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Tina takes in Graffiti Alley.

      

72 Hours in Toronto With Tina Guo

08.12.2019

With Dove Mountain in her rearview mirror, the crossover musician takes in Toronto’s urban splendor.

Stop No. 3 on Tina Guo’s music-inspired tour, where she visits four unique Ritz-Carlton destinations and produces a soundtrack for each city, takes her up north and across the border to Toronto. There, she finds that street art reigns and a magnificent mash-up of people and cultures are flourishing within the city’s enclaves.    

Oh, Canada

“I’ve been to Toronto a number of times for work, but I’d never truly experienced the city. It’s considered one of the most multicultural places on the planet, and I couldn’t wait to explore its neighborhoods and cuisine with our guide. We started out at Nathan Phillips Square, which was an amazing public space with a 3-D Toronto sign.”

Art of the Matter

“The next stop was Graffiti Alley, and I absolutely loved it. Street art is legal in Toronto, so it’s more respected than it is in the U.S. I learned so much about the different types of graffiti and the cultures behind them. These murals were by an artist named Uber 5000, whose work is superwhimsical.”

Tag Up

“Our guide asked if I’d like to leave my own tag on a wall, so I drew a cello using chalk paint (it washes off when it gets wet). It was fun to leave my own little mark on Toronto.” 

Local Flavors and Finds

“From Graffiti Alley we headed to The Distillery District, a historic waterfront area that houses local restaurants, shops, flower stands and galleries. We walked around and had gelato and sweets at Soma Chocolatemaker.

On Key

“There was a public piano at the Distillery District, so of course I had to play it. There was a long line and I waited my turn. It was fun to watch and hear different people come up and play.”    

House Music

“The next morning we explored Kensington Market and Chinatown, and these colorful houses were on the border of the two neighborhoods. This area was originally home to so many different immigrant groups who moved in and made Toronto their own. I love that the city remains super integrated and multicultural.”    

Earrings by Lonna + Lilly.

Talking Shop

“Kensington Market was full of really cool shops. Two of my favorites were the Toronto Collective art-supply store, which had a colorful wall of spray-paint cans, and Moonbean Coffee Company, that had the most magnificent blends of coffee (this one was caramel truffle).” 

Sound Check

“After our morning sightseeing, Rambo and I went back to The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto to prepare for my evening performance. While I love impromptu performances, I was excited to play my own music on the acoustic cello, electric cello and the erhu.” 

Classically Inclined

“I’m classically trained, but I love music that’s really extreme — I’m a bit Jekyll and Hyde in that way. I wanted to start my performance
on the classical cello so that I could give the audience a broad musical experience. I began with a piece by Bach, and then I played my new single, ‘Circle of Life,’ an instrumental cover of the song from ‘The Lion King.’” 

Feeling the Music

“My third song was the ‘Game of Thrones’ theme song. I started it on the acoustic cello and then I stood up, handed the cello to Rambo, ripped off my skirt and finished the song on the electric cello. I finished the set with the ‘Wonder Woman’ soundtrack. I loved showing the audience the different sides of myself.”    

Tunnel Vision

“I haven’t played in public since I was a kid, when my dad used to take my brother and me to public spaces to play for fun. I loved the idea of playing in the subway station, so the next morning we took my cello and a chair and entertained people during their commutes.”    

In the Moment

“Looking out at Toronto’s skyline allowed me to think about the soundtrack to the city. Toronto is a place where people from all different cultures live together without losing their individual identities, and that really inspired me. In the end I decided to tap into my own background and write the song in a classical style. It will definitely be influenced by all the magical things I saw and did while in Toronto; and to echo the city’s multicultural mosaic, I’ll bring my culture and history in too.”