By Belado Kang and Diana Condolo
Imagine a garden party at Casa Loma on a beautiful summer evening, with a view overlooking the Toronto skyline, as you enjoy a drink or a light meal while listening to classical music performed by the Toronto Concert Orchestra in the lovely terrace garden of this Toronto landmark. Welcome to Casa Loma Symphony in the Gardens!
Every Wednesday evening for the rest of summer 2014, that’s exactly what you can experience, thanks to Liberty Entertainment, which has put this fabulous experience together. For the general price of admission to the castle, you also receive access to the evening concert. This is a great deal!
Wander through the many rooms of Sir Henry Pellatt’s dream home, including the long subterranean tunnel connecting the castle to the stables, before hearing a concert in this perfect setting.
It has been too many years since I’ve seen the historic house so, on the day of the concert, I quickly left work to visit the beautifully decorated castle. There’s lots to see at Casa Loma, from the lavish living quarters of Sir Henry and Mrs. Pellatt, to the lush conservatory, to artifacts from Sir Henry’s army career, to aerial views of the city from the two turrets, which are reached by ascending a series of gradually narrower staircases.
You can also read about the history of the castle itself, from its conception in Sir Henry’s anglophile imagination to its completion, to the various reincarnations the castle has gone through during its varied history since the Pellatts were forced to leave their beloved home in 1923.
The Toronto Concert Orchestra is a group of professional musicians led by their affable conductor, Kerry Stratton. According to their website, the TCO is Toronto’s homeless orchestra since they don’t have a regular venue, but perform in a miscellany of venues. This widens their focus and expression, bringing orchestral music to new audiences in new environments. Kerry Stratton has genuine affection for the music and the musicians and it is contagious. His informative and witty introduction to each piece enriches the total effect of the concert.
The TCO delighted the appreciative audience with their performance of Mozart’s Divertimento, K. 136, and then the two violinists took centre stage for Bach’s Double Violin Concerto:
They then played the Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings, a perfect piece to follow Mozart as Tchaikovsky modeled the Serenade along Mozart’s musical lines. This is one of the late Romantic era’s definitive compositions and is what drew me to attend this particular concert. My dad played this album many times when I was growing up. I have not listened to it since. Sometimes we forget the things we loved, but what joy we feel when we rediscover the lost treasures. I could listen to this piece over and over again marveling at the equal measures of Romantic passion and Classical grace.
Liberty Entertainment, which recently signed a long-term lease with the city to operate and modernize Casa Loma, has managed to breath new life into this Toronto landmark with their Casa Loma Symphony in the Gardens concert series, which successfully exploits the site’s potential for special events. Dinner and light snack options are available in the terrace. See the Terrace Grill menu for details. It is recommended to make reservations for the tables.
The Pellatts loved to entertain their friends in their palatial mansion overlooking the city. One gets the sense that the spirit of Sir Henry would have approved of this latest usage of his former home.
The evening concluded with the first movement from Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, a fitting finale to this summer concert under the open skies.
Future concerts include An Evening of Edith Piaf (July 23), Italian Opera (July 30), and Songs by Gershwin, Porter, and Irving Berlin (Aug 13). Casa Loma Symphony in the Gardens continues until September 3, 2014.
Bring a light covering to ward off the evening chill and get there early for a table or for a seat in the covered concert pavilion, which has limited seating. Indulge in the catering and all your senses will be tantalized.
Doors open at 6 p.m., the concert generally runs between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. However, when we were there, the concert was from 7:25 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. with one intermission.
Make the most of the summer by attending concerts outdoors. Smell the flowers, drink some wine, gaze at the stars and you’ll feel you’re living the life of the romantics. I literally waltzed my way to the St. Clair streetcar.
Price: FREE with admission to Casa Loma. Passes for the season are available at the Box Office for $50!
Casa Loma, 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto