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McGill is often graced by the visits of dignitaries. Why, Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet of the Netherlands was here just the other week. But next month may be the first time the U.S. ambassador of hip hop will be on campus.
Yes, it's an official governmental title. And Toni Blackman will be just one of philosophy professor Eric Lewis's dream guests for this year's Improvisation in the Arts conference. Lewis is the director of PI (The Project on Improvisation).
Scholars and performers will give talks in the day and musical demos at Sala Rossa at night. They'll explore improvisation in folk art forms from children's skipping rope songs, to poetry, to jazz tap dance.
Blackman will bring her style of feminist hip hop to Montreal, an antidote to mucho-macho gansta rap. Solo trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith — who masterfully juxtaposes silence with tone to trick the ear into focusing on sound — will be recording his performance for release. "He treats every moment as a complete work," says Lewis.
On the last day, a four-hour event at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) will have Black Arts Movement founder Bill Dixon show his visual art and play the trumpet in his first visit ever to Montreal. Videographer Sylvia Safdie will show her work while John Heward plays drums, in an exploration of the similarities and differences between improvisation in visual art and music.
To register for the CCA event email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on "Improvisation in the Arts/Improvisation Between the Arts," June 3 to 5, see www.mcgill.ca/improv.
Two of McGill's museums will be in full swing all summer, with a wide variety of offerings to tempt history buffs or anyone curious about the past.
The McCord Museum will continue its popular Growing Up in Montreal exhibit until September, which is also featuring a special look at the evolving condition of children's health in the city. Other temporary exhibits include a special look at aboriginal fishing in Atlantic Canada and, beginning in June, a closer look at the famous Canadian photograph "The Last Spike."
The McCord will offer day camps for children, arts and crafts workshops for families and thematic tours for adults. Communications Officer Eileen Stack notes that the museum is a fantastic forum for out-of-town visitors.
"If you've got friends in town, it's a great place to bring them to discover Canadian culture and history, both from Montreal and from across the country," she says.
On May 29, the McCord will be part of the Journée des Musées Montréalais, a one-day event when all of the city's museums open their doors for free. Stack says the event brought almost 6,000 visitors to the McCord last year.
Redpath Museum, which sits near the centre of campus, will also be strutting its stuff come museum day. Open all summer, the Redpath features an impressive array of scientific exhibits, including the Abe Levine seashells — the best display of bivalves, gastropods, chitons and "elephant tusk" schaphopods in Canada.
McCord Museum (690 Sherbrooke West): is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 am to 6pm and weekends 10 am to 5 pm (closed Mondays.) Phone: 398-7100. Redpath Museum (859 Sherbrooke West) is open Monday to Friday from 9 pm to 5 pm; and Saturday and Sunday from 1 pm to 5 pm (closed on Fridays and Saturdays after June 24). Free admission. Phone: 398-4086.
A tradition of cold beverages and base-running on the reservoir field continues this May as the Thomson House Softball League kicks off a new season. Games will continue all summer long as professors, graduate students and their friends enjoy long evenings and warm weather. The league will have over a dozen teams this year, many of them sporting quirky names like False Consciousness and Couilles Molles.
"It's always jovial and lively, even if you don't play," says Johanne O'Malley, who is the Services Co-ordinator for the Post-Graduate Students Society. "It's a really cool way to meet new people." Summer softball has been a fixture on the McGill reservoir for years, and teams have been playing since the inauguration of Thomson House in the ‘60s, according to O'Malley.
For more information on the Thomson House Softball League, contact the league commissioner by email.
On the night of July 15, the McGill Bookstore will be transformed into a venue for aspiring wizards as J. K. Rowling fans pile through the doors to lay their hands on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
The event will feature three floors of Potter-mania, which is slated to include costumes, music and even live owls. The bookstore will also set aside quiet reading areas where hard-core enthusiasts can begin turning pages right away. Doors will open at 11:55 pm, five minutes before the date when the book is legally allowed to be sold.
"Harry Potter crosses all boundaries," said Kim Stephenson, a buyer for the McGill Bookstore and one of the organizers of the event. She explained that the midnight gathering will be the second of its kind, and that the store's first Potter party drew around 300 people of all ages.
Owls — both real and stuffed — will add a new element to the extravaganza, and are arriving courtesy of Professor David Bird of the Avian Science and Conservation Centre. Also in attendance will be the music faculty's Abe Kestenberg who will be entertaining the crowd with his band, the Peter Frankman Trio.
The McGill University Bookstore on McTavish Street will be open all summer long for bibliophiles to browse, enjoy a coffee and escape the heat.
McGill music grad and jazz pianist Luc Beaugrand is launching his latest CD, Sospiro, with singer Michel Comeau, whose crooning vocals run notoriously deep and rich. Beaugrand co-founded local fusion band Uzeb in the 70s and you can hear the Luc Beaugrand Jazz Trio play every Saturday from 7 pm to 11 pm at Thursday's Bar, 1449 Crescent. Comeau has reached a popular audience by singing in the French versions of films such as Toy Story, Little Mermaid and Pocahontas.