UPDATED! Black History Month brings music, comedy, and cultural celebrations of all kinds to Ottawa

This article first appeared in the Interiors 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.

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Pierre Kwenders, a Congolese singer-songwriter, performs a concert on February 12 at the NAC

 

FREE! BLACK HISTORY MONTH LAUNCH & OPENING CEREMONY. Jan. 31.
This year’s theme is “Our Canadian Story: Our Elders. Our Legacy!” Opening celebrations reflect on the contributions older adults have made to the Canadian mosaic. Highlights include the proclamation of the city-wide observance for this year’s Black History Month, the unveiling of commemorative Canada Post stamps, and presentations of the 2015 Black History Ottawa Community Builder Awards.
Centrepointe Theatre, 101 Centrepointe Dr., 613-580-2700, centrepointetheatre.ca

BLACK ARTISTS’ NETWORKS IN DIALOGUE. VARIOUS DATES
BAND is an organization dedicated to supporting, documenting, and showcasing the artistic and cultural contributions of Black Artists in Canada. And wow do they have a line-up! An art exhibit that questions the meaning of “minority” is on view at the GCTC; House of Paint is organizing The Origin of Beat, which explores how Afro, Caribbean, Latin, and Urban Music continue to influence contemporary music; a compendium of young black artists of the diaspora (including Annie Lefebvre, Le R, Yao, and Richard Léger) interpret great black poets of the  past in Prise de Conscience; and on Feb. 23, the Nina Project sees three amazing African-Canadian singers – Jackie Richardson, Kellylee Evans, and Shakura S’Aida – display the depth and range of Nina Simone’s legacy.

FREE! CHILDREN’S STORIES IN THE DIASPORA. Feb. 8.
Readers from the black community share children’s stories written by black authors.
Ottawa Public Library, Nepean Centrepointe Branch, Children’s Program Room, 101 Centrepointe Dr., 613-580-2700, biblioottawalibrary.ca

PIERRE KWENDERS. Feb. 12
In celebration of Black History Month, Pierre Kwenders, a Congolese singer-songwriter, performs a concert on February 12 that blends traditional and modern African rhythms — and is sure to get audiences on their feet. From $20.
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage, 53 Elgin St., 888-991-2787, nac-cna.ca

THE UNDERGROUND COMEDY RAILROAD. Feb. 16
Montreal stand-up comics Andrew Searles and Rodney Ramsey have gathered a crew of equally hilarious black comedians to bring The Underground Comedy Railroad tour to Ottawa. Daniel Woodrow and Keesha Brownie join the when they pull up to Absolute Comedy on Preston Street.

THE SPECTRUM: BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPEAKER SERIES. Feb. 20.
In partnership with the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Black Ottawa Business Network Social Group hosts speakers on topics such as health, nutrition, and exercise. Additional activities include a silent auction, Afro-Caribbean dance and poetry, and an exhibit on medical pioneers of African descent. $15.
The Royal Canadian Legion Montgomery Branch, 330 Kent St., 613-233-7292, montgomerylegion.ca

SAMMY DEAD. Feb. 21.
Written and directed by Fay Jarrett and Lorna Townsend, this play takes a lighthearted Caribbean-style approach to funerals. From $20.
Rideau Park United Church, 2203 Alta Vista Dr., 613-733-3156, rideaupark.ca

GLOBAL COMMUNITY ALLIANCE GALA NIGHT AND AWARD CEREMONY. Feb. 28.
This event celebrates the diversity in the Ottawa community and recognizes the individuals, businesses, associations, and organizations that have made a difference within it. Highlights include a keynote speaker, award presentations, and entertainment. $65.
Sheraton Ottawa Hotel, 150 Albert St., 613-238-1500, sheratonottawa.com

For complete schedule, visit blackhistoryottawa.org.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Mark Bourrie’s Kill the Messengers “one of the most damning books ever written about a sitting prime minister”

By PAUL GESSELL

It’s all about “the base,” that 30 per cent or so of voters who are on the right-leaning flank of the electorate, the people who can be counted on to support Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, as long as the prime minister continues to give them what they want. With that 30 per cent locked up, Harper only has to woo another 10 per cent of voters. In our multi-party, first-past-the-post system, winning 40 per cent of the vote at election time can be enough to form a majority.

The Mike Duffy Senate scandal was supposedly all about “the base,” according to the man at the centre of the expense controversy. Duffy told the Senate that he had a meeting with Harper and his then-chief of staff, Nigel Wright, soon after news reports surfaced alleging the senator had fudged his expense accounts.

“I said that despite the smear in the papers I had not broken the rules,” Duffy claims he told Harper and Wright. “But the prime minister wasn’t interested in explanations or the truth. It’s not about what you did. It’s the perception of what you did that has been created by the media. The rules are inexplicable to our base.”

Kill the Messengers hits bookstores Jan. 27

Kill the Messengers hits bookstores Jan. 27

In other words, the Conservative “base” would disapprove of Duffy living high on the hog at taxpayers’ expense, even if the senator had broken no rules. The verdict: Duffy had to go.

Now Duffy is hardly an unbiased person in this story. But his version of events plays into widespread attitudes about Stephen Harper — namely that, right or wrong, his main concern is to nurture that 30 per cent of the electorate.

Such sentiments are at the heart of Mark Bourrie’s tough, new book, Kill the Messengers: Stephen Harper’s Assault on Your Right to Know. The book paints Harper as ruthlessly attacking and even silencing journalists, scientists, judges, environmentalists, and intellectuals in a drive to remake Canada, rewrite our history, and keep the Conservatives in power. It is one of the most damning books ever written about a sitting prime minister.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Paint Nite brings rookie artists, friends, and couples to local pubs

By JENNIFER CAMPBELL

Paint Nite at the Clocktower Pub in Westboro

Instructor Olga Climova talks participants through the process of recreating “Italy” at Paint Nite at the Clocktower Pub in Westboro

It’s a Monday night and the ClockTower Pubin Westboro has had a makeover. Instead of sports fans watching the Sens on mammoth screens, rows of 35 easels and canvases line the back room. It looks more like a kindergarten room than a pub.

At the head of the class, instructor Olga Climova is handing out aprons and paper plates covered with blobs of paint. Red, yellow, blue, black and white. That’s it. Those are all the colours these budding Picassos will need for tonight’s lesson/creation.

Their mission? To recreate a painting from Paint Nite’s (their spelling) gallery. Tonight’s painting is (not-so-creatively) called “Italy.” It’s a silhouette of a big-wheeled bicycle leaning against a sunny yellow brick wall. The budding artists — all but three are women, the average age is 30 — wield paint brushes, wine glasses, and a positive attitude to go with their lack of experience. Only one says she’s had formal training; the others are complete newbies.

Michelle Madill

Michelle Madill

In spite of its questionable spelling and boiler-plate painting designs (local artists such as Climova must choose a painting to teach from a gallery prescribed by Paint Nite), the Boston-headquartered company is now global. It’s been in Ottawa — operating out of bars and restaurants downtown and as far afield as Orleans and Kanata — for a year, but it also has chapters in China, Australia, Ghana, Hong Kong, South Africa, and the U.K. It’s in Canada’s largest cities and even some smaller spots in Ontario (think Peterborough.)

Michelle Madill, a nurse who’s having her first baby in a month, was there with her friends Kristan Wadden and Connie Tuttle, who was six days away from giving birth.

“We’re trying to get lots of girl time in before they deliver,” Wadden says with a laugh.

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WEEKENDER: Four things to do on the weekend of January 22 to 25

BY MATT HARRISON

Emma Slipp, Graeme McComb photo by Mark Halliday - compressed

Emma Slipp & Graeme McComb in Moss Park at the GCTC. Photo by Mark Halliday

Moss (F******) Park
“I want to write f******-up plays about f****** people in a f******-up world!” — that’s George F. Walker speaking to the Ottawa Citizen back in May about being a playwright. In his latest, dark comedic offering — Moss Park — Walker remains true to his aims by delivering a play about a young couple with a baby who struggle to “make ends meet” though they have “no prospects and no money.” One last stab at “making it” involves a “money-making” scheme by Bobby that collides with Tina’s “dreams of home sweet home.” Moss Park launched earlier this week, and runs until February 8 at the Great Canadian Theatre Co. Show times are Thursday, Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4:30 and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets from $15. Special pay-what-you-can matinee on Sunday, January 25 at 2 p.m.
GCTC is at 1233 Wellington St. W.

Photos Celebrate ‘Beauty’ in DRC
The Democratic Republic of Congo has been decimated by decades-old civil war, with women in particular suffering from widespread sexual violence — in fact, the eastern part of the country has been dubbed the “rape capital of the world.” Amidst all of this brutality — a grassroots movement of Congolese women working in communities to support survivors of sexual violence. This is the subject of the photographic work by celebrated war photographer Pete Muller (TIME, New York Times), which is being launched on Thursday, January 22 at the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa (SPAO). The exhibit, Beauty in the Middle: Women of Congo Speak Out, features intimate photos and videos that “tell the story of the conflict and how sexual violence has impacted women – both activists and survivors.” The event will feature guest speaker Julienne Lusenge, founder and director of the Fond pour les Femmes Congolaises. It will include music, hors d’oeuvres, and a cash bar. You will also have a chance to bid on stunning prints from the exhibit during a live auction, and buy handcrafted items made by women in the DRC. Tickets for the event are $45, but only $15 for non-waged and students. The vernissage on Thursday takes place at SAW Gallery from 5 to 7 p.m. More info, visit here. The exhibit is up until February 6.
SAW Gallery is at 67 Nicholas St.

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George Thomson’s “Blue Mountain, May,” 1931, oil on canvas, courtesy of AGO.

Tom Thomson’s ‘Forgotten’ Brother (FREE!)
Must’ve sucked — at least a little — that your younger brother got all the fame and you were largely forgotten … well, not entirely forgotten, because a new exhibit opening Thursday, January 22 at the Ottawa Art Gallery looks at the ‘forgotten’ Thomson: George, Tom Thomson‘s older brother. George’s work in Two Roads Diverged in a Wood is explored through Toronto-based artist Jon Sasaki, whose art pays homage to the ‘other Thomson’ using different lighting techniques.
In Home Away from Home, Aboriginal narratives  — so often neglected or negated — are inserted into moments in Canadian history. This exhibit includes the work of Gerald McMaster, Barry Ace, Rosalie Favell, Ron Noganosh, Jane Ash Poitras, and Jeff Thomas.
Making the familiar seem strange, disorientating, and alien seems to be the intent behind Andrew Wright‘s photographic work in Pretty Lofty and Heavy All At Once. In this exhibit, the artist’s works demonstrate a deliberate re-orientation of the camera in order to alter our normal perceptions of the ordinary.
All three exhibits are are part of the Ottawa Art Gallery’s vernissage on Thursday. It’s free. All three exhibits will be open until May.
The OAG is at 2 Daly Ave.

Rideau Hall Winter Wonderland (FREE!)
Winterlude is still a week away… but in a sort of unofficial lead-up to the annual winter festival, Rideau Hall is hosting a free weekend event that apparently inaugurates the “Year of Sport” in Canada… (Honestly, who’s job is it to determine what this “Year” will be? — oh, it’s the guy who lives at Rideau Hall. Makes sense.). Regardless of Saturday, January 24‘s ‘loftier goals’, the afternoon will involve Nordic-like sports for the entire family: dog sledding, kick sledding (smaller sled where you ‘kick’ back and propel the sled forward — no dogs), a giant ski race (a race between giants on skis or a really big ski race?!?), horse-drawn wagon rides, skating on the historic outdoor rink, pelting a poor snowman with snowballs (fear not, the snowman signed a waiver), snow soccer juggling (okay, now they’re just making stuff up)… plus tours of the residence, and hot beverages & snacks…
The Winter Celebration starts at 12:30 p.m. and goes until 4 p.m. Participants are asked to bring a non-perishable food item and an item of winter clothing for the Ottawa Food Bank and the Snowsuit Fund.
Rideau Hall is at 1 Sussex Dr.

WEEKENDER: Five things to do on the weekend of January 15 to 18

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Sheilagh Tennant (Artruist Ltd) 2008

Robbie Burns Day
Haggis — and that’s all you may associate with Robbie Burns Day. But did you know the following about the much lauded Scottish poet who’s celebrated on January 15? — He wrote the words to Auld Lang Syne, that “song” we all mumble through when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve; six of his nine children died; and he once took a diamond-tipped pen and scratched a poem on the window of an inn, writing that the Royals were an “idiot race.” Nice. Real nice Robbie.
The poet, pioneer of the Romantic Movement, and political activist’s b-day (Robbie Burns Day) will be celebrated in poetry and song at the National Arts Gallery on Thursday, January 15. Writer/performer Gail Anglin, proud Scot Stuart Jardine, baritone Fraser Gordon, and classical guitarist Shawn Peters will be presenting Ottawa Storyteller’s Robbie Burns: A Man’s a Man for A’ That. It starts at 7:30 p.m.; tickets are $22.
NAC is at 53 Elgin St.

Pulitzer Prize/Tony Prize-winning Play
A black family seeks to buy a home in a predominantly white neighbourhood of Chicago — flash forward 50 years and that white neighbourhood is now mostly black and gentrifying; a white couple wants to move in and build a much larger home, but they come up against a black couple representing the neighbourhood association. The scene is set for conflict.
Clybourne Park is a Pulitzer Prize/Tony Prize-winning play, which is being put on by Ottawa Little Theatre,  which runs until the end of January. This satirical comedy examines race relations (serendipitously, considering recent racial tensions in the U.S.) and challenges ideas concerning ‘neighbourhoods.’ Tickets from $22. All evening shows are at 7:30 p.m.; all weekend matinees are at 2 p.m. No shows on Monday. More info, visit here.
Ottawa Little Theatre, 400 King Edward Ave.

Black Lit Burlesque
Remember sitting in a darkened room, smoking whatever, listening to something mildly psychedelic, and staring at the gleaming — nah glowing — teeth of the person next to you? That ‘effect’ was probably from a black light — the same that will be used to maximum effect in Lights Out: Black Light Burlesque and Variety Show at Arts Court on Friday, January 16. Produced by Frisque Femmes’ Kitty Kin-Evil and Sassy Muffin, the show is being billed as a “complete black light show from beginning to end.” The performance will feature comedy, drag, boylesque, contortion, and burlesque — plus body painting and prizes. Come early for cocktail hour where complimentary hors d’oeuvres will be served (7:30 to 8:30 p.m.); the performance starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $30. This is a 19+ event. More info, visit here.
Arts Court is at 2 Daly Ave.

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By Henri Michaux

Speaking of Erotic…
“Unbridled” is how master choreographer Marie Chouinard’s Henri Michaux: Mouvements dance performance on Saturday, January 17 is being described. It features 10 dancers forming “stunning silhouettes and sequences to mirror projections of drawings” by the artist, whose works resemble figures in the throes of dance. Following Henri Michaux’s performance, Chouinard immerses the audience in the haunting music of French modernist composer Erik Satie. In Gymnopedies, dancers take turns playing the piano whilst the others perform “sensual, erotic duets” to the music. Note: the performances include strobe effects and some nudity. Tickets, from $40. Show is at 7:30 p.m. in the NAC Theatre. More info, visit here.
The NAC is at 53 Elgin St.

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Photo: Len Ward of arts & architecture inc.

Speaking of Nudity…
As you may know by now, dragon boat racing is kind of a thing in this city — the annual Dragon Boat Festival (June 25-28) at Mooney’s Bay Park is a growing phenomenon. This year, the Psirens — an Ottawa woman’s dragon boat racing team — has decided to go all nude-y for a calendar to raise funds for the Ottawa Dragon Boat Foundation. Why bare all? The goal of the calendar is to not only raise funds, but also to promote fitness and sport and “portray the confidence and optimism that run through the team” — through some very nude photography, with (of course) paddles strategically placed.
The calendar launch is happening on Sunday, January 18 at the Sir John A. Pub. Calendars will be $20; you can also meet the Psirens, get autographs, and be photographed with the ladies. Event starts at 5 p.m.
Sir John A. Pub is at 248 Elgin St.

 

ARTFUL BLOGGER: Ottawa body parts shipped to Halifax

BY PAUL GESSELL

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Musketball!, 2012, Howie Tsui, courtesy of the artist. Photo credit: Paul Litherland

There is a distinct Ottawa sensibility to a collection of most unusual human body parts being exhibited in Halifax from Jan. 15 to March 8.

The exhibition at Dalhousie University Art Gallery is called Anatomica and is designed to highlight “the aesthetics, cultural legacies and allure of anatomical imagery.” The exhibition curator is Cindy Stelmackowich, an Ottawa artist best known for her own medically-themed art, often employing centuries-old medical textbook illustrations.

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WEEKENDER: A few things to do on the weekend of January 8 to 11

BY MATT HARRISON

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Reid McLachlan – Cube Roots Meditation

Slim pickins’ this week — I’m afraid it’s a slow start to the New Year, with (and I’m guessing here) most of us feeling more inclined to bask in the glow of a plasma TV screen then go out and brave the unrelenting blast of Arctic chill that’s been pummeling the city all week. BUT, if you DO decide to venture forth into the bitterly cold, here are few events worth checking out:

Toasting “Old Tomorrow”

The Monarchist League (sounds like a group of Super Heroes culled from the Royals of the world) is hosting a 200th anniversary b-day party for Sir John A. Macdonald!
This social takes place on Friday, January 9 at the HMCS Bytown Wardroom (Naval Officer Mess). I know — you’re wondering how one celebrates Sir John A.’s b-day? Given that Macdonald was a bit of an alcoholic, I’m not surprised that there will be a “low priced cash bar,” — there will also be fun games: a quiz show (and prizes), food, and cake! Plus, get revved for a speech by Kevin MacLeod (CVO, CD, Canadian Secretary to the Queen) plus a special appearance by Sir John A. himself! The event is $20, and starts at 6 p.m.
HMCS Bytown Wardroom (Naval Officer Mess) is at 78 Lisgar Street

Cube Turns 10!
Kudos to Don Monet for having opened an art gallery in the dead of winter… ballsy. Especially 10 years ago when— if my memory serves right — businesses and restaurants were struggling to coax Ottawans away from their couches. In the past decade, however, that’s changed …to a degree — and if by degree you don’t mean punishing low temperatures. However, if you’re not one to let subzero affect you’re weekend plans, then come out to Sunday’s vernissage at Cube Gallery and celebrate a decade of art with Monet and his group show of works by artists who have shown at the gallery over the past 10 years — works by such artists as Barbara Gamble, Patti Normand, Reid MacLachlan, and many others. The vernissage takes place on Sunday, January 11 from 2 to 5 p.m.
Cube Gallery is at 1285 Welllington St. W.

The Golden Globes
Is it “fun” to watch other people win awards? If so, then you’re probably psyched for The Golden Globes being handed out this Sunday evening (January 11). The Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s answer to the Oscars is the first of the New Year’s many glitzy affairs celebrating the performing arts. (Some see the Golden Globes as the ‘real’ Oscars, others merely a barometer for what to expect at the aforementioned Hollywood event.) Regardless, it’s another excuse to get together with friends and drink and eat. Gasp at Julianna Moore’s fashion faux pas; get confused by whatever smart thing Benedict Cumberbatch says; laugh with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (okay, that actually might be worth watching). Sidedoor Contemporary Kitchen & Bar is hosting a Golden Globe Party, featuring drinks, tapas, and dessert + swag bag by Demes, an “all-natural” and “cruelty-free” skin care co. Tickets are from $40. The night is not-for-profit, with cover going to pay for the party, plus $5 per ticket going to support the Ottawa Humane Society. More info, visit here.
Sidedoor Contemporary Kitchen & Bar is at 18 York St.

WEEKENDER: NYE edition & beyond

BY MATT HARRISON

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It’s (great) being Scottish! (FREE!)
“We’re the lowest of the low … The most wretched, miserable, servile, pathetic trash that was ever sh*t into civilization. Some hate the English. I don’t. They’re just wankers. We, on the other hand, are COLONIZED by wankers. Can’t even find a decent culture to be colonized BY….” — Mark Renton, Trainspotting

Contrary to Ewan McGregor’s character in Trainspotting, this week in particular is a great time to be Scottish. That’s because it’s Hogmanay (the Scottish equivalent to NYE), which is being celebrated at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park on NYE. The event is free, and features family-friendly Scottish activities, including traditional dancing, a highland pipes band, scotch tasting (o-kay, that’s not family friendly), skating, and fireworks. There will even be a 7 p.m. countdown for the little ’uns. The party will continue into the evening with Canada’s own Glass Tiger performing — er, Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone). It’s free. Starts at 6 p.m.
Aberdeen Pavilion is at 1015 Bank St.

NERF, Werewolves & LEGO
I’m sure that by now, you’ve already made NYE plans… but if haven’t, how about geek it up with NERF weapons, werewolves, and LEGO?

Monopolatte a games café in Chinatown, is staying open late on NYE and will have NERF weapons (not sure how they’ll be used), 106 litres of LEGO, and will they’ll be hosting a werewolf game. There will also be a sprawling Carcassonne game (expansions in play), among other board games. Bubbly at midnight to those 19+. Tickets are $20. Starts at 7:30 p.m.
Monopolatte is at 640 Somerset St.

BYOA??? (FREE!)
If you’ve ever been invited to a party anywhere, you likely know what BYOB or a variation of, means. But I’ll bet you haven’t been to a BYOA party. What’s the “A” stand for? Ape (No, but that would make for one helluva party)? Aunt? (Depending on who she is, this could also make for a great party). But, no.

The “A” is for art — and Research In Art (RIA), an on-going project by Petra Halkes and Rene Price, want you to bring art to an exhibition on Thursday, January 1. There will be a space set up for display of the artworks, refreshments ready to be served, an artist statement prepared — all that’s needed is for YOU to bring your artwork (or someone else’s) on the theme of Growing Up Human — the idea is to show works that create a glimpse of the world that a newborn child has been born into on January 1, 2015. Photos, a drawing, a painting, a poem, a sound — all welcome. It’s a free event, happening from 1 to 5 p.m. It’s not clear where, exactly, the salon will be held — likely the founder’s home. So for more info, email: researchinart.ria@gmail.com.

Stuck working New Year’s Eve? (FREE!)
Missed out on NYE because you had to work? No biggie. Come celebrate the New Year at the 1st annual “I Worked NYE Party” at the Hintonburg Public House on Thursday, January 1. No cover, just cheap shots and some bubbly at midnight to toast Auld Lang Syne. Starts at 9 p.m.
The Hintonburg Public House is at 1020 Wellington St. W.

Dirty, Filthy, Nasty… (FREE!)
Indeed, the “temperatures up (can you feel it)” and the art party is about to “erupt” though probably not how Christina Aguilera imagined. On Saturday, January 3, at Venus Envy, celebrate their 14th anniversary by attending the 2nd annual Filthy, Dirty Art Party. The party will also be a fundraiser for Venus Envy’s bursary, which goes to help individuals looking to study in areas dealing with anti-oppression, sex positivity, and community building.

The night will include a bar, food, music, and erotic art — media, paintings, photos, textiles, sculptures, the whole nasty enchilada. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.; show starts at 8 p.m.
Venus Envy, 226 Bank St.

 

 

 

SOUND SEEKERS: The New Year’s Edition

Lefty McRighty

Lefty McRighty

By FATEEMA SAYANI

To ring in 2015, Sound Seekers polled a few music scene notables for their wishes, resolutions and cat selfies. Herewith, the big plans of half a dozen O-town bar owners, guitar slingers, podcasters et al.

My Name Is: Lefty McRighty

I: sing and promote country music. I play a decent lead guitar and I DJ at CKCU.

I resolve to: actually pick up my guitar and play more than once a week.

I wish: not to be blacklisted at certain venues anymore.

My Name Is: Yogi

I: co-own the mighty House of Targ with Mark McHale and Kevin Birger. I also record and produce records at Yogi’s Meatlocker studio and play guitar in Metal Patrol and Blackbread.

Yogi with son Felix

Yogi with son Felix

I resolve to: bring Rush to Targ, acquire a Spy Hunter and Joust arcade machine, secure a private island with a secret bay for our submarine, and introduce the world to our delicious handmade pierogies by serving them in international waters!

I wish: for an explosion in the Ottawa music scene that will be felt worldwide. Oh wait, that’s already happening!! Okay, how about bell bottoms for everyone? Ha! This city is bananas and the support keeps growing — never give up.

My Name Is: (stage name) Master Cameron Eric Leon

I: perform as a drag king around Ontario, which basically means I get to shatter people’s ideas of gender and sexuality in the most fun way possible.

I resolve to: better represent drag kinds at the local, national, and international level and to support the LGBTQ+ community on whatever scale I can.

I wish: for a bigger closet so I can use my living room again.

Master Cameron Eric Leon. Photo by Angela McConnell

Master Cameron Eric Leon. Photo by Angela McConnell

Kevin McGowan

Kevin McGowan

My Name Is: Kevin McGowan

I: co-created TheRevue.ca with Ben Yung and Steve Fouchard, which grew out of my old Ottawa Citizen blog. It was a simple little idea for a local music site, but has grown to be pretty massive. I’m currently the admin guy, but hope to do more writing in 2015.

I resolve to: get out to see some of the bands I’ve been listening to and writing about. I’m as old as the hills and have little kids, so late nights are a real pain in the ass. I also resolve to check out Targ and eat a big plate of pierogies and see if I still have my mad Pac-Man skills.

I wish: that the new owners of Zaphod’s will keep their early gig schedule. It’s pretty much the only way I can see a show, be home by midnight, and still be physically able to make breakfast at 6 a.m.

My Name Is: Lynne Hanson

I: write songs that sound like I’m from way further south of Ottawa. I just released my fourth album River of Sand this past fall. I’ve got tours out west and in Europe this winter and spring, in between surgery and rehabbing the knee I destroyed playing touch football this past summer.

Lynne Hanson

Lynne Hanson

I resolve to: stick to the set list — or at least let my band know which song I’m playing if I do decide to stray off course; remove ALL guitar picks from my pockets before putting jeans in laundry; limit binge Netflix viewing to only three episodes at a time; learn how to dance.

I wish: someone had told me bionic knees had not been invented yet. Had I known, I would have been considerably more careful with the ones I have while running around chasing quarterbacks.

My Name Is: Jason Andersson

I: am the singer-songwriter and guitar player in Cooper MacLaren. I also play mandolin in Ray Harris & the Bastard Sons of Bitches. I busk a lot and I’m also going to play electric guitar in a brand new project that we don’t have a name for yet.

Jason Andersson

Jason Andersson

I resolve to: keep not making resolutions.

I wish: for continued collaboration and good vibes from those I know (and don’t know) in our community.

FROM THE PRINT EDITION: Saving an Orphaned Landmark on Beechwood

This article first appeared in the September 2014 issue of Ottawa Magazine. Sign up for a subscription or order back issues here.

By Mike Steinhauer

Climbing a steep metal ladder along the interior walls of St. Charles Church, I reach an attic space some 40 feet off the ground. Two more ladders are required to reach the open platform that houses the large church bell — this outdoor platform presents spectacular views of Lowertown, Parliament Hill, and the tree-topped hills of both Rockcliffe Park and Beechwood Cemetery.

Most striking, though, is not the view or the winding street below, but how the church building itself is situated within the area. From this height, the cross-shaped roof of St. Charles Church acts like a connector between the four neighbourhoods that border its property. The long nave runs parallel to Beechwood Avenue and Barrette Street, creating a natural link between east and west, while the large grassy park in front of the church unites north and south.

Drawing by Colin White

Drawing by Colin White

In some instances, a building’s landmark value is not recognized until the edifice itself is removed from the enviro- nment it once occupied. 

Still, the reality at street level diverges from what I observed from on high one summer day in 2013. The site of St. Charles Church hadn’t functioned as a connector — a town square of sorts — for some time. In fact, it had become a burden to those who once occupied the space. Its parishioners now worshipped elsewhere. The park surrounding the church had become unkempt, the neon cross atop the steeple was no longer lit, and the interior sat mostly empty. The church and its surrounding site were a mere shell of their former active selves.

The landmark value of a building — that is, a building’s physical, architectural, or historical value — is at times hard to quantify and, once identified, may not necessarily be accepted by all. In some instances, a building’s landmark value is not recognized until the edifice itself is removed (most often by demolition) from the environment it once occupied. The case of St. Charles differs somewhat, because the building had been identified by the city as a landmark and the site itself as an important node along Beechwood Avenue.

And yet it was as if the church had also been orphaned — by those who formerly occupied the space and by those now living around it. In the 1950s, some 5,000 parishioners worshipped at St. Charles Church. But by 2010, when the parish closed, the congregation had shrunk dramatically. Many had moved to more spacious homes in the suburbs over the years; many others had left the church altogether. To its new neighbours, perhaps those without a direct link to the parish or the Catholic Church, the church facade and the abandoned site held less meaning. Thus, with deconsecration in 2013, the demolition had become a probable and acceptable outcome to many. In fact, some welcomed the possibility of a new condo tower occupying the space, believing it would usher in new activity along Beechwood Avenue.

The rejuvenation of Beechwood has been the subject of much discussion over the past decade, its empty lots and vacant commercial spaces an irritant to many residents intent on turning the winding avenue into a thriving main street. Historically, municipal politics has not helped. Beechwood Avenue marks the dividing line between New Edinburgh, Lindenlea, and Rockcliffe Park (located to the north) and Vanier (located to the south), a divide further perpetuated by Vanier being its own municipal jurisdiction until 2001. This led to fragmented efforts at street renewal, with even a Business Improvement Association responsible for only one side of the street.

But none of this seems to be of much relevance when I am standing high above Beechwood, next to a bronze bell, and below a broken neon cross. This vantage point allows one to ignore the artificial divide between north and south. More importantly, it helps one recognize the role St. Charles could play (again) in connecting the two.

With designation in place, St. Charles has the potential to play an important role
in the revitalization of the avenue

Following my descent from the tower that day, I decided to conduct further research on the history of St. Charles Church and discovered a significance reaching far beyond its visual presence. I called the City of Ottawa, inquiring about the process by which a building receives heritage designation. It had been widely believed by those in the community that heritage designation for St. Charles had been refused. But city staff refuted this claim and confirmed that designation for the church had never been formally requested. I conducted some further research on the designation process and submitted an application that, along with support from the broader community, led to the formal designation in November 2013. The designation status will protect the building for generations to come and save its elegant facade and graceful bell tower from the wrecking ball.

The large church building, which predates three of the four neighbourhoods surrounding it, has an undeniable presence on Beechwood Avenue and helps establish the overall character of the area. With designation in place, St. Charles has the potential to play an important role in the revitalization of the avenue, to stand again at the centre of the neighbourhood, and perhaps to become the town square so many of us desire for our main stree