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Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy

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Movie review: Yesterday

The movie Yesterday has a great premise. And a great trailer about that premise.

Yesterday movie trailer (YouTube)

In case you missed it (and don’t want to watch it now), said premise is that after a mysterious, world-wide blackout, the entire world has forgotten that The Beatles ever existed. Save one guy. This guy–Jack Malik, a failed singer-songwriter–capitalizes on this anomaly to ignite his career by singing Beatles songs, claiming they are his own.

Even though I know–I know–that great trailers can be made for really poor films, I liked this one so much I made a point to go see this movie on opening weekend.

And… Maybe it’s not quite as great as the trailer? But it was still a very enjoyable, funny, fun, romantic movie.

Romantic? Yes, at heart it’s a romantic comedy about Jack and his manager, Ellie. Ellie has been carrying a torch for Jack for years; Jack has somehow failed to notice. Now she’s letting him know. But his increasing fame is, as one can imagine, nothing but a complication.

It actually fits in well with the story of him trying to build a singing career on singing Beatles tunes, given that they wrote so many love songs. And that part of the movie–Jack introducing the world to The Beatles canon–is as fun as you’d hope. (“Interesting you called it the USSR [re “Back in the USSR”]. Russia hasn’t been called that since before you were born.”) I especially liked the detail that Jack keeps munging up the lyrics. He knows the songs–of course he knows the songs, we all do–but he doesn’t necessarily deeply know the songs. He’s no Beatles guru, and he can’t look up the lyrics on Google. So he has to wrack his brain trying to remember them, and doesn’t always succeed. We get changed words here, reordered verses there, and a truly epic struggle to put “Eleanor Rigby” together.

Also good? While there is plenty of appreciation for The Beatles work (look, those are some catchy songs), it’s not instantaneous nor universal. Many of Jack’s early attempts to revive his career by singing their songs is met with a shrug.

I enjoyed the film’s twists, including the controversial one that I don’t want to spoil (but you, unlike Jack, can Google what that is). You can’t ponder the premise too deeply, of what the world would really be like had The Beatles never existed (no Oasis, sure, but who else…?), or what the nature of this “blackout” really is. You really just have to go with it. And thereby be rewarded with a film full of people that are great to spend time with.

And some pretty nice interpretations of the songs…

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Writer’s playlist

Return Post—The Bangles

Writing the lines as they come to me
Scratching them out almost immediately
Don’t know what it’s done to me

When I Write My Master’s Thesis—John K. Samson

It’s all gonna change
When I write my master’s thesis

Paperback Writer—The Beatles

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?

Every Day I Write the Book—Elvis Costello

Chapter One: We didn’t really get along.
Chapter Two: I think I fell in love with you.
You said you’d stand by me in the middle of Chapter Three
But you were up to your old tricks in Chapters Four
Five and Six.
And I’m giving you a longing look
Every day, every day, every day I write the book

Suzanne Vega—Book and a Cover

What’s that they told you
About a book and a cover?

Jools and Jim—Pete Townshend

Typewriter tappers
You’re all just crappers
You listen to love with your intellect

Wrote My Way Out—Nas, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Dave East, Aloe Blacc

Sister tapped my brains, said, pssh, you’ll get ’em right back
Oversensitive, defenseless, I made sense of it, I pencil in
The lengths to which I’d go to learn my strengths and knock ’em senseless
These sentences are endless, so what if they leave me friendless?

We Used to Wait—Arcade Fire

I  used to write
I used to write letters
I used to sign my name
I used to sleep at night
Before the flashing lights settled deep in my brain

Please Read the Letter—Robert Plant and Allison Krause

Please read the letter, I
Wrote it in my sleep
With help and consultation from
The angels of the deep

The Letter—The Box Tops

Well, she wrote me a letter
Said she couldn’t live without me no more

Letter from Bilbao—Lowest of the Low

I am writing you this letter
In desperation, I’m afraid

All She Wrote—Ray Davies

All she wrote was a goodbye letter
“It’s over for us, to tell you the truth
I’ve met this person in a disco
He’s really special, reminds me of you”

Word Crimes—Weird Al Yankovic

Like I could care less
That means you do care
At least a little


She wrote out a story about her life
I think it included something about me
I’m not sure of that but I’m sure of one thing

Her spelling’s atrocious

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Movies we watched while waiting for Wonder Woman

I had every intention of seeing Wonder Woman at the theatre this summer—I fully expect I’ll enjoy it—but it didn’t stick around the major theatres as long as I expected, nor did it get the second round at the art cinemas I was expecting. (Especially as the Apollo Cinema did have it listed as “coming soon”, only it never did.)

So when Google offered a movie rental for 0.99, I thought Wonder Woman would be a great way to spend that, and was quite excited to see it listed in the Play store. But when we sat down to watch it, I realized it was only available for $20 purchase at this point, and I did not want to do that.

So I turned to my Netflix list to see what movies I had short-listed there, and hence we instead watched…

The Lobster

Holy doodle, that’s a weird and disturbing movie. The premise is an alternate world in which people who find themselves single have a couple unappealing choices. One is the officially sanctified approach of checking themselves into a hotel where they have 45 days to find a partner. If they fail, they are surgically converted into an animal (a lobster, a dog, a pony).

The other option is to illegally escape and join The Loners in the woods. While always at risk of capture, here you have more freedom, and no threat of having to become another species. But you are strictly forbidden any kind of romantic entanglement.

So, both those options are terrible, and as the movie shows, even those who manage to couple aren’t really in a great situation, necessarily, given the incredible incentives do so.

On Rotten Tomatoes, critics rated this movie as 89% positive, but only 64% of the general public agreed. I can see the critics admiring this—it’s definitely original and in many ways well-crafted. But it’s a tough one to enjoy. And I’m not completely sure what the point was? Perhaps some comment on our society’s antipathy toward singledom…?

I did survive that rather bleak movie, however, this weekend we buckled down and watched…

Still Alice

Which I’d been putting off because I thought it would be sad. And, I was right, it was sad. Very sad to see the highly intelligent and articulate Alice become increasingly incapable of hanging on to her memories, at the young age of 50. (Also scary—I couldn’t help trying to do all of Alice’s memory tests with her.)

But it is a good film, with a great performance by Julianne Moore and Kristen Stewart. And it doesn’t deliberately, manipulatively try to heighten the sentiment. It doesn’t have to.

And what were the art cinemas showing instead of Wonder Woman? Well, for one night anyway, it was

Deconstructing the Beatles’ Revolver

Which is a love it or hate it kind of a thing. In Deconstructing the Beatles, a music professor takes a deep dive into one Beatles album, in this case Revolver. He uses rare footage and audio archives to go track-by-track giving insight into the creation of each song, from inspiration to final mix.

Does that sound like something you might interesting? Then you’re probably right. Or does that sound like the most boring thing ever? You’re probably also right.

The only reason Jean joined me at this one was that we were also accompanied by a friend of his that was solidly in the “interesting” camp, and Jean didn’t want to miss out on the social aspect. But this sure wasn’t his cup of tea. I found it cute that he fell asleep during discussion of “I’m Only Sleeping” (“Please don’t wake me, no don’t shake me…”).

As for me, I learned quite a bit about Revolver, one of my favourite Beatles albums, which I think will only enhance future listening of it.


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Rebel music: Tanya Tagaq and the KW Symphony

I wasn’t prepared for Tanya Tagaq.

Oh, I had my concert tickets, which is good, because both her shows were complete sellouts. And I knew she was an Inuit singer who had her own take on traditional throat singing. I remembered her winning the Polaris prize in 2014.

But I hadn’t listened to any of her music in advance.

And thank goodness for that! Because you can only hear Tanya Tagaq for the very first time once in your life, and what better way than seeing her live, from just a few feet away? (We were in the second row.)

The problem is, I have no idea how to describe her sound and performance to you. I’ve never heard anyone else do anything like what she does. As we were revelling in her show afterward, Jean made an attempt: “It’s like she took you on a journey through a whole lifetime of dreams.”

This is traditional throat singing:

The adorable 11-year-old Inuit girls throat-singing at Justin Trudeau’s swearing-in ceremony

Tagaq does use this technique, but—in own words—in a completely punk way. She plays with pitch, vocal styling, breathing, making no literal sense but clearly conveying emotion. And she puts her whole body into it, swaying, gesturing, sinking to the floor. It’s just mesmerizing.

Tanya Tagaq’s Animism album on Spotify

And how does that work with the symphony? Well, first they prepared us to hear some unusual sounds by presenting the works of two Canadian composers (both in attendance, both women), along with a version of Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” that was so rockin’ it rivaled The Who’s take on the same.

They then let Tanya Tagaq do her thing on her own, totally improvised.

Next was a work by another Canadian composer, Rodney Sharman, (“I texted with him today,” said Tagaq. “He seems nice.”), and she improvised over that soundtrack.

Finally, Tagaq and orchestra came together on a chamber music piece written for her, called “Cercle du Nord III”. Ms. Tagaq said that the fuller sound provided by the larger symphony (vs. original string quartet) gave the piece another dimension.

(Her personality is quite charming, by the way. For example, she was taken aback at having to come back and acknowledge the rapturous applause she was receiving. She was unsure to do, she said. What does she normally do? “I go out for dinner,” she answered. She then told us, mock sternly: “OK, I’m leaving now. Don’t make me come back out again!”)

A few years ago, Edwin Outwater, Musical Director of the KWS and this concert’s conductor, gave a Ted Talk in which he argued that rock / pop music wasn’t the music of rebels anymore. That classical music was.

I think he has a point. Much as I still love rock music, there isn’t much danger or innovation in it anymore, is there? What is more choreographed, corporate, and scripted than a big, modern rock show? Who can improvise when everyone has to play to same click track?

Whereas tonight’s Tanya Tagaq concert could be a whole different experience than last night’s.

And this is following on two other KW Symphony shows we saw recently, in which they:

  1. Completely reconceived German opera Die Fleidermaus with local references, a hilarious narration absent in the original, and even a special guest spot for a former mayor.
  2. Along with the Art of Time, presented the Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper not just orchestrated, but truly rearranged such that every song was both familiar and strange (though wonderfully so, in my opinion).

As rock retreats to safety, the traditional symphony is taking it to the edge. Don’t let the strings and horns fool you: today, this is punk.

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Sonos your kitchen

Although the best music setup in the house is the surround sound system in the TV room, the room in which I listen to music most often is the kitchen. I do so while cooking, while cleaning, and even occasionally while eating.


The music setup in the kitchen was as follows: an audio receiver, a CD player, and iPod dock / headphone jack (for my tablet) connected to two small speakers. All wired; no remote control access. Sound quality was OK, and I was sufficiently accustomed to docking my iPod (classic; no bluetooth, no wifi) or connecting my tablet via headphone jack that it didn’t seem especially inconvenient.

But the whole system was at the back at the kitchen, and I mostly worked at the front. Apart from the fact that it was a bit annoying to have to stop cooking and walk over to change the volume or song selection, I often just couldn’t hear the music properly once the fans and frying got going.

A first-world problem for sure. Nevertheless, for Christmas I requested some way to get my music playing closer to where I was cooking.

Much research ensued, and wireless seemed the way to go. But wireless meant somehow still playing my iTunes library despite my not owning any “modern” iDevices. And that certainly suggested Sonos as one option.

What is Sonos?

Sonos TV commercial

Essentially, Sonos is a family of wireless speakers and components that are all controlled by an app that runs on Android, iOs, and Windows. The key marketing features are:

  1. Easy setup. “It just works.”
  2. Access to “all the music in the world”: your owned music, streamed music, online radio—all available through one interface, combined in whatever way you choose.
  3. Full-house control; that is, ability to play different (or the exact same) queues of music in any room in the house that has a Sonos-connected speaker.

The main downside? Price. But, we figured that we could start with just one speaker—the new Play 5—for the kitchen. Then if we liked the Sonos app, expand from there.

The setup

The Sonos Play:5 just sat around in its box for about 2 weeks before we got the courage to try to set it up. (Yes, I opened my Christmas present early. Not like it was a surprise.)

And it started out well. Getting the Play 5 onto our wifi network was simple. Downloading the app on tablet and PCs—no problem. Linking in my Google Play, SoundCloud, LastFM, Spotify accounts (note that you need a paid account)—also a breeze.

The problem was the iTunes playlist, because I had a somewhat non-standard setup: music files on a NAS (network attached storage), iTunes music library (playlist data) on PC.

To get the thing working, Sonos needed two connection points: one to the music directory on the NAS, another to then PC iTunes library location. Retrospectively, that seems obvious, and in fact it wasn’t hard to do.


But figuring out that’s all we had to do required a lot of experimentation, caused a few tears, and took the better part of an afternoon. (And yes, I did read the documentation!)

Using Sonos: The things I fretted about vs. the reality

Ahead of time, I was a little concerned (and obviously only in between bigger worries about climate change and world peace and such) about the following regarding use of this system.

Fret: Would I have to start my PC, and maybe even iTunes, just to play my music in the kitchen?

Reality: No, not with my music setup. Sonos copies in the iTunes playlist data, so neither iTunes nor the PC have to be running. It’s just the NAS that has to be on for the music files to be accessible. And the NAS  was already programmed to start when we got home from work and to be on all day on weekends. (It’s handy to be married to a handy husband.)

Fret: How can my Android tablet possibly control my iTunes playlist on a NAS it doesn’t even know about?

Reality: If you’re using Sonos, that “just works”. (The non-Sonos’ed can try the Retune app. Pretty cool! But iTunes does have to be running for that one.)

Fret: Would I still be able to use the Musixmatch lyrics app? (Because I kind of love that app.)

Reality: Yes. While Musicxmatch isn’t fully integrated into the Sonos app, it does work quite well in “Listening” mode.

Spotify Lyrics display

The rather esoteric lyrics to Queen’s “Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke”

Fret: Can I continue playing a music list where I last left off? (This matters to me. Don’t judge.)

Reality: Sonos absolutely, by default, picks up where you left off.

Fret: Will it play our local CBC radio station? Can you program it to start and stop automatically at a certain time? (Otherwise, we won’t be able to expand Sonos to our bedroom. CBC is our alarm clock.)

Reality: Yes, local CBC radio is one of the ba-jillion radio stations included. And yes, Sonos has timer functionality.

Fret: When you change your iTunes playlists, how much of a pain is it to get the update into Sonos?

Reality: Haven’t actually done that yet, but appears to be a single-click process you can perform on PC or tablet (allowing time for it to re-scan the files).

Fret: Does it keep track of play counts and dates?

Reality: No, it does not. This is the one disappointing item.

In iTunes I created “smart” playlists with criteria such as “High-rated songs I haven’t played in the last six months” and “Songs I’ve played fewer than two times each”. And I use those playlists a lot to avoid “I’m sick of this song!” syndrome.

But Sonos has nothing like that built in. However, it does integrate with, which does keep track of what I’ve played, on both iTunes / iPod and Sonos. And research indicates there might be some geeky, scripty ways to make use of that data. I will be looking into that more later.

Sonos playlist data for the week, courtesy (I’m sure you’re all shocked about Top artist.)

Features I didn’t even realize I wanted, but turns out I do

10kindsoflonely_art-500x500This one seems dumb, but I’m a bit obsessive about album art, and I loved seeing some of that blown up in size on my 12.2 inch tablet when I’d previously only viewed it as a thumbnail.

More significantly, the much more dynamic (compared with iPod) song queue is fun! For example, I can:

  • Start with an iTunes playlist and add songs from Spotify or Soundcloud (or whatever)
  • Combine various playlists into one queue
  • See what songs are coming up, and edit the list if I want—without affecting the original playlists
  • Decide I want to, say, switch to a podcast now, listen to that, then automatically return to my same spot in the music queue
  • Save my current queue as a Sonos playlist for later reuse

But it’s a speaker. How does it sound?

Kids, this speaker sounds so good, I’d like to marry it and have its babies. 🙂


KW Glee

I am really, really surprised how much I am enjoying this concert.

— Jean, at intermission

Tuesday night we went to see KW Glee perform with the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony at Centre in the Square. KW Glee is a show choir that was, in fact, inspired by the TV show Glee. So they sing pop music, and they don’t just stand there while they’re doing that—all their numbers are choreographed.


The inspiration

What’s different from the TV show? Well, this show choir is much bigger; they have many featured vocalists, not just one girl (Rachel) and one boy (Finn) who do most of the lead singing; and especially; no auto-tune!


The actuality

And what voices, my friend. My goodness, such talent in this community. I’m wondering which of these young people will break out as a  huge star some day. Seems likely at least one of them will.

The set list consisted mostly of what kids are listening to these days, which meant that—honestly—I did not know many of the songs. In some cases I hadn’t even heard of the artist. (VV Brown?)

No matter, They had us at the opening number, a mashup of “Some Nights” by Fun and “End of Time” by Beyoncé, performed by choir only, then carried us through as the Symphony joined in on “Counting Stars” by One Republic mashed with “Wake Me Up” by Avicii.

And then we got Junior Glee, all on their own. Oh, my goodness. These are the 9 to 12 year olds, and they are mostly girls (Senior Glee is somewhat more gender balanced), but their first number featured three young boys singing Bruno Mars’ “Treasure”. They were both adorable and deeply impressive at conveying this love song.

In the introduction by artistic director Amanda Kind, we were told that the youth auditioned based on vocal talent only. All the dancing, they’d have to learn in their 12-week rehearsal period.

But some of them obviously have some additional dance training. “Say Something” (by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera) was performed as a vocal duet, with two of the choir members dancing. It was lovely—reminded me of the performance of this song on “So You Think You Can Dance” (and nearly brought me to tears).

“Say Something” on So You Think You Can Dance

Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This” (a rather sappy song, that) was another that featured two other talented dancers.

Adding to the excitement were a great number of costume changes. I don’t know how many, but we didn’t have time to get sick of any particular outfit, let me tell you. (It must have been chaos backstage.) For example, for all-ladies singing of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”, the singers were all in sexy black and red. For Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”, the outfits were more eccentric. For Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” mashed with Rhianna’s “Disturbia”, more scary.

For the James Bond Medley, the guys were all dapper in suits, of course. For “Shake It Out” by Florence and the Machine, the lead singer was in a lovely red dress, while the rest of the choir wore black, representing the demons being “shaken off”, per the song lyrics. You get the idea,

And the Symphony? Well, honestly, they were very much in the background—especially in first half. Staging-wise, they literally were seated way back, to allow for so many singers and dancers to do their thing in the front part of  stage. But, they did get to shine more in the second half, which featured more quiet numbers. They actually started playing the second half—the James Bond theme—before any singers were on stage.

And there’s no doubt that throughout, these talented musicians provided solid backing. There’s nothing like live music. And everything was a world premiere, friends. There has never before been a full concert of show choir + symphony. All the scores—all of them—were written especially for this concert by conductor Trevor Wagler.

Another highlight to mention was the performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. Obviously, this one has been done by lots of singers. KW Glee had four young men from Senior Glee perform it. Simply the fact of it being sung by four people instead of the usual soloist made you forget about comparing it with past covers, as each did a nice job on his own and their voices mingled beautifully when they sang together. The orchestration was also fantastic. Though the audience probably could have been popping up all night, this is one place where a standing ovation occurred mid-concert.

That was fantastic! It was just amazing.

— Jean, after the concert

A terrific report on the concert by SpokeTV—starting with a bit of “Hallelujah”

Set list:

  • Some Nights (Fun) / End of Time (Beyonce)
  • Counting Starts (One Republic) / Wake Me Up (Avicii)
  • Treasure (Bruno Mar)
  • Toxic (Britney Spears)
  • Bye Bye Bye (N’Sync)
  • Bad Romance (Lady Gaga)
  • Disturbia (Rhianna) / Thriller (Michael Jackson)
  • Say Something (A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera)
  • Beside You (Marianas Trench)
  • Brave (Sara Bareilles)
  • Viva La Vida (Coldplay) / Firework (Katy Perry)


  • James Bond Medley: Bond Theme / Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney) / Another Way to Die (Jack White & Alicia Keys) / Skyfall (Adele)
  • Turning Tables (Adele)
  • No Good Woman (Elise LeGrow) / Rumour Has It (Adele)
  • Shark in the Water (VV Brown)
  • Shake It Out (Florence and the Machine)
  • Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
  • A Moment Like This (Kelly Clarkson)
  • Let It Be (The Beatles)
  • See Your Star (KW Glee original, written by Jason Berry)

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Wonderful tonight

I bought Wonderful Tonight, Pattie Boyd.s autobiography, very much on a whim, from a used bookstore. I was just curious about the woman who married George Harrison (of The Beatles), inspiring him to write “Something”, then left him for Eric Clapton, after he was inspired by her to write “Layla”. That George and Eric remained friends through all this was just one of the things that seemed odd.

Cover of Wonderful Tonight

When you hear that Pattie Boyd was a model when she met George Harrison, that gives you the impression (based on today) that she was already leading a glamorous life, but modeling wasn’t the same back then. She talks of having to do her own makeup and hair, and running around to various appointments on public transit. She enjoyed it, but it didn’t make her especially rich or famous.

Her childhood was even more austere. She grew up in Kenya, her father a damaged, injured war veteran who eventually abandoned the family. Her mother then remarried to an abusive, unfaithful man. Pattie and her siblings were shuffled off to boarding schools, and eventually were literally abandoned, left in Kenya while her parents moved to England.

Hence, the lack of life model for what a good marriage is.

Because, in case you were wondering, this book gave me the impression that it wasn’t much fun being married to rock stars.

Of course, the relationships started out well. With George, the biggest problem in the early days were the insane Beatles fans. But over time, as The Beatles dissolved, their relationship grew more rocky as well. I found myself rather disappointed to find out that George cheated on Pattie constantly. Yes, I know he’s a rock star, but this is after The Beatles stopped touring, and after George has taken up religion and meditation and is trying to be this very spiritual person.

And one of the people he had an affair with was Maureen Star, Ringo’s wife! I mean, seriously dude, that’s just not right.

But it wasn’t just the infidelity that challenged the relationship, but also George’s mood swings and self-absorption and disregard for what made Pattie happy, such as being able to cook for him.

So yes, she was susceptible when Eric Clapton took an interest, and starting writing her passionate love letters—and one really great song. But it was a long, slow build-up before she was finally ready to leave George. At one of these junctures, Eric threatened to take heroin if she didn’t leave with him then. She didn’t, and he did.

Talk about alarm bells, eh?

Though she’s discreet in terms of details, it’s clear that the Pattie / Eric relationship was a very passionate one once it ignited. If “Layla” was a kind of foreplay for them, “Wonderful Tonight”—which I hadn’t realized was also inspired by her—is indicative of their happy early days together.

But it doesn’t last. Though I think he was off heroin by this point (?), Eric was still an alcoholic. And a slob. And unfaithful. And self-absorbed. Though here I’m making it sound as if Pattie does nothing but complain about her husbands, which isn’t the case. She’s pretty fair. I think I’m the judgmental one.

Pattie also tackles subjects like her infertility (she has no children, despite attempts at in vitro), her failed attempts to help her drug-addicted younger sister, and the challenges of building a life as an ex-wife who didn’t necessarily get a big financial settlements from her rich ex-husbands. Throughout, the writing style is very conversational. I suspect that, in fact, it was actually written by named coauthor Penny Junor, based on interviews with Pattie.

You also, inevitably, get a bit of rock history from an unusual perspective: the Beatles trip to India, drug busts, Live Aid, the murder of John Lennon. She was also friends with members of the Rolling Stones, The Who, Queen, Rod Stewart, and others; her sister has long-term relationship with Mick Fleetwood.

I wouldn’t say this is a book of general interest, but for for those wondering about the lives of rock stars, it certainly provides some insight.

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Beethoven, Mahler, Penelope, and The Beatles

Playing a bit of catch-up here, on the eclectic mix of KW Symphony concerts we’ve seen this fall and winter…

It began in September with the season opener. The first half were two fairly fabulous modern classical pieces, both by local composers, Stewart Goodyear’s Count Up and John Estacio’s Brio: Toccata and Fantasy for Orchestra. The second half was somewhat more familiar: Beethoven’s Symphony in D minor: The Ode to Joy. It’s a bit funny in that it features a mass choir (four choirs, combined) and four soloists, but for most of the performance time, they are just sitting there. They only start singing in the later movements.

But what a gorgeous piece that is. I’m always worried I’ll get a bit bored during the slow bits of classical pieces, but that didn’t happen here. Too beautiful, too moving. Then afterward, we attended the opening gala, which offered a live band (not classical), dancing, hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and an auction. It was a fun evening.

In October, we saw Penelope, by Sarah Kirland Snider (who was in attendance), which was part of the Intersections series. It was a “song cycle”, in which a woman’s husband returns from the war after many years, not remembering his previous life. The performance is his wife’s reaction to this and attempts to restore his memory, partly through reading Homer’s Odyssey to him.

Haunting is probably the best descriptor of this one. It wasn’t quite like anything I’ve heard before. It was written for and performed by Shara Worden, who has a gorgeous but unusual, almost unearthly, quality to her voice. Think I’d like to get the recording, though it would be the kind of thing you’d want to just listen to and through on its own, and not on shuffle mode with other things.

(I found this video while researching this, and really got drawn into watching it all, though it’s seven minutes long…) After the song cycle, Shara Worden performed some of her own songs, which were quirky and somewhat lighter, even featuring audience participation.

Then earlier this month, Edwin Outwater presented the work he’d listened to a lot as a (clearly very unusual) teenager, Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No 5. The piece is over an hour long and requires more musicians than KW Symphony has, so they were joined by about 40 additional musicians. In the first half, after with Schubert’s brief Entr’acte No. 3 from Rosamunde, Outwater explained what was going on the various parts of the Mahler symphony, with excerpts, then in the second half, they played it all. Though I’d had kind of a day at work, I couldn’t help but be drawn in by the gorgeous music rather than brooding on that.

He’s right that it’s an amazing work. Still can’t imagine myself having listened to it as a teenager, though.

Revolver cover artFinally, the first Jeans’n’Classics concert led off this month with something I did listen to as a teenager: The Beatles: Rubber Soul and Revolver. Jean calls me a snob for this, but I still protest that following the old US releases of these albums rather than the more definitive UK / CD versions was a weird Boomer thing to do, particularly as it meant the omission of songs like “Love You to” (my favorite of the three Harrison songs on Revolver) and “And Your Bird Can Sing”. And the even more brilliant songs “Drive My Car” and “Nowhere Man” are only recent additions, tacked on at the end of Rubber Soul’s odd US play order.

But then again… Maybe has does have a point that it’s just a quibble, because it was a really good concert. The Beatles music is very suited to the symphonic treatment, and Peter Brennan clearly loves them and does cool, original things with the arrangements, such as intermixing “Within You Without You” (from Sgt. Pepper) into Octopus’s Garden.

The two lead singers, David Blamires and Neil Donnell, both have exquisite voices, and their weaker stage presence was made up for by having personable keyboardist John Regan lead us through the set. We also got Don Paulton on keyboards, in a rare double-shot on the ivories. And one has to mention that apart from singing well, as always, Kathryn Rose looked particularly fetching. She seems to be one of those women who just get more attractive as they get older.

The set list, of course, featured three of my all-time favorite Beatles songs, “Norwegian Wood” (which led to a night-long debate as to just what John Lennon was setting fire to there), “In My Life”, “Girl” (so sensual), and “For No One” (a most devastating breakup song). But those two albums are just strong in general, so there wasn’t much dross. The very odd “Tomorrow Never Knows” was suitably trippy ending to the evening.

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Movie review: The Killing of John Lennon

** The Killing of John Lennon (August 2006) – Rental
Jonas Ball. A look into the mind of Mark Chapman in the days leading up to the murder of John Lennon.

Jean didn’t see this movie, so only my comments this time.

This isn’t a terrible movie. It holds the interest reasonably well, considering that there’s no suspense: we know how this will end. However, it is a pointless one. The movie’s tagline is “We all know who killed John Lennon. This is the first movie to explain why.”—but there is no why. He was a mentally disturbed guy with delusions of grandeur who became fixated on Catcher in the Rye and John Lennon. His actions are insane. Watching them play out is not boring, but it’s not satisfying, either. It’s not spun into a bigger narrative about gun control or failures of mental health treatment or the legal system or anything else. It’s just this dude being crazy and killing a great artist for no reason.

So I don’t recommend it. (Apparently there’s yet another movie about Chapman, called Chapter 27, starring Jared Leto, that is worse than this one. So, be warned.)

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Classical Mystery Tour

When asked who they’d like to go back in time to see in concert, a lot of people say, “The Beatles”. Which would be such a wasted opportunity to break the laws of physics!

The Beatles were a great band, obviously, but live? Pick The Who, The Stones, or Hendrix instead. Or even The Kinks. Heck, pick Paul McCartney and Wings! Any of those would be so much better than the mass hysteria and constant high-pitched screaming that was a Beatles concert. You’d barely be able to see and certainly couldn’t hear the band. They couldn’t even hear themselves. There is a reason they stopped touring.

Beatles on Ed Sullivan

And so, The Beatles leave a legacy of great albums that they never performed live, or performed only poorly. A great big, blank canvas into which many a tribute act has followed.

As a teenager, I saw Beatlemania in Toronto, a tribute that mixed film with live music to cover the history of the Beatles. And in Timmins, I saw another, more straight-up Beatles tribute band, just playing a concert at a hockey arena. More recently, one of the best Jeans’n’Classics concerts I’ve ever seen was based around the Beatles Abbey Road album, featuring Rik Emmett and Alan Frewe, among others. Las Vegas’ Beatles Love show, by Cirque du Soleil, was both touching and astounding. Less successful was Classic Albums Live tribute to Sgt. Pepper, as the efforts at reproducing the album so exactly seem to take all the life out of the live performance.

So I was a little worried about Classical Mystery Tour, as the pre-show interviews emphasized how they went back to the original albums and tried to re-create the symphonic score. I also wasn’t too sure what to think when I saw the odd stage setup, with the symphony fairly far back on the stage, behind sound barriers.

But from the opening notes of “Got to Get You into My Life”, the cast quickly put my fears to rest. They were interactive, relaxed, somewhat improvisational—all around very entertaining. They did provide a reasonable simulation of what might have happened had the actual Beatles ever been able to play their songs live with a symphony, and without all the squealing.

They came out initially garbed in Ed Sullivan Show-style suits, then during “Yesterday”, everyone but “Paul” left the stage, and came back in Sgt. Pepper gear. (“Paul” caught up with them partway through the next number.) Highlights of the first half included hearing the amazing Larry Larson on the “Penny Lane” trumpet solo; “A Little Help from my Friends” as sung by their drummer, a much better vocalist than Ringo; and a searing performance of my favorite Beatles song, “A Day in the Life”, which closed out the first half.

Beatles in Pepper gear

It was a pretty good turnout for the show, but it seemed to me that the crowd was a bit subdued—at least those in front and beside me. Who were probably mostly symphony subscribers first, Beatles fans second.

Nevertheless, everyone really seemed to get into it during the second, with “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” turning into a major clap-along, singalong, fun-fest that mostly continued into “Yellow Submarine”. Since I’ve been reporting on clothes, I’ll say that this half featured the hippie Beatles look, complete with John’s white suit, long hair, and mustaches.

They also broke out of the strictly Beatles format and gave us “Live and Let Die”, one of the numbers that best took advantage of the symphonic power available. For fairness, we also got “Imagine”. We weren’t sure if there would be encores at this type of show, but there were 2 or 3, actually. The first was “Hey Jude” (after a bit of a humorous false start, as “George” struggled to get guitar plugged in, prompting a do-over: At least we know it was all live), which of course become another singalong, men vs. women at one point. (“Paul” declared the women had it.)

Then we had just the band on “Twist and Shout”, for which the audience stayed on their feet dancing, and “whoo-ing” along at all the appropriate times. And “Can’t Buy Me Love” to close out the show.

Definitely one of the most fun symphony concerts I’ve ever been to.


Our programs didn’t include the set list, so the first half is approximate, based on what I recalled at intermission. The second half, I actually wrote down as we went.

Part I

  1. KW Symphony – Beatles medley, including “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”
  2. Got to Get You Into My Life
  3. I Saw Her Standing There
  4. A Hard Day’s Night
  5. Yesterday
  6. All You Need Is Love
  7. Eleanor Rigby
  8. Penny Lane
  9. Here Comes the Sun
  10. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band / A Little Help from My Friends
  11. A Day in the Life

Part II

  1. Magical Mystery Tour
  2. I Am the Walrus
  3. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
  4. Yellow Submarine
  5. Come Together
  6. Dear Prudence
  7. The Long and Winding Road
  8. Live and Let Die
  9. Imagine
  10. Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight


  1. Hey, Jude
  2. Twist’n’Shout
  3. Can’t Buy Me Love