Summer night delight deserves applause, funding
Summertime and the living is easy... As the capacity crowd settles in for the Classiqu’Arts SD&G 150 concert, co-host Charles “Duff” Sullivan promises that the spectators are in for a special evening. Of course, the setting -- the St. Raphael’s Ruins -- is splendid. No matter how often you enter this stone structure, you are awed, and are reminded why visitors have called it both surreal and beautiful.
Mr. Sullivan and co-host Bernadette Clément predict that the audience will be thrilled by the performances that are about to be presented. It will be quite the experience, Mr. Sullivan assures the crowd. “Let it wash over you.” The concert lived up to its billing, and then some. Midway through the show, soprano Monika Dongmo is caressing the lyrics from George Gershwin’s “Summertime.” Looking skyward, she sings, “One of these mornin's, you're gonna rise up singin,' you're gonna spread your wings, and fly to the sky.” One audience member turns to another and mouths: “Wow!”
The show is indeed heavenly, uplifting, moving, thrilling and incredibly cheap. At intermission, some spectators marvel that they paid only $25 for this treat, noting that a ticket for such a show in the city would set them back at least $100.
After the first number, you realize why the 300 tickets were sold in three weeks and that organizers, to appease the many disappointed patrons, had set up an overflow section where the show was viewed on a big screen for $15 per person.
Featuring an accomplished orchestra and talented musicians, singers and dancers, the concert was another reminder of how fortunate we are to have access to “big city” entertainment at country prices.
The Ruins have always been compelling. During the break, a Toronto architect relates that years ago, one clear night as he was driving through St. Raphael’s he was stopped in his tracks by a celestial spectacle that was unfolding. Gobsmacked by the alignment of stars and the moon over the stone arches, he had to share this scene with someone. He knocked on the door of the rectory, almost dragging the shocked priest out into the night.
“The scene was amazing! But he just glanced up and gave me a look that said he had seen this so many times before. He went back in to watch TV.”
However, most people cannot get enough of the Ruins, a place that still bespeaks of the care that went into the construction of the former church that was erected in the 1820s to serve no less than 6,000 parishioners. Stabilized after the disastrous fire in 1970, the site is a natural draw and has great acoustics.
The venue was perfect for the two-hour concert that had everything -- ballet, tango, classics, pop, an aboriginal dance, Handel, Bach, David Foster, and historical bilingual vignettes about the 200-year-old site. And even the weather was great. During the summer of 2017, planning outdoor events has required a leap of faith, and most of the time this season, Mother Nature has rained on parades and an assortment of other festivities.
Yet, here we are, sitting out in the open-air, dry and comfy, as a breeze whispers through the walls. For many, this evening was a highlight of the summer. The show was the culmination of about 18 months of work by soprano and producer Danielle Vaillancourt, cellist and artistic director Thérèse Motard, and executive director Jean-Roland Tremblay.
The Cornwall-based team, who presented the concert with the help of volunteers and the Friends of The Ruins, managed to stage the wonderful performance without tapping into the public purse.
The group had unsuccessfully sought a Canada 150 grant through the Canada Council for the Arts and a subsidy from South Glengarry Township, where the Ruins are located.
Undaunted, the organizers raised money by hosting concerts and soliciting sponsors from the private sector.
“This is an exceptional, ambitious, daring event,” Danielle Vaillancourt told South Glengarry council earlier this year. “We really wanted to do something extraordinary for this area. It is our hope that the audience leaves not just entertained but also inspired and proud of the Canadian talent that has emerged from our region and the impact it is having in shaping performing and visual arts across Canada and the world,” said Ms. Vaillancourt.
Those goals were accomplished in stunning fashion, as evidenced by the prolonged standing ovation the performers earned at the end of the concert. Hopefully, Classiqu’Arts SD&G will become an annual event. Unfortunately, South Glengarry did not see fit to finance the venture this year. But that faux pas can easily be corrected in 2018. Funding for such a magnificent summertime delight would be money well spent.
Stirred and shaken
We were stirred and shaken recently by demonstrations of nature’s wonders and strength.
The August 21 solar eclipse was awe-inspiring, even though we were not as privileged as the United States where total darkness enveloped a large swath of the nation for several moments. (Insert your favourite Donald Trump joke here.)
Another less pleasant phenomenon hit many the following day as the region was lashed by high winds and heavy rains.
Common sense ought to prevail but there is no harm in being reminded of how we should react to emergency situations. For example, we all know that if a tornado is on the way, we should take shelter in a bathroom, closet or hallway, and stay away from windows, outside walls and doors.
Animals hear and sense impending tornadoes. “If your personal safety is not an issue, you may only have time to open routes of escape for your livestock,” reads the Get Prepared federal government web page. “Open the gate, if you must, and then exit the area in a tangent direction away from the expected path of the twister.”
If no shelter is available, lie down in a ditch away from any cars or mobile homes.
Do not chase tornadoes -- they are unpredictable and can change course abruptly.
We should not have to be told this but often common sense is not all that common.