Toronto Public Library Homepage

This page has been archived and is no longer updated.

Snapshots in History: February 19: Remembering Celia Franca & the National Ballet of Canada

February 19, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)






On February 19 and beyond, take a moment to remember British-born Celia Franca (1921-2007) (aka Celia Franks), who almost single-handedly launched the National Ballet of Canada in 1951 by sheer determination and served as its artistic director for 24 years. Previously, Celia Franca studied dance at the Guildhall School of Music and the Royal Academy of Dance in the United Kingdom. She was recognized as one of the outstanding dramatic ballerinas at age 20 in the Sadler’s Wells (later Royal) Ballet company based in the London borough of Islington. In 1947, Celia Franca joined the Metropolitan Ballet as a ballet mistress and soloist. Additionally, she began choreographing ballets for television for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). In 1950, Canadian ballet enthusiasts asked Celia Franca to start a Canadian classical ballet company which she accomplished within 10 months while working as a file clerk at an Eaton’s department store. Hence, the National Ballet of Canada opened on November 12, 1951. Franca’s imaginative vision was often constrained by the desire and need to please audiences with conservative ballet tastes.

Celia Franca and Nancy Elizabeth “Betty” Oliphant co-founded the National Ballet School of Canada in 1959, combining the elements of a mainstream education with a focus on ballet dancing. Franca retired from the National Ballet of Canada and moved to Ottawa, serving on the board of the Canada Council for the Arts. Celia Franca's awards included membership in the Order of Canada (member, 1967; companion, 1985), the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award (1994), the Molson Prize (1974) and the Canadian Council of the Arts Diplôme d'honneur 1986.

Consider the following titles from Toronto Public Library collections:


The pursuit of perfection a life of Celia Franca

Book - Also available in eBook format.

Read the review from Maclean’s magazine.


The sleeping beauty



Power to rise the story of the National Ballet of Canada




Speaking of Burlesque

February 19, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (6)

Burlesque star and fashion diva Dita Von Teese is in town promoting her new book and album.


Your beauty mark the ultimate guide to eccentric glamour

This book reminds me of the resurgent interest and reinvention of burlesque during the last ten years. The bump-n-grind and the swoosh of the twirling tassels is new again (according to Ann Corio's This Was Burlesque performer Carrie Finnell could make one tassel go clockwise and the other go counter-clockwise!).

Burlesque was a staple of the vaudeville scene in American stage from the 1900s on. Post 1930s, vaudeville declined (possibly due to the expansion of movies in the 1920s/30s) and burlesque changed to more striptease in the 1940s-60s era only to decline again as nudity became legal and commonplace on stage. More recently, burlesque has been reinvented and reclaimed by female performers (including Ms. Von Teese) in a variety of settings.


Behind the Burly Q Dvd


Satan's Angel Queen of the Fire Tassels Dvd


You may be familiar with Gypsy Rose Lee, possibly the most renowned burlesque dancer/stripper still in today's memory. The movie Gypsy with Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood is based on Lee's memoir (as are the Broadway shows highlighting Sondheim's music). 

American rose  a nation laid bare  the life and times of Gypsy Rose Lee           Gypsy the art of the tease

My G-String Mother At Home and Backstage with Gypsy Rose Lee           Gypsy Memoirs of America's Most Celebrated Stripper Written by Gypsy Rose Lee

There's even some Canadian burlesque content.

Burlesque West  showgirls, sex and sin in postwar Vancouver


Burlesque  legendary stars of the stage


Determining the dividing line between burlesque and striptease is difficult -- rather like the problem of defining pornography (or good taste) where one is tempted to say "I'll know it when I see it".

Striptease  the untold history of the girlie show  Striptease  from gaslight to spotlight

Pretty things  the last generation of American burlesque queens











Snapshots in History: February 6: Remembering Bob Marley

February 6, 2016 | John P. | Comments (0)


(Credit: Bob Marley live in concert in Dalymount Park on July 6th, 1980; Photographer: Eddie Mallin)


On February 6 and beyond, take a moment to remember the life and music of singer-songwriter Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley (or Nesta Robert Marley – apparently, Marley later inverted his first and middle names) (Born: February 6, 1945 at Nine Mile, Jamaica; Died: May 11, 1981 at Miami, Florida). Marley developed a global following for his reggae music and his commitment to Rastafarianism.

Bob Marley and the Wailers were a reggae band that made music and toured between 1963 and 1974 after which Marley teamed up with a new back-up band during 1974-1976 and narrowly escaped assassination preceding a “Smile Jamaica” concert intended to ease competing political tensions in Jamaica. Marley relocated to the United Kingdom during 1977-1978 where he recorded the album Exodus that stayed on the British album charts for 56 straight weeks. (The album included the songs "Exodus", "Waiting in Vain", "Jamming", and "One Love (People Get Ready)". Marley returned to Jamaica in 1978 to perform at the One Love Peace Concert during which he was able to get then-Prime Minister Michael Manley (who had served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War Two) and then-Leader of the Opposition Edward Seaga to shake hands on stage.

Marley released the album Survival in 1979 to show his support of African people, followed by Uprising in 1980 that included his acoustic folk classic Redemption Song. That songdemonstrated Marley coming to terms with his mortality as the cancer that was ravaging his body at the time would soon take his life in 1981. 

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:


Marley Africa road trip

Marley Africa Road Trip

Three of Bob Marley’s sons retrace their father’s African journey in 2010, 30 years after Bob Marley performed an important concert to celebrate the independence of Zimbabwe.

Bob Marley conquering lion of reggae

Bob Marley: Conquering Lion of Reggae

The author provides the reader with a well-researched biography of Bob Marley built upon interviews conducted with Marley himself before his death and several of his associates. Marley was a champion of human rights, self-determination, rebellion, and the role of the individual who expressed himself through the power of reggae music.

Bob Marley

Bob Marley

This pictorial work provides snapshots of different points in Bob Marley’s life, juxtaposing success with an attempt on his life.

The future is the beginning the words and wisdom of Bob Marley

The Future is the Beginning

Cedella Marley (Bob Marley's Daughter) and Rastafarian expert Gerald Hausman compiled quotations gleaned from interviews with Bob Marley that outlined his personal, philosophical and spiritual beliefs.

Bob Marley a rebel life

Bob Marley: A Rebel Life

Photographer Dennis Morris formed a close friendship with Bob Marley. The photographic portraits demonstrated the trust that Marley showed Morris while he was being photographed.


Need more? Here are some more items from Toronto Public Library collections to consider:

Marley/ Bob Marley, Carlton "Pee-Wee" Fraser, Cedella Booker, Chris Blackwell, and Ziggy Marley

Watch this documentary about the influential impact of Bob Marley upon the music and sociopolitical scene, made with the support of the Marley family.

Kaya [35th anniversary deluxe ed.]/ Bob Marley and the Wailers

Marley [the original soundtrack]/ Bob Marley and the Wailers

Live forever September 23, 1980, Stanley Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA/ Bob Marley and the Wailers

Listen to the music of Bob Marley’s last recorded concert.

Please visit Toronto Public Library’s Arts & Culture blog to view Bill V.’s blog post entitled:

Bob Marley's Redemption Song - the Canadian connection.








RIP Starman

February 5, 2016 | Charlene Lee | Comments (2)

2016 began with some devastating news for music fans worldwide – the death of David Bowie. The legendary artist passed away on January 10 at the age of 69, after a long battle with cancer. With a musical career that spanned nearly five decades, Bowie was an innovative visionary. With no aversion to reinvention, he has died many deaths.

David Bowie defined pop music, and pushed the boundaries of what it could be; he was a postmodern champion. Not only was he a great singer and songwriter, but also actor, producer, and performer. With such a prolific career, it seems unthinkable to pay tribute to Bowie in one measly blog post. One way to honour his musical career is to look at some of today’s artists that have flourished under his influence.

David Bowie
Photo: Creative Commons

Janelle Monae

In 2014, Monae covered Bowie’s iconic hit “Heroes”, and in an interview with Rolling Stone discussed his influence and their mutual fandom for one another. “He’s a fan and I’m a fan of him. The respect is mutual… Bowie is part of my musical DNA in so many ways… He’s reinvented himself over and over again. Even now, he’s morphed into something that no one else is doing. That’s what I love most about him; he’s transcendent.” 

Brandon Flowers

The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers has discussed Bowie’s music as life-changing, and what inspired him to pursue a career in music. In 2011 he told Independent: “I still remember when I heard ‘Changes’ for the first time… I found out it was Bowie and it was from this album called Hunky Dory. It’s the most important record to me, ever.”


Arcade Fire

Bowie was a mentor to the Montreal collective. Not only did he collaborate with them more than a few times, but he also contributed to the vocals on the band’s 2013 album Reflektor. On their Facebook page they wrote: “He (Bowie) not only created the world that made it possible for our band to exist, he welcomed us into it with grace and warmth… A true artist even in his passing, the world is more bright and mysterious because of him, and we will continue to shout prayers into the atmosphere he created.”

Check out Viveca's post for a more comprehensive look at Bowie's achievements through books, movies, and films. If you want to commemorate Bowie by playing some of his music at home, check out Bill's post on a couple of the great scores available through TPL. 

Finally, check out Toronto’s very own Choir!Choir!Choir! as they perform their arrangement of Space Oddity at the AGO.


I Remember Snow

February 4, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (2)

I feel old -- I remember winters with snow. 

I remember shovelling, sledding, street hockey, epic recess snowball fights, wet boots, snowsuits, snow angels, sucking on roof icicles, snow forts & igloos and tongues-stickin-to-metal dares. 

I remember my brother John flooding our backyard and making an ice rink. I remember my husband R making me hot chocolate. I remember warming my hands at the fire. I remember hockey games at the local arena Saturday mornings in Richmond Hill. I remember the winter storm of 1999 and the endless shovelling. I remember falling through the ice in the our backyard creek, getting a soaker and some motherly compassion the first time and then some punishment when I did it three more times the same day. I remember winter bumper jumping the chrome backs of cars.


Several other blogs have done great posts on vintage winter photos of Toronto:


Just to jog your own memory of winter and snow please enjoy the following vintage photos from Toronto Public Library's Digital Archive

  1867 Major Higginson's Sleigh at  New Fort Barracks. Toronto.

 1867 albumen photo of Major Higginson's sleigh at New Fort Barracks (Exhibition Place) Toronto.


1870s Yonge Street looking south of King St near Wellington

1870s Looking south down Yonge Street from King Street near Wellington (Noverre Brothers Photographer).


1885 Brockville snow shoe club February 20th, 1885 Murray & Son photographer

Brockville snowshoe club, February 20th, 1885 (Murray & Son photographer).


1890 Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls circa 1890 (notice the tiny people at bottom left for scale).


1890 Robert Millen house on Bay Street, west side, south of  Albert Street

1890 Robert Millen house on west side of Bay Street, south of Albert Street (notice the kids in the window and imagine how cold single pane and wooden homes would have been).


1899 post fire Gowans-Kent China Shop on Front Street

Post 1899 fire, Gowans, Kent & Co., wholesale crockery & glassware shop, Front St. East, north side, between Yonge & Scott Street, Toronto, Ont.


1900 Hockey on  Don flats (Riverdale Park)

 1900 Hockey Don Flats (Riverdale Park).


1900 Riverdale Park Tobogganing

Circa 1900 tobogganing in Riverdale Park (facing east up to Broadview, Don Jail on right).

  1900 Patterson Brothers winter scene Dawes Road and Danforth with delivery sleighs

Circa 1900 Paterson Brothers General Store Dawes Road and Danforth, Little York, winter delivery sleighs (notice the coal sleigh lower left).


1900s circa Queen Street East between Church and Sherbourne showing sleigh and snow plow  electric tram

Circa 1900 Queen Street East between Church and Sherbourne, showing horse sleigh vs electric snow plow on tram lines.


1900s Gordon Playter (son of John L. Playter) on dog sled, near present Jackman Ave.

Gordon Playter (son of John L. Playter) on dog sled, near present Jackman Ave.


1905 Homewood looking north to Wellesley by Henry James  Carter who lived at 70 Homewood Ave. until 1906.

1905 Homewood looking north to Wellesley (Henry James Carter photographer).


1908 High Park, Grenadier Pond by Joseph Adamson Blakey

1908 High Park, Grenadier Pond - what's old is new - remember the recent controversy about skating on the pond in 2014?


  1911 Davisville Hockey Club

1911 Davisville Hockey Club -- back row:  unidentified, R. Watt, R. Dean, Tom? Mead, 2. unidentified, S. Muston; front row: J. Holden, A. Woodhouse, C. Brennand. Clarence Brennand was a long-time teacher at North Toronto Collegiate.


1922 December,  Carting Thursday's snow from downtown Toronto streets - Yonge Street looking north, between King and Queen.

1922 December carting snow from downtown Toronto streets - Yonge Street looking north, between King and Queen. Imagine the back-breaking nature of this manual work.


1925 High Park -  a crowd of merry-makers surrounding the Quebec sleigh of  Ralph Connable

1925 High Park:  a crowd of merry-makers surrounding the sleigh of Ralph Connable.


1929 Humber River, looking west from the bridge between Catherine St. & Old Mill Rd., Toronto, Ont.

Ice in the Humber River, March 1929.


1920s Skating Rink, Eglinton Park, Eglinton Ave. West  between. Edith Drive & Oriole Parkway (looking east to rear of houses on Edith Drive, Roselawn Ave. at left)

1920s  Mervin / Frieda Jones / Bill Jones on Skating Rink, Eglinton Park, Eglinton Ave. West between Edith Drive & Oriole Parkway (looking east to rear of houses on Edith Drive, Roselawn Ave. at left).

So You Want to be a Songwriter?

January 27, 2016 | Irene | Comments (0)

Are you an aspiring songwriter? Do you love this city?

Would you like to have your work professionally recorded and produced?

Then this CBC contest is for you! All you need to do is compose an original song about Toronto.     


If being a musician or songwriter has always been a dream, but you find you are a little short on songwriting know-how, the library can help. Even if you don't know anything about the music biz or how to throw together a demo, we've got the resources for you!                                                    

Pat pattison rhyming

All you need to know about the music business How to make it in the new music business

The art of noise  Songwriting strategies  Songwriter

Once you've nailed those lyrics, figured out a catchy hook and embellished a few riffs (or not), you can come record and/or mix your stuff here at selected branches of Toronto Public Library. We have recording equipment, music software, and now even green screen rooms you can use to shoot your first music video! This equipment is available for use at different branches in the city.


In the immortal words of They Might Be Giants,

"There's only two songs in me and I just wrote the third.
Don't know where I got the inspiration or how I wrote the
words. Spent my whole life just digging up my music's shallow
grave. For the two songs in me and the third one I just made."

Song title "Number Three" from their 1986 album They Might Be Giants

David Duchovny Why Don't You Love Me? Or .... The X-Files returns!

January 26, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (3)

Were you quivering with anticipation on Sunday night, January 24th 2016, at 10 pm waiting for the return of The X-Files after a 14 year hiatus?  

Were you stunned to find Sunday night football prempting (or at least delaying) your show - did you ask yourself what are the NFL NFC championships? What is the post game roundup? What is Kelly Ripa's cohost (Regis' replacement) doing on a late night show?  Could two more contradictory worlds, football vs X-Files, collide? Is this a smoking man conspiracy? 

If so, then like me, you are likely a sci fi geek

The X files  Volume 1 The agents, the bureau and the syndicate


I remember the original X-Files (1993-2002) as if it were yesterday. The excitement, the fear, the flashlights, the conspiracies, the alien DNA, the baseball bat beside the couch as I watched it alone at home in a creaky old house.  It's forever wrapped up in the early days of my relationship with my partner R (he owned a TV and I did not - only one of his many attractive qualities). The Two-litre bottle of coke and extra large pizza (half pineapple, ham and hot peppers / half chicken, feta and sun dried tomatoes).

If you have no idea what I'm talking about or if you would like to revisit the origins of the show then let Toronto Public Library help you out with Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD:


The X-Files season 1 and 2  on DVD available at Toronto Public Library.

The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy has an especially deep collection of reference material on the X-Files. They're worth a visit at the Lillian H. Smith Branch.

Susan, one of my co-workers, said the X-Files was a mash-up of the paranoia and the paranormal.

Mulder/Scully welcome back - we've missed you. Make sure to check out this six-episode mini-series. I liked what I saw - the playfulness and sense of nostalgia. Mulder looked older (don't we all?) and Scully was still wearing high heels. Thanks Fox for the details and clips of the new show


If you're interested in what other fans think, you might enjoy the following:

Speaking of Fireplaces.... It's Cold Outside

January 19, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (6)

Toronto Public Library (TPL) has historically valued the fireplace in its architecture.  According to Barbara Myrvold, Local History Services Specialist, Lillian H. Smith (TPL's early female pioneer of children's services and reading in the 1910s-1940s period) herself consciously chose fireplaces when planning children's rooms and services. 

Smith valued the cosy aspect of the fireplace in children's departments and libraries in settlement houses (intended to bring library services to poorer inner city areas and new immigrants) and for years, a fire would be lit for the children's story hour. I wonder if any (older?) readers of this blog post remember storytime with a fire at a TPL branch? 

Lillian H. Smith believed that the role of the children's librarian was to deliver "the right book, to the right child, at the right time.

The fireplace also plays a large role in many early designs especially Carnegie buildings and the three iconic branches spearheaded by Chief Librarian George H. Locke that are celebrating 100 years in 2016: Beaches, High Park and Wychwood.

If you're on Pinterest you may be interested and able to view the many historical photos we have posted on a Carnegie Library board

 Wychwood Branch main floor adult area circa 1916

Wychwood Branch opened on April 15, 1916. It was the first and model of three identical libraries (High Park & Beaches were the others) that TPL built with a $50,000 grant from Carnegie. Eden Smith's design, an adaptation of Tudor Gothic style, was "an almost entire departure from the traditional library building…the Reading room & Library, 70 ft long by 30 ft wide…is really a large hall with an open timbered roof, the walls above 19 ft high to the springing of the roof..the ceiling 29 ft at its apex." 

The main floor adult reading area great hall design of the Beaches, Wychwood and High Park featured large fireplaces as a focal point (as seen above at Wychwood). The separate children's area, in the lower level, had large windows, a cosy feel and also working fireplaces (see the Wychwood photos below).

Wychwood Branch Library vintage phioto 1927 Wychwood children's room.

Wychwood Branch - vintage phioto 1927 showing basement children's room.


Wychwood Branch Library vintage photo 1940 New Year's Children's room fireplace.

But the fireplace is not only a historical remnant within Toronto Public Library. Several branches still have working fireplaces of various kinds including Bloor/Gladstone, Dufferin/St Clair, Brentwood, Mount Dennis, Highland Creek, Oakwood Village and Taylor Memorial. Several other branches such as Riverdale, Beaches, Wychwood, Runnymede and High Park have fireplaces but they are no longer used.

Brentwood Branch Toronto Public Library fireplace photo 2015

Above is Brentwood Branch in Toronto's west end which was recently renovated.

Below is Bloor/Gladstone, one of Toronto oldest branches (although not a Carnegie building), which was also recently renovated and had this sleek update to its fireplace. Note the two angel cherub heads flanking the fireplace. The original setting can be seen in the 1913 photo in black and white of the children's department of Bloor/Gladstone. If you're interested in the branch and neighbourhood you can access Bloor-Dufferin in Pictures as a pdf from our website or visit the Bloor/Gladstone Pinterest board.

Bloor Gladstone Branch Toronto Public Library fireplace.

Bloor Gladstone Branch vintage photo.



Circa 1940s Boys and Girls House storytime.  Children's librarian reading to a group.
Circa 1940 Boys and Girls House storytime - librarian reading to children - Toronto Public Library.


Riverdale branch Toronto Public Library children's department with fireplace.
Riverdale Branch - Carnegie Library - Toronto Public Library - circa 1927 interior showing Boys / Girls / Children's department - notice roaring fire in background - see also the Wychwood and High Park photos from the same era showing children's departments


High Park Library Christmas 1940 showing librarian Marjorie Bullard in front of a roaring fireplace.
High Park Library Christmas 1940. Marjorie Bullard (staff at TPL for 45 years!) seated in the adult reading area in front of a roaring fire.



So, on a cold winter day this is my homage to the fireplace. 

You can always check Youtube as well.  


My father (God rest his soul) was a shepherd and woodcutter in the old country.  He once looked at a piece of wood in my fireplace and told me that it's pear, new growth from the top of the tree and wouldn't burn too long or too hot!  One reason I feel emotionally attached to gathering wood for home is the connection it gives me to him. 

My Dad in front of our fireplace. 

David Bowie's Music Scores

January 12, 2016 | Bill V. | Comments (0)

Many people are deeply moved by the unexpected death of David Bowie. My colleague Viveca has written a blog post touching on his life in books and music.

It occurred to me though, while Bowie influenced many through his music and his life (especially his gender bending and fluid sexuality), there are others who are equally moved by playing his music. So, this blog post just highlights a couple of music scores - another way to pay homage to a great musician and artist. 


Score The best of David Bowie  1969 to 1974
Score - The best of David Bowie, 1969/1974. Rock music, from the 1997 album of the same title; for voice and piano, with chord symbols and guitar chord diagrams. The Jean Genie -- Space oddity -- Starman -- Ziggy Stardust -- John, I'm only dancing -- Rebel rebel -- Let's spend the night together -- Suffragette City -- Oh! you pretty things -- Velvet goldmine -- Drive-in Saturday -- Diamond dogs -- Changes -- Sorrow -- The prettiest star -- Life on Mars? -- Aladdin sane -- The man who sold the world -- Rock 'n' roll suicide -- All the young dudes.


Score David Bowie Anthology (Piano, Vocal, Guitar)
Score David Bowie Anthology. Songs written principally by David Bowie between 1963-1984. 41 songs in all from 'Ziggy Stardust' to his album 'Tonight,' including: Ashes to Ashes * Blue Jean * Cat People * Changes * China Girl * Fashion * Let's Dance * The Man Who Sold the World * Modern Love * Rebel, Rebel * Scary Monsters and Super Creeps * Space Oddity * Suffragette City * Young Americans * Ziggy Stardust * and more.


I also want to give a shout out for an event at the Art Gallery of Ontario / AGO who are teaming up with Choir! Choir! Choir! to honour Bowie's legacy this Saturday evening January 16th, 2016 by inviting Toronto to help perform one of his most beloved songs, Space Oddity, in three-part harmony. 




The Best Christmas Song 2015 is ..... Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen

December 23, 2015 | Bill V. | Comments (0)

Who amongst us hasn't cried once while listening to Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen?

I was listening to CBC Metro Morning's Sound of the Season earlier in December and heard Francisco Yates' cover of Hallelujah and I blush to admit I teared up a bit while half asleep getting ready for work.  

When I read the lyrics it's not an especially festive song, yet one of the many cover versions always seems to be playing at this time of year. The strength of the song may lie with the mutable quality - sometimes mournful - sometimes joyous and uplifting. Leonard Cohen wrote the original in 1984 for the album Persuasions and began to perform it at concerts from 1985 forward.   Poet, writer and singer Cohen has produced an abundance of creative works and is also the subject of a mini publishing boom so if you're interested in reading more about him it's a deep field.


A broken hallelujah rock and roll, redemption, and the life of Leonard Cohen


It does have very strong Canadian connections, aside from Cohen's roots, and you likely know the Rufus Wainwright or k.d. lang version of the song. I personally think the John Cale version is better than Jeff Buckley's but then I am not expert as I needed my husband to tell me that it also showed up in Shrek (Wainwright recorded it for the movie and his cover is on the soundtrack but John Cale's version is in the actual movie).



There has been a LOT written about the song though including:




You may be interested in some of my earlier song choices:

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


The library's blog devoted to the discovery of diverse artistic, music and cultural works in the library and Toronto.