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Theatrical co-production of Vimy both moves and educates

In terms of news coverage for Vimy, by Governor General’s Award-winning playwright Vern Thiessen, the Arts Booster Club has a report as does Angus Webb ’19, whose first foray into acting was both a personal history lesson and a chance to immerse himself in a  completely different world:

Congratulations to all the actors and everyone who contribute to the Upper Canada College-Bishop Strachan School co-production of Vimy on Nov. 23 through 25 in the lecture theatre. Every detail is thoughtfully considered for this production both inside and outside the theatre, from the reception area decorated with old posters of Canadians who fought in Vimy to the intimate stage of four hospital beds set against the sounds of battle. Costumes are so well done; one understand that, in those conditions, a pair of shoes two sizes too big is part of the deal.

Most impressive is the cast whose wonderful performance makes it hard to hold back tears. The history of Vimy, narrated by each individual, is the history of Canada; it’s a country of different cultures with something in common — their love for their land. This play was a must-see, not only for students but also for parents.

-Arts Booster Club

Going into my first play, I didn’t know what to expect. Most of cast members were new to acting, too. With the help of the two returning actors and director, Ms. Macdonell, over eight diligent weeks we learned much about both the art of theatre, and the Battle of Vimy Ridge. I remember studying the event in Grade 9 Canadian history and heard stories of my great-grandfather as a highlander at Vimy, but never had I understood how the soldiers felt during and in the days leading up to the famous battle. Playing soldiers and a nurse, in Vern Thiessen’s VIMY, showed us all the different Canadian perspectives of the war. We all felt very pleased with the play’s reception. It was wonderful to be part of a significant Canadian play for the UCC/BSS fall production.

-Angus Webb


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Festival of Christmas Music and Readings kicks off the holiday season

Check out this collection of videos from the Festival of Christmas Music and Readings. Then scroll down to read the Prep Arts Booster Club’s account of the afternoon, along with some images.

Prep musicians add sparkle to Festival of Christmas Music and Reading

prep1Laidlaw Hall was filled with the joyous sounds of holiday music as the Prep Concert Band, the wind ensemble and the Prep school choirs performed in UCC’s annual Festival of Christmas Music and Readings on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017.

Parents, students and friends came together in song to celebrate the upcoming holiday season. Our musicians and singers were phenomenal, with an impressive vocal solo performance by Form 7 student Andrew Ma in the processional carol, “Once in Royal David’s City.” Friends and families were also treated to moving readings by Prep boys Jack Guilfoyle and Hudson Vandermeer, and Upper School students Noah Verhoeff and Josh Neufeldt.

prep2Thank you to Kathryn Edmondson, Tony Gomes, Paul McGarr and Daniel Webb for organizing this lovely afternoon. Thank you to all our Prep Primary and Senior Choir boys’ beautiful carols. And a special thank you goes to Paul McGarr and the talented boys in the Prep concert band for welcoming guests to the Upper School with a selection of Christmas carols, a terrific prelude to the day’s main event.

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Fall Music Night showcases talent
Laidlaw Hall was the place to be, on Wednesday, Nov. 15, to enjoy this autumn’s Music Night. The ambience was inviting and the music was groovy, while the energy of a stage full of young musicians filled the hall with exuberance.
music1music2The music moved the audience with its crisp and soaring melodies, no doubt so beautifully rendered due to a great deal of practice. The boys delivered a fine concert, indeed.
Thank you to all the talented boys of the Blue Notes, the wind ensemble, the concert, symphonic, junior jazz band, Intermediate jazz and Senior jazz bands, and to Mr. Webb, Mr. Gomes, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Heffernan, who all worked so hard to make a night like this happen.
-Arts Booster Club

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Save the date for Association Day

Mark your calendar, UCC families and friends — Association Day (A-Day) is September 23, 2017. A-Day is one of the biggest community events of the entire school year. Join Old Boys, students, parents, past parents and friends of the College for a wonderful day of friendship, fun and UCC spirit.

Here’s coverage from last year’s event.

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Jazz Fest repertoire showcases talent

Friends and family gathered in the David Chu Theatre for an intimate, one-night only musical event on April 28. Peter Smith and the senior jazz ensemble entertained the audience with a fabulous repertoire including hits from Bill Withers, Lennon and McCartney, and Rodgers and Hart. [Scroll down for complete photo/video coverage.]

The night was filled with wonderful solo performances from many of the boys including Max Fingold on alto sax, JC Chung on tenor sax, Jayson Dale on keyboard, Robert Walker and Jacob Gotlieb on guitar, and Raphael Berz on trumpet. Highlights of the evening included a stunning duet by Kal Shaw on alto sax with his mom on keyboard, an incredible rendition of “I’m Feeling Good” featuring vocalist Nathan McLean and a captivating solo performance by singer Flynn Tanner on his acoustic guitar.

A number of songs showcased the impressive vocal talent of Daniella Gallay and Amanda Cash from the Bishop Strachan School. They sang beautifully in such classics as “My Funny Valentine” and “Girl From Ipanema.”

Throughout the evening, younger band members expressed heartfelt gratitude to the Leaving Class boys for their hard work and friendship. Jazz Night concluded with a lovely presentation and gift for Peter Smith.

A huge thank you goes to Smith and our talented senior jazz ensemble; you definitely all put on a terrific show. Best and warmest wishes go to our graduating IB2s. We will miss you.

The Arts Booster Club

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Collaborative art project by Grade 8 boys at Norval

Norval art project clock tower

Do you recognize this building?

All 140 Upper Canada College Grade 8 students were involved in the first of what should be annual collaborative art projects at the Norval Outdoor School last month.

“Students use found materials to create place-based land art on a large scale, inspired by the history of UCC and Norval’s land use,” says Norval instructor Liz Jankowski.

While land art with natural materials in the style of Andy Goldsworthy has been created at Norval in past years during the annual Grade 8 trip, this is the first time that it’s been a collaborative effort with each piece being incorporated into the next.

Norval art project aerial shot

An aerial view of the boys’ work.

“This is also the first year their art is created to be viewed from above,” says Jankowski, noting that a drone with a camera flew over the Norval campus to record the process.

“Not only were their finished pieces a work of art, but the entire process of creation over the week was filmed as an art piece as well.”

The idea was inspired by a British children’s television series called Art Attack where, at the end of each show, the host would create a large piece of art that could only be viewed from above.

Students had two hours to collect natural materials and create their design, and all of the projects combined took 12 hours to complete.

“They learned about planning a project within time constraints, and adapting their plan as time passed,” says Jankowski.

“They learned to work together towards a common goal, and how to incorporate all ideas from their group into their final design. They had fun creating the art.”

All the materials used to create the art were later moved to line a path at Norval.

“I hope in future years we can add to this path so the whole length of the path is lined with tree cookies,” says Jankowski.

Watch this video of the process to get an idea of the scale of the project.

Arts News

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Nuit Bleue’s creative energy transforms the Upper School

Nuit Bleue was a night to remember, with so much creative energy shining brightly all through the College. From the art rooms to the David Chu Theatre, from the film room to Laidlaw Hall and throughout the student centre, creative artists in all forms dazzled visitors with their amazing work on April 18.

The excitement kicked off with a special Nuit Bleue rally in Laidlaw Hall, featuring a rock concert and students waving blue glow-bracelets enthusiastically. Then the student centre came alive with the with first ever “Iron Chef UCC” competition. Complete with celebrity judges and secret ingredients, UCC crowned its first Iron Chef. The IB2s’ incredible works were all on display and the Blue Zone had plenty of different food including ice cream and a DJ to keep everyone happy.

Moviegoers were treated to the IB2 final films, while those looking for a break in the action stopped by Cafe Moliere for some French pastries and a chance to practise their French. And what better way to enjoy the French culture than being surrounded by artworks from budding Grade 7 artists” And in the David Chu theatre, theatrical performances including improv, solo and IB2 group works impressed the audience with compelling performances.

Beautiful artwork created by artists in all grades was displayed throughout the halls, turning the school into one big gallery. The Blue Caller, a compilation of literary gems, was handed out to give people a chance to not only see and feel, but also to read some impressive works.

An awesome musical celebration capped off the evening in Laidlaw Hall featuring all the ensembles. The audience appreciated the incredible musical performances and musicians received two standing ovations.

Nuit Bleue is a celebration of the arts at UCC and, as we saw this year, there’s lots to celebrate.

Arts Booster Club

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Mother-son dinner theatre delivers the laughs

More than 400 moms, “special moms” and sons got together to share an evening of fun and laughter at the Arts Booster Club’s third annual mother-son dinner theatre on March 8.

The evening was anchored by a hilarious performance by Greg Eckler ’87, a multiple winner of the Canadian Screen Award and writer for the Rick Mercer Report. He was joined by four comedians who’ve performed all over Canada. They are Tim Steeves, Fraser Young, Jeff Tseng and Rick Currie. They kept the audience laughing all night long.

The show, called “Comedy Digest: Jokes while you Digest,” was performed in Laidlaw Hall and created specially for the evening. It included jokes about mothers, sons, relationships and so much more.

Principal McKinney offered some heartfelt words about mothers and sons before the show and everyone was treated to a delicious buffet dinner catered by Black Camel. People filled their plates multiple times, sampling all offerings from this popular spot.

It was a special evening as moms from as far away as Hong Kong and Texas came to attend with their sons. Boarders were accompanied by “special” faculty moms and Upper School moms and boys all shared the evening together in this wonderful community event.

And when the night concluded, moms took home a lovely photo with their son. The boys received a candy treat. It was a sweet ending to this incredible night where everyone left with smiles on their faces.

-Arts Booster Club

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Shrek comes to life at UCC

A large cast and crew comprised of Upper Canada College Prep boys, and female guests from The Bishop Strachan School, staged an impressive performance of Shrek on Feb. 23 and 24.

While Shrek and its three computer-animated sequels have made hundreds of millions of dollars at movie box offices, the much lower budget UCC and BSS production featured young actors bringing the title character and the likes of Princess Fiona, Donkey and many others to life on stage under the direction of Prep music head Kathryn Edmondson.

Shrek tells the story of a solitary ogre named Shrek who’s befriended by a donkey and several fairy tale creatures who are sent to live in his swamp by Lord Farquaad. Farquaad needs Fiona to marry him so he can become king of Duloc, and Shrek and Donkey help rescue her from a fire-breathing dragon.

Along the way, Shrek falls in love with Fiona, who reveals to Donkey that she’s cursed and turns into an ogress at night. Farquaad and Fiona’s wedding is interrupted by Shrek, Donkey and Dragon, who removes Farquaad from the picture. Shrek and Fiona kiss, and Fiona turns into an ogress permanently. Shrek gets his swamp back and marries Fiona.

“Friday night’s auditorium was full of family and friends who were charmed by the Prep performance of Shrek the Musical,” says Prep parent Astrid Player.

“The energy and enjoyment of the actors radiated off the stage and cultivated smiles and laughter for a fun night for everyone. Congratulation to all the hard work and talent of the UCC boys and the BSS girls.”

Here are photos from Shrek:


Arts News

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Sam Hodgkins-Sumner ’14 studied theatre and participated in several plays during his time at Upper Canada College. His involvement included directing Milton’s Paradise Lost and reviewing Aeschylus’ Agamemnon in his final year.

Hopkins-Sumner returned to the College last week to review the UCC/The Bishop Strachan School production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at UCC’s David Chu Theatre. Here are his thoughts on how the students handled the 522-year-old comedy:

“Lovers and madmen have such seething brains, such shaping fantasies, that apprehend more than cool reason ever comprehends.”

Since the Enlightenment, the West has seen an expansion of individual rights — notwithstanding times of war, totalitarian regimes and periodic political backlash. This change has certainly been manifest in the realm of relationships and sexuality. There’s been a turn from arranged marriages to romantic love, the introduction of the birth control pill and the legalization of gay marriage. As a corollary to the personal freedoms we enjoy, it’s natural to assume that it’s easier now to attain the satisfaction of romantic desires — be they deep or not so deep.

But our passions are complex. If Sigmund Freud taught us anything, it’s that our most true selves lie in the dreams, fantasies and desires we don’t often engage with rationally. If modern research on neuroplasticity teaches us anything, it’s that the brain is a highly complex and malleable thing. Hence Thales of Miletus’ claim that to know one’s self is the most difficult undertaking that human beings face.

Shakespeare was aware that desire can be a confounding force. His A Midsummer Night’s Dream is chock-full of the reason-effacing passions that seethe in lovers’ brains.

After fleeing into the woods, Hermia and Demetrius are ostensibly free to enjoy their romance after escaping Egeus’ patriarchal grasp. However, these two lovers — along with Helena, Lysander and Bottom — find themselves constantly beguiled and bewitched by the magic of fairies. As a result of fantasies, illusions and misperceptions, characters in the play dramatically idolize and abuse one another.

I thought that this year’s UCC/BSS classical production was effective in portraying how illusion feeds desire and desire feeds illusion.

Musicians Flynn Tanner and Rob Walker set a subtly supernatural mood throughout the play. The soft and ethereal quality of their playing mirrored the enchantments and ravings occurring onstage: simultaneously other-wordly and all too familiar.

Having myself acted in a Shakespearean production at UCC, I appreciate the difficulty of engaging with the text. Two-thirds of the battle is learning and understanding your lines. Then comes annunciation, authentic relationships with other characters, motivations, and the list goes on. It’s tough. In light of that difficulty, I truly appreciated the command with which Joseph Hill (Puck) and Kathryn Fraser (Titania) delivered their lines.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the fantastic energy and disinhibition with which Kohilan Partamaanantham (Bottom) and the rest of the rude mechanicals brought to the production. Partamaanantham was brimming with misguided exuberance and poignant earnestness throughout the play.

Ultimately, the most compelling aspect of the production was the dynamic among the actors playing the four lovers: Hermia (Caelan Mestel), Demetrius (Nick Czegledy), Lydsander (Max Allen) and Helena Isabel Coleman). At first, I was slightly skeptical of the tone with which they squabbled. All of the chest-puffing, dramatic sighing and hysterical timbre felt a little “high school.” Yet, as I was sitting in David Chu Theatre, I had an epiphany: considering the context in which Shakespeare penned the play, this angsty portrayal seemed strangely appropriate.

Although the average age of marriage during the Renaissance was actually much higher than we often assume, A Midsummer Night’s Dream mirrors Romeo and Juliet in its archetypal depiction of children resisting their parents’ edicts. In light of this similarity, it’s safe to assume that the lovers in the play are in their teens. It makes sense, then, that Helena fawns so masochistically over Lysander, calling herself his “spaniel.” Hermia’s fierce refusal to relinquish her “soul’s sovereignty” also reflects an adolescent spirit.

How fitting it is that high school students put on such a play, and in so doing held a mirror up to their own lived experience. In this age of Instagram, Tinder and mass media, relationships are coloured heavily by illusion, facade and impulsive (mis)communication.

In a world where so many forces vie for and attempt to manipulate our desires, Thales’ ethos of self-knowledge becomes near impossible. Life as a millennial (without any intent to incur pity) can leave one feeling like you’re wandering through a forest of visions and enchantments.

Arts News

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