This week in Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Jan. 3, 2019

It’s the time of year when various groups announce nominations for awards. The Gospel Music Association of Canada just announced their list of nominees for the 40th Covenant Awards and one of our musicians is on it.

Bob Hawkins was nominated in the Jazz/Blues Song of the Year category for writing Special Kinda Love. That’s good. The odds of winning are doubled with a second nomination in the same category for writing Wicked Ways (see the video on Youtube). Additionally, Rachel Fox and Xavier Fernandes were nominated for the artwork for Bob’s “Special Kinda Love” CD.

Bob recorded his album with Ron Hill playing drums and Pete Sanderson playing bass. The awards will be given Jan. 24 at the Shaw Centre in Edmonton. Good luck.

In Memorium

*  Sometimes you have an impression of people based on a picture or some way you have seen them act in public. Musicians are a good case. They behave one way on stage and present a persona for photo shoots or in their music videos. Bikers, construction workers, doctors, lawyers, the person who takes you coffee order, same thing.

Then you meet people away from their stage. You end a conversation thinking they are nothing like you perceived them to be, they are so much nicer, more like you than you imagined.

Mike Taylor was like that. He was a member of a band, Walk Off The Earth, and better known as Beard Guy. WOTE played last summer’s Mariposa Folk Festival. Prior to the festival I researched watching pretty much all their videos. In that process I came across several videos playing solo at the piano, presenting a side different from his WOTE role, but still mysterious.

Then I met him. He wasn’t as physically imposing as he seemed, roughly the same height and physique as me. That was surprising. In the short conversation I found a man who was more genial than I had imagined. Everything I thought he was changed. Under different circumstances, maybe we would have been friends, he was the the kind of person I would want as a friend.

Mike Taylor died on Saturday.

The WOTE performance I saw in Tudhope Park was unlike anything I had seen on a stage before. It was far more intricate and physical than the next ten bands put together. It was a lesson on coordination among a group of people to achieve a desired effect, to entertain the crap out of the audience. They overachieved.

I have seen that level of concept, skill and coordination before, but on a football field. You know I spent a lot of time performing and then writing music for drum corps. If you’ve stumbled upon videos of the good drum corps, maybe you can relate to the kind of conception and then hours of practice needed to achieve a product that amazes. I immediately appreciated what WOTE was doing, how hard it is to present the kind of performance they gave. You may have thought it looked easy, looked spontaneous, but I know differently. What they did takes a lot of thought and doing it over and over in rehearsal until it works.

Mike Taylor had a role to play and it is evident from the comments I saw last summer, and since Saturday, people loved what he brought to the band and the stage.

WOTE will likely survive, but they won’t be the same. They may find another keyboard player, but they won’t find another Mike Taylor. They will by necessity have to find someone who is as quirky and magnetic as Mike, but in an entirely different manner. Otherwise, they will fail at replacing him. We all will make the comparison to Mike if they try to replicate what Mike meant to the picture of what WOTE is, so it’s best to go 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

We will embrace the new player if the new person does not remind us of Mike and we will keep the memory of Mike as a distinct element of what WOTE is, much in the same way Syd Barrett will always be associated and remain part of many people’s perception of Pink Floyd is, even though he was out of the band before they recorded A Saucerful of Secrets. As WOTE climbs to greater success, as they should, Mike Taylor will be along for the ride.

The Shorts

*  The next Sunshine Drinks happens Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. at Brewery Bay. This is an informal program of the Sunshine Initiative, but with drinks. It’s people getting together to share ideas about how to make Orillia better. Bring your own idea, or get behind someone else’s.

*  The Orillia Museum of Art & History only has two tickets left for the annual Sir John A. Macdonald dinner at the Hawk Ridge Golf Club Jan. 12. Call them now at 705-326-2159. The January 16 Speaker’s Series night has Evelyn Ross in. She’ll be speaking about Fleeing From Nazi Europe at the 7:30 pm. event. OMAH is also looking for people to be part of the new Art In Public Places committee they are managing for the City of Orillia – Municipality. You must be a resident of Orillia or surrounding townships, including Rama, and having some kind of arts background is desirable. It’s a two year term. Send a resume by Jan. 18 to by 4 p.m. Friday.

*  Mariposa Arts Theatre’s next movie night is Jan. 9 at the Galaxy at 4 and 7 p.m. The pick is Fahrenheit 11/9, Michael Moore’s look at Individual-1. Jan. 16 it’s What They Had (Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon, Robert Forster and Blythe Danner). The next play MAT is doing is The Diary of Anne Frank at the Opera House starting Feb. 7.  April’s Alan Ayckbourn comedy, Living Together, needs a producer (or a couple co-producers). Producers take care of all the business end of things. If you watch the movie, The Producers – either one of them – it’s not like that. You’ll spend a bit of time on the phone for sure. Email Phyllis Johnson at

*  The Mariposa Folk Festival has the 8th annual Evening of Blues and Gospel concert happening Feb. 9 at St. Paul’s Centre. Lance Anderson has wrangled Harrison Kennedy, Michelle White, Jesse Whiteley, Gary Craig and Dennis Pendrith to play along with him. Get tickets ($30) at or at the Peter Street Arts District office.

*  Tickets for the MFF summer festival went up Jan. 1, but they’re still cheaper than they will be in June. So far they have booked Carole Pope, Steve Poltz, Melanie, My Son the Hurricane and First Aid Kit. Get tickets the same way as above.

*  The Leacock Museum National Historic Site has a full British Breakfast on Sunday’s starting Jan. 13. It’s from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., so I guess that would properly be brunch. They even have a vegetarian option. They’d like you to call for reservations at 705-329-1908.

*  Roots North Music Festival has Ron Sexsmith headlining the April event. Weekend passes are $45 at

*  Doug Shakell is running a song writing contest. Write a song about Washago, record it on video and submit it to by March 15, 2019. There are prizes, $500 for the winner. The top ten get to perform their entry at the Washago Community Centre March 31.

*  Coming up… The Brownstone Cafe has Grand Resonance (Chris Thompson, Sean Patrick and Mike Milner) and Sam and the Man are in Friday night; Zachary Lucky has his 2nd Songwriter Sunday’s with Don Bray Jan. 6 from 1 to 4 p.m. … the Hog N’ Penny has McGinnis and Marshal in Saturday night… The Orillia Opera House has the Mudmen playing Jan. 19; the Vagina Monologues returns (fundraiser for Green Haven Shelter for Women) Feb. 22.

(Photos Supplied) Ron Hill, Bob Hawkins and Pete Sanderson, the musicians on the GMA nominated album Special Kinda Love.

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