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Deans go to the theatre and music too

We don’t just read books.

I was worried it was a little personal and self-indulgent but lots of people commented on my fall reading habits. I got some good book suggestions out of it too. I’m adding to my list: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, Beverley McLachlin’s memoir Truth Be Told, and Library Book, by Susan Orlean. I enjoy connecting with people through books.

But the book post prompted a few people to ask about music and theatre. Do deans have time to do that too? I’m not sure about other deans but music and theatre are a big part of my life. Having the performing arts as part of our College makes me happy.

Theatre first. In early September in Toronto I saw Soulpepper’s production of ART, a sharp comedy about modern friendship and modern art. During trips to New York in September and November, I saw Height of the Storm with Jonathan Pryce and Pinter’s Betrayal with Tom Hiddleston. Both plays were about marriage, the former about marriage and aging, the latter about marriage and infidelity and friendship. Oh, and for less serious fun in New York I also saw a burlesque version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, called Queen of Hearts.

Here at Guelph, much closer to home, I watched a student production of War of the Worlds.

“The School of English and Theatre presents The War of the Worlds, adapted from the classic science fiction novel by H.G. Wells. Each audience member will take a different path through the production, which includes a retelling of Wells’ tale of extraterrestrial invasion and a number of immersive installations based on themes in the text that resonate in our current socio-political climate. “

I loved their use of space and how creative the students were with Massey Hall, our temporary “swing” space while renovations take place in the theatre and music wing of the MacKinnon Building.

Oh, and one more theatre outing this fall. I love living this close to Stratford. I took my mother to see the Stratford production of Billy Elliot for her birthday. We saw the closing show which was extra special watching the young actors close out the season.

Second, music. My partner and I have season tickets for Tafelmusik, a baroque orchestra and chamber choir and while it can be a rush getting to Toronto in time at the end of the work day, I never regret making the effort. Express bus to the 407 subway station and subway to Spadina, here I come, usually with time for a bite of ramen or a slice of pizza beforehand. Once this semester I got to have a real dinner first when Sarah and I attended Tafelmusik with another Guelph Dean, Gwen Chapman and her partner. Gwen is Dean of the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences and we were both in Toronto for the day attending the Council of Ontario Deans of Arts and Sciences or CODAS, as it’s called. My favourite concert this year was O’Come Sheperds,which included the Vesuvius Ensemble and special guest Tommaso Sollazzo, playing the zampogna.

Here’s their description of the concert: “The joy of the holiday season shines with the pastoral warmth of the Italian countryside. For centuries, the sound of the zampogna, special bagpipes played by shepherds, has been a central part of Italian Christmas festivities. Now you’ll hear this fabulous folk instrument in this concert blending baroque Italian Christmas concertos with the heartfelt Christmas music of Southern Italy, performed by Toronto’s own Vesuvius Ensemble.  With Corelli rubbing shoulders with the traditional Novena di Natale, and a baroque orchestra sharing space with the zampogna, ciaramella, mandolins, and traditional guitars, Tafelmusik and Vesuvius present a colourful Christmas celebration straight from the heart of Southern Italy’s warm, boisterous countryside. “

I also see a a lot of choral concerts as I have family members who sing in the Karen Schussler Singers (my daughter Mallory) and the Pride Men’s Chorus (my son Gavin is the back row), both based in London, Ontario. This coming year, 2020, it’s my goal to get out to see our own University of Guelph choirs more often as well as some of the jazz associated with our International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation. See you there! And remember, I’m new to Guelph. Suggestions of local music and theatre are welcome.

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