Deja Vous concert, June 18, at Gold Saucer Studio

Gold Saucer Studio is a wonderful venue for musical endeavors. Situated in the historic Dominion Building, it is a collective space for independent musicians across Vancouver to gather and give performances. The performance room had a quaint, classic feeling, much like being invited into a drawing room of an older apartment, the experience having moreso of a feel by us sitting back on a spacious sofa, almost in darkness but for a few spot lamps focusing our attention to the duo at the front.

Dominion Building - 1908

(Photo credit: Bob_2006, Flickr)

Said duo were Cathy Fern Lewis, a soprano, and Marina Hasselberg on cello. Cathy is a teacher at the Victoria Conservatory of Music and a prolific musician, having produced and performed in shows across Canada for chamber music, dance, performance art and opera. Marina, hailing from Portugal, has played with a number of ensembles including being the Artistic Director of NOVO Ensemble. She is an avid enthusiast for new and baroque music.

The breadth of knowledge these performers brought to the performance was quite evident. Beginning with an adaptation Purcell’s Music For a While, the austere strains of cello rang out, in a solemn yet slightly melancholic manner, akin to the strains of a harpsichord. Such an approach was well-complimented by the ornamentation and slightly wistful, almost operatic intonation brought by voice.

Following this was Canto by Mark Hand, a Canadian composer living on Saltspring Island. Using a diminishing double echo loop for the cello, the quick passages played by the instrument gave the impression of reverberation around a cave, in an almost communicative manner. The voice, with its more straightforward delivery, was complimented and contrasted by the strings, giving at once a familiar feeling that was tempered by a strong natural sentiment.

The main feature of the evening’s offerings was Rudolf Komorous’ Cold Mountain Songs. Komorous, a Czech-born Canadian composer, was quite taken with the work of the Chinese poet Hanshan, a classicist who visited the eponymous mountains. Hanshan had three poetic periods, the most noteworthy being his transcendental, philosophical meditations composed during his sojourn at Cold Mountain. This expansive view of the world was captured in vignettes depicting small life events followed with self-reflection, which was captured in Komorous’ lyrics. Additionally, the cello takes on a number of quarter-tones and other unique uses of both the bow and of pizzicato, which adds a mystical quality to the music, almost like Scriabin at his most inscrutable. Such a set of pieces is very tricky to pull off, and Marina and Cathy performed this difficult portfolio with effortlessness, as well as the sensitivity to give a very private impression, almost as if the listener was the air travelling around the poet when he made his pilgrimage.

Another highlight of the evening was the premiere of Messages By Hand: A Collection of Postcards by Christopher Reiche. A suite of short pieces inspired by five vintage postcards he had acquired at a flea market, Cathy was to sing the messages on the postcards whilst Marina provided his musical interpretation of the setting. Short and sweet, the pieces conveyed drama, comedy, and even a locomotive feeling when it seemed that one had been writing her message from a train. Beautifully composed, it ended on a beautiful portrayal of Vancouver City Hall, which was of course, left blank on the back.

Sappho Fragments then followed. Composed of unused prose composed by Linda C. Smith, an arrangement was prepared by Marina and Cathy to suit cello and voice. The prose, initially intended to be set to music for a concert of contemporary pieces by women composers, combined beautifully with the musical setting. Rich and lush, voice and cello combined to invoke vivid imagery, giving an impression of the gardens that were originally intended to be construed in the performed concert.

From there followed a true garden piece, Garden Elegy by Jocelyn Pook. Perhaps best known for composing the soundtrack to Kubrick’s final film Eyes Wide Shut, Pook composed this piece during her earlier days. Inspired by The Kingis Quair, a poem written by James I of Scotland during his 18-year imprisonment, it is an intense reflection of the narrator who is trapped between philosophy and longing for a distant woman he spies outside his window. In this, Cathy and Marina bring the classical music strains to a united whole – with a more baroque bent, homage is paid to the early pieces of the concert. Vivid imagery is reflected upon in philosophical, somewhat distanced measure, much as it was through the main portion. And again, the performers bring the music and voice to life, drawing us in with a skillful, guiding hand, yet leaving us to reflect on the meaning each of us derived from such work.

The concert was brought to a close with a performance of Nature Boy arranged by Marina. Cathy’s rich voice, brought out in the long, meandering melodic passages, was well accented by the vitality of Marina’s playing. Almost with a mischievous feel, when the last strains played out, the thoughtfulness of the song seemed to fade, seemingly awakening us from the spell previously cast.

And to that, we sincerely hope to feel the magic another time!

Public Salon, May 4 (Global Civic Policy Society)

Sam Sullivan and his partner Lynn Zanatta continue to hold these public salons quarterly, and every time, they manage to find a new set of interesting British Columbians to feature.

The program for the May 4, 2016 one is listed here.

As I entered the auditorium, I was immediately drawn to the fusion music of Zimbabwean musician Kurai Blessing Mubaiwan and an Indian musician from the Bhangra Performers. The salons are always preceded by local musicians before the formal evening begins. It was an amazing combination of African and Indian music that worked terrifically well together.

Sam Sullivan introduced the program as always, pointing out that he does not ever set out to project a theme. But often themes emerge. He also mentioned his ongoing cause, revitalizing the trade language Chinook Jargon (also known as Chinook Wawa). British Columbia is a place with incredible linguistic diversity, but many Aboriginal languages face extinction. This is not just a BC problem, of course, as globalization is aimed straight at indigenous cultures. Write to to find out more. It’s always a pleasure to hear Sam talk about this linguistic passion–he truly cares about BC heritage and culture.



Among the talks I particularly enjoyed was one by Jocelyn Morlock, an increasingly well-known composer. In Western music, we are taught to think in terms of octaves and the chromatic scale. But with the lumiphone, there are 32 tones to an octave. This is a concept well-known in Indian music (here’s the serendipitous theme emerging). The lumiphone is a beautiful instrument, and I enjoyed the performance by Brian Nesselroad and Colin Van de Reep, playing a composition by Benton Roark.

Mo Dhaliwal combines an accomplished career as a tech entrepreneur with a sideline in performing bhangra. He promotes culture and opposes homogeneity. The striking colors, rhythm, and music of bhangra are inspiring.



Former nun Chris Morrissey left her religious vocation when she felt she could no longer deny her sexual orientation. But she has not given up her desire to serve others, as she has formed the Rainbow Refugee Committee to assist people who are living in oppressive environments who want the freedom to build a life with their same-gender partners, or who are simply suffering oppression due to their sexual orientation, their HIV status, or their gender identity.

As always at a Global Policy Civic Society salon, topics veered from humanitarian to cultural to scientific. Let’s hope Sam Sullivan and Lynn Zanatta continue this dinner party tradition writ large for a long time to come.

TEDx Stanley Park returns May 28

TedX events are not sponsored nor organized by the official TED Foundation, but in exchange for the use of the name, the events must follow strict rules as laid out by TED in order to ensure a high-quality event. In and around Vancouver, there are several TedX events every year—some examples are TEDx Gastown, TEDx SFU, Tedx Vancouver, and of particular significance to this post, TEDx Stanley Park.  Among the TED rules are to name the event after a known location.

TEDx allows chosen speakers the opportunity to disseminate their ideas, and allows the attendees a chance to spend a day in a great venue, meet other participants, and learn from the talks. Oh, and keep in mind that lunch and goodies are provided too.

When you watch a TED talk, you have noticed how practiced and polished the speakers are. Their words and gestures flow with ease. But although these speakers make it look easy, what you see is the result of many, many hours of practice. TEDx events are also expected to invest heavily in ensuring that their speakers manage all aspects of their talk with skill, organization, and fluidity. The speakers are assigned coaches, they submit multiple drafts of their talks, and they practice and practice and practice. I want to improve my public speaking ability, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking good speakers are that way effortlessly because they look so natural.

On February 13, members of YVR Bloggers, organized by Ricky Shetty, set out to meet the speakers and interview them in preparation for the May 28 TEDx Stanley Park event. We met up in the functional and pleasant co-working space Kickstart Community Ventures, which is focused on entrepreneurs. The founder and organizer of TEDx Stanley Park, Roger Killen, said he got all of the speakers from ToastMasters, and I noticed that one chapter of ToastMasters meets in this space.

View the list of speakers for TEDx Stanley Park (it looks incomplete at the moment, but should soon be updated). Here are some of the talks that particularly interest me:

  • Karn Manhas on bedbug control, and his natural, extremely effective solution
  • Jules Ku-Lea on slavery in the food chain. What’s really happening with that shrimp from Thailand or that produce from 100 miles away?
  • Maureen McGrath fearlessly discusses sex and how to make it better for people. She’s not embarrassed by anything.
  • Iman Aghay had two deathbed experiences and is still under 40. It was interesting to hear the changes he’s made as a result.

Although reading is an excellent way to learn, there’s a lot to be said for learning directly from the source in the company of your peers. Peruse the TEDx Stanley Park website, and consider going.

This is a first for me, but I am offering a promo code if you buy a ticket. Use the password “lois”. Have fun!

Event: “The secret in inve$ting in art” at the Chali-Rosso Gallery

Vancouver has the Vancouver Art Gallery, Bill Reid Gallery, Vancouver Contemporary Art Gallery, and numerous art studios and galleries all around town. Periodically we have events like the Vancouver East Cultural Crawl, where artists open their studios to the public and we can meet the artists and enjoy their work. So far as art goes, even if Vancouver is not quite London or New York, we are quite lucky.

Everyone dreams of stumbling across an immensely valuable artist’s work in their attic or at a rummage sale, and it might be more probable than winning the 6/49, or at least more so than PowerBall. But what if you want to buy some art of your own? If you are thoughtful and do good research, art can be as good, or better, an investment as standard blue chip stocks. And, while stocks are not exactly gorgeous to look at, the right art can really enhance your home or office.

In order to aid potential art investors, Chali-Rosso Gallery offered an evening soiree, with the theme “The secret in inve$ting in art”. First, attendees were invited to peruse the lovely collection of limited edition works of European masters such as Picasso, Dali, Matisse, Chagall, Miro, Renoir, and others (the gallery has over 500 pieces of art). I can’t think of any other gallery in Vancouver which focuses so much on these established Masters.

Besides the framed works, there were some lovely sculptures. We had some nibbles and wine while perusing the art, and then settled down to hear the speakers.

Peter Szeto, of the Peter Szeto Investment Group, is a financial advisor. He focused on the performance of fine art in the market over the past few decades. In short, based on several fine art indices (like the Mei Moses Fine Art Index), art has outperformed stocks, and is somewhat less volatile. Of course, art is not without risk, and it is illiquid, meaning not instantly salable (unlike, say, Apple stock). Szeto clearly stated he is not himself an artist, nor does he feel himself qualified to speak on the artistic side of things, but he did provide the numbers to demonstrate art is a reasonable choice to include in your investment portfolio. Significantly, considering supply and demand, when there is great demand for an artist who is dead with no more discoverable works, the price will surely go up.

peter.jpg(Peter Szeto in front of some great art. Photo credit John Gurcharan Nijjar)

Andrew Fisher, founder of Fisher Fine Art and International Fine Art Acquisitions, has been in the art business since the 1970s, and has a specialty in the work of 19th-century and 20th-century masters. His expert advice is highly sought by art dealers, and he finds himself unable to actually retire. Fisher pointed out that although he comes to art with a different perspective than Szeto, they essentially arrive at the same conclusions: art can be a good investment, and it has many positives that go beyond the strictly financial.

andrew.jpg(Andrew Fisher explaining Warhol’s genius. Photo credit John Gurcharan Nijjar)

If you are interested in current contemporary artists who are not well-known, and possibly on an upswing of popularity, your purchases are more risky, but also potentially more rewarding. Fisher emphasized the importance of learning the market thoroughly if you want to buy cutting-edge art. I am sure there are many Warhol contemporaries who wish they had been a bit more prescient.

Given the importance of Chinese investors in the local economy, the speakers had Mandarin translators. I definitely feel like I am missing out by not knowing Mandarin, so maybe now is the time to start learning! Westerners know about Sotheby’s and Christie’s as well-known art auction houses, but what about Poly Culture, which is China’s largest auction house? I enjoyed this Financial Post article about Poly Culture (but note it’s almost 2 years old).

Still unconvinced about the importance of art as an investment? Consider this statement by Larry Fink, chief executive at BlackRock, the world’s biggest investor with $4.6 trillion. “The two greatest stores of wealth internationally today is contemporary art….. and I don’t mean that as a joke, I mean that as a serious asset class,” said Fink. “And two, the other store of wealth today is apartments in Manhattan, apartments in Vancouver, in London.” (Quoted by Bloomberg.)

Once the lectures had concluded, we were treated to some door prizes. My friend won a ticket to Miss Asian Vancouver beauty pageant. Here’s event hostess Alice Zhou with a prize bag:

az.jpg.jpg(Photo credit John Gurcharan Nijjar)

And here’s a photo of many of the people who made the evening possible:

group.jpg.jpg(A good-looking group, I must say. Photo credit John Gurcharan Nijjar)

The Chali-Rosso Gallery is open to visitors and potential purchasers, and I have no doubt they will work with you to help you make an art investment choice that works for you. Despite the value of the art on the display, it is a friendly and approachable gallery. Visitors are welcome, and group tours are offered (art students and seniors are among those who have taken these tours).

C H A L I – R O S S O
549 Howe Street
Vancouver, BC V6C 2C2

Review: Huff, Firehall Arts Centre until Feb. 6

First, buy your tickets now, as Huff has been selling out. This is another excellent PuSH Festival production.

Huff is about young boys dealing with solvent abuse, parental alcoholism, and various forms of abuse, on what seems to be an isolated northern reserve. Huff is visceral and raw and real. The audience participates, wittingly or not.

The playwright, and actor of this one-man show, Cliff Cardinal was born on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, but his Canadian First Nations mother is Tantoo Cardinal, an acclaimed actor whom I saw several years ago in a Firehall production of God and the Indian. He stated in a CBC interview that he considers himself neither Canadian nor American, but “Indian”. Although I thought of this show in the context of the stories of the reserve at Davis Inlet, the place could also be Pine Ridge or any of a number of Canadian or American First Nations communities. Cardinal specifically decided to be generic with the placement.

cc(Cliff Cardinal in Huff – photo credit akipari)

In interviews, Cardinal is cagey about how much of the play represents personal experiences, or those of his friends or relatives. But the story and the characters ring true. In this story, you witness the death of youthful innocence. How can such terrible things happen? Why is life so difficult for so many? How can children be at once playful and joyful, but also recipients of so much torment? How can there be so much tragedy, but yet the play has so many humorous moments? Is Trickster evil? Cardinal is a youthful 30, but has written a play with incredible depth and nuance. Cardinal skillfully cycles through an incredible emotional range and 10 characters, with rapid switches between them.

The saddest aspect of this show was thinking about the news stories I have read (like this one about Davis Inlet) and the shows that I have seen which feature the suicides of young Aboriginal people. A couple years ago, I saw Night, another PuSH festival production, about a young Inuit girl’s suicide in the Arctic. I feel like I cannot bear to see another show on this subject without doing something about it.

In the truest sense of the word, the play’s main character, Wind, is a survivor. The play could have taken an utterly nihilistic approach, but hope remains.

Public Salon returns in 2016 (review from Jan. 27)

Sam Sullivan and his partner Lynn Zanatta keep hitting home runs with their public salons. They bring together a group of interesting people, each of whom is given 7 minutes to speak. The Jan. 27, 2016 edition (#24 in this continuing series) maintained the same standard that I have come to expect from these evenings.

Each salon begins with a musical group playing as people find their seats. This edition was fully booked, a credit to the interesting speakers and the networking possibilities available afterwards. This time the group was The Straight Jackets.

sj(Photo credit: John Gurcharan Nijjar)

Sam Sullivan as host is always good-humored and upbeat. He talked a bit about learning an indigenous language (the trade language Chinook Wawa), gave us a sample of what he has learned (the words rolled off his tongue quite fluently) and urged us to participate also.

The evening began with Brett Finlay, a microbiologist talking about how excessive hygiene may be causing the high incidence of allergies, asthma, and other disorders in current Western populations. If infants have certain bacteria in their microbiome at three months, they are unlikely to get asthma. But many factors, including Cesarean births and formula feeding (both of which can clearly be life-saving interventions), can hinder the growth of an ideal microbiome.

ed2(Photo credit: John Gurcharan Nijjar)

Next up was Kedrick James, who does what I call “stochastic poetry”. He uses randomness and remixes to create his poetry. From a data science and mathematical and computing point of view, I find the experiment to be fascinating. From a literary perspective, I longed for Keats and T.S. Eliot, or even David Bowie (who did indeed use Brian Eno’s suggestions to introduce randomness into his lyrics).

I guessed that Farzana Jaffer Jeraj might be related to Senator Jaffer, and I was right (the senator is her mother, and her mother was proudly tweeting during the session). Farzana is an author and coach, and as described by tweeter @drshimikang, “#lifehappens & what matters is how we manage it.”

Scott C. Jones talked about recovery from a stroke, and his delight when he could finally manage to read sentences again. He spoke of his appreciation for the bookstores around Pender and Richards, with which I wholeheartedly concur.

Everyone knows Bill Richardson from CBC. He talked of purchasing a house in tiny Holman, Manitoba, and the pleasures he is getting from country living. He was as witty and insightful as always.

Trevor Stokes spoke about his students in the alternative Streetfront program at Britannia Secondary School. Many of his students have taken up marathoning, with incredible results, and some of them attended the salon that night too. It is always a very special thing to see a teacher who is extremely proud of his students.

Eran Sudds was struck with postpartum depression after the birth of her son. She got the help she needed, and seeks to encourage other women to do the same.

Robert Sung operates Wok Around Chinatown food tours. He spoke with pride of his father, who helped build Canada while still not being allowed citizenship. As Chinatown is my neighborhood of choice, I am certain that his clients have no shortage of great places to visit.

Once again, Sam and Lynn brought together a group of eight local people with fascinating stories. Keep your eye out for the next one happening in a few months!



Review: Kaya Bistro with YVRFoodies, January 2016

Like I did with a previous meetup at East is East on West Broadway, I had a great time with the YVRFoodies meetup group. Ricky Shetty was again a great organizer and host.

I had to arrive late, so I missed out on a course or two. But I can report that the seafood bouillabaisse was terrific. I’m sometimes skeptical of Malaysian food, as it can be very sweet, but Kaya tones down this aspect. The texture, the flavours, the combinations–I can’t remember a seafood soup I have enjoyed as much as that one.

My food photography rarely does the food justice, but I’ll give it a try again. There’s an exquisite coconut-milk base here.


I noticed Kaya was very respectful and helpful with the various dietary restrictions that my fellow diners had.

Apart from the lovely food, we had a great evening hearing from several presenters. Again, I think I may have missed someone, so I’ll just report those I heard from.

Teen Across Canada: Teenager Anastasia and her mom and dad are in the midst of a cross-Canada trip. Much of the trip has centered around food, and not surprising to me, the Maritimes including Newfoundland have provided star memories for both food and friendliness.  Read more about their adventures here at

Hot Arusha (aka Iqbal Ishani): What a cool guy (to mix temperatures). Iqbal is a great drummer too, and he got us moving in between courses. He also wants to preserve the culinary heritage of his family with these wonderful hot sauces (most of which are not that hot, but very flavorful and savory). I particularly loved the garlic one, which I tried a few days later. Iqbal was born in Nairobi of Indian parents. His website is

Feeding the 5K (with Elaine Cheng): We know a huge amount of food is wasted every year. It could make you cry to think of it. Elaine sets up a dinner that feeds thousands where all of the food would otherwise have been discarded. Read more at

Theresa Nicassio, Ph.D (Yum Food for Living): Theresa is a psychotherapist who focuses on eating issues and disorders. At dinner we discussed having daughters who had adopted a vegan or vegetarian diet as preteens. Theresa supported her daughter in this choice, and when Theresa later found she had celiac disease, she also had to make her diet gluten-free. But rather than be limited by these restrictions, Theresa has used them to focus on creating a terrific cookbook suitable for anyone, but completely vegan and with substitutions that allow each recipe to be gluten-free. This cookbook is available at It’s gorgeous with delicious-sounding recipes and I am going to try it out this weekend. Theresa also talked about emotional eating, and how it is universal and should not be a source of self-denigration. But she also suggested looking at other ways of achieving satisfaction, such as through music, art, play, and so forth.

Thanks again, Ricky Shetty, who did a great job coordinating the speakers, the music, and encouraging us all as bloggers. We had a wonderful time!