Category Archives: Live Performance


  Drama, Song and the Spoken Word written and directed by Dr. Von H. Washington, Sr. Well-known Toronto-based mezzo-soprano and performer, Ali Garrison and her highly esteemed colleague, Dr. Von H. Washington, Sr. (American theatre professional for forty years) are touring their latest and much anticipated theatre project, In Search of Giants. This production, about a personal journey leading to the discovery of  three significant leaders on the Underground Railroad, has been playing to full houses and standing ovations since it began touring Michigan in November 2015. There have been numerous performances since, along Michigan and Ontario Underground Railroad routes, including Schoolcraft, Kalamazoo, Albion, Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and Toronto. Next, on our Underground Railway Tour, In Search of Giants comes to Old Sandwich Town (now part of Windsor), Ontario, at the old courthouse, MacKenzie Hall on Saturday May 27th, 2017. In Search of Giants is a staged dramatic reading in the traditional style of the Afrikan Griot, but uses more than one storyteller. It features modern-day American storyteller, Dr. Von H. Washington Sr. The casts have also included the following American and Canadian performers: Ali Garrison, Von Washington, Jr., Michael Ray Helms, Romeo Phillips, Bianca Washington, Sharron Russell, Dwandra Lamkin, Tim Smith, Alicia Payne, Janai Travis, Duff MacDonald, Darryl Huggins, and Kwanza Msingwana. Ali Garrison, who in this production sings and plays both herself and her own great, great, great grandmother,  shares these thoughts: “In Search of Giants is a powerful and moving piece about how when we explore the past, … Continue reading

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Someone’s smile left a beautiful, shimmering residue Forming a rescue party of Joplin (Scott), Bach, Jarrett, Schroer, Sokol and The Listener Arriving here in a time when our ole whorl needs it the most So much at stake Sonic Healing Balms Make my eyes heat up Make them well up Which happens rarely and un-bidden So it’s precious So pay attention It’s like suddenly donning special spectacles for Perceiving Sheer Energy of The Invisible Spiraling through Time, Space and that sweet apotheosis, Music Opes the Heart ~Ali Garrison, November 26th, 2016, Toronto (Thoughts during “Covering Oli” Casey Sokol’s concert/book launch of duets for solo piano using melodies by Oliver Schroer at Edward Epstein’s Gallery 345) Photo: For Love by Ben Brown. Cymatic photo of sound vibrating on the surface of water

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In August 2014 when I was again staying with dear friend and fellow improviser, eighty year-old pianist Nancy Bennet. We decided to do another free improv session in her wharf studio in Cutler, Maine. We used this poem to improvise on. I was encouraging her to continue to play even as she has been dealing with a debilitating and tragic genetic condition that is affecting her fingers. This is the beauty of free improvisation, you come to it as you are. This poem is by an anonymous Chinese poet from the 1st century B.C. We loved it so much we did three free improvisations on it. The last recording was the best. Were able to finally capture its beautiful and sad poignancy. It comes from a small book that I picked off Nancy’s bookshelf randomly, called The Moment of Wonder: A Collection of Chinese and Japanese Poetry – edited by Richard Lewis (The Dial Press) The Eastern Gate: I went out at the Eastern Gate: I never thought to return. But I came back to the gate with my heart full of sorrow. There was not a peck of rice in the bin: There was not a coat hanging on the pegs. So I took my sword and went towards the gate. My wife and child clutched at my coat and wept: “Some people want to be rich and grand: I only want to share my porridge with you. Above, we have the blue waves of the sky: Below, the … Continue reading

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“You will never do anything more vital, more profound, more perfect, than what you are doing right now.” – Gwendolyn MacEwen, from After-Thoughts Good morning, Friends. Sitting here, the morning after the night before… thinking and absorbing what transpired at my concert last night. It was a moving and joyous thing to be able to see everyone’s faces and feel your spirits right there with me on the journey, which is one of the reasons I love the Gallery 345 space. The audience and the performers can be very close and the pleasure we may all take in the intimate experience that occurs is palpable. These songs that my composer friends, Isabel Ciudad-Real, Nancy Bennet, William Beauvais, Kevin McMahon, Stephen Newby and Ryan Billington, have made are so rich and deep. Words cannot describe how much I love singing them. They are a treasure trove for the imagination and deserve to be re-discovered and explored and heard again and again. I’m already searching for the next time I can sing them mo’ bettah. This was an interesting night, and for me, a new way of being and sharing in each moment. After more than thirty years of performing professionally, I am entering yet another phase: a difficult (for me) and necessary transition into a mature woman and artist. I feel a bit like a chrysalis starting to metamorphose into a butterfly.  Call me crazy, but for some reason I feel moved to be transparent and reveal my process because it is so often hidden and such … Continue reading

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“You know how it is. Sometimes we plan a trip to one place, but something takes us to another.”                         ~ from the Master, Rumi I had one particular 48 hours in my last week Downeast when I finally understood why that mysterious voice called me to jump through hoops of fire to make this rather long, arduous trip. For the life of me, I couldn’t quite figure out where such a overpoweringly strong compulsion to go to Maine this year came from. It seemed so much more urgent than my usual desire to go commune with Mama Nature and my dear friends in that area. But being a musician, teacher AND an improviser, I’ve grown accustomed to obeying and submitting to intuition and the nudges of the muse. After a while, we learn not to waste time questioning those indicators, methinks. Just follow it and see what strange events unfold…and hope to hell that we have enough accumulated acumen to deal with the ensuing experiences. Nancy Bennett, an extraordinary improvising pianist in her late 70s (think an intuitive, feminine version of Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans), who I’ve known for many years musically and otherwise, and I, had an exquisite duet improv session (caught on a Zoom recorder for posterity) on the Steinway at her wharf in Cutler. It was really more like a series of musical intuitions/conversations. Nancy’s musings are always harmonious and completely approachable, while containing enough … Continue reading

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Ali Garrison

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News Flash

 ALI TEACHING AT SUMMERKEYS 2017 in Lubec, Maine An opportunity to study in a beautiful, Downeast vacation spot with Ali… July 31-August 4 August 7-11 Website: Tuition: $675 per week This workshop is for singers of all levels continuing their studies. Program consists of a daily group class, five 60-minute lessons weekly, two hours daily practice and listening, coaching sessions for duet/trios. This workshop welcomes all ages and all experiences; the belief is that a healthy approach to singing can be applied to any style of music. Each week-long workshop begins on Sunday evening with an informal get together of those participating in the voice program. Schedules will be distributed and questions answered. The week will end with a Friday late afternoon/early evening performance class and reception. Here’s the setting for this week long intensive with Ali:    

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