Sunday, 22 July 2012

Le Festival de Lanaudière

And so back again to Lanaudière - how can it be a year already since, eh, last year? Matching the concert schedule to the availability of a childminder led us to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in a program of Glinka, Dvořák and Tchaikovsky.

The Dvořák was the highlight for me: the well-known Cello Concerto, brilliantly played by Johannes Moser who has a very engaging stage presence. His face expresses the music like Roger Federer's does his tennis in the final of a Grand Slam: each phrase is attacked with a hard serve, followed by a rapid volley of notes, rising to a crescendo of a running backhand down the line for a clean winner. Oh YEAH!!!

(This morning I listened again to Jacqueline du Pré's recording of the same concerto and marvelled again at how she combines the same level of energy with such delicacy of tone and touch. Sublime.)

Tchaikovsky's 5th symphony was somewhat interrupted by a low flying aircraft circling the venue - a hazard of an open-air concert. Maybe next year they can follow the precedent being set by the London Olympics: a few surface-to-air missiles scattered around the amphitheatre to keep pesky planes away...

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Now a Big _Canadian_ LooLaa

Yes, I'm now a Canadian citizen. Oh of course I'm still an Irish citizen and always will be, but I have sworn allegiance to the Queen of Canada. (I've also noticed that she quite resembles the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Odd.)  And having studied for (and apparently passed) the citizenship test I'm more Canadian than many Canadians themselves - well at least when it comes to answering questions such as "Who is the Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec?" Go on, who is it then? No, you can't Google it; for the test you get pencil and paper, that's it.

The citizenship ceremony was really interesting. We were told that there were 400 of us, from 68 different countries. Almost everyone I met spoke French; the popular perception is that most immigrants in Montreal choose to learn English rather than French but that isn't what I observed. The ceremony itself was in both languages, and we sang the bilingual "Oh Canada" that everyone in Montreal knows from watching the Habs games.

The presiding judge for the ceremony was Renée Giroux. She gave a speech, mostly in French, with two main themes: volunteering in your community as a way of being a good citizen, and that women in Canada have the same status and opportunities as men. She illustrated the latter by pointing to herself, a female judge, and asked the new female citizens to aim high.

I'm proud to be Canadian. Of course the Canada I know is actually Quebec, but for the foreseeable future the Canadian flag will continue to fly here so that's my flag now.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

How common is cheating in soccer and rugby?

The 2012 Tour de France is underway and the Olympics are imminent so it's almost time for the public humiliation of the next performance-enhancing drug cheat. Is it suprising though that such cheating seems limited to sports like cycling and sprinting? Perhaps we'll discover in the future that the footballers of Spain, victorious today, owe their success to more than tiki-taka.

Consider that in the past 12 months there has been a rugby world cup, a European soccer championship and the usual annual club tournaments in both of these sports, without a single cheater being discovered. It seems to me that one of the following statements must be true, either:

A) despite the amount of money and prestige at stake, and unlike other sports such as cycling, 100% of the top rugby and soccer professionals are 100% free of performance-enhancing drugs.


B) despite the amount of money and prestige at stake, and unlike other sports such as cycling, the testing for performance-enhancing drugs in rugby and soccer has a success rate of 0%, failing to uncover even one cheat amongst the top professionals.

I love soccer but I think (A) is impossible to believe, so (B) must be true - and if the testing is that poor then drug-taking is probably widespread in soccer and rugby. Sadly.