This week in Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

The Washago Song contest happened Sunday at the community center with 10 entries getting to perform and take a shot at a $500 prize. There was an entry by John Lebarr that didn’t get to compete, though it was a finalist, because John wasn’t able to be there to perform his song. We did get to see the video version.

Of course, each song was about Washago. The majority were of the folk tune variety, with maybe a country influence. A couple were pop sounding, but the winner, Rick Pearce, had a straight ahead rock tune that everyone in my range of sight was bopping to.

Gord Valiquette was second with a virtual lyric tour of Washago landmarks. The judges, me, Cheryl Hill, Jimmy Johnson and Mike Vandyk agreed on one thing, we couldn’t agree which tune was the best. The audience’s pick was the 5th camp.

My general observation is, with a task at hand to write about something specific musicians around here can produce pretty good songs. I didn’t hear any that were poorly written, though a couple were more complex constructions. I think familiarity is a factor because each songwriter wrote from a personal perspective, their experience of Washago, as opposed to a generic or ‘touch the bases’ exercise.

Doug Shakell ran the contest. Washago Lions Club members took charge of the hospitality end, and there were a lot of people in the hall for the event.  Afterward, Jimmy and Mike got up on stage and played some old Doug Trucker tunes. It was good to hear those songs again; I had forgotten how good they were, and how good Jimmy is as a guitarist and vocalist.

Rick Pearce, left, contest winner.

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Washago Song Contest


Saturday night Betty and the Bobs played a Mariposa-in-Concert gig at the Mariposa Inn. I only stayed for half of the show, and it was hard to move on because they were playing fantastically. The show was sold out. I was particularly impressed with Dave Woodhead’s turn in the spotlight. I think we’ve all experienced the moment when the bassist steps up to shine and wondered, what the heck was that? The band actually played an instrumental tune (I forget the name of it) with the bass as the lead voice. When the ‘here’s my chops’ solo part in the middle arrived, it was more a melodic construct than a series of arpeggiated runs up and down the fret board.

Then off to the Geneva to catch the Polyester Slackers playing a benefit for Mariposa House Hospice. They raised more than $3,000 and had a full house.  The band sounded a lot better than last time out playing a number of 80s tunes and making them sound not so 80s. Mariano Tulipano was in good spirits, he told me the day before he had a guitar roadie for the first time, so he wouldn’t have to change tunings and waste time between songs. It was kind of funny watching him remember he had a guitar waiting to be strapped on, as in – ‘oh, yeah.’

The Geneva has Yuk Yuks comics in Apr. 13 with Adrienne Fish, Jarrett Campbell and Rob Pue.

Friday night I caught Global Paradise, finally. I heard about 6 tunes and as they got to the end of their set they played better. The last three tunes certainly caught everyone’s attention. Grey Eyes was next. Aaron Mangoff is a unique singer and songwriter and it’s always a pleasure to hear him perform. A good dose of rock live and in your face is also good.


The folks at St. Paul’s Centre have their self-produced production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat happening Apr. 3 to 6.

MIchael Abernethy is Joseph

Michael Abernethy is Joseph, Julia Johnston has the part of the Narrator. There are 61 people in the cast.

If you intend to go, you better call the church office first thing tomorrow, or go there, because there aren’t many seats left. You can also get them at the Bird House downtown.

Mariposa Arts Theatre has a play starting Thursday and running for two weeks at the Opera House. They are doing Alan Ayckbourn’s Living Together. Its part of what Ayckbourn called the Norman Conquest trilogy. Each part stands on its own as a play which can be seen in any order without anyone feeling like they have to catch up on the story line.

The plays were premiered in 1973, but it took until 2009 to win a Tony Award for Best Revival, and it also picked up three Drama Desk Awards the same year.

Dancing Docs

Who knew doctors were so competitive. The 8 doctors (Bill Tillmann, Allison McFarlane, Howard Bloom, Leo Lam, Kimberly Perryman, Jessica Green and Anjana Chawla) are collecting pledges toward the $30,000 goal for Couchiching Jubilee House’s Dancing with the Docs event Saturday night. Tickets to attend were sold out immediately, so there’s $20,000, and right now they are about $1,200 shy of the rest.

That’s because Allison McFarlane walked in last week with the contents of the tip jar from her office and jumped into second place on the leader board behind Bill. Then Anjana moved up with online pledges ahead of the formerly second place Leo Lam – by $20. Bill has a comfortable lead, so the battle is for #2. You can pledge online here.


You haven’t got your Orillia Museum of Art and History  Mariposa Gala tickets yet? It’s the wine and cheese and other kinds of food fundraiser OMAH is having at Lakehead University April 27. The gala starts at 7 p.m., but VIP tickets get you in at 6 for something special, food by Tre Sorelle, an artist talk with Tony Bianco, an extra wine pairing – and a chance to win a two hour performance by the Will Davis Trio wherever you choose (except there, they won’t play there).

Tony Bianco’s Commemorative Canadian Mint coin.

Tickets are on sale now for the annual Carmichael History Lecture May 3. Robert Browne is going to talk about father-in-law, Emmanuel Hahn’s famous Bluenose and Caribou coins, and Tony Bianco has designed over 100 coins for the mint. He just announced the release of a new coin for the 100th anniversary of CN Rail. Get tickets now, the last few monthly history speaker’s night shave been sold out.

There’s a new exhibit up at OMHA. Styling Orillia: A Look Back At Our Fashionable Past can be seen starting Saturday. The opening reception for this and two other exhibits will be Apr. 25 at 7 p.m. Also, you can take advantage of a bus strip to the AGO Apr. 16 to see the Impressionism in the Age of Industry exhibit; you have to register, 705-326-2159, by Apr. 9. The monthly History Speaker’s night is Apr. 17 with a presentation by students from Orillia Secondary School called Orillia Soldiers Who Fought on D-Day.

Artists – Pay Attention

Here’s why you should look in the junk mail folder frequently. I just discovered this note from weeks ago and thought I missed telling the artists looking in about something important.

The Orillia 202 Winter Games committee is looking for an artist to design the 2020 Winter Games medal. Tony Bianco designed the medal for the 2018 Games. He’s on the committee and will work with an artist to create the new medal.  People can attend a meeting with Tony and games officials Apr. 16 at 7 p.m. in the main floor boardroom at City Hall.

Orillia banner project

There’s more for artists, the City of Orillia wants to commission someone to make 5 banners to hang on Mississaga Street and Centennial Drive. They want submissions of concepts for each of the Leacock Museum, the Opera House, Downtown Orillia, a cycling theme and the Mnjikaning Fish Fence.

Details are here and they are paying $1,500 for all 5. Deadline for submissions is April 12.

This is the first project for the new Art in Public Places committee to oversee. There’s another project happening too. There are pianos at the waterfront and Tudhope Park and someone has to decorate them. If you have an idea send it to  by April 21. There is $500 compensation for each piano involved. Oh, and they need change he pianos every year, so if you have one to get rid of, send a note to the same email address.

Summer Music Festivals

What a summer it could turn out to be. There are a number of music festivals happening in our neighbourhood besides Roots North, Mariposa, and Boots and Hearts.

Edenvale is where Roxodous is happening July 11 to 14. Headliners are Nickleback, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kid Rock and Areosmith . Several of the warm up acts could be headliners o their own – Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, Collective Soul, Big Wreck, Billy Idol, Blondie, Alice Cooper, Peter Frampton, Matthew Good, and Theory of a Deadman. Saga will be there (I think I just saw a couple bug-eyes with that) and I Mother Earth.  

Saturday July 20 is a one day affair at Burl’s Creek with the Big Sky Music Festival. It’s a country lineup with Alabama, Travis Tritt, Diamond Rio, Jason McCoy, and others. Of course Burl’s Creek is where Boots and Hearts happens Aug. 8 to 11. I guess I’m not up to date on country music, I only recognize one name, Jason Aldean, on the list of performers, as opposed to Big Sky where I’m familiar with the names and their music. That doesn’t mean anything, I’ve often said I’ll go to see any country band live because on the whole they are usually better musicians than other genres.

All those are on a list at BlogTo compiled of the best music festivals in Ontario (not including Toronto). We have 6 of the 15 on the list, all within 30 minutes of Orillia (if you are driving with me).

But here’s more. Tickets are on sale now for a new festival June 8 at the Coldwater Arena. The Shine Brite Festival is a fundraiser for a bunch of worthy causes like The Orillia Youth Centre’s Valis Sound Studio project, Cody’s House Mental Health Centre and Mikey’s Place. The headliners (Hells Bells and Practically Hip) as well as the undercard of Crued, Early Elton and Crush are clone bands. However, Shoot the Moon, Liquidcristal and the Straight Goods are from this area.

On top of all that the chamber of commerce is planning to have music every weekend, or close to it, at the Port of Orillia all summer.

April 26 / 27 Downtown

Of immediate concern is Roots North which happens April 26 and 27. The main stage is at St. Paul’s Centre. The Friday night program has Ariana Gills, Rose Cousins and Ron Sexsmith playing in that order. Saturday night its VK (who have a new album coming soon), Alysha Brilla, and the Weather Station.

After the show the Brownstone has Skye Wallace in Friday and Lost Cousins in Saturday. Something tells me they missed a marketing opportunity by not scheduling the reverse (Rose Cousins is playing Friday night, Lost Cousins Saturday?). Brewery Bay also has music. Friday night is not settled yet (that’s not a band name, it’s really not settled), and Saturday Zachary Lucky is in.  The Hog N’ Penny’s trivia night on Thursday before the festival has Craig Mainprize in to stickhandle questions about Roots North; on Friday night Jamie Drake will play.

You can get festival passes online or at Alleycats Music downtown.

The Shorts

*  Lakehead University students have an exhibit, #WERX, Thursday from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at the Orillia Public Library. This is the annual showcase by media studies program and all students get to participate.

*  The Orillia Vocal Ensemble has a concert Sunday at 3 p.m. at St. Paul’s Centre. All OVE concerts are fundraisers and this time the Alzheimer Society of Simcoe County is the beneficiary.

*  There are still tickets available for Lance Anderson, with Russ Boswell and Quisha Wint, at St. Paul’s Center May 3. It’s a fundraiser for the Orillia Youth Centre’s Valis Sound Studio project and the Nelson Bell bursary. Get tickets ($150) at Alleycats Music or online.

*  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.

Cottage Countrycon is back for another year. It happens May 19 at the Mariposa Inn. This year’s headliner is Jim Shooter, who began writing for DC Comics at the age of 14, and eventually became editor in chief at Marvel Comics.  

*  Coming up… the Brownstone has Fresh Breath playing Friday night; Mattie Leon and Brother Mike in Saturday night; Colin Fowlie and Brooklyn Doran play Monday night… The Hog N’ Penny has Jazz Trio (Suds Sutherland, Randy Hoover) playing Friday night; Nicole Duquette is in Saturday night…  Lake Country Grill has Chris Lemay playing Apr. 3; Steph Dunn is in Apr. 10… the Opera House has a weekly film festival featuring the best car chase movies (Vanishing Point, Bullitt, the French Connection) starting Apr. 9… the St. David choir, with Brent Mayhew conducting, are doing the cantata Body of Christ by contemporary American composer Pepper Choplin on Apr. 20 at 4 p.m. at St. David Anglican Church… Jackob Pearce and Hobo Jam area playing the ANAF club Saturday night.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Rick Pearce, center, with band mates and the $500 Washago Song contest prize.

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