Category Archives: Ottawa

Ottawa

Me: now blogging with a baby

Okay, so it has been six weeks and two days since I last attempted to write here. I know this because the day I wrote part of the draft I’m including below, I went into labour and then at 11:30 am the next day, right on my due date, little Owen decided to join us at long last. I admire those legions of “mommy bloggers” who can write and parent a newborn at the same time. I am not one of them, evidently. I did manage to get an article written (and submitted on its due date!), but beyond that I have been in a bit (hahahaha… HA) of a fog. This despite having my husband at home on paternity leave, my mother here for the first week, my mother-in-law here for nearly a week, and most recently a friend from Toronto here for a few days. Single mothers and those whose partners work out of town: you have my admiration forever. Parents who must return to work right away: you as well. I suppose I have the right to complain about being tired, post partum healing, suffering from postpartum PUPPP for the first few weeks (it felt like forever), and being unable to connect half-thoughts to the correct words (the other day I said “bacon” instead of “cheese.” I mean, what?). But other than that awful awful awful PUPPP rash (i.e. head-to-toe insatiable pregnancy-related hives-like rash), something I proclaim an unrepentant right to complain about, I have it so easy compared to so many others, and I am legitimately grateful for that. I have also been blessed with an easy-going (most of the time) infant who has a strange obsession with the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II we have hanging in the nursery. Delightful! A baby monarchist! Anyway, having a baby changes things, blah blah blah. I’m sure I will go into this at some point, but I must at least try to pay lip service to my previous project, id est presenting what I like about Ottawa. Here is the beginning of the post I’d been working on:

Previously, I ended up in a bit of a downward rant of negativity about Ottawa, something easy to do about anywhere one lives. It is time, though, for something positive, because there are things I like about this city. It doesn’t always feel worth venturing out, but that has more to do with me than with what’s out there. Lo! Some nice things about Ottawa, in no particular order:

  • It is cheaper than Toronto or Vancouver (though admittedly not as much as you might assume)
  • It has some pretty delicious food
  • There are some pretty great parks and trails within walking distance of pretty much anywhere downtown
  • When the weather is nice, it is very nice
  • According to Statistics Canada, It is the second most cycling-heavy city in the country, after Victoria
  • Aside from some stodginess, online evidence suggests that people are supportive of new ideas, events, and businesses
  • This is Ontario’s second largest city, and Canada’s fourth, yet if you tweet the mayor (@JimWatsonOttawa) chances are he will tweet you back.
  • This might not be a plus for you, but I don’t feel like a frumpy monster if I head out without makeup on
  • I admit that this is a negative for me, but for many it would be a positive: people like to jog. A lot.
  • We may not have the Met, but I have been impressed with some of the museums here, oh most definitely.

At which point I went into specific examples of where I like to eat, planning on covering items in the above list in detailed, dedicated posts. I didn’t get the chance to finish my food write-ups, however, so I will let it rest for now, especially as I’m currently typing one-handed. My little family will be in Winnipeg for my cousin’s wedding soon, so we shall see how travelling with a seven-week-old goes! Wish us luck. I don’t think we’ll need it, though. I mean, look at this little thing:

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Filed under Family, Ottawa

The Canadian Tulip Festival, plus “super-boring” Ottawa

First, an update from last post: I’ve heard back from VitaEarth and can now inform you that the built-in insert is made from bamboo, not cotton, and that the diapers are indeed designed to be a cross between an all-in-one and a pocket diaper. Also, it looks like the VitaEarth site is more or less up and running for those curious about other prints of theirs. Oh, and I’ve been informed that they will be trying out other styles/designs coming up.

In other news, it seems that Ottawa has completely skipped spring and gone straight into summer, just in time for the annual tulip festival. I used to live within an easy walk of Dow’s Lake (or is it Dows Lake?) and so had a nice look at all the tulips last year. I haven’t done anything this year so far as I’m a little further east and OCTranspo (ie the bus) makes it difficult to get around Ottawa’s core–having been mostly designed to get people in and out of the suburbs, apparently, but that is a rant for another day. Plus I’m not that up to walking these days. I did see some of the tulips in front of parliament this morning, from the bus window, and they looked nice enough. I know not everyone is into flowers, but it is pretty impressive to see so many variations of the same basic type. Aside from the variety of colours, there are other delightful nuances as well. Some petals look feathery, some stems are long, some blooms are tiny. A delight! Anyway, it is pretty much Ottawa’s claim to fame, so it is worth seeing at least once. I like all the flowers. They class up the place.

Speaking of classing up the place, I came across the most unintentionally dismissive quote about Ottawa the other day while (who knows why?) reading the National Post. It is so dismissive, it wasn’t even really about Ottawa, just using it as a filler for “lame place no one cool would want to be.” This particular piece (“Be cool, Toronto: Ontario’s capital having a moment as world’s latest ‘It’ city — which even Montrealers admit”) is a sort-of review of a recent guide to Toronto by a Montrealer. It is also a sort-of meditation on how Montrealers are suddenly realizing that hey, Toronto is a pretty fun place to be (no blame–I used to live in Montreal and had the same vague impressions of Toronto as a stodgy polluted culture-less wasteland before moving there for grad school). In the course of the article, the author recounts a random meeting with another Montrealer he knows:

“In Montreal people always compare Toronto to Ottawa. You know, super-boring, everything closes at 9 p.m. When I got here I was shocked. It’s not like that at all — it’s totally great. I think in Montreal the past 10 years people have been really depressed, with all the corruption and bridges collapsing. They lost their pride. Toronto doesn’t have that problem. It’s full of pride.” (Maripier Isabelle, PhD candidate at UofT)

As you can see, Ottawa’s boringness is taken for granted in the same way Toronto’s once was. To be fair, this impression is not limited to Montrealers. I had never really even considered Ottawa’s existence while I was in Montreal (sorry!), and when I moved to Toronto I picked up the habit of dismissing the place in much the way Montrealers dismiss(ed) Toronto.

To be even more fair, I myself go through bouts of despair where I believe, whole-heartedly, that Ottawa is the biggest waste of potential in Canada; is boring, bureaucratic, and short-sighted; and that if I don’t somehow make it back to Toronto, I will waste away and die a lonely death. I exaggerate only slightly. So who am I to judge someone else’s casual assumption that Ottawa = limp, boring, and lifeless? Well, I live here now and will for at least the next two years, so I don’t really have a choice but to seek out the pleasant aspects of the city. Perhaps it is Stockholm syndrome. Perhaps it is that I have become steadily more boring myself (a very important factor that should not be dismissed out of hand). Perhaps it is that Ottawa really does have some nice things, they just aren’t immediately obvious to the casual visitor.

Here is what Ottawa thinks people should do:

  • Tour parliament
  • Visit the Museum of [History/Civilization]
  • Visit the National Gallery
  • Arrive in February and do Winterlude stuff (skating on the canal, etc)
  • Arrive in May and do Tulip Festival stuff (walk along the canal, etc)
  • Visit Byward Market and Sparks Street

The problem with most of those activities is that having done them once, there isn’t really any compelling reason to do them again–or, from a tourist’s perspective, to return to the city. I’m sure many would disagree, but let’s think about it:

  • Once you do the free tour of parliament, you realize just how lacking in substance the tour is. Okay, nice architecture, but it isn’t like you can just walk in off the street and sit and enjoy the atmosphere; the only way to gain access is to be shuffled along in a group. The grounds are nice, I’ll give you that, but you have to like that kind of thing. Fortunately, I do, but not everyone does.
  • When it was the Museum of Civilization, the newly-renamed Museum of History was one of the most appallingly disappointing museums I’d ever visited. I would recommend it to no one. Reworking it might actually have been a good thing, though I haven’t had the guts to check it out yet.
  • I can’t really complain about the National Gallery. I like that it exists and have an annual membership. Some of the exhibits could be better curated, but then what couldn’t? My biggest complaint is that is closes far too early. It would be so nice to wander around there after sunset, seeing the city, parliament, and the river all lit up. Closing so early is such a waste of all that nice glass.
  • Maybe it’s because I lived in Quebec City as a child. Maybe it’s because I am neither a child nor have a child that is not currently ensconced inside me. But I don’t enjoy Winterlude. I don’t enjoy February as a whole, so I appreciate the effort to make it bearable, but all the interesting “grown-up” activities are, for the most part, too expensive for me to bother leaving the house during the dark and cold.
  • As I mentioned, the tulips are nice. But you have to like tulips. And they don’t, as far as I know, scream hipster fun. Though they should. Absolutely.
  • If you like hippie (not hipster!) sweaters, overpriced restaurants, frou-frou boutiques, and ugly parking complexes, I guess Byward Market has something to offer. If you like perpetual construction zones and stuff that closes at 5 pm, Sparks Street is okay. Both have a lot of potential; neither offer much at the moment.

So…

What is the alternative? Or, rather, what non-boring things do I like about Ottawa? I will be a tease and leave that for another post as this one is already over 1200 words. In the meantime, enjoy wondering what possible fun there could be in “super-boring” Ottawa. Also, to my husband: happy anniversary!

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Ottawa Baby Show and VitaEarth cloth diapers

Last Saturday, May 3, I decided that in some kind of defiance of both the miserable weather (weather that only really took a turn for the pleasant yesterday) and my natural tendency to remain indoors all the time I would head out to the Ottawa Baby Show, held that day and the next at the Ottawa Convention Centre downtown (a very nice building, by the way–I vastly preferred it to Montreal’s). I thought, too, that I might find some deals on baby stuff, as I had on wedding stuff (e.g. my dress) at one of the million or so wedding shows in Toronto. In particular, I went looking for receiving blankets with whales on them. And what do you know! I found that very exact thing from Lulu Bedding and Design. One of the other things that happened while I was there, which was kind of weird, was that several people–complete strangers of course as anyone I meet in Ottawa mysteriously moves overseas a short time later–commented that I looked like I was, and I quote, “about to pop.” Not the most pleasant of images, but I suppose no harm was meant. I suppose, too, that I really am about to “pop” with less than a month to go.

Now, it may be because I only got to the convention centre at around 3 pm, but it seemed like as with many Ottawa events there just weren’t that many people there. Doors opened at 9 am, so it is possible that I meandered in just as all the keeners were leaving. One vendor did mention that all of a particular item had sold out in about ten minutes. Ottawa, too, has a much smaller population than Toronto. Plus this is just a guess, but I suspect that far fewer people have the time and energy to visit a baby show than a wedding show. Still, I’d seen the posters everywhere so was expecting a bit more of a crowd. On the pleasant side, there was far less pressure from the vendors to buy stuff than I had been expecting. I did buy stuff, but it was almost more of an indulgence on my part than succumbing to any pressure. So that was nice. Even the private RESP representative didn’t push too much and was content to leave me with a pamphlet. Perhaps Ottawa vendors are just generally hands-off; perhaps they were tired after a hypothetical morning rush; perhaps I just didn’t look like I was actually going to buy anything from them. Maybe it was some nefarious scheme. I did end up buying more than I might have otherwise simply because people left me alone, unlike the time I went into a certain Ottawa store and had someone follow me around incessantly, telling me her whole life story and pointing out items she liked and generally not letting me, you know, shop. The store literally closed on me before I could look at the stuff I had come in to look at.

Anyway, an unexpected thing about the Ottawa Baby Show: when I returned home and reflected on the experience, I realized that despite the great variety of vendors (including about five chiropractors and a teeth-whitening service), one item was conspicuously missing from the various little storefronts. Disposable diapers. I didn’t even see any “eco” diapers available.

Nearly every vendor representing a baby store did have at least one cloth diaper for sale, however.

I’m not sure if this was due to everyone savvily predicting the type of person to show up at the Baby Show, if it just isn’t practical to sell disposables at that kind of venue, or if Ottawa is in midst of a cloth diaper movement of which I have been clueless. I myself am interested in giving it a try and have been slowly collecting them as I find deals. Until last weekend, the most I’d paid for a single diaper was $4.50, which from what I’ve gathered from online research is quite a steal as the average price per diaper is $20. $20! I know that in the end it is still cheaper than disposables, but it is hard to hand over that kind of money for a single item, you know? (For those out there who care, I have a mixture of used Fuzzibunz from kijiji and new Kawaiis from an online sale.) I am sure that for most “normal” i.e. non-pregnant, non-parent, non-cheap-or-hippie-type readers out there this means nothing. But what if Ottawa really is in the middle of some kind of cloth diaper revival/movement? It would be silly not to cover it. So to anyone “normal” out there, feel free to stop reading (if you haven’t already) and enjoy the sunshine. For anyone left who is interested for whatever reason, I’d like to write a bit about a new Ottawa business I discovered at the Baby Show–a business so new that when I checked out their website when I got home it still had a generic “welcome to your new storefront” message on the front page.

That business is VitaEarth, from what I could tell started by a local husband-and-wife team and selling diapers designed by the wife-and-mother half of the team. I bought one of their diapers, partially because they were the only people at the show selling pocket diapers designed for newborns, partially because I thought it would be nice to support a new business, and partially because they seemed to be by far the most affordable around. I also liked that all their diapers are the same price (12.99 each, so more expensive than the most affordable Kawaiis but still far more affordable than the typical diaper). Plus they just seemed like nice people, and I’m a sucker I guess. I don’t believe they are selling online yet at vitaearth.ca, but I think they are worth keeping an eye on if you are at all interested in this type of thing. You can find them on Facebook, too.

I thought it might be nice for those who were not at the show and thus could not see the diapers in person to have some random person on the Internet (me!) describe them. Keep in mind that I am “about to pop” and have not yet “popped” so I haven’t actually used this on a small human. I have never ever in my life used any cloth diaper so forgive my lack of proper, uh, lingo.

vitaearth1

A tiny newborn diaper.

See how tiny? And anyone who knows me knows I have tiny hands:

vitaearth2

The largest setting:

vitaearth3

As you can see, there are a lot of buttons (snaps?). It seems to me that it is adjustable at the waist, at the legs, and at the belly button (the middle snaps down so as not to irritate the umbilical cord).

A pocket! I’ve “artistically” half-inserted the insert:

vitaearth4

I asked what said insert is made of (answer: hemp). I haven’t done anything to it yet so I imagine that it will be much puffier when actually being used. Also, I don’t know if it is visible in the photo, but the pocket has a little flap to stop the insert from coming out, much like the Kawaiis but notably unlike the Fuzzibunz. I like that; it seems a useful feature.

In addition to the hemp insert, there is a built-in insert under the pocket! I have never ever seen that before (but I’m no expert). Foolishly, I didn’t think to ask what it was made of, but it is not hemp. Perhaps cotton?

vitaearth5

The only potential problem I can see it the placement of the pocket opening, which is at the front. As you can see, when the front is snapped down, there is a bit of a gap:

vitaearth6

I suppose this placement could actually be a good thing when it comes to baby poop (something I’m not looking forward to) as it means that the insert won’t get soiled. But what of pee? Or maybe at that age it isn’t necessary to have the hemp in yet (there is that built-in part) and thus it doesn’t stick out as much?

In conclusion, though, I’m pretty excited about having a local diaper company (as excited as one can be about items designed to catch human waste). They have package deals and larger diapers as well (one-size I believe is the term–the ones with all the buttons designed to go from infant to potty training), but I didn’t look at them too closely to be honest as I have some Kawaiis already and can’t afford to invest in something with which, realistically, I haven’t had hands-on experience. I might end up running to disposables in complete and utter surrender. I did impulsively buy an AMP all-in-one small/newborn from one of the other vendors, but I already kind of regret it and wish I’d done the whole tour of the show first. If I had, I’d have bought another one of the VitaEarth diapers, to be perfectly frank. They are far less puffy/bulky, seem more adjustable, don’t use velcro, don’t cost as much, and seem like they will dry in a fifth of the time. If I do take to cloth diapering like some kind of graceful earth mother, I will definitely try to get my hands on another VitaEarth and let you know how it goes. I don’t particularly want this be a “mommy blog,” but I have the feeling my life will be pretty baby-centric for the next little while, so I guess it is a little bit inevitable. I’ll try to balance things out by writing about museums and such, but much of that depends on me actually leaving the house…

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In Ottawa

So: a number of people (okay, three) have asked me what happened to my blog, where did all the content go, etc. I’m flattered that anyone noticed that it not only hasn’t been updated in a long while, but that it sort of… disappeared. The answer I’ve given them is that I’ve removed/made private the majority of the posts as I figure out what I want to do with it. This is true, but it is also true that making a decision like that is rather daunting, so I’ve decided to go with the obvious. Maybe this one will stick! I present my current theme:

Being in Ottawa.

This is really easy as I am in Ottawa and foresee myself, barring any miracles, being here for at least a couple more years. It is also a convenient way of keeping friends and family updated (“haha!” you laugh) without having to resort to putting everything on, say, Facebook. The fun thing about a blog rather than a site like Facebook is that I have the illusion of greater privacy/control despite the fact that this is blasted all over the Internet and is searchable (“googleable,” even). Perhaps I will explore the odd irrationality of that feeling later as I fear I am already veering off course.

So! Ottawa. I live here. I am finally, in conversations when travelling, “from Ottawa.” It took a long time for me to feel comfortable saying that, and perhaps I only really did once I realized that I’ve lived in Ottawa longer than I lived in Toronto. Still, Toronto leaves a mark on people, I’ve noticed, an identity hard to remove even if I wanted it gone. Part of me feels like my absence from there is only temporary and that I will return one day, but of course there are no guarantees and I am here now. I might as well live where I am, no? Part of the trouble is that although I lived in Montreal for six years, I very quickly lost any sense of being a Montrealer, or even being from Quebec at all despite having lived in the province from age five or so. Toronto, for whatever reason, fit me better and it has been hard to shake the feeling of being from there despite not really having been from there at all.

Here I am in Ottawa, though. Oh, also, I’m pregnant (yay!), so my child’s passport will forever be marked by Ottawa. I’d better get cozy with the place. Part of this, however, means trying to actually figure out just what this place is and just what it is not. The longer I’m here, the more I realize that some of the initial assumptions I’d had about the place are wrong — in a good way — but infuriatingly, many of the people who live here cling to those same ideas about the city as gospel. Through casual conversation, I’ve come to learn that many of the people who live here think that Ottawa is, specifically compared with Toronto or Montreal,

1) Sleepy or slow

2) At one with nature/green

3) Particularly active/outdoorsy

4) A place where you need a car

5) Family-friendly

6) Small

7) (Primarily) a government town

8) Conservative, in the political sense

I suppose there are elements of truth to each of the above, but surprise, surprise, the truth is a bit more complicated. At least, what I’ve made of the city is a bit more complicated. I’ve had the privilege of doing a lot of travelling in the last few years (New York and cities in Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand just in the last year!), which has provoked a lot of thought on my part regarding what I like/dislike and need/really don’t need in a city. For example: as a non-driver, good public transit is pretty much always at the top of my list. Parking, not so much, though I’m sure for drivers that is at the top of their list. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but everything is subjective.

Because everything is subjective, a few things about me in no particular order to help provide a sense of my demographic:

1) I’m pregnant, as I mentioned. I did not mention, however, that this is my first child and that my husband and I have no family in Ottawa.

2) I am a woman in the latter half of my twenties.

3) As should be clear from 1), I’m married.

4) I have a BA and an MA (McGill: English lit and UofT: medieval studies, if you were at all wondering).

5) I don’t drive. I never have. I don’t foresee myself doing so in the immediate future but it is not outside the realm of possibilities. My husband also does not drive. He knows how to, but I’ve never actually seen him drive and we’ve known each other for about eight years.

6) I lean left, as they say. I am, however, right-handed.

7) I grew up in the suburbs of Quebec City and left as soon as I could. Before anyone asks, my French is terrible. I was born in Winnipeg and have also lived in Montreal, Vancouver (for a summer), Toronto, and (of course) Ottawa.

8) I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot in my twenties. I also travelled a lot as a child, but I don’t think that counts as much.

9) Gluten makes me ill. This probably seems like a random thing to include, but it does affect my experiences in different places.

10) I work from home. Mostly editing, but some writing as well.

11) I lost my not-even-two-months-old iPhone the other day somewhere between the taxi from the train station and my home. This makes me sad and also makes me realize how irrationally happy I was to have an iPhone, probably because I’m a loser and don’t have any friends in Ottawa. If you’re in Ottawa and found a white iPhone 4s in a black case, let me know.

And that is about it.

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Mini Review: Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” at the Ottawa Little Theatre

This is a mini review because I can't remember where I put my keyboard and I'm pecking away at my ipad instead.

In short, what I noticed/remember from Saturday, Jan. 12's show: great play, Ibsenesque (say, +10 for that alone); great performances by Cheryl Jackson (Kate) and Anne van Leeuwen (Ann); decent performance by Patrick McIntyre (Chris); spirited (but maybe nervous? Quite a few flubbed lines and 'off' reactions) performance by Mike Kennedy (Joe); excellent lighting; absolutely lovely set; weird, unnecessary and distracting music during monologues.

Especially impressive for community theatre; better than some “non-community” theatre I've seen, but far from perfect — I never forgot I was watching a play.

Random note about the theatre itself: I was very charmed by them having everyone stand and sing “O Canada” at the beginning.

Worth seeing! Here's their site.

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The snow in Ottawa and the wind in Winnipeg

Today I fell on my bum when going out to do the laundry (because the basement is only accessible from outside):

If you're curious, you might be interested in knowing that all of that snow is from last night. This is what it looked like recently:

So either way my feet are wet. At least then I wasn't falling down my front stairs as if on a slip-and-slide, though. Anyway it doesn't matter because other than doing the laundry I am safely inside, having stocked up on groceries yesterday. I was prepared! Not exactly the end of the world (ha! are we done with that joke yet?) but still, it's good to be prepared. I'm pleased that although it's messy outside it isn't at all cold out… but it's supposed to be -18° in Winnipeg for Christmas. Yikes! I might end up staying inside huddled in a pile of oranges. Yes, oranges–I've been eating maybe five oranges a day for the past two weeks. I think maybe that isn't healthy? But they are so delicious this time of year and I hate them in the summer. I'm not sure if it's me or the oranges then, but in the middle of July you could not pay me to eat one.

But yes, Winnipeg is cold. I don't remember the last time I was there in the winter. I might have been nine. I still remember the cold, though: leggings and pants and snow pants and I could still feel the wind. Hopefully that was an extreme year or I was a weak child and this year I will not be a wuss. We are hoping to make a day trip to Gimli, Manitoba, which has a large Icelandic population (and they'd better with a name like Gimli!). So it sounds like an interesting place to visit, and would be the furthest north in North America that my husband will have been (take that future perfect passive!), so hopefully the roads will be okay and I will not be a wimp.

 

And soon I will see family! I haven't seen some of them in over a decade, and there are a few that I haven't seen at all! I'm excited to meet my cousin's fiancé and meet my other cousin's son in person! I met the little fellow over skype once, and he seems like the most amusing baby ever–he sat there playing with his shoe. My mother says that he's the cutest baby she's ever seen (and she's had four of her own). This was me:

What a strange creature.

Well, I'll leave you with that because it turns out I forgot that I needed to go to the bank today. So much for being prepared!

 

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Handel’s “Messiah” at the National Arts Centre

The ceiling at the National Arts Centre

Last night I attended my third Messiah, although my first in Ottawa. The first two were put on by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall. One year it was advertised as Toronto's favourite Messiah, and the other as Toronto's biggest. Take that how you will; but I will tell you this: Toronto loves Handel's Messiah more than any other city in the world, probably. You can't go anywhere around the holidays without seeing advertisements from all sorts of musical groups inviting you to their rendition. So it was a little disappointing to learn that there would only be two shows put on by the NAC Orchestra in Ottawa–especially as the performance was such a good one.

I was a little sceptical at first–the choir was maybe a fifth the size of the one I remembered seeing in Toronto, and although I know pretty much nothing about music, I could see that the orchestra was quite a bit smaller as well. But then I remembered that I hadn't been overwhelmingly pleased by some of the elements of the second Toronto performance I'd seen (2010, I think), which had included sleigh bells. The audience here gave be a bit of worry, too, as they seemed like they might not really be into the whole thing. Indeed, the people sitting in front of us clearly weren't because they were glued to their phones the entire evening and left right after the Hallelujah chorus (by accident, I thought, assuming they assumed that because everyone stood up that meant it was the end of it, but my husband thinks they planned their “escape” deliberately). Their loss. They missed the best part, the “Worthy is the Lamb” and “Amen” at the end.

Let me be clear: I know pretty much nothing about music. But maybe that's why I like Messiahs so much. I know that I like it, and I like that the music follows the emotion of the text, and I'm familiar with it and thus can enjoy that fulfilling of the anticipated moment that comes with listening to live performances of pieces with which you are familiar. I'm sure there's some kind of music theory term to explain that experience, but I'm afraid that's the best I have. I also dearly love the trumpet music (performed here by Karen Donnelly). Partly it makes me happy simply because I notice that it delights me. “Ah!” I think. “I, too, can appreciate music!” But also it just really is delightful. And this performance was delightful! There were moments when I wished for the vocal power of a massive TSO-esque choir, but then I realised that this was the first Messiah I'd attended where I really found myself paying intent attention to the orchestra and not just the choir (and trumpet). I was able to really appreciate all the strings, for instance, and I think that with a larger, louder choir they might have been lost, or at least overwhelmed. The choir was made up of the Cantata Singers of Ottawa (Michael Zaugg) and Seventeen Voyces (Kevin Reeves). I was obedient and didn't take any pictures during the performance, but this should give you a sense of the size of the thing:

So! It was delightful and subtle where it should be and loud and brash where it should be even though their were far fewer people performing. I was impressed by all the soloists (is that the right term?) but especially so by Diana Moore (who is a mezzo-soprano and sang alto? I told you I know nothing about music), who stood out to me for reasons I could not articulate but did. This should not be taken to mean that I was disappointed in the others (Jacqueline Woodley, Colin Balzer, and Alexander Dobson), of course. As sidenote, I should mention that Jaqueline Woodley was performing in place of Hélène Guilmette, who was out sick.

Also, I'm not sure if you can see that little star in the picture beside “soprano,” but they are attached to each name because apparently singers count as actors and belong to the Canadian Actors' Equity Association:

Who knew? I sure didn't.

Anyway! Paul Goodwin was the conductor, and as my handy programme let me know, he's a bit of a traditionalist, a man after my own heart. He seemed to get more and more excited as the night went on, gathering up energy from the performance rather than expending it, and by the end of it he was literally leaping into the air. It was fascinating to watch: at certain points (such as during the Amen at the end) he seemed to be throwing music into the air, like a magician: not pulling it out of the performers, but casting it on them. And that is the most special thing for someone like me who knows nothing about music: the absurdity that bits of wood and string and metal and people can be guided into making such a coherent thing. Ah! You musicians go ahead and laugh at me; I don't mind.

But not all is good in this story. The fact is that there were only two performances and that even with that there was a visible area of empty seats. This should not be! Why aren't people going to see these things? The National Arts Centre hosts not only the orchestra, but travelling Broadway-type shows, pop concerts, the ballet, and what have you. Are people really so uninterested in the arts here that they can manage to fit it all in one building? That is a real shame.

 

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