It was old home week at the Cameron Public House last night when Molly Johnson sat down with pianist Aaron Davis to reprise her famous Blue Monday show. The gig was a one-off, a kind of warm-up to the singer’s mainstage show at the TD Toronto Jazz Festival tomorrow night (June 29) backing up the Count Basie Orchestra.
The Cameron was loosely packed with family, friends and fans including opera star Measha Brueggergosman and Toronto City Councillor Adam Vaughan, all of whom had come to see Johnson turn back time.
The singer consented to the Cameron date as a personal favour to Herb Tookey, former co-owner of the bar where she got her start back in the early 1980s. Johnson lived in the hotel upstairs, cleaning toilets and pulling draft in exchange for her rent. For most of the week she rocked out with her band The Infidels but every Monday she’d slip on a little black dress and pour herself into songs written decades before she was born.
Saturday’s Pow Wow at Wells Hill Park made up for my disappointment about our big Pow Wow having moved to Hamilton. The park setting was more fitting for a First Nations’ event than the big, man-made Sky Dome. The park was more crowded, but it was more intimate and green.
Master of Ceremonies Bob Goulais set a very welcoming tone. He asked for no photography during the opening spiritual part of the event. Such announcements had been lost in the impersonal Sky Dome. Without the distraction of a camera separating us from people, I could concentrate on the ceremony. Jacqui LaValley’s prayer in the Anishnawbe language was beautiful.
I stayed for the first hour and then went back for the last. Goulais encouraged everyone to get up and dance. In return for letting us take pictures, he said we had to join the fun. Okay, it was a joke but he made his point. He also got people dancing by giving prizes for being in the right spot at the end of each dance. By the end, there were more people dancing than watching. At the end, everybody got a prize. READ MORE
For anyone who lived through it the time and place evoked by This Is Paradise, opening tonight at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, is palpable. The exhibition celebrates the art scene that grew up around the Cameron House tavern (408 Queen Street West), which was transformed into an art hotel in 1981 by then owners Herb Tookey (above left), Paul Sannella and Ann Marie Sannella.
Tookey, who curated the MOCCA exhibition with the help of artist Rae Johnson (above right) — sees the show as “a beginning in terms of attaching a bit more importance to this work and this time. Torontonians seem to have an aversion to history and self promotion, there’s no mythologizing. So, if anything, here’s an attempt to bring back this story. It got us to where we are, there was a process involved and it was meaningful.”
“I’m hoping this show is a gift to the young,” adds Johnson, who has been teaching at OCAD for the past 20 years. “As a teacher I’m aware that if it’s not on the internet it doesn’t exist so we’re working with Bill Kirby at the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art to document and preserve this legacy. We need to get it up there before we all drop dead, while people still remember what happened.” READ MORE
Toronto’s Hungarian community comes together this weekend (June 24 – 26) to celebrate its heritage with music, dancing, crafts and food, all centred around the Hungarian Canadian Cultural Centre at 840 St. Clair Avenue West.
Last week, I checked in on a rehearsal of the Kodaly Ensemble, one of the principal groups performing throughout the weekend. Group president Andrew Komaromy, above in gold shirt, advised me to arrive at the Centre around 8:30 to ensure that his class was properly warmed up. It was a cool spring evening but down in the basement rehearsal space the air was thick with humidity. Komaromy joked that he needed to change his wet shirt before I started taking pictures. Another instructor, a friendly young woman, suggested that I should come back every week because apparently the quality of the dancing improved when the camera came out.
The Heritage Toronto Legacy Plaques Program unveiled eight new tributes this morning honouring leaders in the city’s cultural and intellectual life. Lawyer Grace Westcott (left, chair of the Legacy Project) joined City Councillor John Parker (Ward 26 Don Valley West) and Karen Carter (Executive Director of Heritage Toronto) for the unveiling in the City Hall members lounge. The plaques are being installed at the former residences of media theorist Marshall McLuhan (29 Wells Hill Avenue), National Ballet of Canada founder Celia Franca (166 Carlton Street), composer Harry Somers (158 Douglas Drive), architect E.J. Lennox (487 Sherbourne Street), photographer William James (250 Major Street), writer Jane Jacobs (69 Albany Avenue), painter Tom Thomson (38 Elm Street) and geologist/physicist J. Tuzo Wilson (Ontario Science Centre). The Toronto Legacy Project was established in 2002 by the city’s first Poet Laureate, Dennis Lee, to celebrate our artists, scientists, and thinkers by weaving their names into the cityscape.