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Soundstreams’ “Encore” curates a cultural experience without bounds

By Margaret Lam on October 16, 2014

Soundstreams Gala, 2014
Soundstreams Gala, 2014

Over time, with sufficient interactions and conversations, we come to discern and trust the taste of certain individuals and groups. This is the basis for word-of-mouth marketing, and not the soap-box-in-the-square method that has become synonymous with online social media platforms. Where is the space for thoughtful recommendations, the kind akin to an exchanged between friends, in a world where we have less and less one-on-one time?

It is no mystery to any of us that Toronto holds the promise of being a gold mine of arts and culture experiences. Yet, navigating the various listings and digging for the gold can involve quite an effort, with no guarantee that the show you pick will be as good as you had hoped. Throw in the usual complex mess of trying to organize your friends for a simple coffee meet-up, a dinner and a movie starts to sound like a good idea.

This is the dilemma that confronts a generation that realizes they would like more human interaction, with a great interest in experiential forms of entertainment, in a digital world that is devoid of the contexts of the real world.

Soundstreams’ newly launched “Encore” subscription program, is designed to start tackling some of these challenges, by turning them into an artistic opportunity.

The “Encore” subscription program plays host to 25 early to mid-career professionals, all of whom will experience select Soundstreams performances, as well as some of the best theatrical productions Toronto has to offer.

It is a series of six evenings, all of which begins with a close encounter with the artistic mind behind the featured program of the night. It is an opportunity to get to know Toronto’s arts and culture scene through the eyes of fellow art-adventurers over dinner, before taking in curated performances that reflect Soundstreams’ partiality to contemporary Canadian artistic works.

There are many arts program in the city targeted to young professionals. I myself was a beneficiary of Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s soundcheck program and Canadian Opera Company’s “$30 Under 30” offering. COC’s Operanation created an operatic fundraiser event with a distinct urban bent to engage this party loving demographic, while Tafekmusik’s Tafelscene offer unique opportunities to socialize and engage the musical offerings from different perspectives.

Soundstreams’ Encore is more focused on conversation and deep engagement, a training ground for tastemakers who will learn to navigate Toronto’s rich cultural terrains, and share what they learn with their own community.

One exceptional feature of this offering is that it reaches beyond Soundstreams’ organizational boundaries to the Canadian Stage, Tarragon Theatre and Acting Up Stage Company. Despite being Soundstreams-heavy, it makes up for it by a careful selection of Toronto’s top theatre presenters featuring local talents.

Helen Lawrence, (Canadian Stage), on Oct 23 at the Bluma Appel Theatre on front street, kicks off the series with a theatre production set in post-WWII Vancouver that features visual art, live-action filming, and computer-generated simulations. I would recommend the Beer Bistro as a fun spot either before or after the show to convene.

Soundstream’s Vespers on November 25 features a vocal program headlined by soprano Shannon Mercer, and two works of the same name from two distinct historical moments. With Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre being nested in the heart of Annex, deciding on a common place for dinner will be a challenge.

The Wild Party (Acting Up Stage/Obsidian Theatre Company) in the new year on February 20, promises a Tony-nominated musical based on the book-length poem of the same name by Joseph Moncure March. It is set in the roaring twenties, and features an ill-fated romance between a Vaudevillian clown and a dancer. Berkeley Street Theatre is in the south-east end of town, and just close enough to Sukoi Thai on parliament to be worth the winter walk.

The Whisper Opera the following week on February 27, is a unique Soundstreams offering. An opera performed entirely in whispers, only 52 audience members are admitted to each performance. This is going to be a cutting-edge experience in terms of the music as well as the emerging indie opera format.

On April 7, Infinity (Tarragon Theatre/Volcano Theatre) will introduce you to award-winning playwright Hannah Moscovitch, who has been making a splash in Toronto’s theatre scene, under the direction of Toronto-based Ross Manson. Tarragon Theatre is at Dupont and Bathurst, not a neighbour I’m familiar with (I clearly don’t go to Tarragon enough), but readers may have dinner suggestions.

Encuentros is the Soundstreams’ final concert of the season. Nothing beats top-notch flamenco music with a contemporary twist, and this has great promise to be even better than last year’s concert of the same theme.

Encore is a daring new format that sees audience engagement and development as a collective good. I hope other organizations and businesses get behind this series as it grows, from within and without, to become a subscription series created by the people, for the people.

* * *

For the fence sitters, take advantage of a special offer to attend the Oct 23 event for $55, with the option of upgrading to a subscription ($450 with a tax receipt for $150) by paying the difference. A smaller subscription for $300 includes Helen Lawrence, Whisper Opera, A Wild Party, and Encuentros.

Learn more here: http://soundstreams.ca/Support/Encore

Margaret Lam
is the founder of BeMused Network

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