Brown-John [OPINION]: Defined By Our Culture

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Windsor Star

Opinion Column, Lloyd Brown-John

The quality of a community’s life — those factors that attract not only serious investment but offer an attractive lifestyle — are often determined by core cultural institutions.

Certainly sports and recreation are important and communities are wise to judiciously support facilities that offer opportunities for both family recreation and competitive sport. But as a population ages there is a clear advantage for a community in supporting its cultural institutions.
For a relatively small city, Windsor is remarkably blessed with a diverse and vibrant cultural life. From astoundingly entertaining film festivals to one of Canada’s foremost waterfront sculpture gardens, the City of Windsor has artistic and performance talent beginning to burst through its proverbial seams.

The recent success of Windsor Light Music Theatre’s Driving Miss Daisy — performed before sold-out audiences — was one example of the quality of performance available in this city. Theatre Ensemble, the new conjoined group of local performers about to offer eight plays annually in the city, is another.

Windsor’s art gallery has proven a magnificent location not only for Canadian art, but for local artists as well, including some famous jazz artists in the gallery.

As Windsor’s audiences mature so to do performers. The Windsor Light Music Theatre has two notable musicals forthcoming. And summer river concerts are a splendid attestation to a well-planned waterfront.

Part of the growing success of Windsor’s cultural life was a wise decision by the city to support the Capitol Theatre’s new role as home to the Windsor Symphony Orchestra. This decision almost borders on creative genius, because not only does the Capitol Theatre host live theatrical performances, film festivals and concerts, it is also the innovative milieu for an astonishing WSO transformation.

Under its new and exciting music director Robert Franz, the WSO is emerging as a challenging creative cultural force in this city and region. Almost from the get-go. Franz has encouraged creative performances, like the pops series Sinatra and More last September and the classics, with an astounding multi-faceted performance of the essence of the opera Carmen.

Then there was the recent pops concert featuring the WSO’s own Konstantin Popovic on the fiddle. I haven’t the foggiest notion about who Guns and Roses are as a musical group but you really did not need to know that to enjoy Popovic’s cool performance.

From Star Wars to a wonderful group of very young violinists performing Peter Wiebe’s arrangement of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, the recent WSO concert was filled with delights and bubbled enthusiasm and verve.

The WSO is doing what it should be doing — reaching out to the community and bridging generations. Good grief, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield will perform with the WSO next season. I’m intrigued with that prospect.

Culture is as much about classical music as it is about engaging audiences to enjoy the sheer musical power and delight of a modern symphony orchestra doing Michael Jackson or the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean.

The City of Windsor should be proud of its enormous range of cultural offerings. This is a city of considerable bursting cultural creativity, and part of that emphasis was the decision to support the WSO in its new home at the Capitol Theatre. Now the city needs to reinforce the primacy of is art gallery and support its libraries and other contributors to the overall increasingly magnificent tapestry known as Windsor, the Cultural Capital of Western Ontario.

Oh, and as an aside, who was the last city mayor to regularly attend WSO concerts? You’ll have to read me next Thursday to find out.