "quite unbelievable!" before going on to thank the creative team of the show as well "as mom and dad and my two sisters."

Alvarez shared the Tony with his two alternate Billys, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish.

The musical that carried them to glory was the evening's big winner, taking home 10 awards including the all-important Best Musical.

Billy Elliot also walked off with Best Book of a Musical, Best Director of a Musical, Best Choreographer of a Musical, Best Set and Lighting of a Musical, Best Featured Actor in a Musical and a tie for Best Orchestrations.

Its one conspicuous loss was Best Score, which Elton John saw go instead to the edgy new musical next to normal, which also earned a Best Leading Actress in a Musical role for its star, Alice Ripley.

The rest of the evening was heavily stacked with performances of musical numbers from current Broadway shows.

One of these was Jersey Boys.

The show's creators and producers fought long and hard to bring Toronto's Jeff Madden to the broadcast in New York, only to be stymied by a sea of red tape involving work permits, etc.

Other major award winners last night included Yasmina Reza's God of Carnage as Best Play and its star Marcia Gay Harden as Best Actress in a Play; Geoffrey Rush as Best Actor in a Play for his work on Exit the King and Angela Lansbury for Best Featured Actress in a Play for Blithe Spirit.

Best Revival of a Play went to the Old Vic's visiting version of The Norman Conquests, by Alan Ayckbourn, staged by Matthew Warchus, who also won as Best Director (and also won for his work on God of Carnage).

Best Revival of a Musical went to the New York Public Theatre's smash production of Hair, edging out West Side Story and Guys and Dolls.


PLAY: God of Carnage
MUSICAL: Billy Elliot, The Musical
BOOK OF A MUSICAL: Lee Hall, Billy Elliot, The Musical
ORIGINAL SCORE: Next to Normal
REVIVAL OF A PLAY: The Norman Conquests
LEADING ACTOR IN A PLAY: Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King
LEADING ACTRESS IN A PLAY: Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage
LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL: David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish, Billy Elliot, The Musical
LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL: Alice Ripley, Next to Normal
FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY: Roger Robinson, Joe Turner's Come and Gone
FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY: Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit
FEATURED ACTOR IN A MUSICAL: Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot, The Musical
DIRECTION OF A PLAY: Matthew Warchus, God of Carnage
DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL: Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot, The Musical
CHOREOGRAPHY: Peter Darling, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Associated Press, for a complete list of winners, see tonyawards.com

A Sister Act That's Hard To Beat

Source:  www.globeandmail.com -
J. Kelly Nestruck


Three Sisters


Written by Anton Chekhov


Adapted by Susan Coyne


Directed by Martha Henry


Starring Irene Poole, Lucy Peacock, Dalal Bahr


At the Stratford Shakespeare Festival

(June 5, 2009) The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is certainly taking a progressive approach to casting this season. In the first three openings, we've seen a colour-blind Macbeth (set in Africa), a gender-blind The Importance of Being Earnest (with Brian Bedford as Lady Bracknell), and, lastly, an age-blind production of Three Sisters .

At least I assume Martha Henry's production of Anton Chekhov's penultimate play is age-blind. How else to explain the presence of Lucy Peacock as Masha, the unhappily married 25-year-old Prozorov sister sandwiched between the motherly Olga and the youthful Irina? I'm guessing Peacock looked more convincingly in her mid-20s when she last played Masha – 20 summers ago. (That was also at Stratford, in a production directed by John Neville.) Any qualms I had about a middle-aged Masha, however, disappeared moments into the production: Peacock, in fact, gives the central, essential performance in this play about a family that “life has choked … like weeds,” trapped in a small provincial town, far from the beloved Moscow they left 11 years before.

Stretched out in torpor on a settee at the start of the play – and frequently thereafter – Peacock's Masha is the unpretty picture of depression, in all its sad self-absorption. With her fur hat on, you might mistake her for a hibernating bear were it not for the sharp darts of cruelty she occasionally rouses herself to whip at her older schoolteacher husband (Peter Hutt being thoroughly pathetic).

A year after her father's death, Masha is resurrected from the dead by the arrival in town of Lieutenant-Colonel Vershinin, played by Tom McCamus at his most craggily charismatic. The two have chemistry like vinegar and baking soda – and when they make love with words from across a room, it is positively volcanic.

Solid throughout, Peacock has two extraordinary moments late in the play, both carefully staged by Henry. The first comes when Masha's feelings about Vershinin burst out and her love for him floods the tiny, claustrophobic room her sisters share. The second comes when Vershinin departs for his new post; traumatized, hysterical, Masha flails about like a balloon violently deflating and has to be physically restrained. Her breakdown is so real, you almost feel like averting your eyes from it.

While Peacock is reason enough to catch this production, if you buy one sister, you get two free. Dalal Badr introduces us to Irina as a lively innocent and then drains her of energy, drip by drip. She only buckles when the play asks her to lift heavier emotional material as she resigns herself to a marriage to Baron Tuzenbach, a man she doesn't love.

As the strong and silent schoolteacher Olga, the surrogate mother of the family, Irene Poole gives a performance full of dignity and bottled-up emotion. The trade-off for such remarkable restraint is that Olga ends the play as an unsolved mystery. (Poole is also so naturally luminous that her character's spinster status hangs in the air as an unanswered question.) By the second act, a fourth sister has joined the Prozorov family: Natasha (Kelli Fox), who marries the sisters' aimless brother, Andrei, and quickly begins occupying their house, room by room. Kelli Fox is wonderfully horrible as this untamed shrew, whose mixture of self-loathing and overbearing sense of entitlement brings to mind TV's Janice Soprano.

The men who surround these women are a mixed bag: As Andrei, Gordon S. Miller curdles convincingly into a cuckold, but in the later scenes he lets his makeup – dark circles under his eyes, premature wrinkles – do too much of his acting. Likewise, as the cynical doctor Chebutykin, James Blendick once again relies too much on his sonorous voice.

Juan Chioran, however, is deliciously erratic as Solyony, while Sean Arbuckle is touching as the Baron.

Those last two characters start off as friends, close as brothers, but end the play shooting at each other in a duel over Irina.

That's the opposite, to jump back a Stratford night for a moment, to what Oscar Wilde says about the progression of female relationships in The Importance of Being Earnest . When Jack predicts that his ward, Cecily, and fiancée, Gwendolyn, will be calling each other sisters a half an hour after they meet, Algy replies: “Women only do that when they have called each other a lot of other things first.”

Henry's admirably brisk production of Susan Coyne's colloquial and Canadian adaptation of Three Sisters takes a much more positive view of the subject. While many directors will leaven the play's existential ache with humour, Henry lightens hers by celebrating sisterhood.

Olga, Masha and Irina may call each other a lot of things, but they are always there for each other. The men around them are destroyed, die or escape into drink and delusion, but the sisters, though shaken, stay on their feet.

Three Sisters runs at the Tom Patterson Theatre in Stratford, Ont., until Oct. 3.

A Stunning West Side Story

www.globeandmail.com - J. Kelly Nestruck

 4 Stars
West Side Story
Based on a concept and originally choreographed by Jerome Robbins
Book by Arthur Laurents
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Gary Griffin

(June 07, 2009) West Side Story is, as they say, having a moment. A bilingual revival directed by co-creator Arthur Laurents has been doing boffo box office on Broadway for months, while Gary Griffin's more traditional staging opened with a bang in Stratford last week.

It's not a competition, of course, but, well, in a street rumble, the gang whose turf is north of the border would win. No matter what weapon is chosen – singing, dancing, acting – Stratford's production of this 1957 retelling of Romeo and Juliet is unbeatable.

Griffin's production has an electric charge that keeps the hairs on your skin tingling from start to finish, thanks to two incredible leads cast as the star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria and Rick Fox's assertive musical direction.

But the one element that lifts it into the superlative stratosphere is Sergio Trujillo's renovation of Jerome Robbins's choreography for the Stratford's Festival theatre's thrust stage.

Thrust is the imperative word here: Robbins's finger-snapping choreography, so often parodied, explodes into the audience with an unmockable energy. It's turbo-charged and thrilling and makes the violent dance of the Jets, the American gang, and the Sharks, the Puerto Ricans, seem genuinely threatening.

No one comes off better here than Paul Nolan, who performs a miracle on the flat character of Tony. Magnetism and teenage vitality pour out of his pores.

When he arrives at Maria's fire-escape balcony after they first meet at the school dance, Nolan's Tony leaps into the air, grabs the railing on Douglas Paraschuk's jungle gym of a set and yanks himself up onto the balcony with one flex of his biceps. This feat of athleticism led to spontaneous applause from the audience, but was also a potent physical expression of the character's soaring feelings.

This is a Tony who fully believes his love for Maria has made him invincible to the mix of switchblades, racism and economic insecurity that will eventually lead to his tragic demise.

As his Puerto Rican partner, Maria, Chilina Kennedy is a goofier Maria than we might expect, but she positively glows and her voice knocks you over. Her arc is impressively charted and her final scene – shockingly staged by Griffin, even if you know what's coming – absolutely destroying.

Led by a fierce Riff (Brandon Espinoza) and Action (Matt Alfano), the Jets are a top-notch set of “juvenile delinquents,” who, especially in the number Cool , seem always on the verge of exploding.

Andrew Cao is a sharp Bernardo, leading the Sharks, while Jennifer Rias's Anita is primarily comic, a decision that rightly throws the focus on the leads. (On Broadway, the production feels more like Anita's play than Maria's.)

The New York production has some fabulous ideas – the Puerto Ricans sing and speak in Spanish – but director Laurents tries too hard to turn the musical into something gritty and realistic that it is not and cannot be.

There's no gimmick with this West Side Story – just a robust staging that focuses on the emotional journeys of the main characters and sensitive readings of Laurents's sparse text. It's fabulous.

West Side Story plays at Stratford until Oct. 31.


Sanaa Lathan In London's 'Hot Tin Roof'

Source:  www.eurweb.com

(June 4, 2009) *
Sanaa Lathan will join James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad in the London staging of Broadway's all-black production of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," which premieres in the West End this fall.  Jones and Rashad both appeared in the 2008 Broadway run at the Rialto opposite Anika Noni Rose, who played central character Maggie the Cat. Lathan will replace Rose in the London production.  Produced by Stephen Byrd and Alia Jones, the Tennessee Williams drama begins performances at the Novello Theater Nov. 21 ahead of a Dec. 1 opening. Debbie Allen reprises her directing duties on the show, scheduled to play through April 10.


Recharged E3 Draws Plenty Of Star Power

www.thestar.com - Marc Saltzman, Special To The Star

(June 6, 2009) LOS ANGELES–What do you get when you cross Steven Spielberg, Paul McCartney and Sugar Ray Leonard? A boxing billionaire? A jam-packed trophy case?

While these are both reasonable responses, the
E3 video game expo is the correct answer this week.

After two years of taking a quieter and more intimate approach, the 15th annual E3 returned to its boisterous roots, featuring enormous video screens, live musical acts such as Eminem and Jay-Z, and plenty of photo op-friendly product plugs from the biggest names in music, movies (Spielberg and James Cameron) and sports (Sugar Ray and Pelé).

More than 41,000 industry-only attendees swarmed the Los Angeles Convention Center's 350,000 square feet of showroom space to test-drive upcoming games and new hardware, as well as take in myriad buzz-inducing announcements by the Big Three console makers: Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.


It was all about star power at Microsoft's Xbox 360 briefing, the first (and best) of the E3 media events. Remaining Beatles McCartney and Ringo Starr were on hand to wax poetic about the upcoming The Beatles: Rock Band from MTV Games, which will allow players to drum, strum and sing through the Fab Four's coveted catalogue using instrument-shaped peripherals.

"The game is good, the graphics are very good and we were great," said Starr with a laugh. Sir Paul added, "We love the game. We think it's fantastic. Who'd have ever thought we'd end up as androids?"

Then futurist filmmaker Spielberg introduced the crowd to "Project Natal," a gaming peripheral to be used with the Xbox 360 that will allow players to interact with on-screen content without a controller. "It's not about reinventing the wheel," Spielberg said. "It's about no wheel at all."

Players can use their bodies, arms and voices to play games, communicate with virtual characters (including the "Milo" demo featuring a young boy) and even log onto the Xbox Live online gaming service through facial recognition. "Natal" (pronounced "nuh-tall") generated much of the buzz at this year's E3, with many attendees calling it a "Wii killer" – though, without a launch date confirmed, its impact on the Wii is questionable.

(Speaking of Xbox Live, it was revealed players will be able to stream 1080p high-definition movies and use their TVs to log onto Facebook and Twitter through their Xbox 360s by the fall.)

A host of Microsoft Game Studios titles were shown, including the gorgeous Forza Motorsport 3 auto-racing simulator and the less impressive Halo 3: ODST, but it was the games from other publishers that wowed the crowds (see sidebar).


Concentrating more on the "casual" rather than the "core" gamer, Nintendo did a decent job with its press briefing by showcasing an impressive lineup for the Wii (and, to a lesser extent, the DS).

Nintendo kicked things off by unveiling New Super Mario Bros. Wii (see sidebar), a reinvented classic that was easily the company's coolest demo game. The middle of the briefing wasn't as compelling: it featured a new Wii Fit product (Wii Fit Plus), a sequel to the popular Wii Sports title, and some Nintendo DS games, such as Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, that received lukewarm responses.

But the proceedings ended on a positive note with a glimpse into the future with Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M, both of which were met with roars from the crowd. Demo videos of these franchise favourites looked great, but they won't be out until sometime in 2010.


Sony hosted the third and final press briefing to showcase its upcoming PlayStation products. Beginning the presentation with a live demo of the awesome Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, the crowd ate up the banter between the wisecracking hero, Nate, and his female sidekick, as they narrowly escaped helicopter gunfire and collapsing buildings. This third-person adventure, a PS3 exclusive, looks like one of the best holiday titles this year (Sony needed a crowbar to pry me away from the PS3 controller later that day).

Less impressive, however, was the next Sony PlayStation Portable, the PSP Go, with a high sticker price of $249 (Cdn.) – um, that's $50 more than an Xbox 360 Arcade console. You could hear a pin drop when the price was announced. Due out this October, the handheld gaming system is considerably smaller than the existing PSP and smartly replaces the Universal Media Disc slot with 16 gigabytes of integrated memory and expandable M2 flash memory to store downloaded games and videos from Sony's wireless store.

The PSP Go's screen slides up to reveal the gaming controls: D-pad, buttons and analog stick (sorry, not two analog sticks, as many of us had hoped). Despite some pre-E3 rumours, no price drop was announced for the $399 PlayStation 3.

More notable new hardware was a motion-control technology that, when paired with a Sony EyeToy camera, puts players in their games and makes it appear as though they're holding various items, such as a sword or whip (yes, more motion-sensing announcements to take some wind out of Nintendo's sails).

Some surprise news included the unveiling of two PS3 exclusives: Agent, from Rockstar North, the creators of the best-selling Grand Theft Auto series, and Square Enix's Final Fantasy XIV, both of which do not have release dates yet.

Wrapping up the press briefings were amazing live demos of Sony's God of War 3 and Ubisoft Montreal's Assassin's Creed II (see sidebar).


African-American Literary Industry Giants Gather in NYC

Source:  Kam Williams, Photo credit: Troy Johnson, AALBC.com

Book Expo America, publishing’s premier annual convention, was held this year at the Jacob
Javits Center in New York City from May 29th to the 31st. On Saturday afternoon, black literary giants representing every area of the industry gathered inside the hall’s African-American Pavilion for a reception sponsored by publishers Tony and Yvonne Rose of Amber Communications Group. The event’s award program was hosted by ravishing Renaissance woman Heather Covington, CEO of Disilgold.com.

The roster of honourees in attendance reads like a Who’s Who list, starting with Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, the fiery-also ran from Trump’s reality show, “The Apprentice.” Omarosa kicked off the festivities with the keynote speech, and she was followed to the stage by Lifetime Achievement Award recipient actor Wesley Snipes, best-selling authors Omar Tyree, Zane and Terrie Williams, Tom Joyner Morning Show co-host Sybil Wilkes, AALBC.com founder Troy Johnson, BlackNews.com’s Dante Lee, AMAG Magazine’s James Lisbon and Mosaic Books’ Ron Cavanaugh.

Accolades were also in order for Princeton professor Cornel West,

TV talk show host Tavis Smiley, authors of the year Brenda L. Thomas,

Kelly Starling-Lyons, Brother G and Irene Smalls, and publishers of the year by Charisse Carney-
Nunes (Self), Richard Jeanty (Urban) and Wade and Cheryl Hudson (Independent).  Then there were PR agent to the stars Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, NAACP Image Awards Literary Coordinator Annette Thomas, Tushe Group President Lynette McMillon, career coach Shayla Price and crime fiction writer Kevin Weeks.

The Trailblazer Award went to Gregory Perkins, owner of the largest African-American greeting card company in the U.S. while the Pioneer Award was garnered by Carole Hall, former editor-in-chief of John Wiley & Sons’ African-American division. Rounding out the recipients in attendance were Black Expressions Book Club editor-in-chief Carol Mackey, Atria Books’ senior editor Malaika Adero, business leader Tom Joyner, Jr., writer Dawayne Williams and hip-hop poet West Coast Biz.

 A great time was had by all, especially while socializing at the after-soiree, the “Black Pack Party” hosted later that evening by Troy and Ron along with industry moguls Michele Gipson and Linda Duggins aboard a boat docked nearby on the Hudson River. Between the sensational sunset and balmy weather, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect setting to make the most of excellent networking opportunities for novices and professionals alike.

(Note: Tony Rose is the Executive Director/Co-Founder and Yvonne Rose is the National Director of the African American Pavilion at Book Expo America. Their websites are WWW.AMBERBOOKS.COM  and WWW.AFRICANAMERICANPAVILION.COM.

For more info, or to book a booth at next year’s event, call: (602) 743-7426.)


Tono: A Glorious Story Of Horses And Humans

www.globeandmail.com - Paula Citron

Luminato Festival
Red Sky Performance
Fleck Dance Theatre
In Toronto on Friday

(June 7, 2009)
TONO is a ravishingly beautiful dance work, but one that seems slightly disjointed.

Sandra Laronde founded Toronto-based Red Sky Performance in 2000 to be a voice for Aboriginal arts. Her inspiration for TONO is the shared culture of the indigenous peoples of Canada, Mongolia and China's Inner Mongolia.

For both her and Montreal co-choreographer Roger Sinha, the three countries represent the endless plains that were home to the magnificent figure of the horse. Laronde's concept also includes the idea of shamanism, which she sees as the ability to communicate with both nature and the spirit world.

The bulk of the work is devoted to images of the horse and its enduring close relationship with humans. At the end, Laronde introduces the image of twins in the birth sac, with one being born alive and strong to carry on the shaman tradition. The other is dead, presumably a liaison in the spirit world.

The latter image of two female dancers encased in stretchy material that bonds to their bodies is quite startling and absolutely unexpected in light of what has gone before. It is an image that jars with the totality of the work.

Three dancers from Inner Mongolia (Cai Hong, Morigen and Wei Jie) bring agile and supple bodies skilled in contortion and tumbling. The Canadians (Julie Choquette, Carlos Rivera and Raul Talamantes) are modern dancers with experience in traditional indigenous dance. Collectively they present a wide range of abilities, which the choreographers put to good use.

The various evocations of the horse are gorgeous, from wild gallops to gentle, slow-motion isolation of tissues and sinews. The choreographers have given all six dancers wonderfully diverse ways of portraying speed and grace. To the women falls the elegant majesty of the horse, to the men its charismatic power. Together, they are the herd.

The six recreate a stampede that builds with excitement, their closed fists wind-milling through the air depicting the flying hooves, while their bodies mimic the straining muscles. The two Mongolian women produce absolutely stunning stretches and body twists to capture the intimate exploration of the horse's beautiful body. The Mongolian man is superb at the gymnastics and midair jump-turns that capture the horse at play. There are also images of traditional dance such as the Grass Dance to introduce the human element.

Clever sequences abound. For example, two combative men face each other, as if in a fight, human to human. The surprise is that their physicality transforms itself into man and horse, with one man pulling reins out of the other's costume. The fight, in retrospect, becomes the taming of the horse.

What TONO does not really show is the shamanistic aspect unless one looks at the whole as communing with nature. There is not really a sense of the spirit world either because the choreography is so wonderfully anchored in the glorious reality of the horse itself.

Composer Rick Sacks's score, a mix of taped and live music, is one of his best. His collaboration with onstage Mongolian singer/musicians Tuvshinjargal Damdinjav, Bat-Orshikh Bazarvaani and Batmend Baasankhuu (in traditional dress) conjures up an exotic world through low growling singing, heavy percussion, a Mongolian string instrument and Sacks's marimba. There is also a taped drum circle by Eddy Robinson and the Morningstar River singers.

Julia Tribe's set is a low silhouette of hills in the background, piles of stones in the foreground and an overhead wheel. Her earth-coloured costumes cunningly capture both East and West influences.

At times, the lyrical parts seem repetitive, while the sequences seem to lack a coherent flow. And the birth of the twins is a very strange and bewildering ending.

Nonetheless, the creators should be congratulated on a wonderful achievement that embraces two different cultures with pride.

Ballet BC's Alleyne Stepping Down

Source:  www.globeandmail.com - Fiona Morrow

(June 4, 2009) Vancouver — Ballet British Columbia's artistic director of 16 years,
John Alleyne, is leaving the company. The news follows a year of financial hardship for the Vancouver organization, which took it to the brink of bankruptcy. The chair of the board, Graeme Barrit, told The Globe that the company had secured just half of its $1-million fundraising goal and that it was time for them to “redesign what the company is.”

“There was a sense from the board that if we are going to go through this process, that without John we would be less encumbered and able to completely reinvent ourselves,” he noted.

Alleyne, who arrived in Vancouver to join Ballet BC in 1992, said he was moving back to Montreal with his partner and family and looking forward to some “R&R.”

“Any type of ending brings sadness,” he added. “But what is important to me is to look at what we have achieved over the past. Ballet BC is an essential cultural institution for the country and the city and I am excited to see what changes are made.”

According to Barrit, the company is no longer in debt and has an approved financial plan for next year. There will be no subscription system for what he describes as a “transitional season” that includes a presentation with the National Ballet in the fall, a new work in April and a Nutcracker for the holiday season. But news that Goh Ballet, with the recently retired National Ballet's Chan Hon Goh, will also present a Nutcracker featuring National Ballet soloists at Vancouver's Centre for the Performing Arts during the same period does present Ballet BC with “a challenge,” Barrit conceded.

An announcement of an interim artistic director who will see Ballet B.C. through the next season is expected by the end of June. Barrit refused to comment on any names being considered, though rumours among the dance community are rife – with Chan Hon Goh, Vancouver choreographer Crystal Pite, Arts Umbrella dance teacher Emily Molnar and Ballet BC principal dancer Simone Orlando all reportedly in the frame.

The board will meet through the summer to decide on the future direction of the company and search for a permanent replacement for Alleyne. Over his 16 years with Ballet BC, Alleyne's original contemporary ballets, including The Faerie Queen and A Streetcar Named Desire , were critically well-received but considered too cerebral by many.

“We have to decide what sort of company we are going to be and focus on that,” Barrit argued. “Are we going to be a presenting company, a contemporary dance company, a traditional dance company? And what is financially viable in Vancouver? Maybe the past year is exactly what we needed to go through in order to come back in a new, strengthened form.”

Anne Michaels' Poetry Inspired Choreographer Dominique Dumais To Create Skin Divers

Source: www.thestar.com - Susan Walker,
Special To The Star

(June 04, 2009) Dancers and poets make natural allies. The choreographer, like the poet, deals in metaphors. The language of poetry is a kind of music, as is dance.

Many choreographers, of whom
Dominique Dumais would be a prime example, build images, the way poets do.

Long before she was asked to provide a dance for an all-female evening at Komische Oper Berlin in 2003, Poem/Body of Poetry, Dumais had been reading Anne Michaels. The creation of Skin Divers, which takes its title from Michaels' 1999 volume of poetry, was a welcome opportunity to work with a writer who had inspired her. She views the Canadian premiere of Skin Divers, with the National Ballet of Canada on Saturday, as a cherished homecoming.

"Like the moon, I want to touch places / just by looking ..." That line, from the title poem in Michaels' collection, is a clue to how a choreographer might be drawn to this celebrated poet's work. (Michaels' fame grew with the publication of her novel Fugitive Pieces, in 1998.)

"Her work has this reference to the body as the keeper of memory," says Dumais, on a break from rehearsals at the Four Seasons Centre. "That really resonates for me. We hold all of our lives in the cells of our bodies; we carry our experiences with us, whether consciously or unconsciously."

And body memory, of course, is a critical element in dance performance.

Dumais, whose luxuriant brown curly locks could be a match for Michaels' abundant tresses, is visiting from Mannheim, Germany, where she is the in-house choreographer and associate director for Kevin O'Day-Ballett Mannheim. Before leaving Canada, the Quebec-born dancer was a member of the National Ballet. She learned her craft as a choreographer in the company and created her first major piece for them in 1998.

As a freelance choreographer she prepared works for a number of companies, including the Pacific Northwest Ballet and the Stuttgart Ballet, and in 2002 Dumais joined the theatre in Mannheim.

Women are still a rarity as choreographers for classical ballet companies, and although she works less for pointe shoes, Dumais has the opportunity in her own company to make a full-length piece every year as well as shorter works.

Making Skin Divers, Dumais brought to bear all the elements she customarily interweaves to make a strong, emotional impact: music, visual projections and text – in this case Michaels' own readings of two poems, recorded at a pace to blend with the dance and music.

"I listened to different pieces of music and read along," says Dumais of her musical choice, Gavin Bryars' "String Quartet No. 2," a score that left room for words and choreography.

She and designer Tatyana van Walsam brainstormed on images from the poetry, including the poem "Last Night's Moon," full of images from the Canadian countryside ("March aspens, mist / forest. Green rain pins down ...").

The choreographer was going for the purity she finds in the poetry.

"I'm often inspired by people who can communicate without language, with just their hands, their eyes. They don't just do one movement; it's quite complex to express a feeling or an idea."

Michaels, on tour in Europe with her new book, Winter Vault, writes by email that her involvement with the ballet brought new possibilities to the performance of the poems.

"Dominique has done a wonderful job of capturing the `soul' of the poems. I think she has found a way to truly embody the language," says Michaels.

Just the facts
What: Skin Divers & Carmen

Where: Four Seasons Centre, 145 Queen St. W.

When: Sat. at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Runs until June 14

Tickets: $20 to $200 @ 416-345-9595 or national.ballet.ca

Pite Spins Across Continents

Source: www.thestar.com - Susan Walker,
Special To The Star

(June 09, 2009) Crystal Pite is perhaps a little more used to living out of a suitcase than the rest of us. Arriving this week from Holland with the Luminato-bound Nederlands Dans Theatre, she'll be choreographing The Second Person, her third show to open in the last seven weeks.

The Vancouver-based artistic director of Kidd Pivot is an international dance phenomenon. She can now look back calmly on 24 months of dancemaking and performing in North America, the Middle East and Europe – two years of living dangerously, if rewardingly. "Sometimes it felt really chaotic," says Pite. "I ended up feeling great about being able to build my work over time in all these different contexts. But I don't think I want to do another year like that any time soon."

Pite, 38, is tall and lean – an obvious dancer – with a mane of blond, curly, unruly hair that frames her clear features. She began dancing in Victoria, where she grew up. Choreography came with her membership in Ballet British Columbia. In 1996 she joined the Frankfurt Ballet, then under the auspices of William Forsythe, and soon became a sought-after choreographer, making works for Cullberg Ballet, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal, Alberta Ballet and independent dancers including Louise Lecavalier.

In 2001, she formed Kidd Pivot. For the foreseeable future, says Pite, this small ensemble is where her focus will largely rest.

Her recent peripatetic period has seen her making new shows as well as performing. She has appeared in her own company's Lost Action nearly 70 times now, as it has toured the world from the Yukon to Tel Aviv. (The show came to Toronto last November.)

Nederlands Dans Theater, one of the world's foremost contemporary dance companies, is where Pite spends time as an associate choreographer. The organization, she says, is centred on creating new work. "That totally changes everything. It's a whole structure built around creation, where the money put toward making new stuff is a huge part of the budget."

She made two works for the company of 25 or more dancers before she took up her position this season. "It's really nice to have a long-term relationship," Pite says of her association with NDT, adding that it's only when she gets to know the dancers that they can go deep into the work they're creating.

The Second Person, the piece NDT will perform on its Luminato program opening Thursday at the MacMillan Theatre, premiered in early 2007. Pite created the dance with her long-time musical collaborator, Owen Belton. She was inspired by recordings of Scottish, Irish and English folk songs that she handed to Belton, who incorporated weather sounds, voices and acoustic instrumentation with snatches of the music.

A hallmark of Pite's choreography is the contrast between close and intricate ensemble works, where a group of dancers can move like one body, and the strong, breakout actions of her soloists. Lost Action came out of letters from World War II soldiers and was another expression of Pite's interest, like The Second Person, in storylines that bridge generations. In Dark Matters, the huge piece she premiered in April at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, the dancers manipulate a large puppet. A puppet also figures in The Second Person.


The Man Who’s Bringing Usain Bolt To Toronto

Source: www.thestar.com – Randy Starkman

(June 08, 2009) A wind turbine. More than 10,000 pounds of books. And a grand piano for the church.

 These are the kinds of things that probably swung the deal that’s bringing Jamaican sprint king
Usain Bolt to Toronto to run Thursday in the Festival of Excellence at Varsity Stadium.

Bolt is coming here because of the relationship between
John Carson, a massage therapist who is director of the Classic Mile in Cambridge, Ont., and Ricky Simms, one of Bolt’s agents.

Carson developed a rapport with Simms through bringing in some of his runners to the Classic Mile, including Laban Rotich of Kenya. What Simms saw in Carson was not just a guy who was dedicated to his event and the sport, but someone who was also willing to lead a group of 22 high school students in raising $40,000 to hire a container and visit Rotich’s home village of Kokwet and build a wind turbine and bring medical and other supplies.

“I think Ricky saw what we were doing at the village level and the impact it was having and our relationship is based as much on that as anything,” said Carson.

So when Carson broached the topic of bringing Bolt to Toronto after he became the hottest sports commodity on the planet in Beijing, Simms was willing to listen. He was not a Johnny Carson Come Lately.

Sure, Bolt is getting a reported $250,000 appearance fee – but he could go anywhere these days and get that.

Once Carson got a commitment from Simms that Bolt would indeed come, he linked up with the University of Toronto, which had the resources to bring this event off and, like Carson, also the strong desire to breathe some life into track and field in these parts.

One of principals putting together the field for the event is Carson’s old track nemesis, middle distance runner Dave Reid, who always got the better of him. Reid has been working with U of T track boss Carl Georgevski in putting together a stellar field that includes Olympic champions LaShawn Merritt (400 metres) and Bryan Clay (decathlon).

“We’re building it so it’s not just the Usain Bolt show,” said Carson. “This year, it may be a coming out party for track and field and it certainly helps to have the hottest ticket in sport. But we’re showing it’s much more than a 100-metre exhibition race.”

The overall objective is a playground to podium approach and to that end the Festival of Excellence has targeted community groups, schools and clubs to get involved through the Run Like Lightning program. They are running youth events earlier on Thursday and exposing as many kids as possible to the meet and to Bolt.

They are looking to the excitement the meet will bring and its live coverage on TSN to create more awareness.

“Until you’re moved emotionally, it doesn’t have the same effect on you,” said Carson. “The goal is to move people emotionally and out of that have a call to action. The goal or reason for doing something like this is it brings energy to the sport.”

A Bolt of energy, you might say. It shapes up to be an exciting week.

Pickering Sprinter Anson Henry: Perchance To Dream ….

Source: www.thestar.com - Randy Starkman, Sports Reporter

(June 09, 2009) Pickering sprinter Anson Henry gets the chance on Thursday to line up against Jamaican star Usain Bolt at theFestival of Excellence. Not only does he say he’s not intimidated, but he’s got Bolt-like aspirations of his own.

“Any sprinter who believes in themselves will just look at Usain as the guy who has the stars aligned for him right now,” said Henry. “He’s in a position they believe they can be in themselves.

“As far as him being intimidating, to some sprinters maybe, but to other sprinters who really believe that they can run that fast, they’re just looking at him as someone who has it together right now.”

Pretty heady stuff for a 30-year-old who has yet to crack the 10-second barrier (his personal best is 10.02), but sprinting can really be a mental game and the graduate of Dunbarton High School definitely believes in his own potential.

“His performance at the Olympics was as close to perfect as you can get,” said Henry. “The way I look at it is if I was to get my stuff together and the stars aligned for me, I could be running just as fast. He was able to put it together and he was very impressive. There’s no way around that.”

While there’s a lot of speculation on just how fast Bolt will go, Henry doesn’t believe there’s not been enough appreciation about how fast he’s already gone.

“The way that he did it, people think that 9.6 is like nothing,” said Henry, knocked out in the second round of the 100 metres in Beijing. “But running 9.6 is really no joke because really breaking 10 seconds you’re flying. Really, if you can run 10.1, you’re flying. If you’re running 9.6, that’s almost unheard of.

“If he never gets back to 9.6 again in his career, I wouldn’t even necessarily be surprised by that. Because it’s blistering fast. Going faster than that will be very hard. He could still have a very successful career being able to run 9.8 and maybe 9.7s. You never know if he’s ever going to be in that shape again. Only time will tell.”

Henry said people should discard their expectations and just enjoy the show.

“People should just let him run. It’s going to impressive regardless. If he runs 9.5, then people are going to be like ‘Hey, when are you going to run 9.4?’”

Chanice Taylor-Chase : Gold Medal Dedicated To Great-Grandmother

www.thestar.com - David Grossman, Sports Reporter

(June 6, 2009)
Chanice Taylor-Chase had a lot to motivate herself yesterday while competing at the largest high school track and field championship in Canada, besides her usual drive, determination and desire to be the best at what she does.

Only in Grade 10 at Notre Dame High in Ajax, she had to make some quick adjustments after being confronted with two setbacks: an ankle injury and learning of the death of her great-grandmother.

Emotionally shattered and with the injury causing her a different kind of pain, Taylor-Chase said she had tinkered with the thought of withdrawing from the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations final at the University of Toronto's complex at Varsity Centre.

But inspired by her family, knowing that her great-grandmother was aware of her hard work with school and club teams, the 15-year-old chose to persevere.

After a brilliant introduction to the high school sport at the midget level last year with provincial gold medals, this time Taylor-Chase wanted to do even better at the junior level in her goal of securing an NCAA scholarship.

Yesterday, two events and two gold medals. Both in OFSAA-record times.

Bothered by the ankle, taking time out to ice it, her 5.69 metres in the long jump got her more than a gold medal as she also shattered the OFSAA record of 5.48 set five years ago by Catherine Okoukoni from Cardinal Carter in Aurora.

"I wasn't sure if I'd be able to compete," said Taylor-Chase, who balances her time practising four times a week with the Durham Legion Athletic Club and squeezing in the mandatory number of 16 practices with her school to qualify for OFSAA.

"I landed the wrong way (on the ankle), but realized that this is OFSAA and, no matter what, I had to go hard. Ice, rest and lots of praying."

Having beaten the OFSAA record in the 80-metre hurdles during a morning heat with a time of 11.67 seconds before learning of her great-grandmother's death, she was clocked in the final in 11.44, beating Arianna Jorgensen of Emily Carr in Woodbridge, who ran the event in 11.87.

The previous record was 11.88 by Ashley Madex from Rockland last year.

But her mind was still on her great-grandmother.

"I was actually really close with her, so this was very hard," said Taylor-Chase. "My mom told me and I was devastated, crying, but I overcame it. This (the medals) is for (her great-grandmother). She died of old age and lived a long life. It happens."

2009 NBA Finals: Lakers-Magic Game 3 Recap : Orlando Magic 108, Los Angeles Lakers 104

Zach Harper

(June 10, 2009) There's an easy way to break out of shooting slumps when you're looking down the barrel of a sweep and need to grab an extremely important Game Three during the NBA Finals - just make your shots.

And that's exactly what the Orlando Magic did Tuesday night in garnering a completely necessary win over the Lakers to bring the series to a 2-1 Los Angeles lead. They simply made more shots. In the first two games, the Lakers rotations were crisp, quick, and smothering. The Magic shot a putrid 29% from the field in Game One and "improved" to 40% from the field in Game Two. They weren't exactly burning any barns or challenging the Mike D'Antoni-led Phoenix Suns for shooting efficiency as they tried to win their first NBA Finals game in franchise history. But Tuesday night, Orlando finally found a way to move the ball more effectively, which led to much more efficient shooting and scoring.

A big part of that was the effort from Rafer Alston. When the Lakers got into trouble in the second round of the playoffs against the Houston Rockets, it was because a small, whirling-dervish of a point guard named Aaron Brooks was wreaking havoc on the old, slower legs of Derek Fisher. Brooks was getting into the lane, freeing himself up for scores and knocking down long-range jumpers when called upon. In Game Three, Rafer Alston put to rest any point guard controversy or locker room drama by attacking Derek Fisher and the interior defense of the Lakers like Kirstie Alley attacks a school of carp. It led to the obvious mentions of Skip To My Lou and NYC playground legend but the quick dribbling, precise moves that Alston used to score effortlessly was exactly what Orlando needed to break their scoring slump.

Dwight Howard was much better in attacking the basket in this game but it wasn't exactly enough to really open up the floodgates and jump shooters for the Magic. And that's primarily because Rafer was so great at putting the defense on their heels and the Laker rotations a step behind. Skip hit his first five shots in a variety of methods. He made lay-ups, floaters, three-pointers and mid-range jumpers. He was using quick crossovers, dizzying spin moves, and stylish plays that made me wonder if he was being guarded by Derek Fisher or some unsuspecting local on the And 1 Mixtape Tour. I expected Mike Breen to turn into Duke Tango and start yelling things like "Point God" and "Skippy" as Rafer dazzled the crowd and elicited "ooh's" and "aah's."

Unlike in the first two games, Rafer and his teammates knocked down their wide-open jumpers. Hedo Turkoglu seemed to be the best playmaker on the court at all times with his swift cross-court and swing passes. He was great at finding Rashard Lewis who would either tee up a three or swing the ball for an even better shot by a teammate. Hedo finished with seven assists, Shard finished with five of his own, and the Orlando team ended up with 23 assists on 40 made baskets. The ball movement was so good that the shots had no choice but to drop for Orlando. After the first quarter, they were shooting 69% from the field. At a certain point in the second quarter, they had made 16 of their 21 attempts. At halftime, they were 75% from the floor, which is a new NBA Finals record for field goal percentage in a half. They ended the game with a final shooting display of 62.5%, which is also a Finals record for an entire game. And it wasn't that they were doing much of anything all that different outside of Rafer Alston being properly aggressive; the shots just simply fell this time for the Magic when they hadn't in the first two games of this series.

For the Lakers, they rode the hot hand of Kobe Bryant early and often as he started out torching the Magic for 17 first quarter points and accounting for 23 of the Lakers 31 points after 12 minutes of play. Pau Gasol was fantastically efficient and dominant in scoring the ball inside with 23 points on 9/11 shooting. And Jordan Farmar was able to match Lamar Odom's scoring off the bench with 11 points apiece. But outside of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, nobody was willing to step up for the Lakers and either make a stop or score the ball. The Lakers thrived off of long rebounds in the first two games and turned many of them into scoring opportunities. But with the Magic hitting every shot they tossed towards the iron, the Lakers chances to capitalize on mistakes were minimal. They only grabbed 27 rebounds in this game, which isn't bad considering there were only 58 total boards to be had.

The Lakers also did two things poorly. First, they couldn't shoot free throws at all and made Dwight Howard look like Rick Barry on Ritalin. They missed 10 of their free throws with Kobe ending up accounting for half of those misses. Second, they also settled for a lot of bad and long-range shots. Instead of taking the ball inside, they just jacked up jumpers despite having plenty of room to get closer for a better shot. LA shot a very respectable and good 51% from the field but their 8/23 from the three-point line was mostly due to a lack of aggressiveness. Trevor Ariza, who should be fined anytime he doesn't slash towards the basket, was guilty of settling for jumpers. Perhaps, he was timid due to Dwight Howard's presence inside but whatever the reason is, he shot far too many threes (seven) for his shooting ability.

Orlando kept this game in complete control despite the fact that the Lakers wouldn't go away. It's amazing that for most of this game, Orlando was shooting 60 to 70% from the field and either trailing or barely holding onto the lead. But their energy never wavered thanks to a raucous crowd and it seemed like their hot shooting wasn't so much a fluke as it was supposed to happen that way.

Why the Magic Won This Game
I'm giving the game ball and kudos to Courtney Lee for turning this game into Orlando's favour. Like I stated earlier (and it was also stated about 50 times during the broadcast), Orlando was shooting an absurd percent from the field and yet still struggling to take a big lead that left little doubt in the mind's of those watching. Kobe Bryant was shooting like he did in the first two games and making the impossible look easy and the easy look TOO EASY. But for most of the third quarter, Courtney Lee defended Kobe Bryant and played him to a standstill. He was physical with him and matched his athleticism while guarding Kobe in the third. He took Kobe out of his rhythm and turned him from a striking Black Mamba into an innocent bystander who just happened to be allowed to watch the game from the court. Lee helped hold him to just two points in the first 10:08 of the third period. It took Kobe out of the game for long enough that he was exhausted and not nearly as effective and deadly as he portrayed in the first half.

Why the Lakers Lost This Game
They allowed the Magic to shoot over 60% from the field in an NBA Finals game! How do you do that?! Five different starters scored at least 18 points for the Magic. Only Marcin Gortat shot under 50% from the field in this game for Orlando and he was 0/1. The Lakers were slow to react to the passing of the Magic and did a terrible job of closing out on shooters. They were slow to double-team Dwight Howard down low and once again Andrew Bynum proved to be the biggest waste of $55 million since the movie Gigli. In fact, I'm now officially calling him "Gigli Bynum" until he proves that he belongs to be in the conversation of competent NBA players.

Heading Into Game Four
Well, you can't expect the Magic to shoot as poorly as they did in the first two games at home but it's hard to believe that they'll shoot close to 60% again. When they move the ball like this, there literally is no guarding them. You end up giving Dwight Howard better scoring opportunities inside. When you decide to clamp down on that, you leave Hedo, Shard, and Alston to pick you apart from outside. I don't think you can count on another 20-point game from Rafer in the Finals but if they can continue to get close to 60 points a game on efficient shooting from their frontcourt then they'll be a problem for Los Angeles.

For the Lakers, they have to help Kobe out more in the first 36 minutes so he can dominate in the final 12. He was exhausted from keeping them afloat throughout the beginning of this game and needed an extra couple of minutes of rest to start the fourth quarter that he customarily doesn't get. Guys like Trevor Ariza, Luke Walton, and Derek Fisher need to be more effective. Lamar Odom can't wait until the fourth quarter to wake up like he did in Game Three. And they have to force the Magic into long misses to get their transition game going. If Kobe has to be the hero for a full 48, the Lakers may find themselves even at two games for each team.
Prediction: Orlando evens up the series.


Summer Bird Wins Belmont Stakes

www.thestar.com - The Canadian Press

(June 6, 2009) NEW YORK–A bird of a different colour is the unofficial winner of the
Belmont Stakes. Summer Bird blitzed in front with a few hundred metres to go, then held off challenges from Dunkirk and Mine That Bird to win the final jewel in the U.S. thoroughbred Triple Crown. Dunkirk placed second while Mine That Bird, Canada's two-year-old champion of 2008, led on the backstretch but ran out of gas and had to settle for third. Ridden by Calvin Borel – who fell short in his quest to win the jockey Triple Crown – Mine That Bird entered the race as the 6-to-5 favourite in the 10-horse field. He opened the race well back of the field but caught up at the halfway mark, surging ahead as the horses approached the backstretch. But Summer Bird – who, like Mine That Bird, was sired by 2004 Belmont winner Birdstone – sped past Dunkirk and Mine That Bird on the final stretch and held on to win in two minutes 27.54 seconds.

Mike Tyson Marries Girlfriend In Vegas


(June 10, 2009) Just two weeks after Mike Tyson lost his four-year-old daughter Exodus in a tragic accidental death, the former boxer has reportedly married his girlfriend Lakiha Spicer in a secret ceremony in Las Vegas.  The owner of the La Bella Wedding Chapel at the Las Vegas Hilton hotel-casino told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the one-time heavyweight champion and his bride exchanged vows at about 10 p.m. Saturday night in a short, private ceremony. According to Radar Online, Tyson and Spicer took out a marriage license on Saturday and got married later that evening at the La Bella Wedding Chapel in the Las Vegas Hilton.  Spicer has reportedly been helping Tyson grieve the death of his youngest child, who died in May after she was injured in her Phoenix home when she either slipped or put her head in the loop of a cord hanging under a treadmill's console and was suffocated. Tyson shares two children with his second wife Monica Turner, and has five other children from other relationships.


Fitness: Stuff You Need to Know!

By Raphael Calzadilla, BA, CPT, ACE, RTS1, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

I really enjoy writing about one topic that can help make a positive impact on your fitness level and nutrition habits. However, sometimes it's fun and useful to cover a lot of different quick tips based on a variety of subjects.

I'd like to cover multiple bits of valuable information or as I like to refer to it, "stuff you should know." I'll cover exercise, training technique, nutrition and fact versus fiction. If you love scanning information, learning quickly and then moving on to the next thing in your day, then this article is for you.

Whether you are a beginner, novice or experienced exerciser, here's some stuff I think you should know:

1. THE MAGIC WORKOUT -- Get it hammered into your mind that there is no "best and only way" to workout. I get a multitude of questions concerning the efficiency of "super slow rep" workouts, "the best video-tape workout," "the best number of days to workout," etc. In reality, it's all good if it works for you, but you don't want to stay with any of it for too long.

Don't let the body or the mind adapt. The body will adapt to any exercise routine in approximately four to six weeks. Vary volume of sets, time between sets, reps, exercises, cardiovascular exercises, exercise tapes and so on. Manipulate your routine every three to four weeks and view CHANGE as the key constant.

2. NUTRITION -- When a person starts eating less food than their body needs on a daily basis (calorie restriction); intermediate energy sources are used to make up the caloric difference. These sources are blood sugar, liver and muscle glycogen (sugar) and blood lipids (fat). After a few days of intelligent calorie restriction, the liver begins to convert stored body fat into new glucose (carbohydrate). This process, known as glucogenesis, will convert as much body fat to glucose as necessary to make up any caloric deficit. That's part of the major process in losing body fat.

3. RATIOS OF PROTEIN, CARBOHYDRATE AND FATS -- Contrary to what many believe, a calorie is not a calorie. I guarantee that your body will look and feel very different if you take in 60 percent of your calories from carbohydrate compared to 40 percent. Your muscles will look and feel very different if you take in 30 percent of your calories from protein, compared to 15 percent. In addition, energy levels will also be quite different.

4. EXERCISE FORM AND TECHNIQUE -- Cheating on form and technique while weight training eventually catches up to everyone in the way of injuries. In weight training, we place too much emphasis on how much weight to lift and not enough on how or why we perform the lift. Always perform your weight training with perfect form and technique, and you'll make great progress and prevent injury.

5. FATIGUE DURING EXERCISE- Most people think too much along the lines of "No pain, no gain" or "If I workout two hours a day seven days per week, then I'll improve." Don't seek fatigue. Instead, MANAGE it during the workout. If you have a lot of energy during a certain workout, do a few more sets or add five minutes to your cardio routine. If you're super tired, back off a few sets or reduce the time of your cardio session. Relish in your ability to manage your energy and your mind.

6. STAY WITH THE BASICS -- Weight train for about 35 minutes to an hour three to four days per week and perform cardio three to four days per week for 30 to 40 minutes. Eat a little less, take in enough protein, drink a lot of water, get plenty of rest and be consistent. That's how you make progress. If you don't have time for this much exercise, that's OK. Simply scale back the program -- but remain consistent.

7. HEIGHT AND WEIGHT -- Height and weight rarely tell you all you need to know. The key is finding out how much muscle versus fat that's on your body. One person can be 5 feet 4 inches and weigh 125 pounds and look great. Another person with the same height and weight may look soft and out of shape. The first undoubtedly has more muscle mass.

8. THE BEST WAY TO LOSE BODY FAT -- Fall down, get back up... fall down, get back up... fall down, get back up. I don't care how many times you screw up on your diet, don't give up. Try to focus on the emotion you'll eventually feel when you achieve your goal. That's the key. We live in a very "hand holding" society. I encourage you to challenge yourself and call upon your own levels of discipline. It sits there waiting for you, always waiting for you to exercise it.

9. BEWARE OF MAGIC POTIONS -- Don't get hooked into supplements that promise to magically reduce body fat or infomercials that sell ineffective products and make claims to flatten your abs. Remember, these companies are just in it for a quick buck and don't provide all the information you require to make a wise decision. They prey on emotion and impulse buying. Stay far away.

10. APPLIED KNOWLEDGE -- Hey look, I know you know this, but I have to say it anyway. No matter how much knowledge you have about nutrition and exercise, it doesn't matter unless you apply it. Application does not mean perfection. It simply means that you steadily move towards your goal. You do know what your short and long-term goal is, don't you? Gather as much knowledge as possible concerning exercise and nutrition and how YOUR body reacts to changes and don't take anything in this industry at face value.

Now, take one or more of these items and run with it. Apply it to yourself and teach someone else a few of these points when the opportunity arises. Keep spreading the word.


Motivational Note

"The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible."

Source:  www.eurweb.com — Arthur C. Clarke