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About "James Reaney"

James Reaney has covered everything from operas to Neil Young concerts to baseball's World Series in more than 30 years at The London Free Press. Now, he concentrates on London entertainment in his Saturday Today section column and Forest City lore in a Saturday Comment section column called My London. He is the host of two weekly video. lfpress.com features. One is Reaney's Pick, an online platform for London performers. The other is It's On, a guide to the best of the local scene. James is a passionate supporter of the Jack Richardson Music Awards, which host an annual gala and other free events in London's only not-for-profit recognition of our musical excellence. He is also on the board of the King's University College Centre for Creativity and an active member of the London & Middlesex Historical Society.

TV wasteland, it’s all a TV wasteland:* Mr. Selfridge III. Yay.

- March 28th, 2015


The Mr. Selfridge gang (or most of it) is all here . . . courtesy of pbs.org

JBNBlog is still puzzled why Jeremy Piven won any or all those Emmys for Entourage . . . but is delighted to see him return as the title character in Mr. Selfridge on Sunday night . . .  man oh man, PBS Masterpiece seems to be overrun with Russian exiles this winter. Isn’t Eisenstein available to set the camera straight? or askew?

It looks as if the Corrie connection character Lady Mae Loxley (the ace Katherine Kelly) is AWOL this season … sigh . . . come back, come back Mizz Lady Mae.

Enough sighing.

Here’s the official word from pbs.org

All sales are final as Harry Selfridge gambles his store, his fortune, and his personal happiness on an audacious retail strategy in Mr. Selfridge, Season 3.

Season 3 opens with a funeral and a wedding. World War I has recently ended, and soldiers are returning home to reclaim their jobs—at least any job not already taken by women and others on the home front. Adding to the tension, many of the veterans are haunted by their war experiences. For the store, pent-up consumer demand offers both opportunities and financial perils. Harry, of course, only considers the former, and in short order he is courting disaster—at work and at home.

With three-time Emmy® winner Jeremy Piven back as the irrepressible Harry, also returning are colorful characters: the sinister Lord Loxley (Aidan McArdle), defeated last season but back to make even more dastardly trouble; Josie Mardle (Amanda Abbington), the diffident department head who finally takes control of her own destiny, and Agnes Towler (Aisling Loftus) and Henri LeClair (Grégory Fitoussi), wizards of window display who find true love, but not without difficulty.

. . . from a separate notice:

Jeremy Piven (Entourage) stars as London’s retail king, Harry Gordon Selfridge, in Mr. Selfridge, the series hailed as “addicting” by The Wall Street Journal. Season 3, airing Sundays, March 29-May 17, 2015 on MASTERPIECE on PBS, follows the fascinating rise and fall of this colorful but troubled entrepreneur, and picks up in 1919 just after the end of World War I. Zoë Wanamaker (My FamilyHarry Potter films, Poirot) joins the series cast to play trouble-making Russian Princess, Marie de Bolotoff.

The Selfridges colorful staff returns, with Amanda Abbington (Sherlock) as Miss Mardle, Tom Goodman-Hill as Mr. Grove, Ron Cook as Mr. Crabb, Aisling Loftus as Agnes Towler, Grégory Fitoussi as Henri Leclair, and Aidan McArdle as Lord Loxley.

*An occasional series (with a derivative title — Who knows where it came from  – devoted to what’s on TV channels available in northwest London on the old over-the-air, bunny ears basis of bygone days — ie. TVO, CBC French, CBC, CTV Two (aka CFPL), CTV, City, the Omnis, CTS & CHCH … & sometimes WQLN (PBS Erie & London) & TFO if needed.


Stratford Festival: ‘Looking’ good. Yay.

- March 28th, 2015

alice with tweedles Alice feast Stratford Festival

Members of the company in Alice Through The Looking-Glass. Photo by Erin Samuell. (Courtesy of Stratford Festival)

alice with tweedles

JBNBlog is delighted to hear all this good news from the Stratford Festival … feel free to note that the cheers here for the words on Alice Through The Looking-Glass — a source of great pride & joy to JBNBlog — are undoubtedly coloured by an emotional tie through the use of my father’s adaptation & a financial one via negotiations for its use.

There it is. Thanks again to Jillian Keiley & Alice everyone. Yay.

Over to Festival media ace Ann Swerdfager for the details:


March 28, 2015… The Stratford Festival celebrated its 2014 season Saturday, a season noted for its superb productions, its breadth of Shakespearean exploration, and its leap into the digital world with Stratford Festival HD.


In this second season under the leadership of Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino and Executive Director Anita Gaffney, the Festival produced a dozen plays, six of which were extended to meet audience demand and three of which were filmed and released worldwide. It expanded the offerings of the burgeoning Stratford Festival Forum and nurtured talent through the nascent Laboratory, an incubator for experimentation, exploration and new work. All of this, and more, the Festival accomplished within its $57.4-million budget, while declaring a $795,000 surplus.


Reflecting on the season, Board Chair Chip Vallis congratulated Mr. Cimolino and Ms Gaffney, saying: “To witness the vision, imagination, drive, determination and sheer brilliance of these two people in action is as thrilling as any play.”


“I am so proud of the accomplishments of this company,” said Mr. Cimolino. “And I am thrilled that so much of what we accomplished was able to be transferred to three gorgeous films that are now taking our work around the world.”


The Festival raised $12.9 million towards its annual operating activities, as well as $1.2 million for Stratford Festival HD, for a total of $14.1 million, a 13.5% increase over the previous year. Contributions from government totalled $3.9 million, compared to $5 million the previous year. Overall attendance was 462,000, ahead of target by 2%. The Endowment transfer totalled $2.7 million, less than originally budgeted for the 2014 season.


“At our Annual General Meeting two years ago, we announced an operating deficit for the 2012 season of $3.4 million, and I shared with you our plans to address that issue,” said Ms Gaffney. “At last year’s AGM, we announced a substantial operating surplus, and we’ve been able to achieve another sizable surplus in 2014. We may not be completely out of the woods yet, but we are moving steadily and surely in the right direction, thanks to the generous support of our patrons, donors and volunteers, and the dedicated stewardship of our staff and company.


“Since 2012, we have trimmed expenses without impacting the experience for our patrons or our artists. Remarkably, we’ve found room to do so while introducing several new initiatives, such as the Stratford Festival HD project, the establishment of the Forum and the Lab, and producing the chamber Dream in a purpose-built space at the Masonic Hall. On the other side of the ledger, revenue is up from 2012 by almost $3 million, which largely results from the masterful work of our Advancement team.”


Shakespeare attendance up significantly


Marking the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare, the Festival mounted five Shakespeares: King Lear, in a searing production directed by Mr. Cimolino, which became one of the top-selling Shakespeares in the Festival’s history; King John, directed by Tim Carroll; Antony and Cleopatra, directed by Gary Griffin; and, for the first time in Festival history two productions of the same title, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one directed by Chris Abraham and one by Peter Sellars. Audiences responded to all of these titles with great enthusiasm, prompting an increase in Shakespeare sales of 24% over 2013, and 43% over 2012.


“Both of our 2014 versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream pushed the boundaries of our audiences’ expectations, affording us a unique opportunity to explore more deeply the multiplicity of possibilities inherent in Shakespeare’s text,” said Mr. Cimolino.


“This kind of ground-breaking approach to our repertoire is one that I want to keep pursuing in the years ahead. There are countless ways in which we can investigate Shakespeare’s plays through adaptation, reinvention and other kinds of creative innovation. Even after more than 400 years, we’ve only just begun to explore the potential of these incredible works.


“The ‘infinite variety’ of Shakespearean possibility was also apparent in the gorgeous evocation of the ancient world in Gary Griffin’s Antony and Cleopatra and in Tim Carroll’s no less stunning original-practices approach to the seldom-performed King John. Those productions, directed by renowned artists from countries and theatre communities other than our own, speak to another aspect of our Festival’s strength: all the world can come to our stages, and bring different sensibilities to inform work that is nonetheless distinctively ours.”


Stratford Festival HD launches with three films


The 2014 season saw the filming of the first three productions for the massive Stratford Festival HD project, which will transform the Festival’s role in the wider world. Over the next 10 years it has committed to filming all of Shakespeare’s plays. The result will be the first-ever North American collection of the Shakespeare canon, a priceless artistic and educational resource for generations to come.


Stratford Festival HD kicked off with the critically acclaimed King Lear, starring Colm Feore, which premièred in February at roughly 400 cinemas across Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and Latvia. It will be rolling out to more international locations in the coming months. In April and May, King John – starring Tom McCamus and Seana McKenna – and Antony and Cleopatra – starring Geraint Wyn Davies and Yanna McIntosh – will première, rounding out the first installment of this important initiative.


“At this meeting last year, Antoni and I shared our aspiration to film the entire Shakespeare canon over the next 10 years,” said Ms Gaffney. “In just 14 months, we have raised the funds, shot and edited three productions and released the first title – King Lear – on 65 cinema screens in Canada and more than 330 screens in the U.S. and around the world. The feedback on that first film has truly been astonishing – a wonderful validation of our decision to embark on this dauntingly ambitious project. The première of King John will follow in April, and Antony and Cleopatra in May. In the fall, all three films will air on CBC TV, and then they will be released online and to the education market. They will endure as a priceless artistic and educational resource for generations to come.”


The Festival created a lasting memory of another hit production in 2014: the Stratford cast recording of Crazy for You, the first cast recording of a Stratford musical. Plans are already in place for the second Stratford cast recording, this one of Carousel.


The Festival is also sharing work created in Stratford at live venues throughout North America. In January, A Word or Two with Christopher Plummer, which was originally produced for the 2012 Stratford season, was presented at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles. Alice Through the Looking-Glass, commissioned by the Festival for the 1994 season from Canadian playwright James Reaney, is enjoying new life across the country. This “brillig” production, directed by Jillian Keiley and designed by Brette Gerecke, presented in Stratford in 2014 and produced in association with the National Arts Centre, was re-mounted at the NAC in December using actors from the NAC’s resident ensemble. Using the Festival’s creative concepts, sets, props and costumes, a number of other companies will re-mount the show, beginning with the Charlottetown Festival in P.E.I. this summer, followed by the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg and the Citadel in Edmonton.


Forum attracts 30,000 people


In 2014, more than 200 events were presented as part of the second annual Stratford Festival Forum, exploring both Shakespeare and the season theme of Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge. Forum sessions ranged from Margaret Trudeau’s talk about her journey through mental illness to New York hip-hop artist Devon Glover’s showcase of Shakespeare’s sonnets; from James Orbinski’s discussion of the madness of war and the world inhabited by humanitarian workers to Camille Paglia’s examination of Shakespeare and misogyny. Showcases included Hawksley Workman’s The God That Comes, four play-readings through Geraint Wyn Davies’ WordPlay series, concert performances of Next to Normal and a Chilina Kennedy cabaret. Forum attendance topped 30,000 for the season.


A partnership with CBC Ideas saw a number of Forum events featured on the CBC’s top-rated radio program, further extending the reach of the Festival and showcasing the exploration of thought and theatre happening in Stratford. The Ideas documentaries included In Rehearsal: Becoming Lear; Madness and the Prolonged War; Letters from the Front (marking the 100th anniversary of the First World War), Bottom’s Dream and Shakespeare’s Web with Peter Sellars; and Who Wrote Shakespeare’s Plays.


Another joint venture, this one with the Stratford Perth Museum, brought Canada’s only copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio to Stratford from the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library for a special Shakespeare 450 exhibition. This partnership continues in 2015, with a touring exhibition from Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, which will serve as a complement to the production of The Diary of Anne Frank.


The Laboratory, which Mr. Cimolino created in 2013 to keep innovation and growth central to the experience of the Festival’s creative artists, offered 100 sessions in 2014, including master classes with guest artists, small sessions and one-on-one classes with specialists, and vital conversations on the subjects of diversity, gender and mental health within the theatre industry. Two extended explorations were conducted by visiting directors within the season using Expressive Mask, Suzuki and Viewpoints methods. The Lab introduced a new three-week development initiative called the Incubator, in which two projects in development were extensively workshopped in repertory, culminating in a free presentation. Exciting new work continues to emerge from the Lab, including The Last Wife – which is part of the 2015 season – written by former company member Kate Hennig, and workshopped over two seasons in Stratford.


Moving forward, the Lab will be the centre for some research and work with the First Nations community as well as post-secondary theatre-training organizations. A workshop with First Nations directors will begin a dialogue about various ways of tackling the canon from a First Nations perspective. Through the Lab, the Festival will take part in a national discussion on the state and role of theatrical training in Canada, during which it hopes to share information about the work being undertaken in Stratford and also to find new perspectives to bring back to the Festival, especially with regards to diversity of practice.


“In the quality of the work we created, the stimulation we offered the mind, and the nourishment we offered the heart and the spirit, the 2014 season was one of triumphant achievement,” said Mr. Cimolino. “But it is not enough for us to do great work; that achievement means nothing unless it is seen and felt by the world. With the launch of Stratford Festival HD and our renewed focus on tours, transfers and the development of new work, we are clearly succeeding in getting the word out – and not just the word, but the work. That’s the thing of which I’m proudest: that the work of our wonderful Canadian artists is being seen by the world – and the world is realizing just what it has been missing.”


The Stratford Festival’s 2015 season gets underway April 21. It features Hamlet, The Taming of the Shrew, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Adventures of Pericles, The Sound of Music, Carousel, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Physicists, Possible Worlds, She Stoops to Conquer, Oedipus Rex, The Alchemist and The Last Wife. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.stratfordfestival.ca or call the box office at 1.800.567.1600.



John Renbourn (1944-2015)

- March 26th, 2015


John Renbourn in an undated image, courtesy of fliartists.com

My thoughts & prayers are with the family & friends of the late John Renbourn . . . the brilliant guitarist died at his home in Scotland the age of 70.

JBNBlog had the great good fortune to interview John Renbourn just before his first visit to London in 2000, a concert arranged by Ian Davies. John Renbourn must have read the piece because he mentioned with amusement my raving about the c. 1965 Goodbye Pork Pie Hat . . . will definitely  be playing it & other prime Renbourn on solo albums & with Pentangle to honour his guitar wizardry . . . he also sang which surprised me at Aeolian Hall.

Here’s a flashback to that night & why John Renbourn was amused . . .

One of my favourite Jansch recordings is his duet with John Renbourn of Charles Mingus’s Goodbye Pork Pie Hat . . .  in  a 2000 concert at Aeolian Hall, John Renbourn said Bert had more or less whistled the tune to him as they recorded it.  Renbourn then played a lovely solo version after saying he had learned the Mingus classic properly since then.

Here’s some of the story from 2000 . . . look at those classmates!

“I just play anything that I feel like playing, so I don’t put myself in any category,” Renbourn says. “I came out from art school in England in the ’60s, right, when a lot of people were coming out and beginning to play music more than art . . . a whole generation came out of those art schools. Mostly they played R&B.”
Renbourn didn’t go electric for long or play much rhythm and blues — but he did find the blues to his liking. He also ran with some famous schoolmates. They included such future stars as Eric Clapton and Sandy Denny, the late British folksinger who was part of Fairport Convention.
“I was at the same art school as Sandy Denny, Eric Clapton and the Yardbirds . . . Sandy Denny came to the art school because I was there and she wanted to join in the scene. Eric Clapton was there the year before and all the guys — the Chris Drejas and so on — that were in the Yardbirds.”

Here is a brief WENN.com obituary

Folk star John Renbourn has died after suffering a suspected heart attack.
The 70-year-old guitarist was found dead at his home in Hawick, Scotland earlier this week (beg23Mar15).
Renbourn co-founded folk supergroup Pentangle with Bert Jansch, who died in 2011.
Rocker-turned-DJ Cerys Matthews was among the first celebrities to pay tribute to the guitarist after learning of his passing on Thursday (26Mar15). A statement from her reads: “So sorry and sad to hear of John Renbourn’s passing. A loving, lovely man. RIP John, it was an honour and pleasure meeting you.” (KL/WNWC/MT)

Here is what I wrote about John Renbourn in 2000 when he was about to play Aeolian Hall . . .

After 35 years of playing wherever his guitar has taken him, John Renbourn is coming to London.
The British musician, a virtuoso in acoustic finger-style playing, has been associated with a who’s who of traditional and contemporary folk music. But his style includes jazz, blues, classical and world music. Renbourn performs at Aeolian Hall tonight .
“I just play anything that I feel like playing, so I don’t put myself in any category,” Renbourn says. “I came out from art school in England in the ’60s, right, when a lot of people were coming out and beginning to play music more than art . . . a whole generation came out of those art schools. Mostly they played R&B.”
Renbourn didn’t go electric for long or play much rhythm and blues — but he did find the blues to his liking. He also ran with some famous schoolmates. They included such future stars as Eric Clapton and Sandy Denny, the late British folksinger who was part of Fairport Convention.
“I was at the same art school as Sandy Denny, Eric Clapton and the Yardbirds . . . Sandy Denny came to the art school because I was there and she wanted to join in the scene. Eric Clapton was there the year before and all the guys — the Chris Drejas and so on — that were in the Yardbirds.”
Clapton would become the most famous Kingston art school student, first as a guitar legend with the Yardbirds, one of the British invasion groups who never forgot their R&B roots. Clapton later starred with British supergroup Cream and as a platinum-selling solo artist.
That wasn’t the route of Renbourn, surely the other great guitarist to learn about art and music at the school. He began recording in the 1960s, often teaming with Bert Jansch, another British guitarist whose music made room for jazz, blues and folk. Among their fine recordings from the 1960s is a beautiful version of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat — Charlie Mingus’s jazz farewell to tenor saxophone player Lester Young.
Renbourn has always enjoyed meeting such American guitar giants as Doc Watson or Reverend Gary Davis — but points to another British musician as a prime mover.
“The guy that was ahead of us is Davy Graham,” Renbourn says of the guitar player who was among the first to record Joni Mitchell songs — and ragas. “Davy was a big influence on me and Bert Jansch and Martin Carthy interestingly enough. Everyone that wanted to play that type of music, basically, listened a lot to Davy. I still do.”
Renbourn and Jansch eventually found themselves extending their music as two-fifths of Pentangle. The fivesome flourished into the 1970s, taking 11-minute British dirges and making them swing or turning jazz material into folk.
His own recordings and concerts have made room for such like-minded souls as compatriot Robin Williamson, formerly of the Incredible String Band, and Algerian guitarist Pierre Bensusan.
Looking over an extensive career, he names his 1998 album, Traveller’s Prayer, on New York-based Shanachie Records, as among his favourites. Renbourn has just signed a new deal with Shanachie.
Born in 1944 in London, England, he now lives in Sir Walter Scott country, near Selkirk, Scotland. The guitarist is pleased a great deal of his legend is now being celebrated in cyberspace — at renbourn.home page.com — but cautions fans not to believe everything he says about himself there.
“I was even worse as an authority on myself,” Renbourn says of his efforts to correct misconceptions about his life.
He invites browsers to help him straighten things out. “That will be very fascinating. People can correct my corrections.”



World Cup cricket thoughts from a distant admirer

- March 26th, 2015

Cricket World Cup 2015 RE_2015_03_26T123807Z_1029684819_GF10000039066_RTRMADP_3_CRICKE


Australia’s Mitchell Starc (L) consoles India’s Virat Kohli after Australia won their Cricket World Cup semi-final match in Sydney, March 26, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray

Cricket MS Dhoni RE_2015_03_26T104622Z_1155355987_GF10000038978_RTRMADP_3_CRICKE

India’s MS Dhoni hits the ball for four runs during his Cricket World Cup semi-final match against Australia in Sydney, March 26, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray

Cricket is a huge sport in much of the Commonwealth . . . & so JBNBlog has made valiant efforts to understand the game. Not really successful at that (so far, but will keep trying) . . . what is understood here via good friends in India and also former Australians is how emotional today’s cricket World Cup semi-final at Sydney must have been.

In 2007, we were staying in the same Mumbai hotel as Team India, tall & handsome men in suits who were about to leave for that World Cup   . . . the crowds outside were frantic, Beatlemaniac in intensity — that World Cup (in the West Indies) was a disaster for India & the only consolation (to judge by the papers) was that Pakistan had done worse.

We were in Melbourne over Christmas 2010 — when Australia was trounced in The Ashes (a competition going back to the 19th century) by England. Our hosts could barely stand to watch — but for the first time the athleticism of cricket, some of the tactics & the sledging (or taunting) was apparent . . . so was the class, the elegance of the game.

The next year saw India triumph in the 2011 World Cup … (almost) bigger than Diwali, a huge celebration, joy all over the homeland  reported our South Asian friends. Well not all our friends . . . Sri Lanka had lost to India & our Sri Lankan friends had complicated explanations about how their star bowler had his problems. Which eluded me but their disappointment was moving.

Anyway. Best to Australia & New Zealand & our friends with ties to those great countries whoever triumphs in the final . . . & to our friends in India, solidarity. You won it all in 2011 & for a little perspective on 2015, here is Reuters with India captain MS Dhoni:

By Julian Linden
SYDNEY, March 26 (Reuters) – The pressure was just too much for India in the end. They put a spirited defence of their World Cup title but chasing more than 300 to beat Australia in Thursday’s semi-final was a task even beyond them.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India’s inspiring captain who led his country to an unforgettable World Cup win four years ago, led his team from the front again.
He top scored for his team with a run-a-ball 65 but it was all in vain as the Indians collapsed to be all out for 233 in the 47th over, chasing Australia’s daunting 328 for seven.
“They (Australia) played very good cricket, over 300 is always a difficult score,” Dhoni said at the post-match presentation.
“I felt it was just over par, they could have had 350.”
India got off to a good start in the reply at the Sydney Cricket Ground with the openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan putting on 76 in the first 13 overs but when Dhawan fell for 45, the wickets started to tumble.
“We started okay but they bowled well. But overall, quite happy with where we were at the start of the tournament,” Dhoni said.
“Shikhar’s dismissal was on the softer side because that was the time when we could have milked the Australian bowling.
“It was not really needed to play a big shot but overall there’s pressure chasing 320 runs and pressure makes you do things you don’t want to.”
Dhoni quit his job as India’s test captain during the series against Australia but said he had no plans of quitting the limited-overs team in the immediate future.
He said he was undecided about playing on to the 2019 World Cup but had his eyes on next year’s Twenty20 World Cup being hosted by India.
“I’m 33, I’m still running, still fit. Next year, T20 World Cup, will be time to decide about 2019.” (Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

Fugitive Slave Chapel open house this weekend

- March 25th, 2015

Fugitive Slave Chapel new home

Beth Emanuel Church, left, & its new (old) neighbour . . . image courtesy of Sharon Lunau

ACO London region media ace Sharon Lunau & London and Middlesex Historical Society president Jennifer Grainger have passed along the ACO LR message re: this weekend’s open house . . . .the Fugitive Slave Chapel preservation & relocation is a great success story in #ldnont . . . but this open house is also a chance to find out what needs to be done. Congratulations to all & here are the details . . .

Fugitive Slave Chapel Preservation Project Presents


an OPEN HOUSE & Studio Session

At Beth Emanuel Church, 430 Grey Street, London, Ontario

Friday March 27, 2015 from noon to 6:30

Saturday March 28, 2015 from 9 to 6:30

Program 7:00 pm each evening

To celebrate the moving of the Fugitive Slave Chapel.

Meet and greet those who brought the Chapel Home.

Drop in and see what we’ve done.

View displays and learn the history.

Let us know your vision for the Slave Chapel.

Vote for your favourite plan

Dinner at 5:pm each day



info@fscpp.ca http://www.fscpp.ca/


Funding for this event provided by

Ontaro Trillium Foundation