Last night, Mack and I attended the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts for the second year in a row. This time we were lucky enough to snag two tickets (thanks to Bryan Cox of Molson, one of the evening’s sponsors) to the swanky pre-reception held on the second floor of the Citadel’s Tucker Amphitheatre.
I loved the setting – still early enough to catch the late afternoon sun filtering through the greenhouse windows, surrounded by greenery, and accented by a lovely water feature, both of us had never known that this oasis existed (it’s the closest thing we have to Calgary’s Devonian Gardens). We were probably slightly underdressed (the number of suits and 3-inch heels were blinding), but we had a good time spotting local “celebrities” (City Councilors, MLAs, members of the arts community) and noshing on the Northlands-catered food.
Kabob, naan and fish (the kabobs were surprisingly tender)
Lettuce and fruit wrap (lovely idea, tied with a chive shard, but the fruit was non-existent)
Popcorn gnocchi with smoked salt (deep-fried, but you wouldn’t know it – a bit disappointing)
Watermelon sorbet and Espresso Cups (the latter was my favorite dish of the event – the crisp lemon mousse was a sweet finish)
We were also treated to a lively African drumming performance, and I had to wonder why the concrete stage (albeit small) isn’t utilized for more performances on a regular basis. I’m sure a Fringe-like show could easily make the most of the light and fantastic backdrop for a memorable production.
African drumming (I didn’t catch the name of the group, unfortunately)
Just before 7pm, we crossed the street over to the Winspear Centre for the show. Hosted again by CBC’s Peter Brown and CTV’s Carrie Doll, they were just as charming as last year, and I can share that Mack reacted with glee to Doll’s onstage Twitter reference.
I really appreciated the range of performances we were treated to, including the witty and entertaining blend of spoken words and music by The Raving Poets, the hilariously talented “ukulele cover band” known as The Be Arthurs, and a clever and spirited scene from Nathan Cuckow and Chris Craddock’s gay rap opera, Bash’d. I felt fortunate to be privy to some of the best Edmonton’s arts community has to offer, all in one evening. Of course, there were a few less interesting performances – the penguin-inspired number by the KO Dance Project went about five minutes too long – and no single entertainer captured my imagination quite like Samantha Schultz did last year. Also, though the closing Latin band Bomba! eventually did get people dancing up on stage (a Celebration of the Arts tradition), it was touch and go for a bit until the lead singer took it upon himself to teach some basic steps. Still, it was a great show overall.
Show-ending dancing on stage
Though the celebration had award presentations sprinkled throughout, they seemed secondary to the performances and almost like a necessary evil. I was happy to see that Tim Ryan (the man behind the musicals at Grant MacEwan) was recognized with an Outstanding Lifetime Achievement prize.
For just $25 each (with all proceeds going to the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers and the African Centre this year), the Celebration was a great opportunity to watch up-and-coming performers and help recognize some of the stellar contributions made by members of the local arts community.