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The World's Best Journeys List For 2018
With material from a media release:The World's Best Journeys List For 201850 of the world's most exciting once-in-a-lifetime tripsCreated by travel professionals - like me!• Check out the whole listThe World’s Best Journeys list for 2018 was created by a collaboration between Flight Network and 500+ of the world’s top travel journalists, agencies, bloggers, and editors – the ultimate insiders of international travel. This year, that list has included yours truly. I've been writing about travel (and traveling, of course) for decades, and I was happy for the chance to add my input.This extensive collaboration produced a thoughtful and detailed list of astonishing journeys – a list that will captivate and inspire travellers to embark on life changing adventures now, and for years to come.It's a truly inspiring collection of the top 50 transformative trips every traveller must experience in their lifetime. This inspiring resource is an unparalleled guide to diverse and dynamic adventures with exhilarating activities in the most stunning, mystical, and culturally-rich lands on the planet.My vote helped to put the Jordan Trail at Number 44.Red cliffs, JordanNo. 44Hike the Jordan TrailUmm Qais, Aqaba, JordanEstablished in 2015 by the Jordan Trail Association, the Jordan Trail covers 650km from Umm Qais to Aqaba. It was created to revive the tourism sector in Jordan, and it's about time the rest of the world came to appreciate the incredible history and geography of this storied region of the world. It should take you about 36 days to hike through this diverse landscape.Your journey will span eight regions, ranging from lush forests to craggy deserts. Lace up your hiking shoes in Umm Qais then head south toward your final destination of Aqaba. Along the way, you’ll encounter 52 villages, allowing you to peel back the layers of this culture by tasting local cuisine, interacting with villagers, and even spending the night in homestays.on the Jordan TrailHighlights of the trail include jagged cliffs overlooking the Jordan Rift Valley, the rose-red city of Petra, and the towering sandstone mountains of Wadi Rum. Be sure to pack your bathing suit as you’ll be passing the Red Sea, whose crystal clear waters take on an orange-red hue when seasonal algae blooms. This warm sea is home to the world’s fastest fish, the solitary sailfish, and has a thriving biodiversity, thanks in large part to its coral reef ecosystem.Significant historical sites, such as the ruins of the ancient church of Mar Elias and the Islamic castle of Ajloun will also be encountered on the route.Red Sea, on the Jordan TrailGetting thereBefore hitting the trail, you’ll need to fly into Queen Alia International Airport, Jordan’s main airport. Nonstop flights from North America depart from Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Montreal. Direct flights from Europe fly out of London, Paris, Istanbul, Frankfurt, and Rome. From the Queen Alia International Airport a taxi is the most direct mode of transport to Umm Qais, which is about 2.5 hours away. The trailhead is located at the basalt ruins of the Decapolis of Um Qais. Be sure to plan your hike ahead of time, or hire one of the many local guide companies who can help you make the most of this trail. Or, check out the volunteer-run Jordan Trail Association, which offers an annual through-hike.

Habari Africa Festival August 10 to 12 2018 at Harbourfront Toronto
From a media release:Habari Africa FestivalAugust 10 to 12, 2018at Harbourfront TorontoCo-produced with Batuki Music Society• Check it outTORONTO - Batuki Music Society is proud to present the fifth annual Habari Africa Festival from Friday August 10 – 12, 2018. Join us for a weekend of exploration and engagement with the art, sounds and tastes of the continent.Sona JobartehHabari Africa is a multi-disciplinary arts festival that displays the rich and diverse cultures of Africa. The festival will display an authentic African experience through presentations and workshops that celebrate the uniqueness, wealth and diversity of African music, dance, film, fashion, workshops, arts and culture.The artists featured will represent an array of African music genres and dance styles. The festival will also have activities for children of all ages, workshops, drumming, films, vendors with crafts, as well as delicious cuisine from the World Café. This multi-disciplinary African arts festival is co-produced with Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.Habari Africa Festival 2018Venue: Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay West, Toronto, M5J 2G8Dates/Times:Friday August 10: 7:00pm – 11:00pm - FREESaturday, August 11: 12:00pm – 11:00pm – FREESunday, August 12: 12:00pm – 7:00pm – FREEBatuki Music Society gratefully acknowledges support from the Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, Canadian Heritage, Canada Council for the Arts, and media sponsors CIUT 89.5 FM and CHOQ FM.Some of the Highlights:FridayFatoumata Kouyate & Mabinty Sylla – Guinè9:00pmThis talented balafonist, singer, percussionist, and founder of Groupe Djéliguinet et ses Enfants is descended from a live of griots, and member of the National Theatre Troupe of Guinea and Amazones Women Drummers.Fatoumata Kouyate & Mabinty SyllaSona Jobarteh9:30pmThe first female Kora virtuoso to come from a prestigious West African Griot family breaks away from tradition as a modern-day pioneer in an ancient, male-dominated hereditary tradition.Saturday, August 11, 2018Balafon Village with Adama Daou4:30pmWith simple rhythmic and melodic exercises, Adama Daou will introduce you to the balafon, an African wooden xylophone.Africa All-Stars8:00pmThis star-studded collective unites the talents of JUNO award-winning musicians, each an expert in their individual style and together promising to keep attendees dancing non-stop. Features guitarists Alpha Yaya Diallo, Madagascar Slim and Donne Roberts with percussionist Kofi Ackah, bassist Ebenezer Agyekum and dancer Mabinty Sylla.Africa All StarsThe Black Stars9:00pmThe Black Stars is a coalition of afro-influenced dancers, combing styles such as Azonto, Kuduro and Ndom, under the visionary direction of Esie Mensah, one of the top dancers and choreographers in Canada.Sunday, August 12, 2018Neema Children's Choir2:30pmThis choir of children from across Africa, who have been orphaned due to civil war, AIDS and under-developed social systems, raises their voices in songs of love, gratitude and praise.

From Nacional Records: Latin Bitman's New Video for "Truss Me"
From a media release:Latin Bitman's New Video for "Truss Me"The single features Juan Ingaramo & Jesse Baez2nd single from his new album, Homies• Stream, watch or playPerformed at the LAMC Central Park SummerStage show last weekLatin Bitman’s music has provided the soundtrack to numerous video game franchises such as EA’s FIFA, Need for Speed, and The Sims as well as TV shows such as Dexter, Nip/Tuck, and Weeds.This video is special to Latin Bitman - aka DJ Bitman, aka José Antonio Bravo - as it was filmed in his hometown of Arica, Chile. Here's what he has to say about the video:We wanted to really show the forgotten part of the city, the emptiness of the desert...a sort of Mad Max - the dust, the rust, and the passing of time. This whole production was done with the help of childhood friends, and it was a very memorable and personal experience for me. Having the opportunity to reunite with old friends, with the people who I share great memories and stories, it was truly remarkable. Now, I'm thankful to be together during a new stage in our lives,each of us doing what we're best at.Because of distance and time, it was impossible to have Juan Ingaramo and Jesse Baez in the video, and we had to create a more esthetic-based video. We had a lot of elements surrounding us that helped us. Santiago, the director, was amazing. We had a great time,.Latin Bitman is one of the most prolific producers and DJs in Chile’s music scene. Born José Antonio Bravo in Arica, Chile, the former Olympic surfer started his musical career as Bitman & Roban before going solo with his debut album, Sunset Beats.Since then, Bitman has released three solo albums as well as numerous collaborative albums as a member of Ritmo Machine, featuring Eric Bobo of Cypress Hill, and RVSB, with fellow Chilean DJ/producer DJ Raff. He has consistently pushed his musical envelope with his skillful blending of hip-hop, electronic, funk, soul, and traditional Latin sounds with each album.Fans around the world have witnessed his on stage skills live at events such as the LAMC (Latin Alternative Music Conference), Vive Latino, Lollapalooza Chile (having performed at 7 of the festival’s 8 editions), Lollapalooza Brazil, Lollapalooza Chicago,SXSW, and Estereo Picnic.

Afropunk meets Shakespeare Uptown in Antigone - Free in Marcus Garvey Park Harlem July 7 to 29 2018
From a release:AntigoneClassical Theatre of HarlemJuly 7 - July 29, 2018Free and open to the public• Directed by Carl Cofield• The Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park• Tuesdays through Sundays - 8.30pm startNEW YORK CITY - It's not just Central Park downtown where you will find high end Shakespeare al fresco. Join CTH for its sixth season of free theatre performances in Marcus Garvey Park, affectionately known as the 'Uptown Shakespeare in the Park'. CTH presents “Antigone,” inspired by the Afropunk movement and derived from the classic Greek tragedy by Sophocles.Back for its sixth season of FREE theater performances in Harlem's Marcus Garvey Park, the company presents a work that showcases the strength and voices of audacious women responding to rigid societal inequities. This modernized play showcases ancient ideas that have taken center stage in the current climate: order, law, justice and marginalized voices confronting power and patriarchy.Set in the city of Thebes in a dystopian future, the struggle for power, glory and the claim to the city shatters the bonds of brotherhood, leaving two men lifeless. The new king proclaims one brother a hero and the other a usurper, leaving his limp body lying in the street as an example to those who dare act against the state. The citizens of the city avert their eyes due to fear, turning instead to their new leader who vows to restore order to the war torn city. But when the sister of the slain young brothers protests the edict, she breaks faith with everything she has ever known in order to set things right at any cost.Calling on the cultural landscape of African-American traditions and inspired by the Afropunk movement, while also adhering to the Greek tragic form; this fresh reimagining of the classic story will captivate, stun and inspire audiences from all backgrounds.Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey ParkEnter the park from 124th Street and 5th Avenue. Walk south to the amphitheater.

Country/Americana/Folk Maxwell James - Maxwell James (Independent Mar 22 2018)
Country/Americana/FolkMaxwell James - Maxwell James(Independent, Mar 22, 2018)• Stream it on SpotifySinger songwriter Maxwell James' eponymous debut EP is a high energy collection of songs that you could loosely put into the contemporary Americana slot. Originally from Cardiff, South Wales, Maxwell is now based firmly in Nashville, TN, where it sounds like he belongs.His verison of country/Americana is infused with a funky rhythmic heart in Roll Down Your Window Slowly. It revolves around a driving beat, with an inventive sense of instrumentation and phrasing to add to the effect.Feed My Evolution is slow yet relentless, with a rising and falling tension that drives the song. Growling guitars contrast with churchy organ chords. Maxwell's tenor has a nicely raspy edge that gives it character.What can I say when I know that I'll be wrong?His lyrics are clever, giving country a poetic makeover with an ironic sense of humour in The More You Say; The Less I Know. The tracks offer a variety of styles and genres, including the rootsy Blatantly and a slow country waltz in When It's Real.Track List:1. Roll Down Your Window Slowly2. Feed My Evolution3. The More You Say, The Less I Know4. Blatantly5. When It's RealMusicians:Maxwell James - vocals, guitar; Jason Cheek - Drums, Percussion; Chris Croce - Bass Guitar; David Dorn - B3 Organ, Wurlitzer Electric Piano; Scotty Murray - Electric Lap Steel GuitarArtist links:WebsiteFacebookTwitterSoundcloud

Whatdoesfreemean? by Catherine Filloux July 6 to 22 2018 at The Tank New York City
From a media release:whatdoesfreemean?by Catherine Fillouxdirected by Amy S. Greenwith James Edward Becton*, Brenda Crawley, Justin Jorrell, Galway McCullough*, Liz Morgan*, and Lisa Strum* as Mary• Tickets are on sale online nowOnly 12 performances!LIMITED SEATINGJuly 6 - 22 at The Tank312 West 36th Street, NYCwhatdoesfreemean? follows the journey of an African-American woman serving a long sentence for a non-violent drug offense. When Mary ends up in solitary confinement, she struggles to maintain her sanity. The play takes the audience into her psychic world. We travel alongside her self-guided intellectual and emotional journey into the nature of freedom, both physical and psychological, as Mary’s external and internal experiences unfold on stage in the present, in memory, and in the fantasies that help her survive.whatdoesfreemean? is the latest work by award-winning human rights playwright Catherine Filloux. It was developed with the support of Nora’s Playhouse, a theatre collective dedicated to creating opportunities for women theatre artists of all generations to tell women's stories.Scenic and Lighting Design by Phoebe Mauro. Projection and Sound Design by Sadah Espii Proctor. Costume Design by Rashidah Nelson. Fight Choreography by Galway McCullough. Stage Management by Karen Oughtred. General Management by Rebecca Lovett. Graphic Design by Veronica Bella. General Press Representative is Susan L. Schulman.This production is an Equity-approved showcase.*Actors appearing courtesy of Actors' Equity Association.The Nora's Playhouse production of whatdoesfreemean? is presented by The Tank.

Jazz/Improv - Yuko Fujiyama: Night Wave (Innova Recordings - March 23, 2018)
Jazz/ImprovYuko Fujiyama: Night Wave(Innova Recordings - March 23, 2018)• Buy the CD“Recently, I’ve been trying to be free from a feeling of linear time. This album, Night Wave, is the result of my long search.” The words come from Yuko Fujiyama, jazz pianist and composer. She largely succeeds in her quest in a release that sparkles with an intense sense of creative freedom. The CD includes 15 tracks, the shortest a mere minute in lenghth.Woven Colours, for solo piano, is kinetic and dynamic, with a dramatic sense of urgency that propels the music. Along with composing all the tracks on the release, Yuko Fujiyama is a talented pianist who brings a fluid sense of expression to all the pieces. Up Tempo adds Susie Ibarra on drums and percussion, Graham Haynes on cornet and flugelhorn, and Jennifer Choi on violin for an explosive piece driven by the clash of cymbals.In to the liner notes, Fujiyama describes her pieces with a sense of story and emotion, and there is certainly a kind of whirlwind momentum to each of the eight tracks. Premonition, for piano and drums, is darker and moody, inspired by fear. There's a playful sensibility that emerges in some of the tracks. Fireworks is a standout track, an aural recreation of the flash and colour of the real thing.In Beyond the Sound, she explores the question, where does sound disappear to? The tones or piano, cornet, and xylophone open up the space, and then resonate into silence. It's both effective and surprising. Starlight, for solo piano, is another highlight, infused with a shimmering beauty that evokes the pure light of celestial objects.In her bio, Yuko says it was hearing a recording of American pianist and composer Cecil Taylor that led to a realization of the true power of the piano. Taylor was also a classically trained pianist who turned to free jazz, becoming one of its pioneers. Like Taylor, Fujiyama's playing is percussive and innovative.The discovery of Cecil Taylor led to her moving to New York City from her native Japan in 1987, and a career that she describes as “looking for musical structures” ever since.

Experimental Guitar - Matteo Liberatore: Solos (Innova Recordings - January 26, 2018)
Experimental GuitarMatteo Liberatore: Solos(Innova Recordings - January 26, 2018)• Buy the CDThe acoustic guitar jingles, clangs; the strings sing, squeak, shriek, and shimmer in this imaginative release that takes the instrument well beyond its usual borders.It sounds like something that could easily degenerate into a self indulgent and/or purely intellectual exercise, but that's far from the case. Italian-American guitarist and composer Matteo Liberatore creates compelling soundscapes with the instrument you thought you knew.Agnes, the first track, trembles with a sense of urgency and motion, like a thousand sonic raindrops in a shower of sound that ebbs and flows. It's a fanciful description, but about as accurate as you'll get in words. Liberatore mines his instrument for a range of unexpected sounds in avant garde structures that somehow retain a sense of familiarity and flow. In Untitled #9, the effect is minimalist, rising and falling in tension to an urgent rhythm.In Chimera, the sounds emanate from the strings, as if they were unravelling. Gradually, a background rhythm emerges, and the high harmonics decorate from above. It's a bit eery and very atmospheric. Liberatore plays the guitar more conventionally on Coral in a dizzying, whirling pulse, while Causeway is something like a roots/blues song that's wandered off the beaten path. Ubiquitous is a mouse running up and down the strings - or it sounds like it.To get the unusual sounds, Matteo uses various instruments and object like metal springs, alligator clips, a bass bow, and a kick drum beater. Hopefully the guitar(s) made it out alive after the experience.Matteo credits his upbringing in Abruzzo, Italy, for what he calls the darkness of his sound, and as the son of an architect, he developed an appreciation for contemporary art and structure. He now makes his home in Brooklyn, New York, where he draws inspiration from the juxtaposition of the city's thriving arts sector and its capitalist roots.Matteo’s other projects include his experimental electronic band, Una Lux, described by Entertainment Weekly as “Caravaggio Meets Portishead”. This is his first solo acoustic guitar adventure.

Contemporary Art Song - Ah Young Hong: A Breath Upwards (Innova Recordings - March 23, 2018)
Contemporary Art SongAh Young Hong: A Breath Upwards(Innova Recordings - March 23, 2018)• Buy the CDBaltimore soprano Ah Young Hong explores vocal works by composers Milton Babbitt and Michael Hersch in this striking release on the Innova Recordings label. In the works of the two contemporary American composers, she conveys the feeling that drives the often complex modern music.Babbitt’s Philomel debuted in 1964, groundbreaking at the time for its use of recorded vocals and analog synthesizer along with voice. The words, sometimes just syllables, come from poet John Hollander. The story, which comes from Greek mythology, lends itself to an operatice treatment. In a nutshell, Philomel is raped by her brother-in-law, the king of Thrace, who then has her tongue cut out so she cannot tell her sister. She then weaves a tapestry that tells the story. When her sister figures it out, she kills her own son to punish her husband the king. The two sisters flee into the woods - the same woods where Philomel was raped - pursued by the king, and the gods then transform the three of them into birds. Philomel becomes a nightingale.The gruesome story becomes an emotive journey. The combination of voice and electronics translates into an intense musical experience, with Ah Young Hong ably and elegantly jumping through all the hoops of a virtuosic performance piece.Michael Hersh's a breath upwards made its debut in 2014. Here, Hong is accomapnied by Miranda Cuckson on viola, Gleb Kanasevich on clarinet, and Jamie Hersch on horn. Their contributions are precise and perfectly complement the vocals. The texts from Dante’s Purgatorio and Ezra Pounds’ Cantos also cover similar ground - running through forests, the flight of birds. There is a real sense of confusion and aching melancholy that permeates the music.Ah Young Hong has a true affinity for the material. Her voice can pierce or whisper as it breathes life into the spare modernity of the music. She distills the emotion and delivers it along with the notes, by turns eerie, agitated, dreamy. Hong's superb vocal facility, along with the able instrumental accompaniment, highlights the sheer beauty of the works while drawing the listener into the emotional heart of the music on a grand scale.

Recently Released: Nocturnal Blonde - Smart Heart (Independent - June 11, 2018)
Recently Released: Nocturnal Blonde - Smart Heart(Independent - June 11, 2018)• Stream on SoundCloudSoundCloudNocturnal Blonde is a studio project based in Georgia, USA, a brainchild of singer/guitarist and studio veteran Ritchie Williams. It's an inventive EP release that delves into traditional Southern music as fuel for modern musical exploration.The Nocturnal Blonde sound keeps Rachel Adams nuanced vocals at the forefront. She's a luminous talent as a singer, with impressive control and technical ability - but always in the service of expression.The genre ranges through a contemporary fusion of country rock, blues, and vintage Americana. But, just when you think you're hearing something very familiar, they'll throw in an unexpected chord progression that takes the song into a different territory. It's appealing on both levels - expected and unexpected.Blown Away is a highlight of the release, with jangly guitars and a sweet vocal line over a languid rhythm. Rachel's voice ranges from sweet and high to rich and velvety in the lower register. Two Trees is a pretty folk country song with a flute accompaniment.Smart Heart, the title track, is a duet between Adams and guitarist/vocalist Ritchie Williams, with a spare accompaniment of hand drum, tambourine, and a few notes on the bass. It's an inventive reimagining of Georgia swamp music for the 21st century.According to the band's promo, Nocturnal Blonde was originally created as a project to bring about awareness, in story form, to mental clarity and substance abuse. Ritchie's brother, David Williams, incurred significant neurological damage from an incidental overdose in 2017. After participating in a project produced by Michael Stipe, Ritchie was inspired by the R.E.M. frontman's intuitive, concise process. Michael also helped Williams by co-writing and simplifying one of his songs. Both Ritchie and R.E.M. hail from Athens, Georgia.The EP is compiled of material that Dave and Ritchie, brothers and best friends, collaborated on just before Dave's mental and medical complications. They co-wrote nearly all the songs that make up the material on the albumTrack List:1. Smart Heart2. Blown Away3. Two Trees4. All Those Angels5. DrainedPersonnel - Rachel Adams: Vocals; Ritchie Williams: Vocals and Guitar; Kevin Sims: Bass; James Owen: PercussionFacebook

Jazz CD Release: Amy Cervini - No One Ever Tells You (Anzic Records, June 15, 2018)
From a media releaes:Jazz CD Release:Amy Cervini - No One Ever Tells You(Anzic Records, June 15, 2018)• Streaming LinksHailed by Time Out New York for “tearing down boundaries between old and new jazz styles, rock, pop, country and more,” Toronto-born, New York-based vocalist Amy Cervini follows up her 2014 Anzic release Jazz Country with the gritty, blues-oriented No One Ever Tells You. Joined by her brilliant longtime cohorts Jesse Lewis (guitar), Michael Cabe (piano), Matt Aronoff (bass), Jared Schonig (drums) and special guest organist Gary Versace (on four cuts), Cervini puts her stamp on songs “that have resonated with me as a mother, as a partner, and as a woman,” she writes in her album notes. “They are songs about love, struggle, and empowerment.”There’s a decisively biting, almost rock-inflected sensibility coursing through No One Ever Tells You. Cervini projects a fine, assertive voice, limber and free in her phrasing, ranging widely in her sources: the group interprets songs by everyone from Lyle Lovett to Rodgers & Hammerstein, playfully yet with a serious expressive intent. The opener, Cervini’s “I Don’t Know” (the sole original), sets the tone with a tale about pulling out of emotional despair, set to a down-home shuffle. Blues-drenched solos by Versace and Lewis drive the message home.What lured Cervini toward this raw, bluesy sound, in contrast to the heavily acoustic Jazz Country? “One night Jesse started the Blossom Dearie song ‘Bye Bye Country Boy’ with this really brash and distorted intro, and I liked it right away,” she says. “I liked where it took me, I liked where it took the band. Ever since then it’s been brewing.” The studio version here is faithful to that moment, with Versace’s supremely tasteful organ thrown into the mix (a vivid contrast with the tenor sax-heavy version on Cervini’s 2009 Anzic debut Lovefool).No One Ever Tells You by Amy Cervini“A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” from the repertoire of the formidable Bessie Smith, finds Cervini and Cabe opening with a restrained rubato verse. The band enters with a barroom 6/8 feel, taking some inspiration from Big Maybelle’s proto-rock-’n-roll version from 1959. “The message, to me, is simple and universal,” Cervini writes in her notes. “When you find your person or your people, hang on tight. Life is short and there is a lot of bad out there.”“God Will,” from country singer Lyle Lovett’s 1986 debut, takes on another dimension when Cervini flips the gender roles: “I love the humor in this and also the strength,” the singer writes. “Coming from a woman’s perspective makes it even more interesting; the notion that this woman will not forgive so easily after being mistreated is very empowering.”Jesse Lewis, one of the most versatile and compelling guitarists working today, begins “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” and “You Know Who” in an otherworldly atmospheric vein, with hovering sounds and effects. “Organically, our version of [Surrey] got slower and slower,” Cervini recalls. “It’s a dream-like reverie. I can really see the picture being painted by these great lyrics.” “You Know Who,” by pianist Bertha Hope, is of the having-a-talk-with-oneself genre, and for Cervini it’s become an anthem: “A career as an artist, perhaps as a freelancer of any kind, can find you bumping into walls and ceilings. This song is a reminder to focus inward. It’s a song of strength and a reminder to slow down and take a breath.”When taking on songs associated with Frank Sinatra — the title track, “Please Be Kind” and “One for My Baby” — Cervini takes charge of the material and steers it her own way. Her reference point with “One for My Baby,” performed as a stunning organ-vocal duo with Versace, is the original Fred Astaire dance sequence from the 1943 film The Sky’s the Limit. “The movie version is much faster than most renditions,” she notes, “and the dance that follows is angry yet somehow joyous. I like the idea that one can sometimes feel angry, happy and sad all at the same time.”Cervini and crew say goodbye with Percy Mayfield’s “Hit the Road Jack.” The band singalong is infectious, and “everyone gets to imagine someone they’d like to tell off,” the singer says. Again, it’s a message of overcoming, an assertion of inner strength gained from learning hard lessons we don’t necessarily expect: “As a mother, I have been struck by how much I didn’t know about the realities of childbirth, motherhood, relationships…basically life,” Cervini writes. “No One Ever Tells You is about heartbreak and loneliness but for me the message is much greater than that. It’s about honesty and truth. Listening to others and not being afraid to be vulnerable and open is a lesson I’ve learned through this journey.”On Tour:June 22 - Duchess, Rochester International Jazz FestivalJune 23 - Duchess, Toronto Jazz FestivalJune 24 - Duchess, TD Ottawa Jazz FestivalJuly 7 - Duchess, Kingsborough Community CollegeAmy Cervini with Sara Gazarek and Peter Eldridge TourJuly 25 - Duchess, Orange City Arts Fest, Orange City IAAugust 14 - Richmond Hill Performing Arts Center Jazz Series, Richmond Hill, Ontario Canada

Travel + Theatre - The Curious Voyage - From Barrie ON to London UK Oct 23 to Nov 10 2018
Travel + TheatreDirector Mitchell Cushman on- The Curious Voyage -Talk Is Free Theatre's Immersive Three-Day Intercontinental Theatrical AdventureOctober 23 to November 10, 2018• More Info• Tickets On Sale Until June 27 2018 OnlyTravel the world and participate in an immersive theatrical experience, beginning in Barrie, Ontario, and culminating in a musical theatre performance in a secret, intimate location in London, UK. It's the brainchild of Arkady Spivak, Artistic Producer of Talk Is Free Theatre (TIFT), and it's taking 36 people on the theatrical experience of their lives later this fall.Arkady approached director Mitchell Cushman and other collaborators with the idea about two years ago. "To be honest, I though it was a really interesting idea, but I wasn't really sure it would ever happen," Mitchell admits. Certainly, the logistical challenges and many partnerships that had to be made were formididable. "It took all manner of creative logistical thinking," Mitchell says. "He probably thought I was crazy enough to take it on."Crazy, perhaps, but also someone with a track record. "I've been involved in a number of experiential theatre projects," Cushman says. In fact, he's Co-Artistic Director of Outside the March, one of Canada's leading site-specific theatre companies. https://outsidethemarch.ca/Daniele Bartolini will direct the first three days, which begin in and around Barrie. Bartolini will create what is being called "a trail of breadcrumbs" that will lead audience members along a narrative trail that may include (seemingly) random encounters with strangers, top secret assignments, and even their own hotel rooms.The Barrie leg of the voyage will incorporate the work of 60 local teens engaging in the creation process under the guidance and mentorship of professional artists.On the third day, traveling audience members be taken by shuttle to Pearson Airport in Toronto, where they'll fly to Heathrow. In London, they'll stay at Morton Hotel, a 34-room boutique hotel with historic charm located overlooking Russell Square in tony Bloomsbury. Any free time can be spent exploring Covent Garden, the British Museum, and the shops of Oxford Street - all within walking distance.In London, the next day, the journey continues, taking audience members off the beaten path to various locations. The experience culminates in a performance of a Tony Award winning musical, directed by Cushman, in an intimate and secret venue. The musical’s cast will feature a mix of well known Canadian and UK-based talents, including Talk Is Free Theatre audience-favourites David Coomber, Izad Etemadi, Craig Lauzon, Mike Nadajewski, Glynis Ranney, and Michael Torontow, among others. But, while the story may be familiar, it's a performance with a difference.As Cushman describes it, those narrative breadcrumbs will lead the audience to experience the final show, which they may already be familiar with, in an intimate and personal way. It should give them a new look at familiar characters and story. "They will come away with a sense of what the play means to them as an individual," he says. The process makes audience members into much more than passive spectators.At the very end of it all comes the finale and a reception with all the cast and crew.The project follows TIFT's success with staging The Music Man as a traveling site-specific work in 2016. The piece took audiences all around Barrie, Ontario.It promises to be an adventure for the curious traveler and theatre lover.Talk Is Free Theatre presents: The Curious VoyageDate: October 23 to November 10, 2018 Performances begin every second dayCost: $1,950 single / $3,600 double plus flights & mealsWebsite: curiousvoyage.comPhone: 1.705.792.1949 ext. 122 or email: arkady@tift.ca.About Talk Is Free Theatre (tift.ca)   Talk Is Free Theatre (TIFT) was founded in 2003 in Barrie, Ontario and has since produced 84 works. The company is Central Ontario’s only professional Equity company with a full winter season. TIFT produces a wide range of work from the periphery of mainstream, concentrating on new writing, forgotten classics and drastic re-examinations of established repertoire. TIFT is particularly dedicated to esoteric works of musical theatre and in forging new types of site-specific, immersive creation, among others. Most recently, TIFT staged the roving, site-specific production of The Music Man and toured the highly successful Tales of an Urban Indian staged on a moving city bus.Here's a sampling of that production:

Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt on The Pigeon King - On Stage Till June 15 2018
Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt onThe Pigeon KingOn Stage Till June 15 2018Heading to Ottawa at the National Arts Centre April 24 to May 5 2019Written by Rebecca Auerbach, Jason Chesworth, Gil Garratt, George Meanwell, J.D. Nicholsen, Gemma James Smith, Birgitte Solem and Severn ThompsonDirector: Severn Thompson• Buy Tickets To The Show"Incredibly enough, I've been living and working out here for about 20 years, but I'd never heard about this story until it was in The New York Times."Gil Garratt (and pigeons) by Terry ManzoIt was a newspaper clipping that a friend sent to him that set Blyth Festival Artistic Director Gil Garratt on the road to creating The Pigeon King, the hit country musical/comedy/courtroom drama that sold out shows last summer and returns for a remount until June 15.It's a tale that illustrates the old axiom, truth is stranger than fiction. Blyth Festival's The Pigeon King is a true story of outrageous fraud, outsized personalities, and sheer absurdity - one that provied irresistible to Garratt's theatrical spidey sense.In short, one Arlan Galbraith of Waterloo, Ontario managed to bilk farmers in southwestern Ontario out of millions of dollars for several years through an unusual Ponzi-style scheme he dubbed Pigeon King International. The deal was this: farmers would buy a breeding pair of pigeons, with the guarantee that he'd buy back the offspring for the next ten years at a price that was fixed in advance. His story was that the birds were racing stock, and he was selling them to the international pigeon racing community. He also claimed at one point to be selling them as meat. In actual fact, he never sold them at all - he simply sold the offspring to new marks as another breeding pair, with the same promise.He took a total of $42 million from the investors he bilked, and walked away from obligations to buy $356 million worth of pigeon offspring. It sounds ridiculous, but the fact of the matter is, for seven years from 2001 to 2008, he managed to stay one step ahead. Until one day, it all came crashing down. His 2013 trial made international headlines.The Pigeon King, written by Blyth Company members Rebecca Auerbach, Jason Chesworth, Gil Garratt, George Meanwell, J.D. Nicholsen, Birgitte Solem, Gemma James Smith and Severn Thompson, enjoys an encore run in the 2018 season, from May 30 to June 15. Photo by Terry Manzo.Recognizing the local place names and given the nature of the story, Gil knew he had to find a way to put the story on stage. But, it's the local nature of the tale that proved problematic. "Nobody wanted to talk," he says. Gil tried to contract a couple of local writers, but ran into the same problem - the writers would find they had their own family involved in the case, and couldn't continue. "We hit on the idea of doing it as a collective."When it came to the format, a number of ideas were tossed around before settling on the country musical/courtroom drama format. "We had to find a way of embracing the absurdity of the story - and also the genuine hurt." Country music to the rescue.While The Pigeon King is a comedy, it still touches on the devastation left in the wake of the fraud scheme - century farms lost, divorces and other misery. Gil emphasizes that the humour in the play doesn't come at the cost of ridiculing any of the victims. He also emphasizes the central thesis of the scheme. "This was only possible because of the precarious nature of farming in Canada."To get at the heart of the story, Gil began with a public list of the creditors left owing at the time of the trial. "I wrote a passionate letter," he says. It was a letter asking for the victim's help in providing the details. "I started getting letters back, and phone calls."Gil recalls one of the first couples who replied. They had lost a great deal. "But, they were still able to laugh at it," he says. As the couple noted, and as it came out in court, until the scheme collapsed in 2008, Arlan never bounced a cheque, and was never so much as late for a pick up. The couple was so enthusiastic about the project, they asked for tickets to the show. "There was an openness," Gil marvels.He gathered the stories of the farmer victims, Arlan's sales people, even from the prosecutors. Gil also listened to audio transcripts from the trial - where Arlan represented himself - and lifted some of the lines directly from the tapes.During the trial, Arlan tried to bring in a theory about the Amish Mafia and other bizarre ruses to deflect blame. Gil was not able to interview him directly, but there was plenty of material - including his own words to quote - from the trial transcripts and numerous media interviews at the time, along with Arlan's own Pigeon Newsletter that he wrote and sent out during his dubious reign as an pigeon investment king.As Gil and his co-creators gathered material and wrote the play, he describes a process that became a collective, one that gradually came to include virtually the entire community."It's got these incredible characters - the fall from grace, pride and hubris." Along with the comedic and musical elements, the play turned into a huge and unexpected hit. "There was some trepidation," he says, but it proved unwarranted. "People went crazy for it."Among the audience members for its initial run in the summer of 2017 were many of the victims and people involved in the story, including one of Arlan's former salesmen. "Folks saw it and were hugely grateful. They were effusive." The former pigeon futures salesman went on to tell all his former clients about the show and even drove some of them to the theatre.After this month's run, the show goes into hibernation, but only until next year. The show will be heading east to Ottawa's National Arts Centre in 2019 - the first Blyth Festival original production to do so. "We're going to load it all up and take it to Ottawa." Gil says that the invitation to Ottawa came from the NAC's Artistic Director, Jillian Keiley, who made the trip to Blyth last summer. "She came and saw the show, and was blown away."Gil calls it a "real validation" of not only the play, but the community. "Blyth is so connected to the farming community," he says. "To put Canadian farmers on stage in Ottawa is really something.

New York City Opera Presents Madama Butterfly in Bryant Park June 13 2018
From a media release:Bryant Park PicnicsNew York City Opera Presents Madama ButterflyWednesday, June 13, 2018 - 6pmNEW YORK CITY - The second of four extraordinary hour-long performances produced by New York City Opera in Bryant Park this summer, watch Puccini's tragic story about an abandoned geisha bride.The New York City Opera series at Bryant Park Picnics continues with this hour-long presentation of highlights from Giacomo Puccini's classic opera, Madama Butterfly. Offered to the New York public free-of-charge, this presentation is a perfect introduction to opera for newcomers of any age.Tenor Alex Richardson made his Metropolitan Opera and HD as the Shepherd in Tristan und Isolde and returned as the 2nd Jew (Salome). This season at the Met he participated in The Exterminating Angel and Parsifal; was Flaminio at NYCO's L'amore dei tre re; recitalist in Florida and was Alfredo (Traviata) with the Philharmonia Orchestra of New York. Active roles include: the roles of Peter Grimes, Werther; Cavaradossi, Tamino, Rodolfo, Roméo, Alfredo, Duke, Rinuccio, Alwa (Lulu), Vana Kudrjas (Kata Kabanova), Molqi (The Death of Klinghoffer), Vaudémont (Iolanta) and Steuermann (Der fliegende Holländer). He can be heard in the title role of Amleto (Hamlet) by Franco Faccio recently released by Opera Southwest.Korean born Mezzo-Soprano Yoojin Lee has delighted audiences with her blend of a powerful voice and stage presence. Her career started at Mannes College of The New School for MM and PSD in 2009-2013. She is currently a member of Metropolitan Opera Ensemble and is an active member performing since 2016. Ms. Lee has also performed many various repertoires, classic to contemporary music at Mannes College and other programs, IVAI in 2013, Prelude to Performance with Martina Arroyo Foundation in 2014 and Caramoor festival in 2016 and 2017. Recently she performed in the premiere of Sirens and Gulliver's Travels by Victoria Bond at Symphony space and American Opera Projects in New York City. Also, a special performance at the New York Public Library. Recently Ms. Lee performed "The Dinner Party" Mini-Operas Inspired by Judy Chicago with NYU Tisch School of the Arts as a soloist this May.Baritone Michael Weyandt continues to engage audiences with his "virile, ardent" singing and "notable characterizations" in a repertoire that spans from Handel's earliest to living composers' latest works. He most recently made his first appearance with the acclaimed International Contemporary Ensemble in the posthumous premier of Pauline Oliveros's and IONE's "phantom opera," The Nubian Word for Flowers. He also recently debuted with New York City Opera in Angels in America and Hawaii Opera Theater in La Bohème, the premiere of a new work with his multidisciplinary troupe the Atelier at JACK in Brooklyn, performances of Eight Songs for a Mad King and Kagel with the Talea Ensemble, and the staged premiere of selections from When Adonis Calls for Opera America's New Works Forum.Hailed by Opera News for her "sumptuous, mid-weight soprano," and The New York Times' Anthony Tommasini for her "warm, ample voice," "ravishing performance" and "distinctive earthy coloring," Brandie Sutton began her professional career with a solo recital in the province of St. Maarten and many presentations of Handel's Messiah around the United States. Ms. Sutton has appeared on opera stages such as Semperoper Dresden, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Hamburgische Staatsoper, Grand Théâtre de Genève and Alter Oper Frankfurt. She has also made her solo recital debut at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., Merkin Concert Hall in Lincoln Center and concert debut at Carnegie Hall. She has performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, Royal Danish Symphony Orchestra, the Radio Orpheus Symphony Orchestra in Moscow and the Krasnoyarsk Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. Ms. Sutton has also debuted with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.New York City Opera at Bryant Park continues this summer with a never-before-seen sneak preview of City Opera's season opener, Robert Ward's The Crucible (August 28) and an hour-long performance of highlights from Rossini's The Barber of Seville (September 17).Location and Directions:Bryant Park is situated behind the New York Public Library in midtown Manhattan, between 40th and 42nd Streets & Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Take the B, D, F, or M train to 42nd Street/Bryant Park; or, take the 7 train to 5th Avenue.

Japan, Canada & Me Photo Contest - Open for Entries till June 30 2018
From a media release:JAPAN, CANADA & ME PHOTO CONTESTOpen for entries to June 30, 2018Toronto and GTA residents are invited to celebrate 90 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Canada with the JAPAN, CANADA & ME PHOTO CONTEST.Mt Fuji, JapanShare a photo of what friendship between Japan and Canada means to you for a chance to win round-trip air tickets to Japan from Air Canada or one of several prizes from Canon Canada, Muji, and the Japan Restaurant Association Canada.• To enter, share your entry on Instagram with the hashtag #JapanCanada90 before June 30th, 2018.The Photo Contest is open to all residents of the GTA (including City of Toronto, Halton Region, Peel Region, York Region, and Durham Region). Those residents of the GTA that have spent no more than 90 days in Japan on leisure in 2018 are also considered eligible.• Please refer to the Japan Photo Contest Rules for further details.Osaka, JapanThe contest is open for entries from May 12 to June 30. You will need to follow the Instagram accounts of the Consulate-General of Japan in Toronto (@JapanConsToronto) and share your entry using the hashtag #JapanCanada90.  You will also need to follow Canon Canada (@CanonCanada) .• There are the Youth (under 18) and General categories so please choose the appropriate one to enter.A Grand Prize will be awarded to one work selected from among all the entries in both categories. As well, first, second and third place entries as well as four judges’ picks from each categories will be awarded prizes. (Thus, a total of 15 entries will be awarded prizes.) In addition to the prizes and accompanying certificates, the winning entries will also be exhibited in a public venue. Details on the prizes are here.Bamboo grove, JapanContest Release FormPlease be sure to read the contest rules then complete and submit the Contest Release Form. Please note that a work will only be considered an official entry after we receive the Release Form.• Contest Release Form Available HereThen send it in to the Japanese Embassy in Toronto:• By e-mail: culturaleventcgto@to.mofa.go.jp• By post:Suite 3300, 77 King St. West,P.O. Box 10, T-D Centre,Toronto, ON M5K 1A1• Please direct any questions to: culturaleventcgto@to.mofa.go.jpWe look forward to receiving your entry!!!Travel Tip:TOKYO METRO TOURIST TICKET MACHINESTokyo Metro has started adding new, tourist-friendly ticket vending machines to high-traffic stations. The new machines allow users to search for their destination using a map, station name, station number, or sightseeing spot. The machines operate in English, Traditional & Simplified Chinese, Korean, French, Spanish, and Thai, and Chinese travelers can enter names in pinyin. Various rail passes can also be purchased using these new machines.


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