Friday, February 24, 2017

Montreal Symphony Orchestra Inspires with Brahms and Goes Beyond

An exciting program of stellar beauty
 Maison Symphonique, February 22,

The excitement was palpable as people piled into the stunning Maison Symphonique. 

M. Pouliot enthralled us with his performance of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s “Violin Concerto in D major, op.35.” His sensitivity was magical. His virtuosity was most notable throughout the piece where 3 movements brought moods of sentimental sweetness and sadness where high-note diminuendos showed exceptional control that wowed us. These moments mixed tenderly with robust melodic passages that seemed to foreshadow the exhilarating finish. It was pure genius. His exuberance brought new meaning to the word “vivace” – part of the finale’s moniker.

Blake Pouliot

Vasily petrenko
Although the program opened with “Plages” – a piece by Serge Gallant – this daring composition stood in a striking contrast to Korngold’s gentle music meant for Holly movies. Gallant’s work vividly suggested a Hitchcock horror film or a Magritte surreal painting with its minimalist images.  The 12-minute composition was interesting and dramatic; crescendos, ethereal moments and ominous moods steeped in instrumental dissonance made “Plages” a poignant piece of alarming music.

The final wondrous work, Brahms’s “Symphony no. 1 in C minor, op. 68” comprised four main movements – the last offering 4 contrasting parts that built from and Adagio to and Allegro con brio. This complex piece that opens with a percussive boom in repetition journeys into a woven series of melodic developments that switch keys. One part gracefully repeated a melody suggestive of Beethoven. Lyrical in line, and profound, the culminating trumpet call at the end surely gave the work its well-deserved standing ovation that capped the entire evening’s triumphant performance.

photo credit: Nancy

Responsible for leading the orchestra into a passionate display of musical brilliance was Vasily Petrenko. Is it any wonder, the title of the concert was Brahms According to Vasily Petrenko!


non-captioned photos by Cindy Tom

Sunday, February 19, 2017


What a glorious day to put on my cross-country skis and take to Montreal’s largest park, Cap-Saint-Jacques. The sun was beaming directly overhead, and since the temperature was unseasonably high – at least 5 degrees above zero – I knew that the cold would not be an issue today.
Cap Saint-Jacques offers an expansive landscape where the great Lake of Two Mountains comes into view on several of the park’s trails. There’s a 32-kilometre network of natural terrain that comprises four immaculately groomed cross-country trails (the turtle, beaver, squirrel and the 10.9- kilometre-long rabbit trail); plus non-skiers can enjoy five kilometres for snowshoeing and seven for simple walking; and you can bring your dog on those trails.


Setting out with patroller, Diego Savard, we took the Turtle trail. It meandered through trees and offered gentle inclines to add variety to the outing. Diego is an intrepid backpacker – having trekked in several South American countries – his favourite being Ecuador - a country that somehow seemed to match the temperature of this day (if one  cared to really stretch the imagination). It was just so warm out; in fact, I had to take off my hat and sweater while skiing with him. Streams were melting.

In the distance among the trees, about one kilometre from the start of the 2.4-trail, I spotted a cozy building. Diego led to this sugar shack. I peeked inside, but we needed no food to re-energize ourselves.


We then took the juncture for the Beaver trail which gave a longer outing; its 6.8 kilometres brought us to the stunning 1916 Chateau Gohler where you can eat your own packed lunch or enjoy their wonderful soup and more. Money spent there by hungry skiers goes to the Boy Scouts of I’ile Bizard – a lovely region that spreads out to the west of Cap-Saint-Jacques.



At one point, we came to one of the huge bays where summer bathers converge to enjoy the park’s big beach. We noted more birds flitting among the trees at the water’s shore. Diego even walked onto part of the lake pointing to it s north as he revealed he had skied across it where he landed at Oka, another place renowned for its trails and beach.

Cap-Saint-Jacques is only 35 minutes outside downtown Montreal. Once there you feel you are in an oasis of pure untouched nature, and you can glide right through the trees as I did today. 

There’s even nighttime skiing. The park supplies your headlight, and after you finish the selected trail, you can sip hot chocolate and roast marshmallows, right behind the welcome centre there. A unique way to share family fun or rev up the romance in your life!
Cap-Saint-Jacques is peaceful; the staff is super friendly, and the area so accessible; it’s the perfect yearlong antidote to city stress.  I look forward to spending some summer days here, swimming, strolling and stepping into a kayak. 

For information, go to:


It was the Canada day weekend - a perfect July 3rd sunny day to take my dog Zak to one of my favourite nearby  nature getaways: Cap-Saint-Jacques. It is one of three Quebec parks that allows you to stroll with your dog on a 5- plus kilometre walk. Greeting me at reception was Alexander, and though he was so nice to me, it was Zak who stole his heart. Nothing like a little cute dog to make everyone smile. Meeting more dogs was fun for all.

It was a day for us to bond in nature amidst beautiful birdsong and bucolic waters that around the circular perimeters, I saw Rivièrie de la Prairie, Lake of Two Mountains, Oka and Ile Bizard. Water everywhere and unfortunately the recent catastrophe in this region showed itself as I rounded curves of land bordering the water where I  saw bushes in water.

Walking along the path sheltered by forest, I bumped into Charles, a man in love with his boxer-mastiff dog, Minion who towered over my little maltese-lasa apso mix dog. Together, wee romped through forest and ventured along the water where Minion delighted in cooling himself off. 

We also headed to the Cap’s farm, and passed the horses, a chicken coup and the sheep that lazed inside a big barn.

I entered into the little store selling some organic produce plus maple syrup. Lots of the land here is dedicated to growing organic vegetables.


Nature here is gentle with wild flowers dressing up the greenhouse, paths and fields that we strolled among.

Charles told me that three weeks ago aside from the fox he saw. Three coyotes surrounded him. That in effect is why I insisted Charles come with me for the rest of my walk. He had a long stick, but we saw no coyotes. I was lucky to bump into Minion and Charles, for I was really quite alone as I started my stroll. 

What was to be an hour sauntering into nature turned into three. It was a day of surprises and enjoyment. Zak and I were most happy. 

I will return to explore the beach here and maybe even screw up my courage to do some kayaking.

Tourists need not drive to the Laurentians to immerse themselves in nature that is only a 30-minute drive from downtown. Cap-Saint-Jacques is kind of addictive and its terrain invites you to explore it on foot, skis, snowshoes and bike. What more could you ask for? Come on folks, it’s summer and this place is the perfect area to saunter into to enjoy oodles of varied vistas as the sun shines down.

                      For information, go to:


Friday, February 17, 2017


Montreal, January 16th, 7:30 pm, Bourgie Hall

Arion Baroque Orchestra palpably lightened up the heavy feel of winter by featuring the uplifting music of Telemann, Lalande and Rameau. These 17th-century composers were enchanted with French musical flavours that consisted of a swirling melodic melange of imaginative fantasy, frills, and contrasts. Most of the evening highlighted pieces that were strongly accented in a surprisingly intricate melée of instrumental play, influenced by the notable charmingly gallant spirit that characterized the court of Louis XIV.

The guest for the evening was the British/Brazilian world-acclaimed violinist, Rodolfo Richter whose understated manner perfectly suited the demureness, colourful surprises and melodic sweetness, particularly noted when he and the orchestra’s artistic director, flutist
Claire Guimond shared passages of joyous instrumental dialogue on their respective instruments in the Telemann concerto.

Michel-Richard de Lalande’s “Grande Pièce royale, S 161” – one of three of the court composer’s “Caprices” offered a variety of musical flavours that greatly pleased the king. This six-movement suite in G minor included an austere chaconne, an exciting fugato, along with a sweet air in the major key – even a gavotte that featured a pair of oboes in wondrous harmony that miraculously yet perfectly contrasted with periodic heartfelt passages from the bassoon. The flourishing finale burst with exhilarating gusto that gorgeously reflected this movement’s name: Vivement.

Georg Philipp Telemann’s “Concerto for flute, violin and cello in A major, TWV 53:A2” first appeared in the production of the composer’s Musique de table. The work' s stunning variety of instruments is matched by an enthralling mix of tempi, fun and fury within contrasting movements: Largo, Allegro, Gratioso and another Allegro. His gift of alternating French and Italian styles stands out in these four exciting parts.


Jean-Philippe Rameau was last but certainly not least on the evening’s delightful program.  His creation of a comedic musical ballet bouffon titled Platée was first performed at Versailles in 1745 during the wedding of the Dauphin with Maria Teresa of Spain. This balletic opera is not without surprises, for in the tale, Platée, the nymph bride-to-be looks like a frog! The music is positively exhilarating. The twists, turns and sudden bursts of contrasting sounds are mixed into lively dances that take their bow by succumbing to a tumultuous instrumental storm.

The concert lasted just over an hour, yet our hearts were filled with joy. The music tricked us into thinking that La belle ville was in fact Paris not Montreal – even as we braved the towering snow banks outside Bourgie Hall.

The website is

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Montreal Symphony Orchestra: Glorious and Great

The Montreal Symphony Orchestra has garnered a prestigious international reputation. Each concert creates a rich tapestry of symphonic music preformed with exceptional virtuosity. With close to 100 concerts given a year, this acclaimed orchestra is an inspiration to classical music aficionados and performers alike. The MSO enthralls audiences the world over with its amazing maestros. 

Kent Nagano, the MSO’s brilliant artistic director, brings genius and passion to each performance; 92 permanent musicians and chorus perform under his baton.


The orchestra has recently welcomed assistant director, Adam Johnson to the ranks; his remarkable talent and exceptional experience musically merge with 
 immediate impact.

                                              Read my review here

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Cyclotron (Directed by Olivier Asselin) **

Shot in black and white with a Hitchcock-type feel,  this German-language movie with English subtitles, is a film noire/thriller  that revisits Nazi times;  it takes place at the end of the Second World War. Simone, a spy working for the Allies is supposed to find and execute Emil, a scrupulous Berlin scientist who discovered before the Americans the way to build an atomic bomb.

 He is trying to hide form the Nazis and finds his alcove on a train. But Simone finds him on this very train as it makes its nighttime journey towards Switzerland. German soldiers, led by König, a German scientist are in pursuit of Emil. They need the secret code for this bomb. Will they find it and him? The chase gets complicated when memories of love get intertwined. 
Simone and Emil were once in love, but each has his own integrity to abide by. Who would have thought that this bomb could be hidden in a pocket watch, and if found will parallel worlds have it explode in Berlin or Paris? It turns out the group of scientists wish to hide their secrets about the lethal bomb for fear the Nazis would indeed use it, if  the 'formula" were discovered. The film commemorates those brilliant men who made physics their life, but would ultimately end in their death.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

La Burger, San Miguel de Allende, Big Burgers with Gourmet Goodness

                                        Brilliant, Yummy and Colourful

When Carolina Echeverría opened up her burger place in September last year,

she brought her class, warmth and sweetness to this hot spot’s funky, fun red

and green coated interior – the colours of the revolutionary flag in Mexico and

of course of Christmas. La Burger is a cheery place and you know why once you

look at the menu with its Chilean taste accents – primarily cumin, and wheat is

more common than corn. Chef, Francisco Acuña is from Chile, and Carolina

herself has lived there.

Carolina’s aunt’s grand-mom created the remarkable recipe for the goat cheese

empanada I enjoyed. It was so delicate, so tender to bite into. The salsa boracha

added punch to it if you wanted to add it as a pour-upon.

In Chile, beef is not ground to make hamburgers; it is chopped into tiny pieces,

and it sure adds nice texture. I ordered one of their famous burgers with goat

cheese caramelized onions, tomatoes, pickles and lettuce, cucumbers, baby

carrots, sunflower seeds filled my burger. In fact, all the fixings – veggies and

more all come from Salpa’s organic farm.

Big on beef, La Burger’s entrees even include lamb and pork ribs.

I went gaga over the three desserts I had: the cheese cake with raspberry was

light in texture and divine; the caramel flan was fantastic and the bitter

chocolate brownie was brilliant. I loved the fact that La Burger serves extremely

classy homemade desserts. They are as royally remarkable as the burgers are.

Carolina told me that in Chile, there is a custom that every Sunday the family

gathers around to enjoy a barbecue. I believe that this homey ambiance carries

into her restaurant. Her daughter, Maya and son, Michael are also part of the

cuisine team. I am so pleased there is a place in the world that brings wood-fired

burgers to classy heights of tantalizing taste. I mean, how many burger places

have a wine list? La Burger has a big one.

La Burger is located on Jesus No 5. Look for the red and green flag on its façade.

For more info, visit:

Carolina Echeverría is also a real estate agent with Colonial Real Estate in San Miguel.