Toronto Tourist for a Day

I had great fun being a tourist in my own city this weekend when Toronto hosted its annual 'Doors Open' event.

175 buildings of architectural, cultural, historic and social significance opened their doors to the public for the weekend, and, in addition, many buildings had activities associated with the Lit City and Contact festivals.

Saturday afternoon was my alloted time to go, and I fell quite a bit short of my list of buildings to visit, only managing to see three different places. (How anyone could ever hope to see all of them in one weekend is a mystery.) Nonetheless it was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon with P.
We started out going to Campbell House (the oldest remaining building from the original town of York) but were rather surprised to see the line of people that were waiting to get in extending out of the house, down the path and curving on to the street. As there were a number of properties to visit in the immediate vicinity we decided to move on.

Our next stop was Osgoode Hall which is one of the oldest buildings in Toronto. It houses the highest courts of Ontario, including the Court of Appeal and parts of the Superior Court of Justice, along with the Law Society of Upper Canada.

Inside there was a highly organised self-guided tour. Volunteers sported Osgoode Hall T-Shirts and were very helpful. They handed out leaflets with information on each room in the tour, and signs were posted around the building to prompt you on each step.

We had great fun exploring and talking to the various volunteers. The library was gorgeous, one of my favourite rooms (surprise surprise!). In the courtrooms volunteers were on hand with judges robes so that you could 'preside' over the court for photos. In the Convocation Room, which is the board room of the Law Society, the current Treasurer was greeting visitors and answering questions.

After Osgoode Hall we moved on to Old City Hall. After the informative and well-organised Osgoode, Old City Hall was a little disappointing. We looked around the impressive entrance hall. Then we circled the whole area looking at different doors and passageways, but everything was closed off from the public. Thinking that there must be more to see we went up the sweeping staircase to the second floor. Upstairs it was much the same, the public was welcome to see the main hallway, but everything else was off-limits.

One of the things that I'd been looking forward to at Old City Hall, was a reading by the author Robert Rotenberg. This was set up on the second floor, and there were three sessions scheduled throughout the afternoon. Unfortunately we had arrived slap-bang in the middle of two of them, and we still had so much more we wanted to see.
The author was still there however, signing copies of his novel. P very sweetly insisted on buying me a copy, and we were pleased to be supporting local talent. I'm very much looking forward to reading 'Old City Hall', perhaps I'll take it to read on our trip.

Our final stop of the day was the Canadian Music Centre, an organisation that exists to promote the work of Canadian composers both at home and internationally.
This was by far my favourite stop. In keeping with the Lit City theme - literary works inspired by Toronto - they had programmed a concert in their library.

Composer and cellist Kye Marshall presented her Nine Poets project, a series of new musical works for solo cello (with noises) to accompany live readings by poets Ruth Pierson, Barry Dempster, Maureen Hynes, Liz Ukrainetz, Maureen Scott Harris, Sue Chenette, Sheila Stewart, Julie Roorda, and Kelley Aitken. Unfortunately Barry Dempster was ill and unable to be part of the performance, but his poem was read by Maureen Scott Harris.

I loved the concert. Each poem had its own unique and evocative setting. Kye manipulated the amplified sounds of her cello through the use of digital effects, and she also incorporated pre-recorded loops of different sounds ranging from atmospheric (rain) to noises and ostinati previously created on the cello. The poems ran the gamut of themes and emotions, and each poet seemed to draw strength from the musical support. The readings were suffused with drama, tension, curiosity, comedy, and tragedy.

In addition to the beautiful weather and the evening that followed - full of good friends and delicious food - it was a very happy day.

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