Tag Archives: music

Inspired by the Creativity of Others

A few days ago, I attended a concert at the National Arts Centre, here in Ottawa, to see The Tenors perform with the National Arts Centre Orchestra conducted by Jack Everly.

Much like all of the Pops series concerts I have seen in recent years, the concert brought me on a roller coaster of emotions, between goose bump moments of arias and their triumphant crescendos and moments where I felt a tad verklempt, hearing favourite songs performed live in brilliant new arrangements.

Throughout great performances like that, I can’t help but ask myself, “How do they do it?” How much of it is natural aptitude and how much is hard work? How many thousands of hours each performer put into their craft over the years, to become one with their instruments and to make it look so easy? How hard did each one have to work to achieve this level of proficiency, to produce such beauty that can elicit such strong emotions from spectators?

This inner monologue replays in my head again and again whenever I feel deeply inspired, whether it’s at a concert, in a museum, in a theatre, reading a book or watching a great movie. It’s like a vortex of creativity, swirling around, reaching out and stirring up my own artistic momentum to keep doing what I love doing, keep practicing, work hard and don’t let go.

I sometimes pause and wonder if I will ever get to the same degree of skillfulness and versatility in writing as someone who can pick up an instrument and play a song, just like that. Then I think to myself that I have been known to pull a rabbit or two out of a hat on a few occasions.

Whether it’s a blog post that I was able to commit to paper in one sitting in under two hours (it doesn’t happen often, but it does), a blog post that successfully reached out and really struck a chord with readers, or writing a piece at work that was exactly what was requested, offering the right words at the right time, and being able to do so under crazy time constraints. I reassure myself that I am on my way. Continue reading

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How I Became a Fan of the Eurovision Song Contest

The first time I heard about the Eurovision Song Contest was in the late 1970’s when I read an article about my favourite musical group, ABBA. The article credited ABBA’s meteoric rise to international stardom to the Eurovision Song Contest and their 1974 win with the song “Waterloo”.

For this young Canadian, even though I had no idea what Eurovision was, it sounded like a big event! I knew just enough about world geography to know that if a music competition involved a whole continent, it must have been something special.

In the years that followed, and the many hours spent listening to MuchMusic, Eurovision came up a few times, whether in the “Rock News” reports or when the VJ’s (“Video Jockeys”) were presenting a video and providing some background into the song and the artist. I remained intrigued.

In 2002, I was finding myself a little bored with mainstream radio here in North America and found myself searching for other musical options. At the same time, I had changed cable packages and was introduced to “BPM TV”, a new music video channel focused on dance tunes from around the globe.

Over the course of BPM’s programming, I was introduced to the Swedish pop band Alcazar. With their very catchy pop-dance tunes, bright upbeat tempo, and amazing sense of style, glamour and showmanship, they quickly became my favourite band! They still are today!

In the process of getting to know Alcazar better through online research, the theme of Eurovision popped up again. Alcazar competed in 2003 with a song called “Not a Sinner nor a Saint”, in a competition called Melodifestivalen, Sweden’s national competition to pick a song to represent the country at Eurovision. This was where the journey began! Continue reading

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Ten Ways I Would Explain the Feelings of Creativity

creativityHow would you explain the sensations and feelings of creativity? Here are some points of reference I would suggest:

1. When I was a kid, my parents had a multi-band radio that, in addition to AM and FM, it had “short wave” and “marine band”. I fondly remember hours spent slowly turning the tuner knob with the attention to detail of a safe cracker, listening to what distant channels I could get on a clear day when there was little interference. When I am feeling at my most creative and my instincts seem to be at their sharpest, it is like tuning in to a station and discovering a channel transmitting from hundreds of miles away and picking up a very clear signal.

2. When I am creating art and the elements of the project start coming together, for me, it’s like the rush I used to get in school, when I would be writing an exam and somehow knew all the answers off the top of my head. It is a sense of being on auto-pilot, when the words are coming but you aren’t quite sure where they are coming from, but it feels right nonetheless.

3. When trying to fall asleep and the little creative voice keep pitching ideas at me, feelings come over me ranging from frustration and irritation that the little voice won’t go to sleep, but also excitement and delight when I am able to get the ideas all transcribed and saved preciously for another day.

4. Time stands still and time flies by… at the same time. Continue reading

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Traffic: Survival of the Calmest

Share The Road signAfter some serious traffic tie-ups through the city in recent weeks, a few colleagues mentioned “I don’t know how you can commute day in and day out like you do.” They were interesting observations, I thought, as I mulled over the reasons while in bumper-to-bumper traffic tonight.

Here are some of the secrets to how I remain calm through approximately 444 traffic jams per year:

Great music
Have you ever arrived at a destination and then stayed in the car to let a song on the radio play out until the end because it is one of your favourites? That is the same logic I use in building commuting playlists of just my favourites. That way, even if am stuck in traffic, it doesn’t feel like I am stuck when I think to myself “Oh, I like that song!” one song after the other. That way, I don’t get irritated by commercials, news or DJ banter on topics that don’t entertain me. Also, I keep my eyes on the road as I never need to change songs, my music player does it all for me, shuffling through my list of favourites. I just set it and forget it. Before departure, I can also choose the playlist that best suits what I need in the moment, whether songs to energize or to decompress. When the playlist is perfect, it is like the music becomes the focal point and driving becomes the secondary activity.

“Go” Before I Go
Self-explanatory. That way my bladder is not complaining if I need to navigate through unexpected traffic delays.

A meal or a snack before hitting the road
With something in my tummy, I find I have a greater threshold for not sweating the small stuff, especially when behind the wheel. Continue reading

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When an Icon Passes

IconHow is it that we can be so deeply touched by the passing of a stranger? Someone we have never met, someone to whom we are not related, and someone with whom we did not have day-to-day dealings… yet it still hits us so hard.

I am no stranger to the effect of loved ones and colleagues passing, whether suddenly or through illness, male, female, older and younger. Each passing seems to bring its own unique spectrum of emotions and grief.

With the recent passing of icons like Prince and David Bowie one cannot help but marvel at the ripple effect of such brilliant artists, when their passing elicits such strong emotions and grief around the globe:

The universality of their message that could motivate and inspire, bypassing language and cultural boundaries.

The strength of their message that resonated with so many.

They said what we couldn’t… or before we could say it.

Their music formed the memorable songs in the soundtrack for the good times.

Their music lifted us up in the soundtrack for the bad times.

Their music helped us when Continue reading

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A Taste of Retirement

Andrew Haydon Park, September 2015

Andrew Haydon Park, September 2015

Just before turning 50, I decided that my birthday present to myself was to take two weeks off from work for an easy-going staycation.

Originally, my partner and I had kicked around the idea of a trip to California to celebrate the big occasion, but a lower Canadian dollar made our trip to New York City in the spring a little more expensive than expected. Combined with a special assessment from my condominium corporation, there was a little dent in my cash flow which made California a little pricey at that point in time. After tossing around a few other more affordable ideas, just chilling close to home seemed to be the option that resonated most with me.

It did not take long to find the benefits of two weeks off to take life at a gentle pace, away from the commuting, the meetings and the deadlines. Also, given that I did not have a pressing list of appointments or major home maintenance projects ahead of me, a fairly quiet two weeks increasingly appealed to me. Reconnecting with life’s simple pleasures would be good for the soul: good sleep, good food, time to write, fresh air and exercise.

Vacation time kicked off with an exciting overnight trip to Toronto for a chance to see Janet Jackson in concert. I could not say no to the idea of crossing “Miss-Jackson,-if-you’re-nasty” off my bucket list of concerts, especially since I had never seen one of her live shows before but was always a huge fan of her music and videos.

The opportunity to see Janet worked out beautifully as a way of launching the vacation in style while quickly transitioning my mind away from the office. It was a fantastic show, sure to appeal to all loyal fans, in offering a set list of all of her hits and a few new songs from her latest album “Unbreakable”, packaged together in a high energy concert of brilliant dancing, staging and light show. For me, this Janet Jackson concert was definitely worth the wait.

Not long after returning home, the realization that I was on vacation quickly set in. The problem for me is that this sensation usually heralds a nervous energy spurt to start cleaning in the corners I don’t usually have time to get into on a week-to-week basis. But this time, it felt different. Because I wasn’t trying to wedge in a lengthy to-do list in a matter of a few days, I had the luxury of time to just try attacking one or two items per day. This allowed me to keep the rest of the day to myself and to decide in the moment how to spend it.

However, the recent arrival of Ivy the cat Continue reading

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10 More Things I Have Learned From My Cat

Ivy_LCBOIt has almost been 4 months since I had the good fortune of adopting Ivy the cat and this proud papa could not be happier.

One month after she joined me, I was already surprised at the wonderful life lessons she had taught me as a first time pet owner, and had great fun creating a blog post about them: The Top 10 Things I Have Learned from My Cat.

What is interesting is that the more we get to know each other, and we are able to interpret each other’s language (and behaviours), I gain more appreciation every day for the companionship that pets bring as well as the special messages they convey in their own unique way.

Here they are: 10 more things I have learned from my cat:

11- Way more than I needed to know about feline parasites

A couple of weeks ago, Miss Ivy had a bug in her tummy… literally. Over a weekend that included a chat with a veterinary technologist at the Ottawa Humane Society, a couple of calls to the vet, a fecal sample sent to the vet’s lab, dozens of Google searches, and a healthy dose of worry, watching an outgoing kitty suddenly turn quiet and reclusive, I learned more about de-worming than I probably ever wanted to know. On the bright side, I should be ready should “feline parasites” ever come us as a Jeopardy category or in a trivia competition.

12- Take information on the Internet with a grain of salt

Every cat is different. As much as health sites that discuss human health issues sometimes contradict each other, the same is seemingly true with pet advice. My take away is to take the advice from the Internet as an opinion, but seek the advice of a professional.

13- Running to a cat with arms open wide – don’t

I can be a little goofy like that sometimes at play time.
This seems to freak Ivy out… I wouldn’t recommend it. Just sayin’

14- Cat toys do not have to be expensive Continue reading

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