By John Swartz
Here’s a little true story. I grew up in a downtown area of a city twice the size of Orillia. It’s a border town far enough away from other large cities to be the center of commerce, night life and recreation.
I had no back yard. All the ingredients were present growing up in the concrete jungle to develop the wrong kind of life . Music got me off a path to no good. Specifically, joining a drum and bugle corps changed everything. Many people who never had the experience don’t understand the significance of a kid joining a group activity like that. It’s like playing hockey or baseball, which I did, but it’s not. Practice/rehearsal time is longer and more involved with a musical group. The performance time, while shorter, is pretty intense when one’s whole brain is tuned into being your absolute best for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, half or full hour. You learn to focus very well.
But most importantly you are too busy to get into trouble. Learning to be a musician is time consuming. There is nothing easy about mastering a brass instrument, a guitar, piano, or even a drum. The Carnegie Hall joke is more truth than anything else.
Let’s shift a bit a talk about Kevin Gangloff. The City of Orillia lucked out hiring him to run the Orillia Youth Centre. There is a definite programming emphasis on music at the youth center. He provides opportunities for the kids to learn to play an instrument. He brings in musicians to do clinics, workshops and performances. He chases the money to provide those opportunities and buy instruments.
There are cooking classes, recreational, athletic and other creative opportunities too, but I think Kevin recognizes how consuming learning music is. The point of the youth center is too keep kids off the streets and out of trouble.
Why is music so important? It can be a solitary endeavor, but for the most part it’s a collaborative thing. Trust me, no one wants to listen to a whole hour of someone hitting a bunch of drums, it needs a little more. A musician learns there’s a dependency on others to play a song and with that dependency there’s a bonding process that occurs. I still speak with and correspond with my musician friends from my youth. They are as much a part of my family as my relatives are – and the best part, I’m part of theirs.
The discipline of leaning music also translates to life in general. The act of committing to a task, the expenditure of effort doesn’t get put in the saxophone case at the end of the day.
I think Kevin understands these things and its why he puts so much effort into fostering the musical opportunities. He’s also a creative guy. Even though he’s said many times he’s sport oriented, he thinks of ways to expose the kids to music and he thinks of ways to raise funds. When he doesn’t think of it, he’s always ready to listen to someone with a good idea, especially if it means raising money to buy a kazoo or two.
This brings us to an event happening May 3 at St. Paul’s Centre. It’s a little different because it’s a dinner show in the round. Sure there have been concerts and events packaged with dinner at St. Paul’s before, but dinner happened downstairs and then everyone went upstairs, sat in rows and took in the show.
This time the main room, the hall, the sanctuary will be set up with tables and chairs and you’ll eat where you watch. You’ll be watching Lance Anderson, Quisha Wint and Russ Boswell play music fantastically.
The food – pizza, lasagna, chocolate cake – sounds pedestrian, but the meal is on the gourmet side prepared by Eclectic Cafe. The menu was chosen because those were the favourite foods of Nelson Bell.
Nelson was a youth center kid. He wanted to be a rap musician. Nelson died last summer. He often wished there was a decent recording studio in town kids like him could use. A recording studio was a thing he wanted to establish someday. Everyone at the youth center knew that, so when his friends and youth center staff were dealing with the idea of making some kind of lasting tribute to a boy who was committed to his dream it seemed building a recording studio, Valis Sound Studio , at the youth center was it.
The kids sourced what they’d need to do a decent job, not at a Record Plant level, but respectable and serviceable to produce a quality recording. They figured it would only cost $50,000.
I know, to be young.
They are on their way, several thousand has been raised so far. The benefit concert with Anderson and company could add $20,000 to the pot. Some of the money raised will also go into the Nelson Bell Bursary.
So here is why you should go. First of all, it will probably be the best concert in May, or of the year. Your money will do more good than you think. How often can anyone say they did something that kept a kid from travelling down the wrong path. How often can someone say their money provided an opportunity for a young person to learn something (often without knowing it) that guided the course of their life. Not often.
I think when you contemplate all the good your $150 (per ticket) will do, you’ll feel much better.
Also happening at the Youth Centre is an Open Mic night Mar. 30th at 6 p.m. I can think of several people who are in bands we often see who got their first taste of performing in front of others at the Youth Centre, so if you know someone who dabbles, take them, send them, or nudge them to go.
Kids And Art
On the flip side of that argument is being creative in a decidedly solitary setting. Visual art can be a group effort, but rarely is. Not everyone is drawn to group activities and painting, sculpting, or making things with your hands (writing too) fills the need.
The Orillia Museum of Art and History’s 2nd annual Mariposa Gala is a fundraiser to provide programs for young people, specifically outreach – transportation, meals and opportunities for children and youth to participate.
Many of the artists I know are recluses, it keeps them out of trouble except when they paint something controversial. Of course I’m kidding. But the point is there are many ways to engage the attention of young people, to channel their activity toward productive things like developing artistic skill.
The gala is at Lakehead University and Andre Derrick from Vineland Estates Winery will be there again for the wine tasting part of the night. The Jazz Byrds will do the music part and several local restaurants have finger foods, and Tony Bianco will create a painting on the fly during the course of the evening. Unlike a band playing at a fundraiser, he doesn’t take requests – especially Free Bird, but I’m sure he’ll pause long enough to line up a commission.
Get tickets online – they are selling at a good clip, so don’t wait much longer than after you get to the bottom of this column.
On Mar. 20, the history speaker’s night guest is Rachel McMillan who will speak about Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Muskoka: Exploring the Local Regions that Inspired Her Life and Work at 7:30 p.m. OHAH is also opening a new show Saturday of Kelli Dove’s work called Eh Ok! The subject matter is animals. This Sunday and next is family drop in day from 2 to 3 p.m.
Also at OMAH, Mar. 20 is World Storytelling Day and Storytelling Orillia is having their event on the 23rd. Sophy Cooper and Sue Charters are going to tell Scottish stories and Alan Cooper is going to provide some bagpipe music. Second Fiddle (Margaret Pomeroy, Katrina Gilbert and Katy Gillett) will also be playing some music. Admission is $10 and some of the proceeds go to OMAH. The regular Storytelling Orillia monthly happens Mar. 31 at 2 p.m. with Barbara McKee featured.
Music And Dance
A concert is happening Saturday night at St. Paul’s Centre with the Orillia Concert Band. This is not last because it’s not so important. If you hadn’t noticed, I’m working on a theme here.
The thing about adults who play in community bands, orchestras and such – they were kids once and the idea of making music stuck with them through life.
I know many of the people in the OCB and the other orchestras and choirs and they generally successful people in their day jobs and in the community. Playing in the OCB is just continuation of ‘working together’ to make something bigger and better nature of heir being. You can hear it in the OCB.
James Hilts has only been waving his arms around in front of the band for a couple years and if you regularly go to their concerts you will have noticed the caliber of performance is going beyond the high caliber they established before Hilts arrived.
They have a good program for Saturday’s concert and they have performers from Tapps Performing Arts as guests, so there will be a bit of dance music played.
Get tickets at the door, $15, $10 for students, $5 for kids 5 to 12, kids under 5 are free, and there’s a family price of $30 (two adults and as many kids you can get in the Mini Cooper).
OK so The OCB is not last. The Mariposa Folk Festival is steamrollering toward July with a number of additions to the concert lineup.
But first, they have to get through the annual audition concert, Apr. 14 at the Mariposa Inn. It’s all afternoon starting at 1 p.m. There are 10 acts, and with three tunes each that’s about three hours of music, not counting switching out the gear between acts.
The performers are: There are Deeps (Hamilton), The Doozies (Oshawa), Our Shotgun Wedding (Owen Sound), The Connors Brothers (Keswick – odd man out is Barbara Dunlop because there are three brothers in the band and the drummer’s first name is Conner), Veranda (Montreal), I, the Mountain (Toronto), John Muirhead (went to Western, so assuming London), RedFox (Montreal), James Gray Music (Emsdale, On.) and SaraRose (Malahide Township, On.).
Usually the musicians are young people taking their first shot at playing on a bigger stage, the culmination of a leg of the journey like the one I’ve been describing throughout this rather long column (thanks for sticking with it).
Admission is free for the audition concert, but not for Betty and the Bobs. They are doing a Mariposa-in-Concert gig Mar. 30 at the Mariposa Inn. What you need to know is none of the three women (Soozi Schlanger, Suzie Vinnick, Katherine Wheatley) are named Betty, and none of the men (Wendell Ferguson, Rich Greenspoon, David Matheson, David Woodhead) are named Bob. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door.
Here are the recognizable names coming in July; Union Duke, Shakur S’Aida, My Son the Hurricane, Melanie, Sharon and Bram, Hawksley Workman, Digging Roots, Carole Pope, First Aid Kit, Fred Penner, The Free Label and Terra Lightfoot (not related to Gord). There are 19 more acts booked.
Get tickets online, there are a number of combinations to choose from – and kids under 12 get in free when with an adult (which is a nice way of getting rid of your brother, who’s been crashing on the couch for 5 months now, and the kids for a day of peace and quiet).
* You’ll recall a couple weeks ago I mentioned a new book by Pegi Eyers, Ancient Spirit Rising. I mistook it as being written from a New Age perspective when in fact it’s a critique of New Age. She asks what were the foundational nation-to-nation agreements in the Americas, with a focus on intercultural competency with First Nations, social justice, the ancestral arts, nature spirituality and the principles of sustainable living, and what can be done to right the wrongs of history. It was a finalist for the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Award. You can get it at Manticore Books.
* In the Arts District… Hibernation Arts has the 3rd of their Wordsmith Series poetry events on Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. with Josh Poitras and Dave Armishaw; admission is $10. Peter Street Fine Arts is featuring Peter Fyfe’s stuff this month and there’s a reception Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. Lee Contemporary, Tango Artspace, Art have works by many and Bakes by the Lake (next to the Brownstone) has art by Marley Scholte mixing the paint with plaster to create some different effects.
* Crime Stoppers and the legion have a fundraiser Saturday night. It’s a dinner show with a side dish of comedy. It’s hosted by Liam Kelly with Lars Classington and Adrian Sawyer. You can get tickets at the legion or by calling 705-325-0646. Tickets are $35 and dinner starts at 6 p.m.
* The folks at St. Paul’s are doing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Apr. 3 to 6, with a matinee on the 6th, and you can do dinner before the show for $25. Tickets are $25, $15 for children under 16, with a group rate available. Get them at the church office Mondays through Thursdays, or at the Bird House downtown. The show on the 3rd is pay what you can.
* Mariposa Arts Theatre’s film night at the Galaxy at 4 and 7 p.m. Apr. 3 is If Beale Street Could Talk. They’re also opening Alan Ayckbourn’s Living Together: A ‘Norman Conquest’ Comedy Apr. 4. It’s a tony and Drama Desk award winning play; middle of a trilogy from the 70s. It will run at the Opera House for two weeks.
* Tiffin’s Creative Centre is re-imagining a section of their store as a gallery. They are planning a show, Dawning of a Bright New Day – the Art of Grace to open Apr. 3 and would like artists interested in participating to call them at 705-325-7205.
* The Opera House has a weekly film festival featuring the best car chase movies (Vanishing Point, Bullitt, the French Connection) starting Apr. 9. Tickets for Matt Andersen and The Mellotones went on sale last week and there aren’t many left.
* The Toronto Mass Choir (Juno Award winning, 2003, Contemporary Christian/Gospel Album of the Year) is performing at a fundraiser for Building Hope Apr. 14 at First Baptist Church. The show is at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but people wearing hats will be on hand.
* The Roots North Music Festival just announced Skye Wallace is performing at the Brownstone on Apr. 26. She won’t start her show until after the main stage concert at St. Paul’s Centre with Arianna Gillis, Rose Cousins and Ron Sexsmith is done. Saturday’s main stage concert is with VK, Alysha Brilla and The Weather Station. There will be an announcement soon who will be at the Brownstone afterward. You can get tickets for the festival online or at Alleycats Music and the capacity is 60% sold.
* The Brownstone has a busy week ahead. Mar. 20 Danielle Knibbe returns to town for a CD, The Ribcage & The Heart, release party; Greg Smith is in Thursday night; Basic White is in Saturday night; Mar. 27 Lee Dunlop plays. Next Friday night Grey Eyes plays and Global Warming opens (both good bands based in Orillia).
* The Geneva has a few things happening soon. Friday night the Quebec band, Outside I’m a Giant¸ swings through town for a show at 8 p.m. Saturday night a great band based in the hinterland of Ramara, Run Rabbit Run, is playing Saturday night, and Parnham’s Cross is opening. It’s a fundraiser for the Orillia Suns Volleyball Club. The Polyester Slackers are playing a fundraiser for Mariposa House Hospice Mar. 30 (tickets at 705-326-3595, 705-329-0202 or Electronic Lifestyles).
* Coming up… The Hog N’ Penny has McGinnis & Marshall in to play Friday night; The Straight Goods are in Saturday… Lake Country Grill has Steph Dunn in Mar. 20; Jitensha is in Mar. 27… the Washago Song Writing Contest happens Mar. 31 at the Community Centre from 2 to 4 p.m.
(Photos by Swartz, feature image supplied)