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London Calling!

September 8, 2015 | Muriel | Comments (6) Facebook Twitter More...

London is always calling to me, and has done ever since my English father introduced its wonders to me when I was little. As I prepare to explore London again later this month, I noticed that London will be calling on Toronto! The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has chosen London for their City to City programme. The programmeshowcases recent work from filmmakers living and working in London,
including director Rufus Norris' film adaptation of the hit musical, London Road.

Recommended to me by my father, Genevieve is one of my favourite films with London as a film location. "Genevieve" is actually a 1904 Darracq, a veteran car owned by a young couple in London, who take it on the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. The car run is for pre-1905 cars, and it is the world's longest running motoring celebration.

My earliest memory of London is of going with my father to see Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Thus began my lifelong fascination with the British monarchy.  The Queen, about the aftermath of the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales on August 31, 1997, stars Helen Mirren, who will be coming to TIFF this September. Also starring in the film is Michael Sheen as Prime Minister Tony Blair, who advised the Queen on the steps she should take at this pivotal point in the British monarchy.

Eccentricity seems to me to be an intrinsic part of the English character. The extraordinarily versatile English actor Richard E. Grant plays an eccentric, unemployed actor in 1969 London in Withnail and I. Withnail is an outrageous character, quite unlike Simon Bricker, the art authority who Richard E. Grant
played recently on season five of Downton Abbey.
Genevieve    The Queen   Withnail and I

London is a romantic city: the iconic landmarks old and new; the spirit of its people; the sunrises and sunsets over the ever-flowing River Thames; and the constant movement and sense of excitement
everywhere make it a wonderful place to be.

Love Actually, which follows the lives of eight very different London couples in the month before Christmas, captures so well the joy and heartbreak of love. 84 Charing Cross Road, starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins, is based on a poignant true story about a transatlantic business correspondence between an American writer and a London antiquarian bookseller. Notting Hill, with great scenesof London, is another story about a bookshop, whose owner is played by
Hugh Grant. He meets and falls in love with a movie star, played convincingly by Julia Roberts!

  Love Actually 84 Charing Cross Road     Notting Hill

Some of my favourite actors have starred in films about LondonMichael Caine stars as a Cockney ladies' man in Alfie; Carey Mulligan stars as a teenage girl in 1960s suburban London who falls for an older
man in An Education; and Sidney Poitier stars in To Sir, with Love as an idealistic teacher at a white high school in the slums of London's East End.

Alfie An Education     To Sir With Love

The criminal side of London is explored in The Long Good Friday, which stars Bob Hoskins as an East End London criminal kingpin in the late 1970s, and Helen Mirren as his girlfriend. Michael Caine is
mesmerizing in Harry Brown, where he plays an ex-serviceman living on a London housing estate, out to avenge his best friend's murder. London provides a damp and bleak backdrop in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, starring Gary Oldman as espionage veteran George Smiley, who uncovers a Soviet agent within MI6.

The Long Good Friday    Harry Brown      Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

London style and intrigue are combined effortlessly in Blow-Up, one of the most atmospheric films I have ever seen. In this film by famed Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, a mod London photographer believes he has captured a murder after he takes photographs of a mysterious beauty in a London park. Another film brimming with London style and bursting with energy is Kingsman: The Secret Service, about a spy organization based in a London tailor's shop. Unusually, the organization
recruits Lee, a street kid played by Jonno Davies, to its training program.

However, for sheer London style and elegance, My Fair Lady is at the top of my list. It stars Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Dolittle, a Cockney flower seller, and Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins, a professor of phonetics who makes a bet that he can make Eliza presentable in high society. Famed English photographer Cecil Beaton won Academy Awards for both art direction and costume design for My Fair Lady. Unmissable in the film, from the Ascot horse racing scene, is Audrey's Hepburn beautiful white and black dress, with matching hat of course.

Blow Up   Kingsman The Secret Service    My Fair Lady

London icons have featured in many films, and one of my recent favourites is Paddington, based on the children's books by Michael Bond about a polite Peruvian bear who travels to London in search of a home.  

London makes a very handsome film location in Skyfall, with the iconic British Secret Service agent James Bond played by Daniel Craig. I am looking forward to going to see Spectre, the next James Bond film, due to come out this fall.

The Beatles, the best-selling band in history and truly known worldwide as an English icon, travel to London from Liverpool to perform in a television broadcast in A Hard Day's Night

Paddington         Skyfall         A Hard Day's Night

London will always call to me, and I think I shall never tire of it, for as English writer Samuel Johnson (1709 to 1784) said:

                 "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life"

"Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?" Back to School with Movies at Toronto Public Library

September 8, 2015 | Beau | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

School has always been a popular setting for movies of all kinds - comedies, dramas, documentaries, science fiction mind-benders - and the Toronto Public Library 's DVD collection has enough of them to keep you in a film class of your own until school lets out again next spring. Whether you're celebrating the first day of school today or mourning it, make these scholastic films a part of your cinematic education!

Mean Girls DVD              Election                Dead Poets Society         

       Dazed And Confused      Half Nelson       Hoop Dreams

The 400 Blows                               Brick                 
 Fast Times At Ridgemont High  Friday Night Lights  Rushmore  Heathers  An Education
School Of Rock                             To Sir With Love       

                        The Breakfast Club                                         

Clueless                 Ferris Bueller's Day Off                  Donnie Darko        

            Animal House          Easy A

Gay Nerds Explained through Venn Diagrams

September 7, 2015 | Brent | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...


Gay Nerds, JP Larocque's award winning web series, will be coming to Toronto Reference Library in the Beeton auditorium on Monday September 28th.

Fans of MTV's "1 Girl: 5 Gays" will know JP as a series regular. He's also been busy as a columnist in Xtra, hosting the TO Webfest awards, and promoting Gay Nerds at Comicons, FanExpos and other geekfests across North America.

Gay Nerds follows the adventures of Ralphie, Lana, Sammy and Paige, four single twenty-somethings and their fantastic and horrifying dating lives that somehow eerily mimic classic Science Fiction and Horror movies. (Think of how the monsters in the first season of Buffy were physical manifestations of whatever inter-personal problem Sarah Michelle Gellar was facing that week.)

The parodies of classics like Aliens, The Shining and 28 Days Later are deadly not only as movie parodies, but also as time capsules of contemporary gay life.


Although the series is available online, the ensemble cast--Robert Keller, Alexandra Wylie, Ryan Kerr and Justine Moriz--play the leads with such a gleefully amoral zest, that Gay Nerds is definitely something better shared with a crowd.

Now the Venn diagrams. Slash Fiction, Ho Yay in Smallville, and everything Star Trek from George Takei to Zachary Quinto have established real cross-over credibility between the LGBTQ communities and Science Fiction fans.

GAY Nerds Explained through Venn Diagrams

So in the old days, the intersection between the Queer community and SciFi fans would seemingly limit the audience to people who were both gay AND nerds.

GAY Nerds Explained through Venn Diagrams

But in a world of Marvel beefcake, the Big Bang Theory, Kevin Keller, Steve MacIsaac's shirtlifter, the Toronto Queer Zine Fair and Jiraiya, that potential audience has expanded to embrace every shade of Gayness and Nerdom.

The universe of people who are neither gay nor nerds sometimes seems thin and tangential.


GAY Nerds Explained through Venn Diagrams

And this is a good thing. One gay friend tells me how the humanisation of the stormtroopers in The Force Awakens trailer was prefigured in the Clone Wars series. A straight dad regularly posts him and his kids doing cosplay; another shares his heartbreak missing out on a gig as a body double for Thor. A friend whose essays I helped edit calls himself my padawan.

And everyone knows more about Buffy than me.

And this is why you should come to Gay Nerds at Toronto Reference Library on September 28th at 7pm.

Because in 2015, the universe pretty much looks like this:

GAY Nerds Explained through Venn Diagrams 

Summer Mixtape

August 31, 2015 | Charlene Lee | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

As August quickly passes us by, I still find myself in disbelief that summer is nearly at its end. The encroachment of September means a few things; for some, it's a scramble to get ready for school; for me it's an onslaught of nostalgia. One remedy during this sentimental time is to make myself a playlist to commemorate the previous few months. Although cassettes are a thing of the past, the tradition of making playlists is alive and well. Whether it's for the commute to work, or for a workout, making a good playlist is both useful and therapeutic. 

Photo courtesy of tara hunt on a cc license

Deciding which songs make the cut can oftentimes be a difficult process, but it all depends on the purpose of the list. 2015 has so far been a great year for music, and this summer for festivals. With lots of fantastic musicians having graced Toronto stages this summer, I wanted to make a playlist to commemorate just that. 

"Know Yourself", Drake 

If You're Reading This It's Too Late is Drake's fourth studio album. The album (which the rapper refers to as a mixtape) is reminiscent of his 2009 mixtape So Far Gone, and has landed him on the 2015 Polaris Music Prize Short List. If You're Reading This is somber and hypnotic, which is most exemplified in "Know Yourself". The album is also available at TPL through Hoopla.


If You're Reading This It's Too Late
If You're Reading This It's Too Late, Drake (Cash Money Records)



"I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)", Jamie xx feat. Young Thug and Popcaan

Jamie xx was in town for the inaugural Bestival, and then for his solo show earlier in the month. While promoting his debut album In Colourwhich is nothing short of genius, he also delivered a couple of fantastic performances. The album is moody, ambient, and intimate, and every track is perfection. "Good Times" is a collaboration of electronic, dancehall, and soul, and absolutely exudes happiness.


"Without You", Tobias Jesso Jr

BC native, Tobias Jesso Jr (who is also nominated for the Short List) adds a little tired, wounded soul to my playlist. Nothing like a song about heartbreak to mourn the summer. His debut album Goon is intimate and minimal, yet whole and complete. Although Jesso had to pull out of this year's WayHome festival, you can catch him live this Fall. 


"Seasons (Waiting On You)", Future Islands

Future Islands brings some needed synthpop to pick things up in this list. "Seasons" is the fearless hit from their fourth album Singles. The song is impulsive and empowering, and Samuel T. Herring's vocals add elements of passion and vulnerability. This infectious track will have you side-stepping! If you weren't able to catch them at this summer's WayHome fest, check out Herring's moves on the Baltimore band's 2014 Letterman appearance

Future Islands - Singles
Singles, Future Islands (4AD)

"i", Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar has been busy. After releasing To Pimp A Butterfly this year to much acclaim, he's been performing at numerous festivals, including a near perfect set this summer at WayHome. "i" comes towards the end of Butterfly, and is one of its more upbeat tracks. "i" encapsulates Lamar's message throughout, that is, through adversity we have no choice but to try to be better. The album is also available through Hoopla.


Needless to say my ode to summer would be longer, but these tracks reflect my summer music experiences.

Looking for your next favourite album? Check out TPL's growing music collection or stream music and videos at home through Hoopla.

They Won't Let Me Go to TIFF: I Still Watch VHS

August 27, 2015 | Bill V. | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

Does your heart pine for the insert, click and whirl of the video?

Does your Great Aunt Filomene refuse to get rid of her VHS player?

Did you know Toronto Public Library still has 2300 VHS that you can borrow? The last collection is located in the Arts Department of the Toronto Reference Library but all of them can be found in our catalogue and most can be placed on hold and sent to your local branch.

What kind of things do we still have? I asked my co-worker Brenda, who has been with the VHS collection for 17 years, to tell me some of her own and the public's favorites:

VHS Wayne Gretzky Gzowski in Conversation

There is a strong Canadian focus to the collection. The 1999 Peter Gzowski interview with Wayne Gretzky is a great example of an older item that really gives an historical flavour to a popular figure.


VHS The Making of a Dancer biography of Stephane Leonard done by the National Film Board
We also have a large collection of 450 VHS produced by the National Film Board. This biography of dancer Stephane Leonard is part of the diverse Canadian collection.


The Beatles Story

But we have a strong international flavor as well and what could be more popular than The Days of Beatlemania 1962-1970?

Well, actually war and history are still in high demand and this Red Baron World War One documentary is still popular.

The Red Baron


Any library staff can tell you that travel material is very popular and Brenda, who is fond of the East Coast, especially enjoys the three volume East of Canada The Story of Newfoundland.

VHS video East of Canada the story of Newfoundland


I wanted to end with one that resonates personally - my father and his family owned a home on Clinton Street. Christie Pits was the park he used and it's still a local landmark in the neighborhood but in the 1930s it was the scene of an anti-semitic and anti-immigrant riot. My family, who are Macedonian Greek, used to speak of a similar earlier incident in Toronto at the end of WW I: see the DVD Violent August the 1918 anti-Greek riots in Toronto.

VHS video The riot at Christie Pits


So, if you, or your mom, still has a hankering for VHS please come and visit. 

We also have over 8000 DVDs - mainly documentaries, how to and performance.


The Fake Book - the (jazz) musician's best friend

August 24, 2015 | Bill V. | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

When I asked about fake books one of my musically knowledgeable co-workers said "a lot of people only read chords". 

For the rest of us though a fake book is a type of musical score/sheet music collection:

Each song in a fake book contains the melody line, basic chords and sometimes lyrics - the minimal information needed by a musician to make an impromptu arrangement of a song, or "fake it." The fake book is a central part of the culture of playing music in public, especially in jazz, where improvisation is particularly valued.

I had an "aha" moment at the phrase "public playing". I was reminded of piano bars with huge brandy snifters full of dollar bills (I'm old) sitting atop the piano where a suave, well dressed man - or woman- played requests for tips. Occasionally, through the smoke and dim lights, you would see a song request stump the musician and out would come a loose bound collection of lead sheets songs - their personal fake book.

Nowadays, I sometimes get people who look a bit down-at-the-heels asking for fake books. Out of curiosity, I asked one man what he used the fake book for and he explained he was a street musician expanding his repertoire.

If you're interested in fake books you may enjoy some of the following ones available at Toronto Public Library. The biggest collection of sheet music (over 30,000 scores!) is found in the Arts Department of the Toronto Reference Library. We have scores to borrow or for use only in the Library (we have copiers).


The New real book Jazz classics, choice standards, pop-fusion classics
The new standard in jazz fake books since 1988. Endorsed by McCoy Tyner, Ron Carter, Dave Liebman, and many more. Evenly divided between standards, jazz classics and pop-fusion hits, this is the all-purpose book for jazz gigs, weddings, jam sessions, etc. Like all Sher Music fake books, it features composer-approved transcriptions, easy-to-read calligraphy, and many extras (sample bass lines, chord voicings, drum appendix, etc.) not found in conventional fake books.

This is the ultimate fake book  melody, lyrics, chords for all 'C' instruments.   The Best fake book ever  over 1000 songs

Charles Mingus, more than a fake book   Thelonious Monk fake book C Editiond


How to play from a fake book  faking your own arrangements from melodies and chords


  Classic rock fake book  over 250 great songs of the rock era   The ultimate rock pop fake book  melody, lyrics, chords for all C instruments

The real book 6th edition
(Fake Book). The Real Books are the best-selling jazz books of all time. Since the 1970s, musicians have trusted these volumes to get them through every gig, night after night. The problem is that the books were illegally produced and distributed, without any regard to copyright law, or royalties paid to the composers who created these musical masterpieces. Hal Leonard is very proud to present the first legitimate and legal editions of these books ever produced. You won't even notice the difference, other than that all of the notorious errors have been fixed: the covers and typeface look the same, the song list is nearly identical, and the price for our edition is even cheaper than the original! Every conscientious musician will appreciate that these books are now produced accurately and ethically, benefitting the songwriters that we owe for some of the greatest tunes of all time! Includes 400 songs.

  Absolutely Complete Klezmer Songbook (fake book)     Love and wedding fake book over 285 songs for piano, vocal, guitar, electronic keyboard and all C instruments


There are also come online resources you may find useful:


Listen Up: Jeanne Lamon's Music Picks

August 6, 2015 | D!ana | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

In our second Listen Up post, we've caught up with Jeanne Lamon, talented violinist, formerly the Music Director of Tafelmusik and currently the Chief Artistic Advisor of Tafelmusik.

Jeanne Lamon

Listen Up is a new series of blog posts that highlight some favourite albums of a variety of Torontonians! Last week, we featured platinum selling recording artist and Canada's Queen of R&B Soul, Jully Black.

With over 33 years of performing with and directing Tafelmusik, Jeanne Lamon has also guest directed symphony orchestras all over Canada and internationally. She is also praised by critics for her strong musical leadership and has won numerous awards, including being recently appointed to The Order of Ontario in 2014. 


Here's what her favourite albums are:

1. Chopin Nocturnes 4 Ballades (2 CD set), Vladimir Ashkenazy (1997)



Jeanne says: "This is the most romantic music ever, and the most comforting. The performance is pure perfection, the bending of time masterful. My favourite."




2. Los Pájaros Perdidos The South American Project, L'Arpeggiata & Christina Pluhar (2012)

La Pajaros Perdidos
Jeanne says: "I love this CD because it's so expressive. It's kind of a crossover between "World" music and "Classical", my two favourites. South American traditional songs sung and arranged by wonderful classically trained singers and instrumentalists. Great percussion!"



3. Bach Brandenburg Concertos (2 CD set), Tafelmusik (2012)
Brandenburg Tafelmusik


Jeanne says: "These are a must for anyone's CD collection. Such vitality and variety and positivity in these pieces, written by the best composer who ever lived."



Thank you Jeanne!


You can borrow Jeanne's favourite albums or the CDs Jeanne has worked on from the Toronto Public Library. The Toronto Public Library also has a wide selection of Tafelmusik CDs available. 

CDs aren't your thing? Try our FREE online music services! Here are two services that carry Tafelmusik and Jeanne Lamon's musical work (have your library card ready to login):

Naxos                 Hoopla

The two services look pretty different. Here's what Naxos looks like (you can use the filters on the left side of the results to filter her work):

Naxos Jeanne Lamon


And here's a screenshot of what Hoopla looks like:

Hoopla Jeanne Lamon

Check them both out to see what they have to offer!  They are both very easy to navigate but if you would like some help, you can always call Answerline at 416-393-7131 for some step-by-step assistance. There is also a help guide available for Hoopla available.  


Photo of Jeanne Lamon from

Please note that Naxos and Hoopla update their sites often and the screenshots above were taken at the time this blog was created.  

Canadian Theatre Production Index, Arts Department, Toronto Reference Library

July 30, 2015 | Wendy | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...


  Arts Department

One of the best-kept secrets in the Arts Department at the Toronto Reference Library is the Production Index, humbly stored in filing cabinets in the staff area adjacent to the Information Desk. 

     Filing cabinets  Filing cabinets

Humble may be its appearance, but the information it contains is not.  This index is nothing less than a window on the production histories of professional theatre in Canada!  Whether a Canadian play, or one by a foreign playwright, if it has been performed on a Canadian stage, the Production Index records its premiere run as well as its revivals.  While not a complete record of all Canadian productions, it is amazingly extensive and a quick way to find information. 

By the way, the Production Index is recorded on old-school index cards, and most are annotated with extra goodies like whether the Library also has an original program, production photos or theatre reviews.

Here is a typical card for Michel Tremblay's Les Belles-Soeurs:

Michel Tremblay index card

The staff in the Arts department can help you to decipher this information, and will retrieve (for example) original programs from storage if needed.

Programs2  Programs

 They will show you where the Vertical Files are if there are reviews,

Reviews  Vertical files reviews

or point you to the Special Collections department for the ‘really old stuff’ and most ephemeral material such as posters, playbills and archival material .

Special collections

So come on up to the Arts Department of the Toronto Reference Library and discover Canadian theatre!





Art by the Yard: Textile Exhibitions In Toronto

July 30, 2015 | Muriel | Comments (6) Facebook Twitter More...

I was weaving my way around Toronto recently, enjoying three spectacular textile exhibitions. The first stop in my travels was at the Textile Museum of Canada, to see Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol. It is a fascinating overview of 20th century art history through textile design. Organized and circulated by the Fashion and Textile Museum from London, England, it shows how, in the 20th century, artists' fashion and furnishing textiles brought their work to broader audiences.

Although painters usually paint on canvas, which is a textile after all, it still seems innovative to see painters applying their art to manufactured textiles. This is no doubt because "...the artists...created unique designs especially for use on fabrics...They're not designs that existed already and were then transposed and adapted."  At the exhibition, I really admired Sonia Delaunay's silk fashion textile, Raoul Dufy's 'Les Violins' cotton furnishing textile, and Henri Matisse's 'Echarpe No. 1' silk headscarf.

Color Moves Art & Fashion by Sonia Delaunay        Raoul Dufy        Henri Matisse

Known primarily for his sculptures, I was surprised and intrigued to see a 'Standing Figures' rayon headscarf from 1947 by English sculptor Henry Moore. In Britain, in the late 1940s after WWII, the textile trade was an important part of the economic recovery export drive. Artists such as Henry Moore were involved in this initiative.

Henry Moore Textiles          Artists Textiles

Meanwhile, in the 1940s in the United States, I was interested to learn that there was an enthusiasm for modernity, and Surrealism was popular in fashion and home furnishings. Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí's 'Classical Armour' silk headscarf on display with its bright red torsos in an other-worldly landscape, is emblematic of his style.

Salvador Dali An Illustrated Life    Salvador Dali 1904 - 1989     Dali Master of

Another Surrealist, Joan Miró, designed a textile, 'Farmer's Dinner," depicting cockerels on a light green background, which here has been made into a dress.  Marc Chagall's romantic style is stunning on his 'Belles Fleurs' cotton and rayon furnishing textile - the flowers look fresh-picked!  My favourite textile in the exhibition, however, is Andy Warhol's 'Buttons' cotton fashion textile, a cheery repeat pattern of colourful buttons.  Andy Warhol's skill with textiles came about because he "started out as an illustrator.  He was a commercial artist...He understood scale; he understood colourways."

As comfortable as Andy Warhol was with "producing commodity, basically," Pablo Picasso had an "uneasiness with sacrificing creative control over his product.  The artist famously stipulated that his textile designs could be used for any purpose - except something that could be sat on."  I did notice in the exhibition that Picasso's 'Fish' print cotton textile is made up into a dress, and his 'Musical Faun' cotton corduroy velvet into an extraordinary 1960s garment, hostess cocktail culottes. So, while both garments made of Picasso textiles could not be sat on, they could be sat in!

Miro    Chagall Modern Master     Andy Warhol

Picasso Challenging the Past    Picasso Peace and Freedom    Picasso and Truth from Cubism to Guernica

While I was at the Textile Museum of Canada, I also went to see Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolas Muray.  The 50 photographic portraits on display in the exhibition were taken between 1937 and 1946 by Frida Kahlo's friend and lover, the Hungarian-born Nickolas Muray. These photographs of Frida Kahlo are extraordinary, with her direct gaze softened somewhat by being captured by her intimate photographer friend. Wearing the traditional Mexican dress which expressed her fierce pride in her Mexican identity, Frida Kahlo not only was an iconic figure of the 20th century, and one of the most
influential artists of modern culture, "She, herself, absolutely, was possibly her greatest work of art."

Along with the photographs can be seen examples of traditional Mexican blouses, earrings and necklaces of the type Frida Kahlo would have worn. Also on display is the huipil, a traditional Mexican loose-fitting tunic, a garment favoured by Frida Kahlo.  Frida Kahlo's costume was such a part of her aura, " could hear her before she entered a room from the sound of all of her big clanking jewelry and the rush of her skirts."  Within these loose-fitting clothes, Frida Kahlo also covered her physical infirmity, the result of polio as a child and then a horrific bus accident when she was a teenager.  When she died in 1954, Frida's husband Diego Rivera locked away her wardrobe until it was unsealed in 2004.

  I Will Never Forget You Frida Kahlo to Nickolas Muray   Frida Kahlo Painting Her Own Reality   Self Portrait in a Velvet Dress Frida Kahlo's Wardrobe

The third exhibition I went to see was ¡VivaMéxico! up on the fourthlevel at the Royal Ontario Museum.  There are 140 pieces on display, including complete costume ensembles, textiles, embroidery and beadwork.  Textiles in Mexico have an impressive 4000 year-old history, from the Maya, to the Zapotec and Aztec cultures, to the Spanish conquest in 1521.  There are some magnificent handwoven sarapes, or men's overgarments, on display.  The sarape represented wealth and male prestige in 19th-century Mexico, and today the sarape is an emblem of masculinity.  Worn like a cloak or a Peruvian poncho,
it is also seen as a symbol of "mexicanidad" or Mexican identity, in much the same way that the huipil, or tunic was, when worn by Frida Kahlo.  The textile for the huipil is traditionally woven on a backstrap loom.  Incredibly, the backstrap loom has been used for 3000 years, with one end of the loom tied around a fixed object, such as a tree, and the other end around the back of the weaver.

Wearing Culture Dress and Regalia in Early Mesoamerica and Central America      Weaving the Past      A Perfect Red

The cochineal insect is used to produce red dye for colouring fabrics, and was once one of the world's most precious commodities.  I was fascinated by a video at the exhibition about how this treasured dye is extracted.

With the Spanish conquest of Mexico, the Roman Catholic church fostered the teaching in convents of Spanish needlework techniques.  There are stunning examples of Huichol clothing on display, cross-stitched by hand, as well as embroidered samplers. My favourite piece of clothing in this entire exhibition is an exquisite blouse with silk satin-stitch embroidery of flowers and birds, by award-winning embroiderer Faustina Sumano García.

I enjoyed visiting all three exhibitions, and appreciated the different societies and historic periods they represent, but really the common thread running through all of them is a visual feast of beautiful textiles!

This summer, for free, you can go on your own or take a friend or your family, to the Textile Museum of Canada and the Royal Ontario Museum with a Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass, available at Toronto Public Library

Listen Up: Jully Black's Music Picks

July 23, 2015 | D!ana | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

I'm sure you've got your selection of albums you can't live without, but have you ever wondered what some other Torontonians' top picks are?  

We asked some Toronto residents (some of who you might be familiar with), to be part of a new series of blog posts to share with us their all-time favourite albums! 

Jully Black

Our first featured Torontonian is Jully Black, Canada's Queen of R&B Soul and a Toronto 2015 Pan Am/Para Pan Am Games Ambassador! 

Jully Black is a platinum selling recording artist, who has won several Juno Awards and was even selected to sing for the Queen of England! As a songwriter, Jully has worked with industry heavyweights like Sean Paul, Destiny's Child and even shared the stage with Elton John, Etta James and Celine Dion. Jully has also been nominated for multiple Gemini's and is a major presence in the Canadian media and entertainment industry.   


Here's what her favourite albums are:

1. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill (1998)

  The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill CD


Jully says: "This album is classic, timeless, emotional and groovy. My favourite RnB album of all time."




2. The Love Album, Kim Burrell (2011)

The Love Album CD


Jully says: "A Gospel album that doesn't force religion down your throat. She sings about God like he's her husband. True Love."




3. Love Me Back, Jazmine Sullivan (2010)

Love Me Back CD



July says: "It's rare to hear a female RnB singer sing about subjects like this. Jazmine is real, raw and soulful."




4. Emotional, Carl Thomas (2000)

Emotional CD



Jully says: "This album dates back to 1994 and still sounds good when played back to back with today's music."




5. Brown Sugar, D'Angelo (2000)

Brown Sugar CD



Jully says: "A timeless masterpiece."





Thank you Jully!


If you're interested in Jully's favourites or Jully Black's albums, you can borrow them from the Toronto Public Library!  If they aren't available at your local branch, you can always place them on hold. And did you know that you can now place up to 100 holds? Yes! You can click on any of the CD covers or album titles above and place your holds today!  


Check back soon to see who is featured in the next Listen Up blog!


Here are some other Arts & Culture music blogs you may be interested in: 


*Photo of Jully Black from 

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