Justin Gray has designed an instrument which combines his two musical passions – for jazz and for Indian classical music.

Justin Gray
Justin Gray with his bass veena (photo by Sean O’Neill, provided by Gray)

He'll play his bass veena on Wednesday, as he gives his cross-genre quintet, Synthesis, its Ottawa debut at Chamberfest. The quintet, which includes well-known Toronto jazz musicians Ted Quinlan on guitar and Drew Jurecka on violin, will play Gray's music, which features Indian-inspired melodies in a jazz framework.

It's a surprisingly compatible and very listenable mixture, in part because Hindustani classical music also includes improvisation – just not in quite the same way as jazz. Synthesis has so far released one album, New Horizons, in 2017, with the same core quintet which will play Wednesday, although the album has a large number of guests from classical, jazz, and Indian classical music. The Chamberfest concert will showcase pieces from that album.

Gray has been studying Hindustani music for more than decade, at the same time as he's grown a substantial reputation as a bassist in Toronto's jazz scene, playing with a variety of groups, including several which have made it up to Ottawa: Gray Matter, and the Hoffman-Lemisch Quartet.

OttawaJazzScene.ca editor Alayne McGregor recently interviewed Gray about the concert, the Synthesis project, and why he was inspired in 2010 to design an entire new instrument to play much of this music. This is an edited and condensed version of our interview.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: How did you get introduced to Indian classical music?

Justin Gray: My mom was born in India, so growing up, my brother Derek, who's the drummer in the project, and myself certainly were exposed to Indian music. We traveled to India to visit family. We listened to a variety of music growing up, which included things like Ravi Shankar, and of course getting into the Beatles and some other world music contexts.

But it wasn't until I was at Humber College studying jazz music that I actually – despite being in a jazz program – came across a workshop by a South Indian percussionist in Toronto named Professor Trichy Sankaran. He teaches at York University. He's retired now but he actually started one of North America's first world music programs. There was something about a workshop that he gave that just ignited a fire for me of interest in getting deeper into the music. So I started studying with him, and I took some summer school courses and private lessons studying South Indian percussion.

The way that he was sharing music as a part of his life was something that really attracted me. So I ended up finding my teacher in India, my guru, who's a vocalist out of Calcutta, and started travelling to Calcutta and living there for periods of time, studying the music formally.

So even though the spark was during that time at Humber, I continued for years after that, and still do study. But in those initial years of just living in India and studying the music in a traditional context, that's what really, I think, made me fall in love with the art.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: So is this the South Indian Carnatic tradition or the North Indian Hindustani tradition?

Gray: I was introduced with Professor Sankaran to the Carnatic tradition. But then my instinct was – although I still loved to study the percussion as a bass player, as a melodic instrumentalist – I did want to study the raga aspect of the music, the melodic aspect. And from my time being exposed to great North Indian Hindustani instrumentalists like Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, especially those instruments – sitar and sarod – they really spoke to me. So my instinct was to study the Hindustani classical music.

Myself and two friends were all living together at the time and became infatuated in this music collectively, and so we've been studying Hindustani classical music.

The voice as the primary instrument - even for a bassist

OttawaJazzScene.ca: The teacher you're studying with is Shantanu Bhattacharyya?

Gray: Yes, he's an Indian classical vocalist who lives in Calcutta. He has been the source of my studies and knowledge in Hindustani classical music.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: He's a vocalist and you're a bassist – and the bass, while it can play melodies, is part of the rhythmic base of any jazz ensemble. So how does this work?

Gray: In Indian classical music, in the traditional forms, both South and North, there is no bass role. There's no bass role in the sense of counterpoint, or groove, or form being delineated by some sort of bass line. So I truly entered into studying the music as a melodicist.

The two people that I started to study the music with, they're both saxophone players, so for them it's pretty normal to play melodies and to be working on virtuosic fast music. For me, an interesting thing about studying with my teacher was, for him, he didn't really have a preconception about what my instrument's role was. All he wanted to share was what the music was.

Studying with a vocalist is actually quite common in terms of studying this music, because it really, truly is in its essence a vocal music. For instance, when we think of famous people like Ravi Shankar, he studied a lot of the music vocally and has taken a lot of influence from the vocals – sort of like blues and jazz. So the phrasing and the nuance and the subtlety and the real emotion of the music comes from the vocal tradition, and then we bring that onto our instruments.

For me, it really pushed me as a bass player to suddenly just be a melodicist and just to be a soloist. Later I'm bringing back my roots as a bass player, and fusing that into the music. But as a soloist, especially in the classical tradition, it's just pure melody.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: So when you studied with him, were you singing, or were you still playing your bass, or were you playing other Indian instruments?

Gray: Mostly singing – within reason, of course, [barring] a certain extreme virtuosic ability. My guru is quite a virtuoso. But in general the music is a virtuosic music, and so at a certain point we would have to just give up our instruments and only sing if we were going to pursue that level of singing.

But even now, studying-the-music-wise, I'm happy to just have my voice because ultimately once you can internalize something with the voice and singing, you can put it on your instrument quickly, once you've done that homework.

In the initial stages I would always have a bass with me and it was a combination of singing the phrase, internalizing the phrase, memorizing it, and then translating it to the instrument.

As time has gone on, there's been periods when I would not even bring my bass to class and there's also periods where it was really important … let's say I had been trying to integrate something onto the instrument and I was having some questions about it, then I would maybe focus specifically on the instrument.

Now, in more recent times, I've actually been studying and digging into the instrumental music – not only with my teacher, but also interacting with some great instrumentalists from the country, to take the instrumental aspect of the music to the next level. In terns of a jazz meets Indian situation, I often describe it the same as ballad playing versus bebop playing or even classical music versus opera: opera might not have as many fast instrumental arpeggiated runs because the voice just isn't able to carry its space so much with sustain and power. So at a certain point, the instrumental style does differ, and I have been focusing on that for a number of years now with the bass veena specifically.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Do you play any Indian instruments?

Gray: I do have a number of Indian instruments. The sarod I've sat with and played, and a little bit of tabla, but I don't play any of them to the degree that I would put them on stage. But it has been part of the process to explore the Indian instruments. Especially when I was designing the bass veena, I felt it was necessary to have a relationship with them, but not to the degree of ever actually taking them to a performance level.

Different views of improvisation between jazz and Hindustani music

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Can you tell me about improvisation within Hindustani music?

Gray: Ultimately, like many improvised musics in the world, it's just important to delineate the language and the syntax from the improvisation. So there is a rigid and very, very deep melodic tradition that is quite established. It does differ from school to school and from artist to artist. But the ragas, being the melodic bodies of this music, they are quite formed and, depending on one's tradition, there are heavy frameworks.

Again, I would put this in a similar context to something like bebop, where there is a very specific language to be spoken. But the decisions within the creation of an actual performance, how to organize that information, how to delineate it, no two performances will ever be the exact same.

So there is a large amount of improvisation [in Hindustani music], but the improvisation and freedom really comes once a language is internalized.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: In jazz, you do have the similar concept of playing the head followed by solos...

Gray: Yes, there's a similar thing. There's more rigidity in the Indian classical tradition, in the sense that for instance, if you take that head/solo concept, it's not a requirement [in jazz] for the soloist to improvise off of the melody and completely keep the changes intact. It's suggested by the music, but not a requirement.

While in Indian classical music, there are traditional requirements and checkpoints in a performance that have been built into the art. And ultimately remember as well that a raga performance might last up to an hour or more, and so this has been also built into the tradition – just in the sense that in order to hold a performance for that long, there's form and there's a science behind being able to maintain musical momentum. So that's, I think, how the tradition has evolved in that way. There are a number of checkpoints or rules within the music, that one “should” follow to adhere to the tradition.

But then again, from moment to moment, there still is active decision-making – and it's not Western classical music in that it's not written out.

We are talking about Hindustani music here. There are aspects of Carnatic music that are written out and aspects that aren't, so this is in respect to the Hindustani tradition.

Jazz improvisation "really spoke to me"

OttawaJazzScene.ca: I'd like to go back to the other root of your music, which is jazz. How were you introduced to jazz?

Gray: I started playing bass when I was about 12, and I just wanted to learn rock&roll and Rage Against the Machine. My very first teacher was a real role model, and through teaching me bass, he introduced me to a number of musical styles including jazz. I was always a improvisor, so once I became connected to jazz improvisation, even at a beginner level, it really spoke to me.

So from then on, jazz became the language that I first pursued extremely seriously and formally. And then I took that through Humber College and university, and I've performed and taught with that language ever since.

...And the ragas in Hindustani music

OttawaJazzScene.ca: What appeals to you about jazz and what appeals to you about Indian music? Are they different or similar?

Gray: Ultimately I do think that just music appeals to me. But in terms of each of these genres, the improvisational or creative nature of the music is something that both attract me equally. In jazz, certainly the collaborative and improvisational nature is really what draws me. I'm also a fan of harmony. I'm a fan of what especially contemporary jazz has brought to the forefront in terms of compositional potential.

Jazz has become such a strong area where composers have a lot of freedom to draw from a number of different approaches. The great through-composed music of the [jazz] tradition over the last 30 years especially has really walked that balance between improvisation and composition.

For Indian classical music, what really attracts me is the concept of the raga, the concept of the drone and the melody, the concept of the patience that's built into the music, and just the depth. And also the nuances of the music, melodically speaking. It just really speaks to me. I enjoy the uniqueness that is Indian melody and also the yin and yang there. The Indian rhythmic systems are highly dense and really, really fascinating and engaging.

Now rhythm, I find, is something that interacts between genres even more easily or even more simply, in the sense that rhythm is rhythm. It's always been a little bit easier, I think¸ for rhythmic artists … of course a swing drummer and a tabla player would certainly have to put some work in … but I do find that rhythm is something that can cross the boundaries a little bit easier than trying to combine certain melodic structures with certain harmonic structures.

Now the rhythmic languages of both jazz and Indian music, they also deserve a lifetime of work, especially if we're talking about traditional music.

So those are the aspects that just really attract me, and then the journey now is finding ways of bringing them together.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Would Toronto be a particularly good place to combine the two musical genres, since it is such a cross-cultural area?

Gray: Yes, I think maybe one of the best. As we look at the world around us, there are aspects of globalization that are positive and negative. But I think that, throughout history, times when musicians of different cultures have lived together due to geographical or social or political reasons have been major times of musical growth and of especially cross-cultural musical growth – including jazz itself!

Jazz came to be in North America, but it's a combination of cultural factors that allowed it to become what it is. And Toronto is a fantastic place in the sense that we have access to incredible musicians around the world, some of whom are first-generation musicians who are bringing their deep tradition, and some of whom are third-generation and have had time to interact and start to make a new language.

I find that I'm very, very lucky to have grown up here. I've been trying not to take it for granted, the opportunities that this particular environment offers in terms of interacting with people from around the world.

"I didn't know how much it would mean to me when I heard it"

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Can you tell me about the musicians you'll be playing with at your late-night Chamberfest show on August 8: guitarist Ted Quinlan, violinist Drew Jurecka, tabla player Ed Hanley, Derek Gray on drums and Tibetan Singing bowls, and violinist Rebekah Wolkstein?

Gray: Rebekah is a guest with the group. She played on the album – the Venuti String Quartet does feature both Drew and Rebekah. The fact that her band Payadora [Tango Ensemble] is going to be at the festival the night before – it was just a great opportunity to revive some of the [string] quartet arrangements on the album and condense them for two parts.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: And that of course brings in the Chamberfest vibe …

Gray: Exactly.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Did you know these musicians before this project? Had you played with them much before?

Gray: Yes. Starting with my brother on drums, that's obvious, a life-long relationship there.

Ed Hanley and I have been playing music for years. He's a fantastic collaborator every way, both musically and just sort of conceptually.

I've known Ted since I took his first improv course at Humber, and then we just played together ever since, in jazz and in Indian fusion contexts.

Drew I met through this project. I had known about Drew for years. And because I did write a lot of this music to feature a string quartet on the album, his musical flexibility as a string player who could sit down and read a traditional quartet [score] or be a fantastic improvisor, is certainly highly desirable and inspirational.

Once I heard him playing the music for the first time when we were recording it, just right then and there, it just filled something that I knew I was looking to fill but I didn't know how much it would mean to me when I heard it.

I always thought a quartet would be a really smart idea – four people, really easy to put in a van. Just make this a quartet and I could make everyone else a guest. And I had approached the project that way. I even had a photo shoot without Drew, in pre-promotion stuff. And once I heard Drew play the music, it took me … you just know sometimes. I would prefer to hear the music with him involved, and fortunately for me, he really enjoyed it.

That quintet is the group, and I also met Rebekah and the Venuti String Quartet through Drew. She's just a phenomenal force as a musician. When Drew and her are playing together, it's really lovely.

Creating music through the "unique flow" of voice or different instruments

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Over what period did you compose this music?

Gray: The majority of it I wrote specifically for this ensemble in 2015-2016 – except for the piece “Serenity”, which is actually the first composition that I made for bass veena. Then I recorded them as solo pieces – almost like treating my job as a composer and arranger separately, I then arranged the music for a large ensemble.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Did you sing your compositions first? Because you were talking about the singing process...

Gray: I would say half and half. For me the consistent aspect of the compositional process is the improvisation. I always – or at least with this project – sit down and just try to let the music flow, not really having an agenda. Oftentimes I'll record whatever I'm doing just in case something happens, and then later I will visit those recordings, almost like a producer for myself where I'm now just sifting through looking for themes and finding things that speak.

I wrote one of the pieces using a singing bowl. Sometimes it's with guitar, sometimes it's with the bass veena. Ultimately I think the instrument does influence the piece, but I more and more try to treat composition as just a musical process and not necessarily bound to anything.

The thing that I like about that is whatever instrument or just voice I happen to be working with is going to provide a unique flow in that particular creative session. And it also helps because they don't all have the exact same feel … because oftentimes an instrument will physically encourage you to do something that's comfortable and therefore it can bring consistency across the board. Which can be nice, but I enjoy what happens when I write with piano or when I write with voice as well.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Were there experiences or ideas that you had, not necessarily musical, that flowed into these compositions?

Gray: There are extra-musical elements that I believe connect to these pieces of music. However, I think they are infused in the music itself. I don't necessarily separate them, so therefore I think that the answer to your question is that it's mainly a musical creative process.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: I notice that your song titles are on a larger scale. They don't talk about personal concerns.

Gray: On this record, every piece got named well after creation. One or two of them were named within days of them needing to be named for the record. The band laughs at me because they've gone through different iterations of [a piece] being called something. And they understand that, for me, the title is more of an organizational tool than a literal representation of something.

That being said, I do feel connected to each of those titles. What I did was I listened to [the music] and tried to see what it told me it was doing, if that makes sense. And that's not an uncommon thing for me. I think I could write 10 tunes before I could come up with a tune title. I'd like to switch that ratio a little bit, but...

Ultimately I think the themes of the tunes on the record is what you're describing – a little bit of larger-picture concepts, not all nature-derivative but somewhat natural phenomenon-derivative. And the whole concept of New Horizons for me is what this body of work is. It's taking the instrument and taking the traditions, and I was really just looking to look forward and amalgamate a whole bunch of things which had not, for me, come together yet. Just looking at allowing new things to happen and creating a creative space that would allow that to breathe.

Jazz is the framework for the music - and gives it its collaborative nature

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Listening to the music, it struck me that, with the exception of your song “Rise”, you pretty well left out the blues in this music. I was trying to figure what was there in your music from jazz, and the blues strains of jazz were a lot less audible.

Gray: Yes. I think of the blues as a melodic body – and ragas very similarly. And the reason being that they have such strong language, such strong syntax. The language is so specific and so telling that I do find that's it's quite hard – mixing a raga and blues becomes extremely obvious very fast.

Melodically each of these pieces is drawing inspiration from a raga. So the interesting thing that happened with “Rise” is that that raga, which is called “Megh”, has some elements, and it's a rare one, that I find does call for some blues elements quite naturally, without having to try, and not battling it.

Even Ted's solo on that song – the first time that we tracked the solo, I was pushing back against the blues concept, and we didn't go there hard enough. And then as the piece came to be, I realized that, no, it's time to just respect the blues for what it is and let it just come. Whenever you're mixing genres and traditions and languages, again I think because the blues are such a strong one, it has such a gravity, that whenever it's used, it shows itself right away.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Where do you think jazz comes into this music?

Gray: Harmonically, it's all in contemporary classical, contemporary jazz language. I think that the instrumentation and the compositional / arranging approach is drawn from my jazz background, so [it's] more the framework for the music.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: So it's aspects that one would take for granted, and not notice as much...

Gray: Exactly. It's not the obvious. There's no bebop scales. There's no tags at the ends of tunes. But at the same time, even the Indian instrumentalists soloing on these songs, they're being asked to solo over forms in the same way that a jazz musician is. So the type of improvisation and the type of shorter, condensed, organized solo form that we're experiencing, even though it doesn't sound like jazz music, if we can just take away …

I don't think of jazz as just the notes. To me jazz is a framework. It's also, more importantly, the collaborative nature of the music and the sense that there is group interaction and improvisation, and (I guess) the counterpoint. Anywhere that there is counterpoint, one could argue that that's also equally classical, but I think the nature of how the songs come to be is certainly derived from my jazz background.

If we define jazz as a melodic language, then that's missing [from these pieces]. But all of the other elements, in terms of the arranging and the organization of the music and the organization of the ensemble, is being approached completely from a jazz standpoint and not from any classical standpoint.

The bass veena: "in search of a sound"

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Let's talk about your bass veena. I can't tell from looking at the photos: is it an electric instrument or an acoustic instrument?

Gray: It's an electric-acoustic instrument, in the sense that it does plug in, it is amplified, but it is amplified via piezo, through an acoustic pick-up system. The way the instrument is designed is that there's some hollow chambering done inside the instrument, so that we can pick up the natural resonance of it but without having to make it as large as a double bass where it has to project enough air to get a microphone going.

So, technically, an electric instrument. But the fact is, it's not using a magnetic pickup in the way that a bass would, and therefore it's almost like mic'ing the instrument from the inside.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: You've got four strings that look much like an electric bass. Are those tuned in the same way as an electric bass?

Gray: There's four playing strings. Those are tuned to the tonic of the piece, typically C, D, or C#. And it's tuned in the fifth, the root, the fifth, and the root. So it's a combination of bass and cello, and that is common to Indian instrument tuning, in that you would tune an open tuning to the key of the piece, or the key of the drone.

Then there are two drone strings, little guys at the top of the fretboard, which are just like the drone strings [on] sitar or sarod, that are used to establish the tonic and for rhythmic emphasis. And then we come to the little 10-string harp, which is a sympathetic / strummable harp.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: So when you're playing it, because you've only got two hands, which hand would you play the harp with?

Gray: It's all right-hand. So I do strum it, I do pluck it, depending on the piece, depending on the nature of the music. I treat it anywhere from like a classical guitar to an acoustic guitar to just a sympathetic harp. It's there in the way that a harp is in Indian music. It's there to support and fill in the sound and just bring depth to the sound. And then I do sometimes apply extended techniques to exploit it a bit more. But it's all the right-hand.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Does the bass veena cover the same general musical space, in terms of octaves, as a bass?

Gray: It is a little higher. It's just voiced a little bit higher than a six-string bass, and it's only the top four strings of it [a six-string bass]. On the album, for instance, you will hear where there is an actually bass bass role, I'm playing electric bass.

Live, because of Drew and Ted's awesome musicianship, we're able to always keep that space filled where I can't double up on instruments. And there are some places where I will just play electric bass live, because it's what the band needs.

A piece like “Break of Dawn”, for instance, is in the low register of the instrument and the bass role is being covered by the instrument, but that is also because the key allows it to be in the right range. In a song like “Reflections”, I played electric bass as well, because I needed to get into that lower register and get out of the way of the string quartet.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: How did you come up with the idea of this particular instrument? And why?

Gray: The why for me was that it was in search of a sound. Technically, I could play the music [on electric bass], but the sound wasn't right. So the instrument had to be engineered and designed in search of a sound. The aesthetic aspects of the instrument are of course absolutely stunning, but secondary to just finding an instrument that can have the sustain, the transient, and the just playability that would allow the music and the nuances of the music to breathe more specifically.

The luthier Les Godfrey, who lives in Kingston now – even though I designed the instrument, it's a collaboration between the two of us, and he brought his mastery to bringing that sound to life and providing a vessel for it.

And as for how – once I knew that I wanted to change the instrument and not just pick up an Indian instrument, still play bass but get something more appropriate for the music, I spent years trying other instruments, researching instruments, measuring instruments. I have drawings of what a bass veena would have been that are way more intense. Then eventually I just simplified it down into what I felt would be the minimum required to bring the instrument to life, rather than going for the crazy, multi-necked, two-directional behemoth. I really just wanted to add what was necessary for the music to come alive but still play my instrument.

And as for the name – “bass” is obvious, and “veena” is a South Indian and North Indian instrument, a grandfather/grandmother of sitar. But also, it's not uncommon to have instruments named in the veena family due to their playing style. So “veena” is like a term to say “Indian stringed instrument” – like the violin family [in Western music]. There is a veena family and so by calling it a bass veena, it explains right away to an Indian listener that it's an Indian stringed instrument.

And the nature of the slides in the lower register and the nature of the playing style is reminiscent of the sounds of veena and sarod.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: How much work did it take you and Les to create an instrument that actually worked for you? How long a process was it?

Gray: Two years from the time of going to him with drawings. And ultimately what's absolutely phenomenal is that this is the first one. He nailed it right away. But that's because of the patience. He could probably build the instrument in a matter of four months, but by sitting with it and waiting and making sure that we were making the right decisions as we went, we avoided having to redo anything. It's just amazing.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Has he made a second one?

Gray: No he has not.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: This is the only bass veena?

Gray: This is the only bass veena.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: You want to be careful with it on airplanes.

Gray: Yes, I just flew to the Bahamas to play it, but I have a really intense case for it.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Would there be anything you'd change since? Would you want to do a V2, or are you happy with what you've got now?

Gray: No. I would rebuild the exact same instrument, if I could. I would potentially – just because why just have two to have two? – experiment with one slightly shorter so I could achieve a couple higher keys for interacting with people. Right now, you can tune it to E, but you're really asking a lot of the instrument. I would experiment with scale length, but I'd be wary of losing tone. I would build a travel version, maybe without a harp, just to make it a little lighter, a little more manageable.

But again, these would all be practical adaptations – not instrument adaptations,

"The music is fresh and it's evolving"

OttawaJazzScene.ca: You're playing pieces from your album at your Chamberfest concert?

Gray: Yes. The music is fresh and it's growing and it's evolving. The jazz aspect of having a band of jazz musicians is that the music will always evolve if you allow it to. So everyone is bringing their own parts and just continuing to let the music grow, which is awesome,

OttawaJazzScene.ca: Where are you going next with Synthesis?

Gray: I am really interested in writing some orchestral music for the group, so I'm thinking of larger chamber ensembles or beyond. I would like to create some concerts and some music to further justify getting some of those guest [Indian] artists over to Canada.

I guess I was the conduit for bringing everyone together – for instance, Drew, Ted, Derek, and Ed had not met a number of those guest artists. I have a relationship with everyone on that album, and I would like to see what happens when everyone can collaborate together in the same room.

OttawaJazzScene.ca: And eventually another album?

Gray: Yes. We'll target another recording and in this context I would imagine that it would probably be live, especially with that many people. Just logistically, it's really, really challenging to get that many people in the same room at the same time for more than a couple of hours.

But I always work from the music first, so I'm going to just start creating that music and then just see what comes.

Justin Gray (bass veena), Ted Quinlan (guitar), Drew Jurecka (violin), Rebekah Wolkstein (violin), Ed Hanley (tabla), and Derek Gray (drums and Tibetan singing bowls) will perform Gray's Synthesis project as part of Chamberfest's Chamberfringe series, on Wednesday, August 8, at 10 p.m. at La Nouvelle Scène. Tickets are $25, available on the Chamberfest website or at the door. La Nouvelle Scène is located at 333 King Edward, about a block north of Rideau Street. OC Transpo routes 7, 12, 14, and 18 all stop on Rideau Street nearby, and the theatre is also walking distance from the Mackenzie-King station on the Transitway.