Thursday, April 27, 2017

I, DANIEL BLAKE (Directed by Ken Loach) ***** plus

Widower Daniel Blake, (Dave Johns) a 59-year-
old joiner living in Newcastle, has had a heart attack at work. Though his cardiologist has advised him not to return to work, Daniel is deemed fit to do so after a work assessment interview. He is frustrated to learn that his doctor was not contacted about the decision, and applies for an appeal, a process he finds difficult because he is not a computer man. So many attempts are foiled for him.

Daniel befriends a single mother, Katie, (Haley Squires) after she is sanctioned for arriving late for a job centre appointment.

Katie and her children have moved to Newcastle from a homeless hostel in London.  Daniel helps the family by repairing objects, teaching them how to heat rooms without electricity, and crafting wooden toys for the children. Katie is overcome by hunger and breaks down. After she is caught shoplifting, a security guard offers her work as an escort. Daniel surprises her at the brothel, where he begs her to give up the job, but she tearfully insists she has no choice to feed her children.

As a condition for receiving job seekers allowance for work, he must attend a resume workshop, pound the pavements and provide proof of it all. estate. He is offered a job in a scrap yard, but has to turn it down for health reasons. When Daniel's work coach tells him he must work harder to find a job, Daniel spraypaints "I, Daniel Blake, demand my appeal date before I starve" on the building. He earns the support of passersby, including other benefits’ claimants, but is arrested and given a police warning. Daniel sells most of his belongings and becomes withdrawn.
On the day of Daniel's appeal, Katie accompanies him to court. A welfare adviser tells Daniel that his case looks sound.  He will win. The ending is tragic. This amazing well acted film is a cry against the British financial support system for those in need. It kills its applicants slowly but surely.
No sentimentality, just decency and heart from the characters. The acting is exquisite. This is this century's most important film.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Alain Lefèvre and Walter Boudreau Shake the Earth

A performance of indescribable brilliance  
                                            Maison Symphonique de Montréal, January 15th, 2013

Alain Lefèvre

On Tuesday evening January 15th, pianist Alain Lefèvre performed the astonishing Concerto “l’Asile (Création Mondiale) with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal under the baton of Ludovic Morlot. It was composed by Walter Boudreau. The unforgettable concert took place inside the gloriously new Maison Symphonique de Montréal. 

Geniuses – mad geniuses – that is what this concert was about. It took Mr. Boudreau about three years to compose the work whose three movements embody the tortuous life of the late Claude Gavreau, a visionary who inspired the creation of Mr. Boudreau’s concerto. Collaborating intensively with Mr. Lefèvre on the superhuman endeavour, Mr. Boudreau knew that it would take one of the world’s greatest pianists - also a world-class composer - to achieve the final rendering and performance of his massively difficult masterpiece. He knew he wanted to create alongside Alain Lefèvre.

Walter Boudreau

 Mr. Boudreau wrote the work in four years “in and out” as a tribute to the avant-garde Quebec poet and author Claude Gauvreau (1925-1971). 

Claude Gauvreau

During his short life the poet experimented heavily with LSD, modified the French language turning into a new form of incomprehensible poetic communication. He never achieved the recognition or the support which he so wished for. This tragic figure may have ended his life, but his ideas lived on - championed by another mad genius, Mr. Boudreau who is very much alive; he is also the director and conductor of the SMCQ. 
The twelve-tone composition he composed demanded the most prolific piano playing through the 45 minute-long work. Mr. Lefèvre’s herculean technique combined with his immeasurable passion was breathtaking. Hands crossing over hands, non-stop lightning speed cadenzas up and down the keys, octaves, and trills and syncopated lines whose first beats had to join up with the  percussive section, then the flutes, sometimes the horns and strings. Nothing seemed or was written to magically connect together, and yet it all did, in a way that was more fantastic than one could believe possible. In fact, Mr.Boudreau explained that he created this work so that the piano – represented the poet Gauvreau who was off on its own trying to connect to the orchestra which more or less represented the indifference of society. Rhythmically unpredictable is the composition; both protagonists (piano and orchestra symbolizing Gauvreau and society respectively) seemed to embody the pain and punishment endured by Gauvreau himself. Orchestra and piano had a challenging task keeping up with the other. In fact, six minutes into the work, Maestro   Morlot stopped it all, and started the performance again – having left out an entire page! Was it any wonder Mr. Lefèvre kept a handkerchief atop the piano. 
I felt Mr.Lefèvre carried the lion’s share of élan for the entire performance. His extraordinary understanding of the concerto combined with his earth-shattering technique marvelously communicated the dramatic intensity in this exciting work. 
I began to feel that he knew the night had to lie with him. At times, the percussion was a nano-second off the timing of the piano punctuating entrances and final notes, but it was explained to me, that orchestra and pianist had four hours of rehearsal to pull it all together. 
As for the composition itself, the first movement burst into our ears like a tsunami. It rarely let up. The second movement resembled a slow macabre dance. There were heart-breaking moments of utter beauty in melody line but that did not last for long. A sudden interjection of horn would break it all and then the intentional chaos would once again commence. Prokofiev, Schoenberg and Rachmaninov rolled into one is what I could hear; Scriabin, Stravinsky and Liszt as well. Now take the hardest most prodigiously taxing bars to play in all these composers and know that such rigorous demands constitute the entire concerto. Rarely was Mr. Lefèvre allowed to rest. Like the tormented soul of Mr. Gauvreau himself, this great pianist – a world treasure - personified this poet’s genius. He did so with relentless passion and pianistic perfection. This trio of mad geniuses enthralled me! 
This concert was recorded by Radio-Canada’s Espace Musique and will be broadcast coast to coast next January 22nd at the “Soirees Classiques” hosted by Mario Paquet. Alain will present the Concerto de l’Asile again this Season with the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec and its conductor Fabien Gabel on 
May 29th and 30th.

 CD now on Anelekta Label.


The Run-down on the Montreal International Jazz Festival

This year (2017) marks this world's most iconic jazz festival's 38th year... and with it, 17 countries  beyond North America are now added to the rostrum of iconic artists performing at this year’s extraordinary Équipe Spectra event (presented by TD Bank Group in collaboration with Rio Tinto). These additional countries include: Norway, Brazil, Armenia and New Zealand. Now that’s exciting – as is the world-class line-up of the tried and true:  Bob Dylan, King Crimson, The O’Jays, The Four Tops, Melissa Etheridge, Pink Martini and so many more 'gotta-see-greats' are performing. The festival is proudly international; the music composed by virtuoso instrumentalists and vocal artists embraces all genres and sounds: acoustic folk, classical, gospel, old world, classic moods and Caribbean rhythms. You’re going to discover a  planet of new musicians: solo artists, duos, trios, bands and spectacular shows at 11 venues. And don’t forget those free outdoor concerts too. Visit the website at Book your tickets; they go on sale April 28th. The festival runs from June 28th to July 8th. 


Photos taken at press conference, April 25th at L'Astral
top photo: Festival Co-founder and Artistic Director, André Ménard announcing Bob Dylan
photos 2 - 4: Festival programmers, Laurnen Saulnier &  Maurin Auxéméry

JAZZ FEST (2015)

(2016 concert reviews)

Wainwright Sisters: a Beautiful Duo
Théậtre de Rideau Vert, July 7th, 2016 (Jazz fest)
              ( photos from concert:


Lucy Wainwright Roche lives in New York, Martha Wainwright in Saint-Sauveur,  but they sill manage to do umpteen tours each year. And so we are rather lucky to, for these tow gals have voices whose blending vocals are heavenly. Lucy is like a young Joan Baez. Martha’s voice is an enigmatic mix Emmylou Harris and Bonny Raitt. Textures come in tapestries with her, and unlike a still carpet, she is more kinetic on stage than her calm sister. They are perfectly pitched foils for one another.

Their range is staggering. Martha is able to achieve simultaneously in a single melody line crackle and velvet combos. It's crazy.  Her song, “Around About” moves from high to low in one sentence, sporting blues and passion.
Martha is akin to a palomino; Lucy is a lovely loon.
They performed songs mainly from their latest 2015 album, Songs in the Dark. Both chuckled saying the songs are "slightly depressing lullabies”. 

On “Baby Rocking Medley”, the lyric offers wailing newborns up for adoption willingly; while from the cover of Richard Thompson’s “The End of the Rainbow”, it was sad. The song says: “There’s nothing to grow up for anymore”, one believes this is the real song that hit the most morbid of lullaby songs in the repertoire delivered in the concert.
 Archangel, Martha’s little son  cheered us all up when he came out  on stage holding a violin and bow. he made more of a fuss abut trying to sit on the high stool than playing; in fact, he didn't play. Looking up at his mother, waiting for his cue to play, he may have missed his mark. At the end, he took a bow, and it brought instant laughter.
Full of family anecdotes punched with self-deprecating humour, the pair invited us into their lives through their stories and their magical songs.

Archer Hits the target of Honesty

Australian singer, opened for the sisters. His vocal style interweaves skiffle and mountain old time. His songs center around the outback, nature, death,  hobo days and of course kangaroos - all very homespun, fun and serious.
 It was the kind of performance best suited to a  cozy cafe rather than this impersonal theatre.  My biggest concern was his diction; it seems to stay between his teeth; he was hard to understand. One suspects he is far more a songwriter than a singer. He’s a raw unpretentious artist, and that's rare these days.

Prima Donna: Rufus Wainwright’s Premier Opera
 (Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Place des Arts, July 2nd)


Part One ran 60 minutes, presented as an encounter of lyric opera and the visual arts. An opera in two acts, Prima Donna relates the story of a diva, Régine Saint-Laurent, inspired by soprano Maria Callas and exploring the themes of doubt, old age and art. It was presented in an abridged format by an orchestra led by American conductor Jayce Ogren, a rising classical music star, with three high-caliber soloists: internationally renowned soprano Québécois Lyne Fortin, equally renowned Québécois tenor Antonio Figueroa and dazzling American soprano Kathryn Guthrie. The performance combined contemporary film soundtrack by Italian artist and director Francesco Vezzoli, with Cindy Sherman playing Maria Callas. It was a true spectacle employing visuals in a big way on the back screen projection.

Post-intermission offered many of the artist’s numero unos. It was a full concert of surprises and anecdotes. Always real, always funny and always surprising. Rufus Wainwright bares his eccentric soul in each of his concerts, and his performance demonstrated this with flamboyancy and genius.


Sunday, April 23, 2017


The success of a culture or country must not be based on the suppression of another.

Dogs never give up; humans barely even try.

Courtesy is a state of mind, not a momentary utterance, but I’ll take the latter any time.

Whining works wonders for people to leave you alone – even when you want them to stay.

Cell phones destroy human cells; it takes energy to do that. That is why cell phones go dead so quickly.

Shopping is medicine for the bored mind.

When not asked, the only person interested in what you are saying about yourself is only yourself.

God gave us a beautiful earth; we gave ourselves the facility to destroy it.

 Pride is the root of all evil and the catalyst for lying. Jesus will help you over that hurdle and then you are free. Disassociate yourself from those who lie and malign you to your face and behind your back.

American modus operandi: “Go for the gun”!!! Babies are shot, little kids are shot, teens are shot, adults are shot, grannies are shot; granddads are shot, but for Americans, this is their right –  their cherished form of  freedom – free expression, and the right to not just bear arms but to shoot arms off.
Maybe first nation Americans should bring up their right to scalp to protect themselves too. After all, that action is as old as the right to bear arms. Each is barbaric, but gun killing is more barbaric.  Get- a-gun law was written by literate folk who ought to have known better.  No matter how many or who gets shot, Americans behave as savages disguised in a suit. Civilized? My eye!

How can you expect people to understand you when you don’t understand them - let alone yourself?

The noblest sibling is the one who gets shunned, yet never speaks negatively about the one who did it. 

A friend is like a flower in a field of weeds. If you pick one, water it every day to keep it blooming near you. As for the weeds, they're all around, so keep your eyes open for that flower. 

You never need to explain yourself to one who loves you. However, you will always be explaining to those who don't. 

Love is life's longest journey yet it only takes a second to fall from grace. 

Silence is not golden when you need someone to talk to you; tell them. 

People who criticize are not just unhappy with you, but also with themselves. Still, what they say you must consider; it sometimes shows you how you are perceived, and they may be right, but it shows you more about them. 

Have ever noticed that as we age, we become more balanced in our lives, yet our balance is one of the first things to go. Don't fall!

A lot of people can laugh at themselves wanting you to believe they really are humble; but deep down, they know they are prideful.  

Humans bond better and more profoundly with animals than they do with their own ken. That's because we are more primitive than we would like to think. We are beasts begging for love from our animal/pets. And we get it from them - far more and forever than we get from humans.
When babies are born, they cry; ever wonder why they don't laugh? They instinctively know life is painful; they express this the moment they are born. It’s an adult’s duty to make them laugh as much as possible – even though we are wracked with pain.

Love God, give yourself to him, and feel the peace within. 

Loneliness stalks us, but look not to others to fill your void. A simple greeting to a stranger works wonders. Enjoy the child you pass outside. Study the patterns in a leaf; look at a single cloud or blade of grass, and realize you are not alone. You are an integral part of it all - even though the universe is as infinite as a black hole.

Don't judge others, but judge yourself with gentleness with a view to eliminating behavior that harms you and others. 

Failure is simply a risk you took that didn't pan out.

Boredom happens because you're making yourself, rather than others, the centre of your life. Not giving to others is a no go. You are here to give to others. Contrary to popular belief, being wrapped up in yourself can cause endless boredom and dissatisfaction to others and to yours truly. 

Once you accept that you are basically an instrument of God, you will not feel the need to lie; you don't have to pretend you are him.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

KEMTIYU-SEEX ANTA (Directed by Ousmane William M’Baye) *

Archival stills and film clips attempt to reveal the genius of Cheikah Anita Diop. This brilliant Senrgalese man went to Paris’s Sorbonne to study philosophy as a young man, and also chemistry. He became an advocate for proving Egypt was not European , but a nation of blacks. In fact, it is African. He wrote volumes on African history, and upon returning to Senegal, opened up a carbon 14 laboratory. This wonderful man was arrested for his beliefs on Egypt, and only got his due after his death, when the University in Dakar’s name changed to take on his name.  He died in 1986 at the age of 63. What a loss! The film was far too long, and the assortment of people who were interviewed were so many that the film in trying to distil his life turned into a talking heads historical narration that did not truly capture this great man’s passion. (Screened at Vues d”Afrique)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


It’s farewell to Alain Lefèvre – renown artistic director of Lanaudière Festival for decades, and hello to the highly gregarious Gregory Charles, a gifted man of superb artistic talents: a comedian, a pianist, owner of two celebrated radio stations and a passionate crusader for music. His career as an entertainer has spanned some 25 years. His popularity is second to none.

It’s a celebratory year for the festival as it enters its 40th season and new beginnings are afoot. M r. Charles expressed his determination to make the festival totally inclusive regarding classical music reaching far beyond Lanaudière’s pristine setting. 

Having grown up with music in his family, his global outlook is not surprising. After all, for ten years, he brought together more than 80,000 choristers from around the world as artistic director of Mondial choral de Laval, a musical event that reached over a million listeners, and his TV appearances are pretty much internationally broadcasted.

Kent Nagano

 The season’s opening concert fittingly presents Alain Lefèvre in an OSM concert with its music director Kent Nagano. The organ and orchestra will open this July1st evening program with a work by Samy Moussa performed by Jean-Willy Kunz . Ravel’s “Concerto in G” which is them followed with the final piece, Mahler’s mighty “Fifth Symphony”. Exciting music for sure.  

Also in the concert series are I Musici de Montréal and Les Violins du Roy. A banquet of timeless composers are being featured this summer, but it’s rare to hear Emily Oulousian, winner of the Virtose 2016 play “Grieg’s Piano Concerto”. That same night, (Saturday, July 15th), Zhan Hong Xiao, winner of the Virtose 2017, will be playing Liszt’s “Piano Concerto No.1”. The final concert for the festival is Wagner’s 4-hour “Parsifal” – conducted by

Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Yannick Nézet-Séguin. This opera has not been heard in Quebec for a century. Now you have the chance to hear it. Wow!

Music will be spilling out of everywhere in the area, including chamber music and more inside four churches. The pickings, including jazz and Broadway musical numbers are so exciting, so please consult the website for the line up of concerts, ticket reservations and venues.  You can also call 1-800-245-7636 or 450-759-7636.The festival runs from July 1st to August 6th.

                               THE MIRACULOUS MATCH OF LEFÈVRE AND NAGANO
July 1st – Canada’s 150th birthday celebrated two iconic artists at Lanaudiere’s sterling festival. Alan Lefèvre former president of the festival delivered a short but passionate reveal about what the festival meant for him: home. He pleaded for the world to uphold classical music festivals the world over and equated it with the highest values of democracy. 



His astounding performance of Ravel’s “Concerto for piano in G major” was so sublime.  Right hand trilling as the left hand took up the melody displayed such graceful, nuanced expression imbedded in an incomparable technique. A powerhouse of energy, his presto was breathlessly leviathan.
Kent Nagano brilliantly paired his majestic maestro conducting both with the pianist and his beloved Montreal Symphony Orchestra. So dedicated is he, he was pouring sweat by the end of the Mahler performance – a complex work in five movements of vigorous challenges:  5th in C minor – a dazzling demanding  complex program number that never seemed to end. The Adagietto was so heartfelt, and evoked palpable awe from the audience.
The opening 11-minute work by Samy Moussa  “A Globe Itself Infolding” was like a chrysalis unfolding as a metaphor for the slow and beautiful birth of the world. The organ, played by Jean-Willy Kunz, was movingly incorporated at key moments and was most profound in its impact.
When rain broke out, Mahler had his story moment, yet nothing could dampen the outpouring of excitement and awe when the evening ended in thunderous applause. The concert was a long one – almost 3 hours. We got our money’s worth through divine music.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A RIDE IN THE COFFIN (Directed by Pluvio Benko) **

A cute film that brings two people hitchhiking at separate times together in the back of a pick-up truck in Rwanda. One hides in a coffin; the other is one her way to to meet the journalist who has
made an appointment with her. The guy in the coffin has a secret crush on her, and that’s why he made the appointment, but the greatest story occurs during the ride. An unusual little story for a shorat Vues Festival)

the two actors in the film