By John Swartz
Things are going to be busy for the next 2 weeks. But first we need to spend some time with the Orillia Regional Arts and History Awards.
Huh? It’s new, but it’s old. The Orillia District Arts Council has had the ODAC Awards for a long time and the Orillia Museum of Art and History has had their history awards every other year. This time around both thought they’d give holding the awards jointly on Nov. 27 at the Geneva Event Centre. The awards they give should be Reece’s Pieces.
It’s a month away, but having an awards presentation without nominees is like having the Stanley Cup finals in Toronto – something else has to happen first. This is where you come in.
Many of you have been to concerts, plays, art exhibitions, festivals and all sorts of other things and had a great time, maybe even walked away thinking, it just doesn’t get any better than that. I know I have many times.
On the other hand, it’s hard to remember exactly who did what and where during the last 12 months. I have the benefit of being able to search back through my columns and stories to refresh my memory. You do too, but your Google skills need to be in top form, whereas I know exactly what I’m looking for, if I can remember what file name I gave it.
I’m going to help a little with a short listing of the things that I think were extraordinary. You can then do the rest by agreeing or being reminded of something else you think is worthy and fill out a nomination form and get it in by 4 p.m. Oct. 25.
That’s next Friday. You need to act.
There are 5 categories. One is Education in Arts, Culture and Heritage. This doesn’t have to be a teacher in the school system, but anyone who has gone above passing on knowledge. Jeffrey Moellman, Robin Watson, Karen Brodie, Juliana Hawke, Mayumi Kumagai, Ted Duff, Suds Sutherland and Dave Austin, and Daniel Bazinet have won the award in past years.
This year, with inclusion of the history/heritage aspect, Leanne Young is someone I think should get a nomination because of her work organizing the Orillia Secondary School trip to Juno Beach. Some of the students did a presentation about the trip at the History Speaker’s Night last spring, and again tonight (7:30 p.m. at OMAH) and will be doing so at the Take A Vet to Dinner event next week. Fellow OSS teacher Lindsay Cooper-Wagner goes the extra mile to expose her art students to the other artists in town and to OMAH.
Tim Kehoe flies under the radar because most people think of him as a performer, but he’s been teaching young people to play guitar for many years at Gilbert Guitars. He’s such an enthusiastic guy and very knowledgeable about all kinds of music. Travis Shilling and Naomi Woodman have been running the Otter Art Club, they take their students out to the Mariposa Folk Festival for workshops and have exhibitions for them. Mike Howell has been quietly teaching art at Parks Recreation and Culture programs for several years; last year he figured it was time his students got some attention and organized the Spirit of Hope show at the Opera House.; I know he’s planning another exhibition too.
Another category is the Emerging Artist. As the name implies, this is intended for those who sprang up from who knows where. Of course emerging is a relative term, Cicada’s take 17 years to dig their way out of the ground. With that thought in mind, Reay qualifies. The band is called Reay, but the brains and songwriting talent are all Sean Murray, and it took him 15 years to put together an album, Butterfly Tongue (Revisited), (brand new video released on the weekend), which I’m finding out music journals and influencers around the continent are agreeing with me, it’s much better than excellent. Of course, I said a while ago it’s the best album anyone with an Orillia address has put out ever, except for Gord’s.
That said, Steven and Marni Van Kessel made a great album last year too. Yeah they had one the year before, but the new one kind of found a lot more light.
The Old Town Hall Players came into their own this past year with several excellent improv shows at the Geneva. They’ve taken their act on the road and developed other audiences too.
Jesse Collins has been the artistic director of summer theater at the Opera House for a few years. He’s directed almost all the plays and the last two years have been outstanding. He’s not really new to the game in the theater world, but I defy any two of you to point him out at the mall.
Next is the Heritage Award for Restoration, Renovation and Publication. Next year is going to be tough because three downtown properties are getting restorations, but this year, eh, not so much. Wait. Mariposa Market and Apple Annie’s just opened additions that play off the older parts of the buildings they occupy downtown, so maybe they fit here.
On the other hand, Dave Town has been overlooked in the past for his many fine books and I think a nomination for his newest book about Orillia’s red light district deserves to be recognized with a nomination. At the other end of the lake (surrounding township happenings qualify for the awards) the Washago water tower got a fresh look. I almost forgot about Makers Market. Have you been in? What a fantastic job they’ve done with their downtown store (actually building owner Mariano Tulipano has been working his way through all the units he owns in the building).
The Events in Arts, Culture and Heritage Award is the 4th category. I did not go to any of the next three, but I was told about them and my experience is when enough people are talking it must have been good. So the Pow Wow (which I heard had people parking in Longford Mills) had attendance off the charts this year. The Orillia Heritage Centre had their mitts into two events that came off well. The boat show at the Leacock Museum last summer was very good I was told by many; and, well, the Orillia Industrial History exhibit at OMAH doesn’t open until the weekend, but they put together a video about Dorr Oliver Long for it that’s interesting. Actually they have several videos on their Youtube page, including a recent one about their La France fire engine.
The Orillia Centre for Arts & Culture’s Looking for Elvis and The Man in Black dance program last June was incredibly great. I say that as someone who just doesn’t get modern dance, well, most of it. I don’t think anyone left the Opera House disappointed.
Two other events happen quite regularly, Starry Night and Mariposa, but both events this summer exceeded billing. Starry Night had the largest crowd in their 15 years and Mariposa’s main stage didn’t look as fantastic on paper as the previous two years, but then no one should underestimate their ability to put together entertaining concerts, 2019 was excellent.
Now the big one, the Quennefer Browne Achievement Award. This is open to groups or individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to cultural life. It doesn’t have to be for things on stage, or as the focus of attention. For that reason, Steve Orr should get a nomination for all the financial resources he puts into so many groups and events that happen here. Thor Motors also puts their chequebook where it counts too.
However, no one nominated the Orillia Silver Band last year for a 2018 concert season that was out of this world – and then they turned around and went even higher this past year. For a little town to have a band which plays as well as these folks do (there are very few comparisons for their level of performance – and they are all professionally motivated amateurs) is remarkable. When we have a performance group as great as the OSB, the least someone can do is nominate them. Put it this way, I can’t wait to hear their next concert Oct. 27 at the Opera House.
Of course, Reay and Sean Murray belong in this category, I believe, simply because of the outstanding quality of the music and the recording they produced.
I know I said I could review all my previous columns, but as I got into this things were just coming to mind and I only had to search for minor details. I’m absolutely sure I’m overlooking worthy qualifiers for nominations.
So, I’m guessing some of you are thinking, “why doesn’t Swartz nominate them?” Good point. I probably could, but I’m uncomfortable doing that about any of the things I write about. I’m also the emcee for the awards night, so that would look kind of crappy. Not me on award night, nominating someone. I’m going to try and not look crappy on award night, you be the judge.
The evening program starts at 5:30 p.m. with schmoozing and the awards giving at 6 p.m. Last year there were 140 people in attendance. The Geneva holds more, so let’s try and set a record attendance two years in a row. There’s no admission charge, but get there early.
Jazz Festival Weekend
This is it. Tomorrow night is opening night for the Orillia Jazz Festival. The only event is a performance by the Danny McErlain Trio (Chris Robinson – sax, Peter Telford – bass, McErlain – piano). Get tickets here.
Friday night all three high school jazz bands will be performing at the Geneva at 7 p.m. The Geneva and Topps In Pizza are sponsoring, admission is by donation, and that money will in turn be donated to the Orillia Youth Centre.
Saturday the Orillia Jazz Festival Rising Stars Solo Competition happens at the Opera House. Students will be judged by John Johnson and Shirantha Beddage and the backup band for the competitors (on sax, guitar, trumpet or trombone) is Brassworks. It’s at 1:30 p.m. at the Opera House and it’s free. Up for grabs are $400, $200 and $100 scholarships.
Saturday evening’s concert features Brassworks, John Johnson, Shirantha Beddage, Christina Bosco, Danny McErlain, the Orillia All-Star Jazz Band (a collection of students from the high schools), and the winner of the Rising Star Solo Competition. Get tickets at the same link as above.
Sunday at 2 p.m. at St. Paul’s Centre Lance Anderson’s newest tribute show, Maiden Voyage: A Tribute to Herbie Hancock will happen. This is going to be fantastic. You know Herbie’s Watermelon Man, Rockit and Chameleon, even if you don’t think you do. And there’s a ton of other music he did that’s great. Of course Herbie isn’t playing, but Russ Boswell, John Johnson, William Sperendei, and Charlie Cooley are. In order they’ve played in bands with Holly Cole, the Boss Brass, Harry Connick Jr., and Manteca. Tickets
The venue schedule for Friday night, Saturday morning, afternoon, evening and Sunday afternoon is pretty good. You can see the whole thing online.
Orillia Silver Band
The OSB opens their concert season Oct. 27 with a 2:30 p.m. concert at the Opera House. This is going to be great because they are playing a piece of music called The Light Fantastic. I first heard this piece in 2013 and I’ve been suggesting they might do it ever since. Well, after last year’s final concert, before I had a chance to say, I really think you guys should… I was told they were doing it. And they recorded it a couple weeks ago for their new CD. Click the link and listen to it. First thing you think is, the OSB can play music like that? Yes they can.
They’re also going to play The Hall of the Mountain King, the 1812 Overture and another piece by the same composer as Light, An Untold Story. It’s a benefit for Hillcrest Lodge and you can get tickets online.
* The DOMB has it’s the Nightmare on Peter Street Oct. 23. Take a guided tour of The Orillia Museum of Art and History and the Opera House. The Old Dance Hall Players are going to be performing in the Studio Theatre. It’s an organized tour affair, some downtown merchants are participating and tickets are $25, which you can get online.
* October 26 the DOMB has the Kids Costume Parade from noon to 3 p.m. starting at Studabakers. Bring a lunch pail to get sweet stuff from participating merchants.
* Orillia’s Fright Night Haunted House is at 370 Gill Street Oct. 30 and 31 from 5:30 to 11 p.m. A group called Kckreations is behind it. It’s free, donations accepted. They also have an after party with a bonfire and other stuff. There’s a costume contest with cash prizes and you can get tickets and more information here.
* ODAC’s annual general meeting is Oct. 22 at 5:30 p.m. at St. James’ Anglican Church. Visit their website before you go and catch up on the history of ODAC, maybe take out a membership, and plan to be there.
* The Mariposa Folk Festival’s winter concert Oct. 26 is with an Echoes of Mariposa event. The Echoes are designed to give audiences a second crack at some of the previous summer festival’s performers. Rick Fines, The Doozies and James Gray will be playing at St. Paul’s Centre. Tickets are $35 in advance.
* The theme for next year’s Streets Alive art project downtown is a cool little contraption called the Hippie Van. All the details and application forms are at OMAH. Why vans? It fits with next year’s 60th Mariposa Folk Festival. You have to have your application in by Nov. 15.
* The Orillia Museum of Art and History has the Industrial Legacy: A History of Dorr-Oliver-Long opening reception Oct. 19 at 1 p.m. Also see Ingrid Mayrhofer’s After Krieghoff and Pest Control, works by John Ross and Amy Swartz. Also up is Tina Poplawski’s When The Green Dark Forest Was Too Silent To Be Real. Peter Street Fine Arts has oils and acrylics by Roger Pockett this month. At Hibernation Arts see Mary Jo Pollack’s Equinox; Wordsmith this month has the Fall Group Show opens October 19; the gallery concert is Oct. 24 with Buck and a Half (admission $20).
* Coming up… at the Brownstone Thursday night its Pride Night; Ice Cream opens for Zeus Friday night; Suitcase Sam is in Saturday; Copper Viper plays Oct. 23… the Hog ‘N Penny has trivia night with Bill Dunlop every Thursday evening… Jakob Pearce plays every Thursday evening at Kensingtons… Irish Mythen is at St. Paul’s Centre Nov. 8; get tickets here… the Opera House has Second City’s Cure for the Common Comedy is Oct. 18; Anne Marie Scheffler’s MILF Life Crisis is Oct. 24; Zachary Lucky’s album release concert is Oct. 25… Lance Anderson has a matinee of his Last Waltz show happening November 15 at Peter’s Players… MAT’s next film night at the Galaxy is Nov. 6 with Where’d You Go Bernadette… the 6th Annual Ugly Sweater Bowling Party is December 13; tickets go fast… the Geneva has the Polyester Slackers’s 80s Halloween Party Oct. 25 with DJ Rudy pushing play before the band goes on; tickets Are $10 at Gilbert Guitars or at the door; the Old Dance Hall Players are in Oct. 26; get tickets at the door or email firstname.lastname@example.org in advance.