Celebrating a Friend, Dancing with Leonard and Random Act of Kindness

This thing we have has been going on for a few years now.  I’m still in awe at how life’s cards get shuffled and played.  Julie has made a regular appearance on this here blog and today I feel like adding just how much I appreciate our friendship.  It’s funny.  We went to high school together but were never in the same class (she, with the brainiacs; me, with the troublemakers), didn’t do sports together or hang out together but were friendly without being friends per se.  A few years ago, I found out we were in the same kindergarten class!  Not that either of us remembers the other from then.

We had high school reunions and saw each other at those but I feel it was especially after the 150th anniversary of our school (September 11, 2005) that we really started to connect.  She, at the age of 40, had recently become a widow with two young boys, ages 2 and 3. Her story was so tragic.  Her husband was hit by a car in downtown Montreal.  It’s ironic to say now, but I couldn’t imagine what she was going through, then.

Julie and Martyne, Liette and me

Back in high school, Julie and Martyne were good friends, Martyne and Liette were, and still are, best friends and Liette and I were good friends and participants in sports – handball, basketball, volleyball.  Somehow, Julie and I have since become great friends.  I love her to bits.

After this particular get-together, we met for lunch and realised we had a lot in common.  Vive Facebook for keeping us connected.

I was shocked when she showed up at Mick’s funeral because we still weren’t where we are today.  But, having been through what I was going through, she felt compelled to come.  I can still see her walking towards me with her beautiful, warm smile and remember it taking me a few extra seconds to register who she was.  That whole unexpected/out-of-context thing.  From this point on, things changed.  We now had another thing in common. In the past couple of years we have become more than just “cultural chicks”.  (I think we just use those events as excuses to get-together because often times, the best part of our afternoon or evening is the connection we have by sharing stuff.)

Speaking of which.  This time Julie is the one who snagged a couple of tix for a show without knowing who would accompany her (yeah, right!)  Those tickets were for Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal (BJM), Dance Me, music of Leonard Cohen.  After holding on to those tickets for one year, the night finally arrived.  We met upstairs from where I was supposed to park.  How in-synch are we?  Neither had her coat.  We both assumed we would eat at one of the restaurants in Complexe Desjardins (where I parked), which we did.  One of the many great things about Montreal is the possibility of making our way underground from one venue to another.  After a shared plate of calamari, our salads of ahi tuna and a glass of wine, we made our way back to Place des Arts.  What fantastic seats we had!  Row F, seats 1 and 2.

No zoom – pretty darn close

Of course, we had to do our usual “us” shot 😉

What. A. Show.  Especially since the last three ballets we saw were less than stellar.   BJM gets criticized for having no soul or emotion while being very energetic and athletic.  I beg to differ.  Obviously, the music was sublime.  The costumes were sobre, pantsuits in blacks and greys, long beige shirts and one in a burgundy dress.  Discussions were had with Leonard himself when the dance company secured the rights to use his songs and he requested they keep his personal life out of things and just focus on the music.  I think they did so brilliantly.  As in most dance creations, there are always little parts that make me wonder where the hell they got that idea from but that in the end, I care not because it is breathtaking to watch.

“Dance Me to the End of Love” had particularly frenetic movements that worked well.

At one point, one of the cast members sat on her knees, a guitarist stood behind her and she sang the sweetest rendition of “So Long Marianne”, not a dancer in sight.  So beautiful.

“Lover, Lover, Lover” was rather humourous.  One male dancing with one after another woman until he falls in exhaustion.  His fellow men come and help him as he regains his strength.

And what can I say of “Suzanne”?  It was sultry and evocative.  I was totaly entranced and was surprised to find myself with tears in my eyes.  I was a good girl and filmed nothing so all I can do is show you a snippet…   Just know that once he picked her up, her feet did not touch the ground until the end of the song.  Insane.

The did not only use Cohen’s older music.  They used three songs from his last album “You want it Darker” including “Steer Your Way” and “String Reprise Treaty” as well as the title song.

Of course they did Hallelujah… This time sung by a male singer, with the same woman offering her sweet soprano for the Hallelujas…and the dancers slowly appeared.  Just sublime.

The set, the lighting effects, the dancers, the music.  Brilliant.  Honestly, one hour and twenty minutes of non-stop bliss.  For this show, we never doubted we got our money’s worth.   It has been playing for a couple of years now, touring all over, and if it comes to your neck of the woods, I would not hesitate to recommend it.

We made our way to the exits, still wrapped in the music and the movement, the chatter around us adding to the buzz. Julie insisted we must make a pitt stop.  We made our ways to the ladies’, sure the line-up would be atrocious, but it turned out not too bad.  And suddenly I got the most intense burn that went from my back to my chest, up to my throat.  This was a whole ‘nother level of heartburn.  Julie could see in my face that all was not well and concern immediately transformed her face.  “Are you okay?”

“Holy shit this is painful,” I grimace.  “Why, oh, why do I not carry ‘Tums’ in my purse?”  I am taking deep breaths, hoping the pain will subside but it is not working.  I scare the shit out of Julie when I say, “You know, women are more likely to feel major heartburn when they are having a heart attack.”  Of course I don’t really think I’m having a heart attack but… I bend over in pain then stand upright, trying in vain to will this agony away.

The lady in front of us in the line-up turned to me and said “I do.  I have some.”  She took a bottle out out of her purse and tapped out two tablets into my hand and then a grey capsule also came out. “Take this as well.  It is charcoal.”  And I know, from my grandmother’s preference for treathing anything naturally, that this is not a bad thing to take.

My gratitude to this generous stranger cannot be suitably expressed.  I gratefully accept her gift, dry-swallowing the charcoal capsule then crunching the two tablets and continue breathing.  By the time a stall liberates for me, I am feeling better.  The pain subsides ever more as Jules and I make our way to the exits.

In the lobby, there is a sculpture that fascinates me every time I go to this particular hall.  I cannot believe I had not photographed it before.  And what did I do this time?  Yes, I did.  BUT, I forgot to get the name of the artist and no amount of Googling at this late hour is helping.  I guess I’ll just have to return and get that info.

We went our separate ways and once settled into my car found that I felt pretty normal.  Got home and shortly thereafter received a text:  “Are you feeling any better Cara? You had me worried there.”

I responded that I had me worried there!

Got another text checking up on me this morning.

 

Fun Night With The Piano Guys

I have to thank Frank, I think, for introducing me to The Piano Guys on his blog.  If it wasn’t him… no… it was him, I’m fairly certain…  I then caught a video here and there on Facebook, which led me to watching one after another on YouTube.  Well, don’tcha know, way back in February, the 8th, to be precise, tickets went on sale for The Piano Guys.  They were going to be in Montreal for three nights.  Woot!  Without further thought, I bought a pair of tickets.  For Wednesday, August 1st.  Six months away.  Had no idea who would be joining me and it didn’t matter because I knew I would find a willing accomplice.

Only thing is, not many people in my crowd know who they are.  No matter.  I mentioned it to Julie, that kinda friend who is willing to join me for pretty much anything (Cubano Sammy Search? Check!, Ballet tickets sold to me from another friend? Check!) “Who are they,” she asks?  “Google ’em,” I say.  Same day, I get an “I’m in!”  Like I was surprised.  This chick is a lot like me.  We dig good stuff.  We like to explore, we love cultural activities… we were even asked if we were sisters as we walked to the venue!

So, let’s start at the beginning of our evening.  Yes, we went to a favourite restaurant in the Gay Village:  Mozza Pâtes et Passions (where I have brought about 13-14 people so far – I’ve lost count).  It’s good food quality/price-wise, it’s bring-your-own-wine and it’s the best place to people-watch as you sit on the terrasse (terrace for you non-Quebecers) – and lemme tell you, there are some wild ones.  We smiled and nodded at the ones we could not help but admire…. coz seriously, that scrawny guy in the floppy hat, yellow dress, fishnet stockings and platform sandals, not walking but sashaying in a way that said… “This is me, bitch!” deserved a smile.

Plus, where else can you dance in the bathroom?  (Yes, I am sitting on the toilet, looking up!!)

We decided to take a chance (dissing the weatherman’s predictions) and walk to Place des Arts from Mozza – we are talking a good 20 blocks, 1.7 km (a bit over a mile).  Now that is not so bad, a twenty minute walk or so, and part of it in the middle of St.Catherine Street which is closed off to cars during the summer and strung up with balls representing the LGBT flag. Fun stuff.

We made it, with time to spare, and sat in our front-row tickets on the first balcony, right in the centre.

What a show, with each half lasting one hour, a 20-minute intermission separating them.  Time flew.  These guys are hilarious, ridiculously talented and wonderful performers who who interact with their audience as well as each other.

So, why are they called The Piano Guys when there is a pianist and a cellist?  Oh, and two other guys who are officially part of the group, so to speak?  Well, it’s like this, see.  It was all part of a social media strategy… Paul Anderson had a piano store called, you guessed it The Piano Guys.  Jon Schmidt (the pianist of the group) came into the store to practice piano when he was in town.  Paul asked Jon if he could film him and upload it to YouTube to share on Facebook and such to sell his pianos.  Jon agreed.  However, Paul saw a video Jon had uploaded of him and Steven Sharp Nelson (the cellist of the group), doing one of their mash-ups they are so famous for, which had received more than one million hits.  He asked the two guys if they would allow him to make professional videos of them, which would be uploaded to YouTube and the store’s Facebook page, all to promote his store.  Paul then brought in his neighbour, Al van der Beek (singer and music arranger) into the fold.   They chose the craziest locations, places one would never expect to find a piano, to sell his pianos.  Not a single piano was sold.

But.

A phenomenon was born.   They blend classical and contemporary music which they put together as a “Mash-up”, i.e. The Mission’s Gabriel’s Oboe with How Great Thou Art – so beautiful.  They did, thankfully, play this one while the video played in the background.  Gorgeous.

They don’t limit themselves to this mix of genres.  They do straight-up classical or straight-up jazz, as well.  Jon played a beautiful solo piece he wrote when he was 17, called “Waterfalls”.  Hard to believe he was 17 when he wrote it.  Then Steven played his famous “The Cello” piece, as he calls it, by Bach, that he does for 8 cellos.  I was wondering how he would manage to pull this one off as he cannot be on 8 different cellos at the same time in a live performance! He showed us with all his accessories.  I must apologise for my video.  I was trying not to disturb others, so I had my hands covering the screen and was trying to place the phone between the bars.  Not quite so successful but voilà.

They played, they teased each other, they told their story.  Then they brought out the two others.  Al has quite a nice voice and he sang, “Okay”, getting the audience to sing along.

This is the type of concert where you half expect a rather sober experience.  Or a slightly “stiff” one.  So not the case!  Julie said she thinks she laughed more with these two guys then at the “Just For Laughs” shows she went to!

You do not expect four grown men to run around a piano, plucking the strings, banging the cover against the back, three sets of hands on the keys, slapping the sides like a percussion instrument and such.  I kinda wish I had taped it for you to see..

They brought in four local bagpipers to play “Fight Song”

Did one last “run around the piano piece” and took a final bow.

We were just so happy to have had the chance to see these wonderful performers and I highly recommend that you go if they come to your neck of the woods.  It was an unforgettable experience.

Still talking about the show, we stepped outside of  PdA, into the rain.  Remember, we have twenty blocks or so to walk.  Like two kids, instead of fifty-something broads, we gleefully just started walking, chatting away, laughing at those running – dudes! don’t bother!  We got totally soaked.  It was such a warm rain we didn’t care.  A red light, a bus hut, a quick selfie and we laughed the rest of our way to our cars.  A perfect night with a wonderful friend.  Thanks, Jules!  So glad you are my partner in culture and that Michael doesn’t mind me taking you away from him now and again!