A recent week, Saturday: Voices, Sax and Syn by the Laudate Singers, a North Shore choral group conducted by Lars Kaario, at St. Andrews United on Lower Lonsdale in North Vancouver. The concerts I’ve been to before are polished performances, the venue has an intimate feel, and at intermission you get the warming, small-town surprise of complimentary cookies baked by choir members.
This concert attracted a younger demographic: there were teenagers in hoodies crowding into the church along with the grey-haired regulars. It was probably Tim Tsang on the synthesizer, so cool in both appearance and performance, who drew them in, but the overall combination of the voices and the synthesizer, along with the saxophonists’ improvisations, was astonishing whether they were playing new compositions or Palestrina.
Monday: Ronnie Burkett at the Cultch (occasionally known as the Vancouver East Cultural Centre). I hadn’t seen Burkett before. Friends had raved about how he brings puppets to life, creating a miniature world so compelling that you forget he is there, holding the strings. I was looking forward to seeing his next show, but this performance was just a read-through of his next work, Penny Plain — still being workshopped and subject to lots of changes.
I say “just a read-through,” but even without the marionettes and with his frequent editorial comments, Burkett had the audience captivated. He is one of the born showmen and he blends the tragic or outrageous smoothly into his stories: there is nothing cutesy about his puppets and no censorship of plot or language.
Thursday: Denis Villeneuve’s movie Incendies at the Tinseltown theatre: it’s about a brother and sister trying to find their father after their mother’s death, as specified in her will. It’s a powerful movie, one of last year’s film festival favourites, with large parts of the action set in some unspecified parts of the Middle East. Liam Lacey, in his Globe and Mail review, describes the ending as flawed but having elements of Greek tragedy, which is about right. Something not mentioned in most reviews, however, is how the movie elevates the role of the notary to something close to superhero. Notaries everywhere should see this movie if they ever need reassurance that they are in a meaningful profession.
Friday: Back to the Cultch for a concert with Mark Berube and the Patriotic Few. Mark Berube is, yes, a Simon Fraser University grad who lived and played music in this part of the world for a while until he moved to Montreal a couple of years ago. The Cultch is the right size for this kind of experience: you feel close enough to touch the musicians. Berube and his crew create the atmosphere of a big party where people have picked up their instruments and started playing together (though Mark’s piano would be a bit of a stretch). As seems to happen with this generation of indie performers, they have guests who come on to join them throughout the evening: this time it was Dan Mangan (the man of the moment), CR Avery, Meredith Bates, and Brendan McLeod.
At the end of this week I got all patriotic myself, thinking about the variety of Canadian entertainment available any night of the week. It’s at times like this I’m glad I don’t have cable TV to distract me.