A review of the Sing-Along Messiah by Seve, age 5

“I wanted to sit in the back row because it’s higher up.  I REALLY wanted to sit in the back row.

I wanted to go see the top level, too.  We saw it at intermission, which was a lot of steps, but I like that better than an escalator because it’s better for exercise.  You can see more stuff but the seats are NOT soft.

I LOVE the seats that bump back and forth when you stand up.  Those are my FAVOURITE seats. You stand up a LOT in this show.

I didn’t get all the jokes.

My favourite instruments are the two trumpets and the two kettledrums.

My favourite song is Ha-le-you-lah.  It goes like this:

HA-LE-YOU-LAH!
HA-LE-YOU-LAH!
HA-LE-YOU-LAH HA-LE-YOU-LAH HA-LE-YOU-LAH!
KING OF KINGS!
AND LA-DI-DAH!
KING OF KINGS!
AND LA-DI-DAH!
HA-LE-YOU-LAH!
HA-LE-YOU-LAH!

I got gummi bears during the intermission.  I also got a hot chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles after.

I REALLY wanted to leave after Ha-le-you-lah.  My mom let me play with her phone.

I did NOT like all the clapping after the man sang with the trumpets.  People just would not stop clapping!*

We got to do Ha-le-you-lah two times which is the best part when they do it with the drums.

People on the stage got flowers.  Then we went home.

Oh! And I liked the lights in the building, too, but my mom wouldn’t tell me what P-O-O-O spelled BUT GUESS WHAT IT SPELLS?**

It spells poo!  Now I understand that joke!

I would go see this show again.”


Massey Hall typo* Baritone Brett Polegato was outstanding.  The thunderous applause following The Trumpet Shall Sound was well-deserved.

** Seve asked me this question in the world’s loudest stage whisper. I had no idea what he was talking about until I looked up.

For a sense of what the afternoon’s performance was like, check out Tafelmusik‘s event page or watch this video and sing along to the Ha-le-you-lah chorus in the comfort of your own home.

The play’s the thing

I don’t imagine that if one were to create a Venn diagram to illustrate this post, that the intersection between People Who Closely Follow Canadian Federal Politics and People Who Enjoy Amateur Theatre would serve up much more than a hair’s breadth of overlap. But surely there are a couple of people who can lay claim to both. So, Rodney MacDonald of Inverness and Katherine Sousa of Strathcona, this one’s for you.


There has been much debate about the level of civility and accountability in the Canadian House of Parliament. Some are suggesting that the solution lies in giving the Speaker of the House greater powers, others feel such a move “goes too far.”

But two things caught my ear during debate earlier today, and they pointed at the same thing.

First, Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada, referred to the performance of some MPs as “bad high school theatre.” Not long after, MP Scott Simms (Liberal) described Question Period as “expensive dinner theatre … and not necessarily good theatre, either.”

My first impulse, after banging on my invisible desk (aka: my lap) and spilling my non-invisible beverage (aka: my coffee) was to wonder what kind of actual theatre one might be able to get away with in the House.

There are the Aristotelian standards: tragedy, comedy, melodrama, drama. I think those are fair game and already well represented, though perhaps unintentionally (comedy, I’m looking at you).

Then there are different theatrical styles, everything from classical (Shakespeare’s Hamlet) to postmodern (Müller’s Hamletmachine).  Theatre of the Absurd. So many options to choose from!

But I am limited by time (have to pick up my kid) and space (see earlier reference to lap desk) so I have decided to limit my suggested lineup to these three stagings:

Tony and Tina’s Wedding (dinner theatre)
A “festive celebration,” this show dispenses with the public gallery, and invites visiting groups to join in on the fun. Raise a toast to democracy! Amuse your bouche with Parliamentary procedure! Main course: Pizza. Don’t ask.

Phantom of the Opera (musical)
The spirit of accountability returns to haunt Members. Featuring the popular songs, “All I Ask Of You,” “Why So Silent?” and “Notes.”

Death of a Salesman (tragedy)
An older man struggles to accept that his services are no longer needed. Will his children face a brighter future, thanks to his sacrifice? (Spoiler: No.)

And … scene.

Does Word Crimes cross the line?

dictionary_grammarOne of my favourite words in the Spanish language is aguafiestas.  Its direct translation is “water parties” but it’s used to describe someone who ruins a good time.  In English, the closest equivalent would be “party pooper.”

I mention that because I’m about to be an aguafiestas.

I’ll tell you up front: if you’re an actual person who actually lives under an actual rock, what I’m about to say will make little sense.  But then again, you’ve chosen to set up shop with spiders and bats and pervasive dampness, and you’re willingly reading the dreck I shovel out, so I think we’ve established that sense isn’t your strong suit.

HOWEVER.  If you have managed to somehow hotwire your literal man cave into a wifi-enabled zone, perhaps you are familiar with the phenomenon that is Weird Al Yankovic‘s latest video, Word Crimes.  It was released yesterday and has taken the internet — by which I mean my personal Facebook feed — by storm.

It has its fans.  It has its detractors.  And it also has me, a Fourth Degree Pedant and Charter Member of Aguafiestas Internacional.  And here’s what I’m finding so irksome — one little word in a sea of many, one rhyme that is perfect (in the rhyming sense) and horrible (in the words-we-use-to-describe-other-humans sense).  Here is the section I’m talking about:

Saw your blog post
It’s really fantastic
That was sarcastic
‘Cause you write like a spastic

Really?  Spastic?  That’s the best you could do, Weird Al?

I have a lot of feeeeelings about the use of that word, but here’s the short version.  It’s akin to using — at least in North America — the word “retard.”  It’s an “othering” word, a pejorative, one used to mock and deride people with physical disabilities.  It wasn’t always so; its meaning derives from a word for “pulling” or “drawing in” which can be used to describe the muscular differences seen in some individuals.  In common usage, though, it’s … it’s not a good word to use.

Most commonly, it would be used to describe people living with cerebral palsy, a disorder that can have dramatic physiological effects but doesn’t necessarily have an impact on intellectual functioning (which is implied by the “write like a” line).

Don’t believe me on that last point?  Check out my friend Katie’s website.  Katie has cerebral palsy.  And she writes a blog.  And it really is fantastic.

I should probably leave it at that, but as a part-time editor, I feel duty-bound to offer up a few alternative word choices.  Here are some other words that Weird Al could have — should have — used:

That was sarcastic / ‘Cause your writing is bombastic
Bombastic is a great word.  It means inflated, pretentious.  Suits pretty much every blog post I’ve ever read.  Or written.

That was sarcastic / You think you’re so scholastic
The best part of using a word like scholastic is that you know you’re going to have listeners who only know it as a brand: “Scholastic? Like the book order people?”

That was sarcastic / No wonder you’re monastic
Okay, it’s a cheap shot to go after someone’s sex life.  But surely no cheaper a shot than perpetuating the myth that a body’s physical challenges also limit the mind’s ability to appreciate — and celebrate — language.

Anyway.  That feels like enough agua for one day.  Apparently my daughter’s cadre of Hello Kitty dolls are having some kind of birthday party, and I’ve been invited to attend the fiesta.  Bring on the cake.

Sing to your babies

This morning I woke up to some very sad news: that Pete Seeger had died.

Credit: Annie Leibovitz. Pete Seeger, Clearwater Revival, Croton-on-Hudson, NY, 2001And I know it’s partly the fading fever at work — buh-bye H1N1, please do let the door hit you in the arse on the way out — and the fact that I’ve eaten nothing but popsicles for days, but I’ve been crying, actually crying about this on-and-off today.  Both my parents are still alive so I haven’t been hit  squarely with grief, but other family members have died without so soppy a send-off.

I think the reaction — as only one other person on the planet, my sister, will understand — is largely a result of the fact that one of my still-living parents, my dad, used to sing us Pete Seeger songs at bedtime, when we were small.  And not-so-small.  We were cute and willing to fake neediness if it got us another story or song (Note to self: be on the look-out for similar tactics coming from local anti-sleep activists).

I didn’t realize until I was much older how message-laden those songs were, how firm a foundation we were being given in the principles of equity and action, under the guise of a lullaby.

More recently, I saw a documentary about Pete Seeger on PBS.  They interviewed a person who spoke about his home; apparently he had a house on the Hudson River in an area that had since been declared a state park, so there was no further development.  The interviewee said that he used to visit his parents, who lived across the river, and he’d look out from their place, and he could see if the lights were on, and he’d “know if Mr. Seeger was home.”

Today, the lights will be dark, but they glow just as bright across all rivers, now that Mr. Seeger is home.

And tonight, if you have the exquisite opportunity to do so, sing to your babies.  They will remember it all their lives.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.