Second-year music director Danielle Lisboa leads the volunteer-based Orchestra Toronto, which has been wooing ears with tightly spun symphonic works for nearly 60 years. The 80-piece ensemble reassembles in February, providing concertgoers respite from cold-weather blues and panhandling snowmen with "Winter Tales," a collection of fiery, accessible compositions from several legendary composers. Lars-Erik Larsson's The Winter's Tale sets the show in motion before giving way to a quartet of classics, including Chris Meyer's In Memoriam Henryk Gorecki and Sergei Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet Suite no. 2. To start the afternoon, attendees can pop into a pre-concert chat, where Clasical 96.3 FM personality Alexa Petrenko will discuss the day's set and explain how violins maintain such curvy physiques. Recognized among Canada's elite venues, George Weston Recital Hall creates an acoustical cocoon with painstakingly insulated walls and retractable curtains and panels that can be rearranged for optimal sound.
Reflecting on this childhood, Chris Keating sometimes feels as if he didn't exist. His parents' divorce left him with very little tangible evidence of his formative years, so he's spent his adult life as a photographer making sure children can look back fondly at warm family memories. Chris Keating and his Calgary staff have made this a reality for more than 3,000 families since opening the doors to Towne Photography in 2006. There, the professional photographic crew shoots posed and candid shots of families, children, couples, and babies at picturesque parks or against their studio backdrops, and they also snap triumphant graduate portraits, intimate prenatal shots, and provocative passport pics that make border crossing a breeze. Their ironclad guarantee allows unsatisfied clients to request reshoots, reprints, or resizing on all photographs, and they vow to remake or recapture any artwork that sustains damage over the years. Chris also takes his photographic knowledge on the road to conduct Betterphoto Workshops across the United States and Canada, teaching novice photographers how to artistically preserve their most precious memories.
You can always tell what day of the week it is by peaking your head into Alleycatz Live Jazz Bar's modern dining room. On Mondays, salsa bounces off the eatery's vibrant red oak and exposed-brick walls as instructors lead groups in free dance lessons. Jazz musicians improvise on Tuesdays, blues singers take the stage on Wednesdays, and soul and R&B bands please cochlear passageways on Thursdays. Fridays and Saturdays end the week by featuring a rotating melange of genres and top 40 hits.
Of course, this up-tempo atmosphere is fueled by food inspired by the Mediterranean, where some anthropologists believe music also exists. Just like jazz players enjoy slipping extra notes into their solos, executive chef Michael Skan isn't afraid to add his own little flourishes to classic items. He gives the fresh-made pasta dishes playful names like "Sexy Spaghettini"—which comes mixed with tiger Shrimp, grilled chicken, and a spicy cilantro olive oil—and deep fries New York-style cheesecakes. The bartenders share Chef Skan's creative flair, mixing signature martins such as the "Orgasmic Catz," an amalgamation of raspberry vodka, Cointreau, Champagne, lime, and cranberry.
Since opening as the Bonita Theatre in 1911, the city's oldest movie house has undergone numerous transformations, most recently screening Chinese and Hindi films throughout the '80s and '90s and Tamil-language films in the current millennium. Big Picture Cinema is its latest incarnation, specializing in independent and world cinema. Grinder Coffee, the theatre's next door neighbour, concocts gourmet concessions, meals, and coffee for moviegoers before they saunter down the theatre's wood-to-concrete floor and sink into one of 295 seats, lined with marine blue corduroy.
As 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound orbits the audience, 35mm and digital projectors showcase premieres of films that eschew traditional Hollywood fare, including a monthly horror film series in partnership with Fangoria Magazine and weekly Bollywood film reels discovered in the theatre basement during renovations. Local artists also showcase their work each Wednesday followed by coffee and discussion sessions with the audience, where they can ask guest moviemakers about the creative process or how to talk actors out of staying in pirate character during visits to the dentist.
Wanting to fuse Mediterranean hospitality with modern elegance, the owners of Zemra Bar Lounge took design plans into their own hands, opening their walls and stage to local artists and musicians. Subdued light bounces off red and goldenrod walls dotted with paint, highlighting the friendly wait staff as they bustle between the dining room and kitchen. Inside the culinary chemistry lab, chefs Ghandour and Brunke prepare pastas, steaks, chops, and seafood from a menu of fine Pan-Mediterranean fare. To compliment the cuisine, the chefs recommend a variety of wines or one of the bar master's signature cocktails. Events such as the open mic on Wednesdays and live music on Fridays create a festive atmosphere while reflecting the local community, their talents, penchant for creativity, and ability to whistle in Italian.
By fusing together a bistro, jazz club, and art gallery, The Gallery Studio Cafe remains dedicated to owner Derek Houghton's vision of supporting local artists. Chef Carol, The Gallery Studio Cafe's certified cuisine concocter, assembles an array of tapas, soups, sandwiches, and brunch fare in her open kitchen, allowing diners to watch as Carol preps their meals and sharpens her samurai swords for vegetable chopping. Comfy European white leather furniture cozies up beside the café's real fireplace amid canvases crafted by local and international artists displayed throughout the expansive gallery space. In addition to jazz performances four nights a week, ranging from Thursday-night acoustic renditions to Saturday-afternoon sessions, The Gallery Studio Cafe hosts abundant musical events, including swing music every second Wednesday of the month and whenever Fred Astaire's ghost drops by.