By John Swartz
Last weekend’s Roots North Music Festival was excellent. In its 5th year, it has evolved into a major event able to compete with other things going on like Friday night’s Old Dance Hall Players imropv night at the Geneva and the Orillia Museum of Art and History’s Mariposa Gala Saturday night and still draw a crowd. It sold out festival passes a week ahead of time.
It got as soft open Thursday night at the Hog ‘N Penny for Bill Dunlop’s trivia night, Roots North version, with Craig Mainprize along to provide the musical clues. Friday night’s main stage audience at St. Paul’s Centre started with a half full house, but by the time Ron Sexsmith performed all the seats were filled. Saturday night’s was about two-thirds full, so some people who had tickets took in other things. That’s OK as long as the seats are sold.
I had great time hearing Ariana Gillis open the show Friday. She performs and writes differently than the last time I saw her, but she still has a powerful voice to wow an audience with. I was not as familiar with Rose Cousins’s stuff, but I really liked the treatment she gave to If You Could Read My Mind. Ron Sexsmith is a marvelous storyteller in song. All three were entertaining in their own way.
However, over at the Brownstone where I saw a set by Skye Wallace was the highlight of the evening. She didn’t bring her band. I’ve never seen her without a band. She does very well all by herself. She commanded the room (half full, mostly hanging out at the other end of the place) and was by far the most animated of all I saw that evening. She also varied the kinds of tunes. Over At St. Paul’s each performer seemed to be in a groove they didn’t want to get out of. Skye was mellow with one tune, wild with the next. She used her guitar more effectively as another voice in her tunes, rather than as chord accompaniment. She also varied tempos and rhythmic themes to a greater degree. My spies tell me the place filled up after I left and she performed even better.
Saturday night Steve and Marnie Van Kessel opened at St. Paul’s They even did a protest song, which, strangely, you don’t hear quite so often at folk gatherings like you used to. It’s not like there isn’t subject material in abundance these days. Next, Alysha Brilla’s music used a lot of subtle Latin (several variations) influences. I’d have to listen to more of her work, but I liked her performance.
Tamara Lindeman, fronting The Weather Station, grabbed attention before playing a note, wearing an orange pant suit, notice of which faded into the background as she performed. Right away she had her band on stage, but they left after a couple tunes so she could work solo at the piano for three tunes. The band came back, players switched roles (bassist went to drums for example) and proceeded to amp the festival up for an ending.
The nice thing about the lineup chosen for the main stage is they were all great musicians. They all had great singing voices and approach songwriting as a craft – all the pieces fit, no dangling parts, or awkward bits. And with each, they have a style of their own that doesn’t pander to an audience expectation of how a musician should write a song. While there might a similarity between each act, there were unique differences. They all know how to perform as though they belong on a stage, are comfortable out there. It looks easy, but it’s not. It’s as though each was thinking, “I’m going to do this song, you may not have heard it before, you may not like it – at first, but you’re going to like how I perform it.”
Music for Kids
There’s nothing like a teenager with too much to do to get into trouble. Being involved in music making seems to be the one thing that takes care of that (unless you’re trying to crack the NHL).
I hear some people complain about young people especially when one goes off the rails (hey, they’re teenagers, that’s their job), but I don’t often hear those people putting in time or money to help out.
Well, you can by getting a ticket for Friday night’s concert by Lance Anderson, Quisha Wint and Russ Boswell. Its dinner theater and tickets are $150 with food by Eclectic Café.
The money will go to the Valis Sound Studio the youth center is establishing. Some of the money will go into the Nelson Bell bursary fund.
I think setting up a recording studio is an excellent idea and having spent a lot of time in studios working on videos and music I can vouch for how it can eat time like you wouldn’t believe. I also know many of the kids who frequent the youth center do so because of music. A studio is something they’ve dreamed of having for a very long time.
There are still some tickets available. Who knows, one day you could be listening to the radio, or watching a program and be able to say, ‘You know, that performer, I helped them get to where they are.” And you ate well and listened fantastically while you did it. Get tickets here.
Gala Night And More
The OMAH Mariposa Gala was s schmoozy affair, as it is intended. Wine, food, art, being seen, it was all there. The gala is a fundraiser for the museum’s children’s and youth art programs.
It helps pay for supplies and instructors beyond what OMAH believes is an affordable rate to charge participants. They even have provision for transportation for young people who live beyond the end of the bus routes. The focus of programs benefitting from the fundraiser is to develop talent for further opportunity and education. Last year for example, they ran a program for youth about how to develop a portfolio, which they could then use for post-secondary admissions purposes.
They’re still counting, by executive director, Ninette Gyorody, said they raised between $14,000 and $15,000.
Last Thursday OMAH had a reception to open three exhibits. Scott Sawtell’s Playful Banquet: An Anthropomorphic Apocalyptic Feast is on the main floor. If your eyes are feeling a little droopy, have a look, they’ll be wide open when taking in all he’s got hanging around. No small pieces here and no colours absent.
Upstairs the main gallery has Mnjikaning: Mapping the Life of the Gaudaurs. Did you know the first Caucasian baby born in Orillia was a Gaudaur? That the Gaudaurs and the Shillings have some commingling of genes? There’s more to learn.
In the hermetically sealed Carmichael Gallery see Styling Orillia: A Look Back at Our Fashionable Past. They got that title right, our grandmother’s knew how to dress to impress. I’m not so sure I’d have wanted to be a teenager back then. Sure most of the dresses on display went from Adam’s Apple (do women have those?) to ankle, but they sure were slinky.
May 8 OMAH’s annual Carmichael History Lecture happens at 7:30 p.m. Robert Browne is going to talk about father-in-law’s (Emmanuel Hahn) Bluenose and Caribou coins, and Tony Bianco has designed so many coins for the mint he can always pay for parking. He just announced the release of a new gold coin for the 100th anniversary of CN Rail.
High School Stuff
Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School students did High School Musi-pocalypse last Thursday and Friday nights. I caught them in dress rehearsal, sat right up front instead of at the back like usual. It’s so hard to write an effective review of anything done in a gymnatorium, the acoustics are so bad. Harder with students who don’t know how to project well and the mics are still being tuned for a paying audience.
Rafael Martinez and Isabel Livie were the leads and seemed to be doing a good job. The standout for me was Victoria Fugedi who played a teacher at the mythical high school. She had a compelling stage presence. Lily Osburn and Evan Savoie had a couple of good comedic features they pulled off well.
Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. the Jazz Band has a dinner (meat balls, quiche) and jazz music (Woodchooper’s Ball, Blue Rondo à la Turk, other standards) on order. Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for kids, family of 4 $30. You can order them by emailing James Hilts at firstname.lastname@example.org or buy them at the school office. May 23 is their annual spring concert. It happens from 7 to 9 p.m. at the school.
Orillia Concert Band
While we have James Hilts in the crosshairs, the Orillia Concert Band has a concert May 25 at St. Paul’s Centre. The guest is Liz Anderson. I expect if you have heard her sing before you are already marking this one in your calendar. If you haven’t, you are missing one of the best singers who ever answered the phone at Ron Johnson Insurance, or anywhere else for that matter.
Liz is going sing, an old classic her mom, Pat, loves, At Last (Etta James), Gordon Lightfoot’s If You Could Read My Mind, and 4 others. Tickets are $15, $10 for students, $5 for elementary aged kids, free for the squirmy ones, and a family 4 pack is $30 and you can get them at the door.
Orillia Silver Band
Last on the band concerts, but not least, because it’s happening May 12, is the Orillia Silver Band gig at the Opera House (got to keep the narrative flow going).
The lineup of tunes is fantastic. They have a piece by Paul Lovatt-Cooper, a drummer who writes some of the best modern original bands charts, called Horizons. They’ll also do Good Vibrations, God Only Knows, and Girl From Impanema – that’s just in the first half. The second features a great piece by Malcolm Arnold called Four Scottish Dances (sorry bagpipe fans, not in this piece). Get tickets at the Opera House box office.
While we’re in the Opera House vicinity, they have Matt Andersen and the Mellotones in May 8, Classic Albums Live does Houses of the Holly May 9, and The Kiwanis Music Festival’s festival Encore’s concert is May 21.
The last Orillia Concert Association event of their season is May 5 with Kerry Stratton and the Toronto Concert Orchestra. Vincent Cheng is filling in for Kerry, who has ALS and can no longer conduct. This is a great loss to Canadian music. Kerry is supposed to be in attendance, so this might a good opportunity to meet him. Of all the conductors I’ve seen work in person, he is without doubt the finest.
Also, See My Voice (black light theater) happens May 7 at 4:30 and 7 p.m. and there is a fundraiser for Green Haven Shelter for Women May 15. Beausoleil First Nation playwright Zigwen Mixmong’s Empty Regalia tells the story of 5 Indigenous women whose lives were cut short because they were Indian. Tickets are $30.
* The Kiwanis Music Festival is on right now. All the action is at St. Paul’s Centre through to May 10. You can see the schedule here. Take some time to stop by and see what the kids are up to.
* Sisters Meaghan and Marie Wright, and Joseph Huyer drove across Canada to learn more about using business as a force for good. The result is the documentary The Social Shift, and you can see it May 1 at St. Paul’s Centre at 7 p.m. It’s presented by a number of groups, and there will be information booths from some of the area’s social enterprises. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.
* Saturday night soprano Amy Dodington and mezzo Lillian Brooks with accompanist Doreen Uren Simmons have a concert at St. Paul’s starting at 7 p.m. Admission is $20, or pay what you can. Some of the proceeds go to the Orillia Youth Centre.
* Craig Mainprize is having a one day art sale May 11. He’s got a new project in hand and needs to buy more paint. Everything is $200 regardless of size. It happens at upstairs 5 Peter Street South, room 202, starting at 10 a.m. until 6 or when they’re all gone.
* Hibernation Arts has a new show, Abstractly Thinking May 4 and Bling for Mother (work by Cheryl Sartor and Donna Howlett) starts May 7. The Orillia Fine Arts Association is prepping for an exhibit end of May featuring post cards. It’s a fundraiser for Mariposa House Hospice with all proceeds to that project. The exhibition will be at Peter Street Fine Arts with the opening reception June 1 at 1 p.m. Get more info here.
* The June 8 Leacock Medal dinner tickets are on sale now at the museum. These always sell out and are $75. June 7 is the meet the authors night at the Mariposa Inn and tickets are $20. You have to go to the museum to get tickets. See Tuesday’s story for the list of nominated books.
* 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. Recently added to the lineup are Phil Oritz (Simpsons and He-Man), Mike Decarlo, Leonard Kirk and there will be an all day Dungeons and Dragons tournament. Get tickets here.
* Tickets are on sale now for the ShineBrite Festival at the Coldwater Arena. It happens June 8. The legion is operating the bar, the Lions Club of Coldwater is running a food concession, and there are 9 bands playing starting at noon. You can get tickets at TNT Fine Lingerie, or online.
* Coming up… Lake Country Grill has Chris Lemay playing May 1; Steph Dunn is in May 8… Paul Court, with Scott Thomas, has a house concert May 4, email email@example.com… The Hog ‘N Penny has Jazz Trio in Friday night; The Straight Good play Saturday night… the last Mariposa Arts Theatre film might of the season is May 1 at the Galaxy with Wild Rose at 7 p.m. … Paul Brooks is playing at Rustica Pizza Vino May 12 for Mother’s Day (which means reservations, 705-259-6000)
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia, or Submitted)