24 December 2013

The McDades: Maybe This Christmas

May love, hope and harmony fill your homes 
and hearts this Christmas.  Merry Christmas!

23 December 2013

Night-time Photography December 2013

December 12 - I went to see the McDades in concert at the John Walter Museum with Kim.  These photos were taken that evening.  You can faintly see a bridge in the background in the scene bottom right.

It was a lovely evening in a pioneer setting that allowed you, for just a few hours, to forget you were in the midst of a bustling city.  So nice.

Perhaps you'd like to visit San Francisco Daily Photo where Louis shares the Sunday Bridges meme.

Today I am also joining Mary at the Little Red House for Mosaic Monday.

14 December 2013

Candlelight Christmas with the McDades at John Walter Museum

Thursday evening was a snowy one with a bit of a breeze so that as one drove the snow seemed to be coming directly at you.  This can be dangerously mesmerizing on a highway but not so much in the city as we drove through heavy traffic (there was a hockey game at Rexall Place that night) on our way to the John Walters Museum in Edmonton.

When we arrived at our destination, the wind had let up substantially and only a light snow persisted to fall. Upon arrival and checkin, one is greeted with the aromas of fresh home baked cookies, hot apple cider and hot chocolate, all complimentary with tickets for the event.

In another house, there were three buildings open for the event, we arrived to a candlelit living room filled with chairs, a wood burning pot belly stove (not being used), and three performers at the head of the room.  Sitting in the front row, we were privy to the amazing experience of seeing the trio of  Shannon, Solon and his partner Alison who would perform for 45 minutes with the most lovely renditions of British and French Christmas carols. It's truly beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

Above, the McDades:  Solon (son), Shannon (daughter) and Alison (Solon's partner)

Shannon shared a personal piece at the end of the performance with a violin solo followed by Edel Weiss prepared by Alison for their particular instruments.  Alison sang the song in a soft lyrical voice that was truly beautiful.

After this concert, we went to the first building for hot chocolate and fresh baked cookies before heading to John Walter's bachelor home where a harp and a table covered with a variety of wind instruments and a guitar sat behind the two performers for the remainder of the evening, Terry McDade and his son Jeremiah who performed for another 45 minutes.   Below is the harp backlit with candles in mason jars.

Above:  Terry McDade (dad)

Jeremiah McDade (son) played violin and a variety of wind instruments.  The McDades have their own beautiful renditions of several songs, including Little Drummer Boy wherein Jeremiah opens with throat singing.  Terry explained that as they composed this piece, they asked themselves what would it have been like in Bethlehem in an inn on the night Mary and Joseph would have been seeking a place to spend the night.  Likely the inn would have been crowded with people and a band would have been playing.  Little Drummer Boy was performed for our enjoyment in a manner in keeping with the McDades perception of that night over a thousand years ago.  I've included a YouTube video below so you can listen to this song - I highly recommend it.  As different as it is from the traditional song, it is perhaps more authentic to the experience and certainly beautiful.

The audience was invited to join in a couple of numbers as well. 

I loved this concert!  It helps to refocus on the traditional values of Christmas, on the simple joys and wonderment.  The nice thing about the venue is that it feels like it is not in a large city but rather on its own, surrounded by large trees and freshly fallen snow.  Overhead the snow stopped for a while and one could see the thumbnail of a moon shining through the branches overhead. 

I'd love to make this a family tradition to attend yearly.  I loved it that much!

Sorry no video footage accompanied this song so perhaps listen with your eyes closed.  
Isn't it lovely?

Tobogganing Crow

11 December 2013

Luminaria at the Devonian Gardens - Is the Popular Event Worth the Trip?

Sunday evening a friend and I drove out to Devon to the Devonian Botanic Garden to partake of the Luminaria event/festival.  The parking was predicted to be filled to capacity so they had a shuttle bus running continuously. The gates opened at 5:00 pm.  Since we arrived just before 5:30 pm, we managed to find a spot near the entrance,  thanks to those with glowing batons who directed traffic, and walked in from there.   The fee for the event was $10.95 per person.  So consider that and the 1/2 hour drive on a very cold winter day.

Luminaria finds its origins in Mexico and Latin America, roughly 1945-1950.  Luminaria, according to dictionary.com, refers to "any lamp or lantern displayed during a festival."  Wikipedia has a good article on the origins at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luminaria.

Above, the entrance to the garden is through a passageway between buildings.  The building on the right houses a store while the one on the left is where you purchase admission.
The following photos were taken that evening at the Kurimoto Japanese Garden.  Pathways were lit with white waxed paper bags weighted down with sand in the bottom and illuminated with a small candle.  Spotlights drew attention to the few Japanese features that are in this garden while the Ozawa Pavillion was lit from within. These were the only sources of light but it was sufficient.  A nice touch was spotlights within massed plantings of trees as they lit them beautifully, accenting the trunks and limbs on this winter's eve.


Beneath a pagoda a group of carollers sang some beautiful Christmas numbers.

 Above, the bell tower.

I noticed three different groupings of ice sculptures in the gardens.  
Above a Great Horned Owl and another owl sit together.  A little further on in this post 
you will see the wolves also sculpted from ice.  I didn't get a photo of the single bear.

Oh, I can't tell you how wonderful it was to have these little bonfires burning at strategic points 
along the path.  Hot apple cider was given to anyone who wanted a little inner warmth.  

What I call warming stations basically amounts to a fire pit, like the one above, 
sometimes with a few chairs round about where one can sit to warm up on a cold night.  
Most of the stations also offered hot cider.  Visitors were asked to bring their own mugs 
but disposable cups were available for those who didn't bring their own.

To the right in the photo above is one of five stone lanterns located in the garden.  Ahead on the path is a warming station complete with bonfire.  At this particular station one could light a candle for a loved one who has passed on.  The volunteers manning the warming areas, the light a candle area, and those directing traffic were all very welcoming and friendly.  I asked one young man who was pouring the cider for visitors how he was faring in the cold.  He tugged on his overcoat and smiled saying he was hot blooded and this night's cold temperatures didn't bother him at all.  I don't think everyone is as warm-blooded as he.  

One of many "lanterns" that lit the paths.

Above you can see the backs of the "magical" Snow Sprites.  This characters flitted about the paths 
making little squeaky noises.  Below, the Sprites are approaching and even posed for a photo.

Above and below, the Ozawa Pavillion is lit from within.

 One of the structures within the garden that was highlighted with spotlights.

 So beautiful.

 The skies hosted a smattering of clouds and you could see a thumbnail of a moon overhead but no stars.  The garden is far enough from our city and from the town of Devon for the view of the skies not to be impeded with light pollution but tonight's sky didn't reveal the pinprick of stars overhead.

Ice Sculptures of a pair of wolves.

Above. the pavilion in the background.

The Bell Tower sits atop a small hill.  

I have to say we were a bit disappointed we couldn't ring the bell but it was drifted in and roped off.  I'd love to take a trip out here during each of the four seasons to take photos of the different stages of the garden.  With the small hills, a waterfall and pond in the landscape there are some lovely vistas and vantage points.

The only topiaried evergreen we spotted during our visit.

We spent just over an hour walking the path and taking photos.  Having stopped twice for hot apple cider (we brought our own mugs), we were sufficiently warm.  Mind you we did dress for the weather.  The night was a cold negative twenty (-20.4 C overnight) Celsius but with a long parka,   toques, scarves, gloves and good winter boots we fared just fine.

Following our walk we visited the craft show in an adjacent building before heading out.  I took a couple photos of the wreaths but apparently I didn't save those.  All in all it was worth going out for but I think once is sufficient for this blogger.  When I consider the cost and the drive, to me it's worth the one trip out to Devon.  There's really nothing for the children though.  This event is better suited to the adult.  If you want to bundle them up for the trip next year, be my guest, but know ahead of time that it is a fair bit of walking with a few outdoor warming stations and apple cider.  Luminaria is held at the garden over a weekend in December each year.  

Note:  all photos in this post were taken either by myself or my friend Kim.

10 December 2013

Festival of Trees 2013

The Shaw Conference Center is the annual destination for the Festival of Trees which is a major fundraiser for the U of A Hospital.  It's been a couple years since I have volunteered at the festival and I've missed doing so.  This visit reinforced those feelings.  

This year's event was held over the November 29 -December 1/13 weekend.  I went on the 30th. The following photos are just a sampling of a small area within the large conference rooms which are a popular site for graduations, conferences, etc.  The entire lower level of the conference centre was decorated for the event.  You can't help but get excited for the upcoming season when you attend.  Children and adults alike love this event!

Yes, this tree is made with rolls of wrapping paper!

An Edmonton Book Blogger designed this tree using hand-made mini books.  
The theme is "Fairyland."

More to come......


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