This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

We have reached a point in time when I feel comfortable leading with Christmas stuff – because it’s Christmas Prelude time.

That’s right; the Orillia Concert Band’s Christmas Prelude is Saturday at St. Paul’s Centre. I know there have already been three seasonal events/concerts, but for the longest time the Prelude was the first big event of the season and for me it’s the beginning of the season.

A bit of back story, I grew up in retail, and I do mean grew up. My dad owned a jewellery store and from the moment I knew which end of a broom was up I had a job. Except for a brief period of time I had to get out (disagreement with the boss) and escaping when I was on the road with drum corps, I was chained to it. I really hated the Christmas season, which combined with the crappy weather of southern Ontario meant winter altogether.

Orillia saved me. Until recently winters were much more tolerable, and two or three decades distance and making good friends warmed me up to feeling like most of the rest of you – Christmas is a good time of year.

It was at a Christmas Prelude, sitting in the balcony, when my attitude changed. I don’t know if it was the music, everyone singing the Hallelujah Chorus out of tune, looking down on the house and seeing so many people I knew, or what, but I realized I was home. Orillia is my home. Of course, Clayt French told me I still had a few years before I could say I was an Orillian, but that’s another story.

So Christmas Prelude is special to me, and it should be to you too. There are other events ahead, but this is the beginning of the end of this year.

The evening concert is full of Christmas music, with Polar Express and Frozen for the kids and a couple tunes, Meridian by Ola Gjeilo and  Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, for those who need something more serious. The St. Paul’s chancel choir is joining them for sets in each half of the concert and to perform Meridian. It starts at 7:30 p.m.

In the afternoon a short version of the concert happens at 3:30 p.m. The serious stuff ad a couple of other tunes are dropped, but Twas The Night Before Christmas is added. Apparently, some escapee from the North Pole House of Detention is rumoured to be there; he’s only supposed to get a day pass (or night pass) once a year later in December, so someone might find it special. The Samuel de Champlain children’s choir will be performing too.

Tickets are available at the door. The most it will cost is $20 (two adults plus rug rats) for the afternoon concert, or $30 (2 adults and your almost-well-behaved children) for the evening show. Any other combo will be less than those prices.

More Christmas

The Leacock Museum has their 4th annual Nutcracker Afternoon Tea December 8 and 15 from 11 a.m., to 2 p.m. It’s in the house and somehow or other they have readings from, and by, someone named Leacock You can reserve tickets online. The Hawkestone Singer’s Christmas Concert is December 14 at the Hawkestone Community Hall; call 705-503-2833 for tickets.

The Orillia Vocal Ensemble has two concerts happening. December 8 they are at St. Paul’s Centre for a 3 p.m. concert. They always raise money for a cause and this time it’s Lakehead University’s Humanities 101 program. Laura Aylan-Parker and Dean Jobin-Bevans are the soloists. December 14 their annual Thor Motors concert happens from 1 to 3 p.m. and the Sharing Place is the beneficiary.

The Cellar Singers’s concert is 7:30 p.m. December 14 at St. James’ featuring Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols and Conrad Susa’s Christmas in the Southwest and you can get tickets online or at the door.

The Opera House has the Barra MacNeils performing December 5; the Christmas Panto is Wizard of Oz Dec. 6; Duck Soup Productions is doing Found December 7 and 8; Next Generation Leahy Christmas is December 12; the 2019 Canadian Country Christmas Concert is December 13; the Orillia Silver Band’s Christmas concert is December 15 at 2:30 p.m. St. Paul’s Centre has Marie Bottrell’s Home for the Holidays December 14 at 2 p.m., but get your tickets at the Opera House link above.

New to the list is Merry Streets Alive Christmas 2019. Leslie Fournier has organized a photo op with Deb Halbot in the alley next to Stuffed on Peter Street and you can pick up original ornaments. December 6 it starts at 6:30 p.m. and the galleries in the Arts District will be open. December 14 it happens at 11:30 a.m.

Jubilee Chorale Choir has their Christmas Treats concert at 2:30 p.m. December 15 at St. David Anglican/Lutheran Church. There’s a bake sale at 1 p.m. There’s also a draw for Christmas hampers after the concert. Admission is by free will offering and a portion of proceeds is donated to St. David programs.

New Music

This past week two albums made by our own have gone public. Aaron Mangoff’s Separate starts with a couple tunes which sound similar in style to what I’ve heard from him before. He likes his distorted guitar and higher register vocals, which borders on seemingly indistinguishable noise, ethereal lyrics, and the rest of the sound all on one plane in kind of a Phil Spector wall of sound conglomeration. Individual things poke out of the mix when he wants you to hear them, but most of the time you’re just getting a sense of the key progression from the music and that he’s singing something (the something becomes more distinguishable on subsequent listens).

After the first two tunes, things change quite a bit. He mixes genres, a little funk / R&B / soul with hip hop, and of course rock. It’s different and nice to listen to. There were even a few times I had flashes of Peter Gabriel sneaking into mind. From the middle tunes to the end of the 9-song playlist we get to hear Aaron’s voice more distinctively, there’s a little less guitar and more beat.

The drums though, this he did differently than I’ve heard before. He has worked with John Lawrence or Matt Copeland on other projects, but this sounded like electronic drums. Normally I’m not a fan of the drums taking center stage in the mix, but in this case with the way Aaron has them EQ’d, gated and compressed, they make sense on every tune.

I get the sense with most of Aaron’s music over the years he’s more about surrounding you with the sound than hitting you in the face with it.  

There’s a unifying sound to the album, but each tune is different in one or more qualities. What I like about Aaron’s writing is he takes off unexpectedly, like driving down a road and jumping lanes at whim, you’re still on the same road, going the same direction, but he’s not going to let you get bored staring at the shoulder or middle rail.

There are no other musicians listed and Aaron lives in Vancouver now, so I didn’t get to speak with him about the album. He didn’t put the Starved at the Root, or Grey Eyes, band names to it, so solo it is, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he recorded all the instruments himself.

This being the season, if someone you know is into rock, metal, progressive or any of the guitar driven sub-genres, you could buy this online (click the album title linked above) and send it at to your chosen new best friend or relative. I’m pretty sure whoever receives it will like the music.

The other new album comes from Nate Mills. We know him from, well, he grew up here, and also Run With the Kittens. Ginger Lips is the self-titled album he wrote and recorded with singer-songwriter, and of the Rucksack Willies, Angie Hilts. Hmmm, Hilts, I’m pretty sure there’s a connection to James from Patrick Fogarty.

Anyway, 14 tunes is a lot for an album, but since both have other music projects, I suppose if you have that many tunes, use them – so long as they are good. They are.

Nate’s a pretty eclectic writer and performer, some might say quirky. On this album, it’s still there, but rather than borrow from the 80s, and every kind of pop genre, I think he had some influence of the 70s commercial pop coming to bear. I especially like Bring Me Home, but there are 13 others songs that grab attention too. Stylistically I catch bits of Led Zeppelin and everything else from that point to Cowboy Junkies. You will find yourself thinking, oh, that sounds like X, and oh, that sounds like Y; it may be the vibe of the song, or just a passing moment within. Nate is a great arranger of sounds, and from what he’s mentioned about the album, Angie wrote the lyrics. She also carries about 90% of the singing.

I think this album is going to be around for a while because of its pop/mainstream overall quality, but make no mistake, when you dive into how these songs are put together there’s a lot of meat there. I think the metal heads might not be partial, but there sure is something for everyone else, regardless of age. Imagine music parents and their children can like, but for different reasons.  Again you can get the album at the link and send it to your favourite person, or of course download it.

Speaking of Nate, Run With the Kittens has some new music out too. You can watch Lavender Afternoon (Woody, Dave, check out the t-shirt Nate’s wearing) and Cut and Run on Youtube. Looks like they have a bunch of new tunes and they’re putting them up one per month until they have to write more songs. You can also listen to Ginger or Kittens on Spotify and iTunes, but use the Bandcamp links I supplied, they’ll make more money and you won’t have to give more.

Here and There

While digging up the music just discussed I ran across an old one. Check out councillor Dave Campbell, whacking the drums back in the day when he had, a hat.

That Was Special

I went to the reading of Christmas in Mariposa, Jamie Lamb’s newest book, and he hopes Leacock Award contender. It was at the Leacock Museum and he only read one chapter, but it was the right one for me.  He prefaced while the stories are about Mariposa (Orillia) from his childhood, he changed most of the names and locations, except Doc Hipwell. It seemed to me most of the pretty full house knew exactly who and where he was writing about.

The story was about Charlie Davison, who had a little seasonal thing called Good Time Charlie’s Annual Christmas Bash. Davison was an insurance broker with an office on what turns out to be Peter Street. I learned there were two insurance offices on Peter Street because it wasn’t Mulcahy’s.

Charlie, the real Charlie, closed his office on the last day before Christmas, but it wasn’t closed. Jamie said the story’s events are real, with cosmetic changes. Once closed, with the door unlocked, a steady stream of downtown business people and municipal officials, some in uniform, would make their way in to have a drink and some finger food of some type (the food was never described).

Jamie, then at the age of 15, is telling of his first time. Apparently the reporters at the Packet invited him along (say it isn’t so). The one person missing from the story is James Lamb, editor and publisher of the Packet, who Jamie quite clearly at the end of the story says was at home. He appears to be the only one in town, and mom, who wasn’t at the bash.

Naturally as the afternoon wore on funnier things happened, piling up just like the first person through the door on Back Friday tripping and sprouting into a mound of flailing limbs.

While the description of the event was hilarious, there was a coda, a side of Charlie not many knew. It was a side trip for Jamie with Charlie on the way home (they were neighbours too) which for Jamie revealed some life lessons. You’ll have to read the book for more, Manticore has copies.

On listening to the tale, the party part, I was reminded of my father because he did a similar thing at Christmas; he was friends with the Seagram’s area salesman, and I remember very well lugging boxes of this, that and other things through the back door of his store, and then the steady stream of customers and ‘officials’, some in uniform, all afternoon Christmas Eve.

Jamie was introduced by Linda Leatherdale. They have remained friends since their time working at the Packet. It was good to see her and catch up a bit and very nice to meet Jamie, I have read his father’s excellent book, Press Gang, which is a much an autobiography of Lamb’s new career as it is a historical look at life in Orillia post Charles H. Hale’s tenure as editor and publisher of the Packet.

The Shorts

*  If you run an event, it’s time to look into the Celebrate Ontario 2020 grant program. There a  number of online info sessions starting Dec. 11 and application deadline is Jan. 21.

*  Mariposa Arts Theatre has auditions for their February play, Rabbit Hole. They need a husband and wife pair in their 30s/40s, mom (60s), a woman (30s) and a teen boy. Auditions are Dec. 10 and 12 in the evening at the MAT hall on Brammer Drive. Email to set an audition time and get more details.

*  The Coldwater Studio Tour doesn’t happen for 7 months, but if you want to get your art into the show now is the time. They are taking applications until Dec. 15. It’s a juried show.

*  The 6th Annual Ugly Sweater Bowling Party  still has few tickets for the block from 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Bleeker is going to be playing – bowling and their instruments. The event happens Dec. 13 and you should get tickets now.

*  The Orillia Museum of Art and History has a fundraiser happening Dec. 6 called Drawliday Festival. The Will Davis Trio with Hugh Coleman will be playing music and tickets are $75. OMAH’s annual Carmichael Canadian Landscape Exhibition is great. Also see Industrial Legacy: A History of Dorr-Oliver-Long, Fibre Content and Ingrid Mayrhofer’s After Krieghoff.

*  Peter Street Fine Arts is having their annual 6×6 show in December and January. This long-running show is great for people to pick up a small, reasonably priced, one of a kind gift…  Hibernation Arts has Jon Oelrichs’s art featured this month with an opening reception Friday at 6 p.m. (what are the odds, two Oelrichs in one column, son Jake is in Run With the Kittens); also featured is the Orillia Fine Arts Association group show and this month’s gallery concert is with Alex Andrews and Marta Solek Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. … Art and Home is featuring the work of sculptor David Warner and the reception is Dec. 6 from 6 to 8 p.m.; also see work by returning artist Marie Jose.

*  If you want a gift to give you will be remembered for, say, next spring or summer, get tickets to the Roots North Music Festival (April) or the Mariposa Folk Festival (July). Bonus, they’re cheaper right now. Or, get Opera House summer theater season tickets (two Norm foster plays and one more).

*  Coming up… the Hog ‘N Penny has trivia night with Bill Dunlop every Thursday evening; Live With Dav is in Friday night… Jakob Pearce plays every Thursday evening at Kensingtons… the Brownstone has Dan Bazinet’s (and guests) annual birthday fundraiser for the Lighthouse Soup Kitchen Dec. 6; Saturday it’s the Tom Andre Art Show at 8 p.m. (yes it’s an art show, not a band).… the Jazz Byrds play Sanafir Fridays and Saturdays…  Lake Country Grill has Chris Lemay in Dec. 4; Charlotte and the Dirty Cowboys Dec. 7; Steph Dunn Dec. 11 and Even Steven Dec. 14.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia, or Supplied)

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