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Posts Tagged ‘Distillery Distric’

  1. Daniel Taylor Sings Cabaret

    October 12, 2011 by Fan

    This not the cabaret! Taylor and Huizinga's New York performance

    The Young Center was holding the Global Cabaret Festival. An array of folk and pop singers would sing in front of diners and drinkers. The programs included Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush, The Beatles’ Abbey Road, Paul Simon’s Graceland, etc. Prior to my visit, I was surprised to see the countertenor Daniel Taylor’s name on performers’ list. Previously I had seen him performing with Tafelmusik, TSO or his own Montreal-based group, Theatre of Early Music. Bach, Handel and Purcell were his repertoire. What would he be singing here?

    The lobby of the Young Center was bustling with people and noise. There were people of all ages, all ethnical backgrounds, and all combinations. There was probably more diversity here than anywhere else in the District: a Caucasian old lady was taking care of an east-Asian small boy (they seemed to be grandmother and grandson). A 50ish and flamboyant gay couple were calling each other “boys”. A young woman with spectacles and backpack was sitting alone in the corner: I immediately recognized her as one of the lone cinephiles who frequented the former Cinematheque Ontario in the AGO basement. I almost forgot all those familiar but unknown faces since Cinematheque moved into the big and vulgar TIFF Lightbox.

    Mr. Taylor was sitting at a coffee table. When he seemed to have finished his conversation with a 30ish lady, I approached him with this question: “What are you doing here?” “Well, I will sing a Shakespeare album – folk songs in Shakespeare’s times”. He smiled. Then he stood up and walked around the lobby with a cookie in his hand, checking out other singers’ program. He seemed eager not to be just a performer but also a diner and listener. I could feel his satisfaction in not being high up alone on the stage.

    The performance began. Curiously, nobody was really drinking and eating under the candle light. Almost everyone sat straight as if they were attending a classical concert. The performers were more at ease. During the one-hour performance, Mr. Taylor even checked out his cell phone and played with his blond hair a few times on stage.

    Another curious fact was that the folk songs didn’t work as well as Handel, a fact Mr. Taylor admitted on stage – he in turn adjusted the program. An obvious explanation is that Handel’s music always has a dramatic flare for public consumption. German-born, he is English through and through. The Renaissance English folk songs, by contrast, are reserved and introspective. The duality of Englishness was played out.

    My companion happened to be English. When I was struggling at the high table, she invited me down to sit with her. She came from England some 40 years ago but kept her strong British accent. After Handel, she was going to the Beatles album concert.


  2. Artscape

    October 11, 2011 by Fan

    The parking lot is adjacent to the humble-looking Case Good Warehouse, the least renovated and one of the smallest among the 44 heritage buildings in the Distillery District. Entering the low-ceiling lobby (a rarity in the District), I saw only a handful of galleries/workshops. To my left is Lilith, a “sustainable hand-crafted clothing studio”, in other words, a tailor shop. A lady in her 40s was working alone attentively on a piece of colorful garment. Across the hallway is a china shop, or to be precise, a “dish studio”. A lady was burying her face in a book. To my right is Tank, a jewelry and beads studio/store. It also seemed to be one of the busier stores with more visitors wandering around. All those stores were full of objects.

    The one with more open space was a small art gallery facing me, and I walked in. A lady was writing something but she raised her head and greeted me. Noticing the exhibition here was a curious mixture of realist, impressionist and abstract art, I started to ask questions. Then I introduce myself and my ethnography project. Although my art knowledge was very limited, to my surprise, we immediately struck a conversation on a deeper level. Depiction, abstraction, interpretation, style, self-expression, communication, utility and social reception are topics salient both in art and anthropology. So are the tensions between objects and symbols, self and others. After more than forty-minutes’ talk, we agreed to have a formal interview in the coming weeks.

    Then I walked on towards the Young Center for the Arts, the only establishment in the Distinct I had visited many times before with great interest.


  3. Gate of Suburbia

    October 10, 2011 by Fan

    Entering what used to be a factory gate, it was a bit unnerving for me to see so many well-dressed people wandering all over the place. I could only imagine Victorian-era workers in uniform lining up for work or home, as I had seen in films.

    They were families or couples, most of them white. A few “visible minorities” tended to be young and professional-looking. They also tended to “overdress” in their suits, or rather, under dress in this very cold late autumn day.

    Not surprisingly, the Balzac café down the main square was full of people. Althouth no Starbucks, it is actually a chain store with other locations in Startford, Liberty Village, Niagara on the Lake and Kitchener. Its owner, however, seems to be as choosy as the Distillery District’s in its “philosophy”: “Balzac’s Coffee shouldn’t be found in suburbia.”1  Looking around, however, I did see fake flowers, cheap landscape paintings, toast, and marmalade. I even saw a lawnmower outside the Café’s wooden door. You can take a chain café out of the suburbia, but you can’t take the suburbia out of a chain café.

    In fact, whether it has been taken out of the suburbia is hard to say. The Distillery District doesn’t belong to downtown, midtown or uptown. It is neither a manufacture center like Etobicoke, or a business district or a college area. It is not an organic residential area such as many midtown and uptown locations. It is part of Toronto’s urban residential extension with all those highrises around it. It is suburbia not with small houses but condos.

    Or is it? On second thought, I admitted that I was too hasty to judge: I must look beyond the consuming part of the place – I must find out who are working here. So I left the café. True to my nature, I walked on towards the quietest, the most secluded and the least-renovated part of the District: its souteast corner.

    Here was visitors’ parking lot. For people who drove here – a lot of them apparently did because the lot was full – this served as the entrance. The interesting fact is: from here, the factory gate can be seen directly ahead in the distance. It thus becomes what it actually is: a touristic decoration. In fact, I saw people getting off their cars and rushing towards the distant gate where I came from.

     But I walked on.