Saturday, 16 October 2010

James Street Night of Art, St Catharines

Last night I watched a couple run over a reindeer in a shop window, sat in a high-end furniture store listening to a jazz trio and went down a dark alley to talk to British rock legend Keith Richards. Or someone very much like him.

The occasion was the James Street Night of Art, held in downtown St Catharines, Ontario. The idea was that artists and performers of every kind would take over the block from 6 to 9pm, singing, music-making, acting, dancing, painting and entertaining.

Keith Richards, famed as the guitarist of The Rolling Stones, had positioned himself on a velvet couch at the end of an alleyway. He kindly put down his Jack Daniels and his cigarette for a moment so I could photograph him. (I heard a rumour said rock star was actually actress Dee Jones, of the Niagara-based theatre group Suitcase in Point, promoting The Keith Richards One Woman Show, which runs from Thursday 4 to Sunday 7 November at The Mikado on Helliwell Lane. I prefer to believe it was Keith himself.)

In the adjacent building, a furniture store, The Scholarly Trio gathered round a grand piano to croon a few standards by Harold Arlen (Somewhere over the Rainbow) and Carlos Jobim (The Girl from Ipanema). A similarly classy furniture retailer at the other end of James Street hosted a quite different trio: brothers George and Gordon Cleland (St Catharines Chamber Music Society) on violin and cello, playing music to the words young narrator Davian Hart, in excerpts from the upcoming musical presentation Fabulous Aesop (19 March 2011, 1pm, St Catharines Centennial Library).

It was quite possible to wander around the area for a good three hours without hearing or watching the same performance twice. I spent a mere two hours flitting between storefronts and cafes, sampling Earthbeat's African drumming at Coffee Culture, joining in with barbershop quartet Audacity (albeit rather timidly from the back row) at the St Catharines Arts Council and chuckling at an absurd scene of a rather odd couple from Theatre Beyond Words reviving Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer after mowing him down in the Hoogasian Insurance storefront.

Compared to last night's block party of absurdist spectacle, today's Doors Open Niagara seemed quite sedate. I ventured to Queen Street Baptist Church, St Catharines, to hear the organ and view some rather lovely stained glass windows. The church, whose current building dates to 1891 (the 1833 original was destroyed by fire earlier that year) is also open tomorrow, Sunday 16 October, from 12 noon to 4pm.

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