I ♥ Toronto, Vol. 3

Yesterday I participated in one of my favourite traditions: avoiding all things Super Bowl related.  Luckily, for me, there were plenty of other things to do in Toronto.  I began my afternoon by heading down to one of my favourite Toronto landmarks, the Reference Library, for one of my favourite new annual events, the Toronto Tea Festival.  I love tea, and I love how much of it is available in this city.  I love that there are so many tea shops here, beyond the chains, with such a variety of flavours, and I love that this festival brings them all together in one place.  Is there a better way to spend a cold Toronto day?

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My haul from the 2015 Tea Festival!

If sampling all the tea Toronto has to offer is my ideal way to spend a cold winter’s day in the city, then dining out for Winterlicious with friends is my ideal way to spend a cold winter’s night.  Winterlicious has become one of my favourite Toronto traditions.  It gives me something to look forward to after the Christmas festivities have ended and the reality of another Canadian winter is setting in.

Over the years I’ve tried countless restaurants that I wouldn’t normally visit, either because the regular menus are too pricey, or because they’re not located in the neighbourhoods where I usually hang out.  Last night I went with some friends to Destingo, on Queen West.  I probably wouldn’t have gone there if it weren’t for Winterlicious, and you know what? I would have missed out on a fabulous dining experience!  So, huzzah for Winterlicious!  The food and service were excellent.  The decor and atmosphere were lovely.  Best of all, they were extremely generous with the bread.  I’d like to go back.  Maybe not during a snow storm, though.

 

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I ♥ Toronto, Vol. 2

There’s been a lot of negativity in Toronto lately.  The mayor’s office seems to be in utter chaos, and despite his protestations, it is most definitely not business as usual at City Hall.  But there is more to Toronto than the mayor.  There are so many things that make this a great city, which is why I’ve decided to accentuate the positive and write about one of them: the Toronto Public Library.

I love the Toronto Public Library.  Love it.  For years I lived a few blocks north of Steeles, just beyond the border, and I envied Torontonians their library.  I often made use of the TPL, particularly the Reference Library, but I lacked the library card that would give me borrowing privileges, and full access to all the services offered through the library.  Then I moved to Toronto.  There were a lot of benefits to moving further south.  My car insurance dropped, my commute to work became shorter, and best of all, I finally had full access to one of the finest library systems in the world! For free! 

If you’re a musician in Toronto, you probably know that the Toronto Reference Library is home to a fabulous collection of music scores.

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My home branch

I borrow scores on what feels like a weekly basis.  If there’s a piece, or a song cycle, or an entire opera role that I think I might like to learn, I borrow it from the library.  If there’s a musical theatre selection, or a folksong that I want to assign a student, but don’t have in one of my own anthologies, I borrow it from the library.  If it’s festival season, and my students need a second original copy of the music for the adjudicator, I borrow it from the library. All I have to do is look it up on the online catalogue, and then go to the library and get it, or place a hold on it, and wait for it to arrive at my home branch for pick-up.

Another fabulous resource is the TPL’s extensive selection of online databases.  About a year after first receiving my treasured library card, I made a most joyous discovery: I had online access to The Journal of Singing.  This is the official publication of The National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), a peer reviewed journal containing research on vocal pedagogy, analysis of vocal literature, book reviews, and interviews with world renowned performers.  I thought I’d have to go down to the Reference Library to read journal articles.  Instead, I was able to spend a blissful few hours reading past issues, while in the comfort of my own home (ie. drinking tea and most likely wearing pajamas).  Seriously, though, this is an invaluable resource for any singer or teacher.  We can keep up with the latest research without having to subscribe to the journal individually. I encourage everyone with a library card to make use of these resources, and if you don’t have a library card, go get one right now!

I ♥ Toronto, Vol. 1

There are so many reasons why I love living in Toronto.  I love that there are so many different neighbourhoods to explore, each with its own variety of unique shops and restaurants.  I love seeing the seasons change in Don Valley (the only upside of being stuck in traffic on the Don Valley Parkway).  I even love the Toronto Maple Leafs.  But above all this, I love how much music and theatre I have the opportunity to experience here, and not just from major organizations like the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Canadian Opera Company, or Mirvish Productions, but also from the growing number of smaller performing arts companies that call Toronto home.  Companies like Essential Opera, Opera Five, Opera by Request, Against the Grain Theatre, and Metro Youth Opera, to name a few.  Not only do they provide Toronto arts lovers with innovative, high calibre performances, but they also provide young artists valuable opportunities to perform.

As a working singer who is still learning and growing, it’s so inspiring to see other young artists on stage.  This past weekend I attended a performance of Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge and Jean Paul Sartre’s No Exit, produced by Soup Can Theatre.  A Hand of Bridge featured two dear friends of mine — soprano Taylor Strande, and mezzo-soprano Shilpa Sharma.  The entire cast, which included tenor Alvaro Vazquez Robles and baritone Keith O’Brien, gave compelling performances and filled the room with their rich voices, but it was the two women that captivated me the most.  (I may be just the teensiest bit biased though.)  I only wished that Barber had composed more than just ten minutes of music, so I could hear more of my friends’ beautiful voices.  The play that followed this short opera, No Exit, was also brilliantly executed, and featured four compelling actors who I felt were perfectly cast.  (None are personal friends, so no bias here.)  Overall, I had a thoroughly enjoyable Saturday night at the opera/theatre.  It was both time and money well spent.  (Bonus: ticket prices were very reasonable — as they usually are with these smaller companies — which I very much appreciate as an artist on a budget!)

There’s always something to see and hear in Toronto. There are far more organizations than there is time for me to write about in this post, and there are so many more things I love about Toronto.  I’ll save those for future posts.  In the meantime, I plan to get out and enjoy everything that this great city has to offer, and support local artists at the same time!