Looking for the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day? Or maybe you want to make a reservation at a high-end Toronto restaurant, book a romantic winter getaway or even learn how to survive the day if you’re single.
There’s no shortage of ideas online, along with tips for avoiding stress and disappointment the next day. Apparently, people who put a lot of pressure on themselves and their partners to make Valentine’s Day special can end up feeling disappointed when the reality falls short of their expectations.
Mitch Smolkin, a well-known local singer who, somewhat surprisingly, is also a certified couples therapist, said the cliché about holidays, including Valentine’s Day, being a source of stress is true. Valentine’s Day “should ostensibly be a time when you’re focusing on the relationship. That certainly can be the positive effect. But if the intimate bond between the couple is not healthy, the stress of a holiday can highlight that,” he said.
Smolkin suggested planning low-key activities that will make your partner comfortable. That could include going to his Valentine’s Day concert, Fall Into Love, at the Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts to hear some of the most beautiful love songs ever written.
But you won’t necessarily have to be in the company of a romantic partner to enjoy the show. “Music on a biological level taps into the part of our brain that is responsible for emotions. We hear a song and we’re moved or taken back 30 years,” Smolkin said.
The concert opens with a song about falling. To quote the show’s webpage, “Falling is about being vulnerable, letting go and allowing your heart to lead the way.”
Smolkin said there’s a “part of ourselves, no matter how tightly we hold ourselves, that is always extremely vulnerable. To be able to love takes tremendous courage. Falling and being vulnerable is one of the scariest things to do in one’s life.”
Love songs have been around for centuries. The oldest one is thought to be The Love Song for Shu-Sin, written circa 2000 BCE in ancient Mesopotamia. One of several love songs composed for King Shu-Sin, it speaks of a close and personal relationship with the goddess of love.
On the popularity of love songs, Smolkin said we need attachments from the cradle to the grave. When we feel hopeless, when we fall and when we take risks, having someone next to us keeps us stable and helps us get through it, he added.
“In writing about love, it’s a way to express a powerful emotion,” he said. “I think it also betrays the fact that we desperately want to connect and to love and to feel safe.”
The former artistic director of the Ashkenaz Festival, Smolkin has performed around the world as a Yiddish singer. He wanted to learn some new repertoire, including songs in English, and the Valentine’s Day concert snowballed from there.
“I love that I’m investing more in my music because training as a therapist really took over a great deal of my time, and I felt I didn’t have the time to hit the pavement and tour,” he said. He added that he’s also a little daunted by this relaunch of his music career and “scared to death to take that leap again, both for practical reasons and probably because it’s a gamble.”
Along with Smolkin, the show features singers Gabi Epstein, Amanda Martinez and David Dunbar. They’ll be performing songs in five languages, including French ballads of Charles Aznavour, love songs of The Beatles, melodies of Broadway, tunes from the Great American Songbook, Yiddish ballads and Hebrew spirituals. Guitarist Levon Ichkhanian, pianist David Warrack, violinist Anna Atkinson and mandolinist Eric Stein accompany the singers.
For tickets to Fall Into Love at 7:30 p.m. at the Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts on Feb. 14, click here, call Ticketmaster at 1-855-985-2787 or visit the Toronto Centre for the Performing Arts box office.