Sum­mer night de­light de­serves ap­plause, fund­ing

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Mahoney [email protected]­gar­

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.

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