On Tuesday, a festival called BC Scene will take over Ottawa for 13 days. It’s a celebration of British Columbia arts and culture, and features the province’s best musicians, actors, dancers, choreographers, writers, visual and media artists, and chefs.
It’s going to be a busy two weeks, with 90 different events taking place around town. It can be pretty daunting trying to figure out what to see, so here’s my totally biased list of can’t miss events.
DISCLAIMER: This is not a marketing initiative, or some subtle social media ploy to encourage ticket sales. There are just a lot of cool things happening, and it would be a shame if you missed out on some great events.
Tuesday, April 21
The festival opens with SWARM, a free party that highlights B.C.’s incredible visual arts scene. There’s a gallery crawl to various exhibitions from 6:00 to 9:00 pm, followed by an opening night party at the NAC. There’ll be a DJ, some highly-entertaining interactive theatre, and a performance piece by visual artist Rebecca Belmore that’s pretty stunning. Full details are here.
Wednesday, April 22
You must go to First Baptist Church for the Dan Mangan / Danny Michel double bill. They’re both fantastic signer-songwriters, and it’s going to be an intimate acoustic show in an interesting venue. CBC is recording the show for broadcast on Canada Live. Full details are here.
Thursday, April 23
I’m not that familiar with slam poetry, but Shane Koyczan made me a fan in about two minutes. Shane appears on a few shows during the festival, but the one I’m most looking forward to is T.O.F.U. (Tons of Fun University). He joins forces with C.R. Avery and Mike McGee to create a powerful talk-rock trio that is funny, profane, and profound. They’re opening for Kinnie Starr, who can deliver on the word front as well. Full details are here.
Friday, April 24
Theatre Replacement’s BIOBOXES is running for four days at GCTC. These are intimate one-on-one theatre experiences – it’s just you and an actor, whose head happens to be encased in box. I haven’t experienced it yet, and I’m wondering how I’ll feel having a stranger in my personal space for seven minutes. There are shows running over the lunch hour, so if I were you, I’d grab a bite at Thyme and Again and then take in three boxes. It’s a pretty cool escape from the usual routine. Full details are here.
Saturday, April 25
Crystal Pite is one of the country’s hottest dancer-choreographers, and she’s presenting the world premiere of her new work during the festival. Crystal stole the show at last year’s Governor General’s Performing Arts Award Gala with just a brief performance, and buzz has been building ever since. Full details are here.
Sunday, April 26
If I wasn’t working on Sunday, I’d pack the family in the car and head over the Gatineaus for a walk and some treats from the bakery in Chelsea. Then I’d continue up to the Blacksheep Inn for Celso Machado’s show. He’s a fantastic Brazilian guitarist, and he plays with a couple of other great musicians – John Reischman on mandolin and percussionist Sal Ferreras. It sounds like an ideal family outing. Full details are here.
Monday, April 27
The Rideau Chapel at the National Gallery of Canada is a beautiful little venue, and it’s the place to catch four noon-hour classical recitals during the festival. On the Monday, clarinetist Francois Houle is performing a program of works by North and South American composers, including the world premiere of one of his own compositions. Full details are here.
Tuesday, April 28
Yes, I’m recommending two recitals in a row. musica intima is a 12-voice a cappella choir from Vancouver, and I think they are the perfect ensemble for the Rideau Chapel. After the recital is over, take a quick look at the two exhibitions running during the Scene – Nomads and Scott McFarland: A Cultivated View. Full details are here and here and here.
Wednesday, April 29
By this point in the festival, you’re probably ready for some care and feeding. A five course dinner prepared by Melissa Craig, one of the country’s finest chefs, would probably fit the bill. Add in some B.C. wine pairings, and you’re all set to tackle the last four days of the festival. Full details are here.
Thursday, April 30
Dances for a Small Stage is exactly what it sounds like – dancer-choreographers performing on a very small stage. If you’re used to getting your dance fix in a larger venue, you owe it to yourself to try something a little more intimate (but not that intimate). As a plus, the bar is open throughout the performance, which is another thing you don’t get in a more traditional venue. Full details are here.
Friday, May 1
The last time the Vancouver Symphony performed in Ottawa, I was four years old. So, it’s probably something I should see when I get the chance. The fact that the program includes Stravinsky’s Petrouchka also has something to do with my interest in the performance. Did I mention the Grammy and Juno awards they picked up last year? Full details are here.
If classical music isn’t your thing, they you have to go to the Blacksheep to hear Mother Mother and Miss Emily Brown. If you haven’t heard Mother Mother, go to their MySpace page, turn your volume to 11, and listen to Hayloft. It’s become my favourite festival song. Full details are here
Yes, I know I chose two events on the same day. My blog, my rules).
Saturday, May 2
Hang in there – it’s the final weekend. Head over to Dominion-Chalmers United Church for and catch Hard Rubber Orchestra. It’s kinda sorta like a big band that performs an eclectic mix of new music / avant-garde jazz. Whatever you call it, they’re amazing. And the show is free (you’re welcome). Full details are here.
Sunday, May 3
On the final day of BC Scene, I would bring the kids to the Canadian Museum of Civilization for a build-your-own ukulele workshop. This isn’t a Kleenex box with rubber bands – this is a high-quality wooden instrument that will last for years. Sure, it’ll take about 90 minutes to build, but it’s totally worth it. While the glue is drying, catch virtuoso James Hill’s free ukulele performance. You’ll never look at a ukulele the same way again. Details are here and here.