Music In The Garden;Egalité: the String Quartet Edition

One of my favorite spots in Toronto during the summer is the Toronto Music Gardens, a short distance from the Harbourfront Centre on Queens Quay, just before Spadina.  Every summer, the garden hosts Summer Music in the Garden, a series of open air, free concerts on Thursdays and Sunday.  One of the most memorable concerts was at the end of August, when members of New York’s Gretchen’s Muse ensemble performed Egalité: the String Quartet Edition. They were joined by internationally renowned cellist Beiliang Zhu for a performance of Haydn’s String Quartet in C Major, Op. 50 No. 2, and Mozart’s String Quartet in F Major, K. 590.

Abigail Karr and Vita Wallace (violins), Beiliang Zhu (cello), Kyle Miller (viola),

Despite the constant noise from the construction along Queens Quay, I thoroughly enjoyed the concert, and the music garden itself.  It is designed in a way that interprets in nature Bach’s First Suite for Unaccompanied cello. You start of with  the curves and bends of the riverscape, and then make your way through six sections of the garden, ending at the impressive Giant Grass Steps.  These form a bow-shaped, curved amphitheater where the performances take place during the summer.  The yachts and the harbour behind the performers provides the perfect background.

What a perfect way to end a beautiful summer in Toronto 2013!

To read more about the Toronto Music Gardens, visit Landscape Voice here.

Tasty Greek Food And Breaking a World Record On The Danforth

The 20th Pilaros Taste of the Danforth took place last weekend in Toronto, an annual celebration of Greek food and culture.   The food was amazing; the taste, the smell, and all those flavors, simply irresistible.  I arrived  just after mid day and made my way slowly up the Danforth, enjoying bowls of soup, street calamari and some quail along the way. Forget the diet.

The highlight of this year’s celebration was the  Guinness World record attempt for the largest Zorba dance in history, with a target of 10 000 people dancing together for 5 minutes. We are all eagerly waiting for official confirmation that the record was broken, with 7800 dancers confirmed so far.

Part of the proceeds from the event went to fight prostate cancer and the Toronto East General Hospital.

I hope that you enjoy this short slide show from a day well spent this beautiful summer in Toronto.

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Jazz Lives In Toronto; The 2013 Beaches Jazz Festival

Jazz music is alive and well in Toronto. Although we do not have our own, distinct character such as New Orleans or Chicago, I am always amazed at the wide variety of talent  and diversity on the Toronto jazz scene.

This week saw the start of the annual Beaches Jazz Festival. I went down to Woodbine Park last weekend to catch some of the opening acts for the Festival, including  Tia Brazda and Eddie Bullen and Friends.

Toronto chanteuse Tia Brazda, with her sassy songs and unique voice, whipped up the crowd at the TD Main Stage with her popular song, Cabin Fever. She sings a variety of vintage jazz\blues as well as modern, danceable tunes.

Tia Brazda

Tia Brazda sings at the Beaches Jazz Festival Main Stage

The great Eddie Bullen gave a sterling perfomance at the Trinidad and Tobago stage. He is one of Toronto’s best jazz artists and directors, having produced over 150 Jazz albums. He has also worked with world-renowned jazz artists such as Dee Dee Bridgewater, SWV, Deborah Cox.  I was mesmerized by his hit song 416. Listen to this great tune here.  

Eddie Bullen on stage at the Beaches Jazz Festival, 2013

Eddie Bullen on stage at the Beaches Jazz Festival, 2013

To me, there is no better music than Jazz when it comes to creativity, feelings and lifting the human spirit. Someone once asked Miles Davis What is Swing and why do you like it? This is what he said;

“What’s swinging in words? If a guy makes you pat your foot and if you feel it down your back, you don’t have to ask anybody if that’s good music or not. You can always feel it.” Miles Davis

This coming weekend Toronto jazz lovers will be back at the Beaches Jazz Festival again, the Streetfest version along Queen Street. Try it.

Kate Middleton Gives Birth To Toronto Media Frenzy

As the Royal baby watch continues, I just read a story in the Metro on the subway that a hospital just outside Toronto in Oshawa, Lakeridge Health, invited Kate Middleton to give birth in Canada last week. The hospital said they have “brand new rooms ready for you, and we treat every newborn like a little prince or princess. We love babies. See you soon.” They did not get a response, and with Kate in labour now, it may be too late.

Kate Middleton Baby Watch Day O

Kate Middleton Baby Watch Day 0

They are many other interesting Royal Baby stories from Canada. Newtalk 1010 reports that the Fairmont Royal York hotel in downtown Toronto has set up a station dubbed “Countdown to the Royal Baby.” It includes a book of congratulations for you to sign and pass your good wishes. The hotel also plans to hold an Afternoon Tea once when the baby is born, with blueberry or cranberry scones and Prince William’s favourite chocolate biscuit cake.

Then there is the #royalbabywatch hashtag on Twitter. I am now completely dizzy from following all the updates, almost every second, true or false. The hashtags #KateMiddleton and #Royalbabywatch have been in the top ten trends for Toronto all day long.

Need a break? Don’t even thinking of turning on the Toronto TV stations,  City News Toronto, Global, CP24, CTV. You can run but you can’t hide from this one.

I wonder when this baby will make his\her grand entrance? Hopefully soon!

Celebrating Nelson Mandela’s 95th Birthday In Toronto

Today was Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday. All over the world, people of all races celebrated together to mark the life and work of this great man. Toronto was no exception. Despite the scorching heat wave, I joined an enthusiastic group of kids, athletes, award-winning artists and members of the public to sing songs and commemorate this important day.  The venue was the Nelson Mandela Park Public School, renamed in 2001 and located downtown in Regent Park.

The most moving part of the event for me was when the children on stage were led through 67 seconds of applause to commemorate the 67 years that he devoted to fighting for democracy and liberating South Africa. He truly made the world a better place for all of us.

School Kids Celebrating Nelson Mandela's Birthday in Regent Park

School Kids Celebrating Nelson Mandela’s Birthday in Regent Park

Nelson Mandela’s life has been an inspiration for millions across the globe. To me, his life is the greatest example of victory again all odds. Nothing is impossible in this world, as long as I continue to have faith, believe in myself, and never extinguish hope. The light at the end of the tunnel may fade at times, but it will never die.

As Nelson Mandela wrote; “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Shopping For The Perfect Yacht at Harbourfront

Ok, so I wasn’t quite shopping for my perfect yacht at last week, at least not yet, but sightseeing at Toronto’s Harbourfront.  This is one of Toronto’s prime spots in the summer, and you will never be disappointed by the sights and sounds. You can also hop on the ferry and after a short ride, enjoy nature and the beach life on Centre Island. Here are some of the sights from the Harbourfront.

Rich man's toys at Toronto Harbourfront

Rich man’s toys at Toronto Harbourfront

Toronto Harbourfront with the CN Tower in background.

Toronto Harbourfront with the CN Tower in background.

Toronto Harbourfront - Centre Island In The Background

Toronto Harbourfront – Centre Island In The Background

The beach experience is believed to have spiritual healing properties, as written in this article, Beach Healing. I get my healing just standing at Harbourfront and watching the waves on the water, the cool breeze, the sun and of course…those cool yachts!

From Snakes on a Go Train to Salsa on the Street

What do snakes on a train, record flooding and a salsa street festival in a scorching heat have in common? Well, that’s what happened in Toronto last week. It was a period of extreme weather, starting with  thunderstorms and record-breaking floods, to very hot and humid temperatures. During the storm on Monday, a commuter Go Train got stuck on the tracks with passengers on board. As usual, videos and pictures were quickly uploaded to online media of the drama, including one video of snakes inside the trains.  I was not on the train, thankfully, and the snake kindly ignored all the passengers as it went on its ‘train-swim.’

Then on Saturday we woke up to 28C weather, clear blue skies and the annual Salsa on St Clair Street Festival in the west end of Toronto. I enjoyed the music, dancing and pomp in the sun, not forgetting the sweet corn and other tasty treats that come with a festival. We are constantly reminded what a great city we live in, a city of contrasts, always changing, always vibrant. I love Toronto!

Salsa on St Clair

Salsa on St Clair

Pancakes at Salsa on St Clair

Maria prepares beautiful pancakes at Salsa on St Clair

Summer in Toronto is always changing, full of surprises. I would rather spend my summer here anytime than go anywhere else in the world. What a beautiful summer in Toronto.

Flash Floods As Record Rains Hit Toronto

Monday July 8th was not a good day for a beautiful summer in Toronto. We had heavy flooding. 126 mm of rain came pouring down,  breaking the record set in 1954 during Hurricane Hazel. The subway system was disrupted, highways flooded and vehicles and residents stranded.  As of Tuesday, July 9th, more than 50 000 people were still without power. I was lucky to get home without any major problems before it became really bad, and there was no power outage in my neighborhood.

A report from CBC on the floods and chaos:

This Go Train was stuck in the rain. Thankfully there we no injuries or deaths reported.

Flooding in Toronto

Flooding in Toronto

My lesson from the flood is always be ready, and never take tomorrow for granted. Despite our plans, mother nature remains unpredictable, there is always a chance of a nasty surprise waiting to happen.

The View from Fort York – Beauty On The Go!

I was on the Go Train from Hamilton last week, approaching Toronto’s Union Station from the west.  As we passed the Fort York at a slow speed,  I was struck by the beauty and majesty of the scenery. I decided to come back to the Sir Isaac Brock bridge below and take a few shots.

Go train from the West going into Union station

Go Train from the West just before Union Station at Fort York

The view was simply spectacular. Looking East towards Union station from the bridge the rail tracks, with the tall buildings in the  financial district in the background and the clear blue sky. Everything is fused into one big, beautiful picture.

A panorama view - Into Union Station from the West

A panorama view from the bridge into Union Station and the financial district

The next picture is a classic example of the modern versus the old.  Good old Fort York Garrison on the right stands in stark contrast to the condo buildings going up just a short distance away, and the relentless din of traffic on the Gardiner Expressway.

Fort York Garrison and the Gardiner Expressway

Historical Fort York Garrison with the Gardiner Expressway in the background.

If you are looking for an interesting and scenic tour in Toronto this summer, you may consider visiting our very own Fort York at  Bathurst and Front Street.

The Defiant Art of Ai Weiwei in Toronto – Zodiac Heads

Last week I was at Nathan Phillips square in Toronto to visit the display of incredible pieces of sculpture by Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei titled Circles of Animals\Zodiac Heads. This is a prelude to his exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario to start August 17. The poster at the exhibit describes him as an artist ‘who uses art to question his government.’ How appropriate that his art is now on display right outside Toronto’s City Hall. The current exhibit was opened by our controversial mayor himself, Rob Ford.

Zodiac Heads Art Exhibit by Ai Weiwei at Toronto's City Hall

Zodiac Heads Art Exhibit by Ai Weiwei at Toronto’s City Hall

The defiant art of Ai Weiwei  at Toronto's City Hall

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s exhibit at Toronto’s City Hall

Ai Weiwei’s Zodiac heads are oversized. All the 12 heads are cast in bronze and sit on bases. Each head weighs about 800 pounds and is four feet high and three feet wide.  Together, each head and base measure ten feet high.

Every summer in Toronto, there is always a wide variety of art on display from all over the year. What a great city we live in.

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