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Raising awareness at UCC’s “Truth and Reconciliation Week”

Upper Canada College’s “Truth and Reconciliation Week” was a multi-faceted event that showed the school’s commitment to supporting the country’s Indigenous communities.

Things kicked off on April 23 with the principal’s assembly in Laidlaw Hall with Gerald McMaster, OCAD professor of Indigenous visual culture and critical curatorial studies, delivering a keynote address. Principal Sam McKinney spoke about the history of residential schools in Canada.

“WE CALL: Upper Canada College”

“WE CALL: Upper Canada College”

Later in the week, the Lind Visiting Artist Program collaborated with UCC’s visual arts department and Amnesty International Club on a site-specific installation in the Upper School student centre by Vancouver artist Cathy Busby titled “WE CALL: Upper Canada College.” It featured large, colourful fabric panels with abridged excerpts from calls to action from the Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Selecting the calls came about from a lengthy process that involved members of the Indigenous community, former and current students, faculty and staff members. Students met with Maria Montejo of Dodem Kanonhsa Indigenous Education and Cultural Facility. They consulted with Indigenous elder Cat Criger and McMaster, and undertook research with UCC archivist Jill Spellman.

The final calls to action were determined during a Jan. 29 meeting of the newly formed UCC Reconciliation Council that was attended by current students, faculty and school senior leadership members, Indigenous rights lawyer Derek Ground ’81 and Mohawk Nation member Barry Hill ’62. The process was led by Criger, the University of Toronto Mississauga’s Aboriginal elder in residence.

The UCC Reconciliation Council will ensure an ongoing dialogue and multi-year action plan to uphold the College’s ongoing commitment towards pluralism, truth and reconciliation.

Workshops were held on the morning of April 26. Old Boys Hill, Ground and Alain Bartleman ’07, along with Prep teacher Peter Gray, Journalists for Human Rights and others engaged students on subjects related to Indigenous people.

Hill, who graduated as head of Seaton’s House in 1962, spoke about his experiences as an Indigenous student at UCC and answered questions during the student assembly in Laidlaw Hall on the morning of April 27.

Busby gave a lecture and answered questions in Laidlaw Hall after a student centre reception for her installation on the evening of April 27.

“Following her artist’s talk, an important conversation was sparked regarding UCC’s role in the context of reconciliation and the calls to action our community committed itself to,” says Amnesty International Club co-founder Vlad Chindea. “Elder Cat started the evening with a smudging ceremony, ensuring that everyone’s heart could be receptive to the sharing of ideas.”

Students from the Amnesty International Club, led by Chindea and Shaan Hooey, have engaged in efforts to raise awareness about Indigenous rights in Canada. They teamed with visual arts teachers Vesna Krstich and David Holt and English teacher Celia Bowker at the beginning of this academic year to spread that message through contemporary art, which led to the creation of “WE CALL: Upper Canada College.”

All during the week of April 23 to 27, Year 8 students at UCC’s Norval Outdoor School worked with artist and OCAD professor Shannon Gerard and artist Brianna Tosswill to create and publish a newspaper called Just Boys in response to the calls to action as part of the ongoing collaborative art project, Mountain School Bookhouse.

“The Mountain School Bookhouse is a huge quilted tent with fabricated tree trunk legs, plush logs and a cardboard campfire that acts as a pop-up community space,” says Krstich. “This flexible framework is a print and publication studio, a classroom, a social context and a gallery.”

Just Boys was entirely written, drawn and published by students who acted as reporters, illustrators, editors and designers in communicating their adventure activities at Norval and examining their relationship to the Treaty 19 land that the Norval Outdoor School occupies. Students were also able to work with Indigenous elder Garry Sault to draft a new land acknowledgement for Norval.

Just Boys was distributed throughout the UCC community at the conclusion of Truth and Reconciliation Week.

“We wanted to connect the two campuses through some sort of mutual dialogue and to acknowledge and report on the historical importance of the Norval property in particular,” says Krstich.

Indigenous writers were showcased in the Macintosh Library and Spellman set up archival displays in the Upper School during the week. She’ll continue to research the relationship of UCC and its founder Sir John Colborne with First Nations, Métis and Inuit from the school’s founding in 1829 to today.

“When further advanced, her delicate and diligent work will allow us all to be more introspective and better understand our community’s historical and contemporary role within the context of truth and reconciliation towards First Nations, Métis and Inuit,” says Chindea.

“The process of truth and reconciliation is ongoing and begins with developing an awareness of how Indigenous people have been treated inequitably both in the past and in the present,” says Bowker. “Developing that awareness had already started in classrooms, but the week presented the first opportunity to pull together different voices to offer information.”

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UCC Jazz Night

Jazz Night 1

Peter Smith leads UCC jazz musicians.

Friends and family members of Upper Canada College musicians gathered in the David Chu Theatre on April 27 for the highly anticipated “Jazz Night.”

Peter Smith and the Senior Jazz Band entertained the audience with a repertoire that included “Fly Me to the Moon,” “September” and “Superstition.”

The night was filled with impressive solo performances from many of the boys, including: Camran Hansen and Armaan Dogra on trombone; Ben Lee on trumpet; JC Chung on tenor saxophone; and Raphael Berz on acoustic guitar.

Jazz Night 2

UCC jazz musicians entertain the audience.

Other highlights included “All I Do,” “Fever” and “Skyfall,” which featured the vocal talents of UCC singers James Oneschuk and Cameron Yap and The Bishop Strachan School’s Belle Winner.

Various members of the band made special, heartfelt presentations to leaving class boys throughout the evening, thanking them for their dedication and friendship.

You can watch five excerpts from the concert here.

Arts News

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Nuit Bleue celebrated the arts at UCC

Upper Canada College’s annual spring arts festival, Nuit Bleue, continued its run of success at the Upper School on April 12 with a range of exhibits, performances, presentations, screenings and more.

Student centre art

The Bleue Zone

“Nuit Bleue brings the community together to celebrate our talented boys and enjoy all that is wonderful about the arts at UCC,” says Elissa Fingold, who co-chairs the Arts Booster Club with Astrid Bastin.

Even before Nuit Bleue officially began at 3 p.m., an arts assembly in Laidlaw Hall featured: a performance of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” by student Joe Hill and his father; thank-you gifts to graduating arts captains JC Chung and Rupert Davies; and a farewell speech from retiring Intermediate Division Head Derek Poon.

The wintry weather didn’t deter Nuit Bleue attendees, as there was a great turnout throughout the late afternoon and evening.

The student centre was transformed into “The Bleue Zone,” which featured a visual art exhibition and snacks including potato chips, pizza, ice cream and UCC’s signature beverage, “Blue Thunder.” A classroom featured an installation of light fixtures designed by students.


Music in Laidlaw Hall

Another classroom was transformed into a Chinese “Spring Tea House” that was decorated with art from Year 7 students. Teacher Jane Li and student Billy Shi led the organization of the tea house, where visitors enjoyed tea, treats and performances.

There were theatrical performances in the lecture theatre, screenings of short student films, and guests were given a copy of a student literature publication called The Blue Caller.

Nuit Bleue concluded with a concert in Laidlaw Hall featuring school bands, the Blue Notes choir and solo performances by pianists Daniel Jiang and Bryan Gan.

While all those who participated in or attended Nuit Bleue could justifiably consider themselves winners, one woman could prove it by walking away with a guitar that was given away as a door prize.

Arts News

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The Addams Family delivers the dark humour

The Addams Family offered a night of incredible performances as Upper Canada College and Bishop Strachan School students combined their talents for this quirky musical on Feb. 7 to 10.

The unusual family includes Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Grandmama, Lurch and the deceased Addams ancestors. Wednesday has fallen in love with a sweet, conventional boy from Ohio and invited his traditional parents over for dinner. In one comical night, secrets are disclosed, relationships are tested and the Addams family must face the one horrifying thing it has managed to avoid for generations: change.

Congratulations to all for a terrific show.


a1 ACphoto_Addams-Family-3

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Former BSS student remembers her role as Lear

Katy Harding (née Sems) wrote this piece. She played the role of Lear in the Upper Canada College-Bishop Strachan School production of King Lear in 2006, performed in the David Chu Theatre. (In that year, the role of the Fool was also performed by a BSS student.) Katy attended a performance of this year’s production of King Lear and was introduced to Devin Lee, who played the king in this year’s production, Feb. 21 to 24.

Katy is now a successful television producer. She participated in the UCC-BSS classical plays from 2003-2006:Lear-Teddy and Ava

There was a time when I spent every waking hour in the David Chu Theatre.  I can navigate the stairs in the dark, know all backstage nooks and crannies and could pick out its signature scent in a line-up. It’s the place where incredible friendships were made, great stories re-enacted and endless possibilities explored. Let’s just say it was a very serious relationship.

Lear-photos_0014 (1)Our final year was intense. We dove into the tragedy of King Lear with fervour and played hard; we pushed through tough speeches, learned to fight with new weapons, wiped away blood and laughed in the snow — onstage snowfall was a first for us.  But after our final curtain call, it was over. Like many a great love, our time ran out and we had to part ways.

Except here we are again: tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow turns into 12 years later and on this stage the stories (and memories) are vivid as ever. It’s been awhile, but it’s easy to feel kinship and butterflies as the players hit their marks and Lear begins his descent. This time there’s a stone fortress and all new faces, but the same words come trippingly on the tongue. What magic it is to see this love come to life again for these talented performers. Some things just don’t change.

Before I know it, the house lights are back up. Adrenaline hangs in the air and, with a bit of melancholy, I know it’s time to exit. Now it’s impossible to separate memories from the present and that’s what makes it a little bit perfect. I have no doubt this troupe will look back on their time here with the same affection, as we still do — the cast and crew of 12 years ago. As I walk past the clock tower there’s nothing left but to smile. All these great loves; we’ll see each other again in different iterations, time after time.  Until then …

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Jazzing up a winter night

2018 Club Bluenote 1Family and friends gathered for a lovely evening of jazz at Upper Canada College’s Club Bluenote at the Prep School’s Weston Hall on Feb. 7. (Scroll to end for videos.)

The candle-lit hall was packed, and audience members enjoyed coffee and desserts as well as the talent displayed by a range of UCC’s top musicians and singers.

Upper School music head Tony Gomes’ Intermediate Jazz Band opened the show to much applause with “Funk Zone” by Doug Beach and George Shutack, followed by “Tutu” by Marcus Miller, “Some Other Blues” by John Coltrane and “Tango for Jam Jam” by Zachary Smith.

An engaging performance by Upper School music teacher Peter Smith’s Junior Jazz Band included “Stella By Starlight,” “If I Could Fly” and “That’s How We Roll.”

The Upper School and Prep choirs led by Upper School organist and choirmaster Daniel Webb and Prep arts head and Primary Division music teacher Kathryn Edmondson also performed, charming the audience with swinging renditions of the Bill Haley and Elvis Presley hits “Rock Around the Clock” and “Blue Suede Shoes.”

Club Bluenote 2018 2Prep band director and Middle Division music teacher Paul McGarr’s Prep Jazz Band performed “Ocean View,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “Some Like it Blues,” featuring solos by Jacob Moore on alto saxophone, Neil Zhou on clarinet, Alan Cui on piano, Alexander Janczewski on tenor sax and Matthew Ho on piano.

The Senior Jazz Band closed the show with “Black Pearls,” “Whisper Not” and “All I Do Is Dream of You.”

Thank you to all of the talented boys of the Prep Jazz Band, the Upper School’s jazz ensembles and the Prep and Upper School choirs, as well as Edmondson, Gomes, McGarr, Smith and Webb, who all worked hard to make a lovely night happen.

Watch Club Bluenote performances below.

Arts Booster Club

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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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