This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

First the new, then the old.

The Orillia Silver Band has a Christmas concert Sunday afternoon at the Opera House.

In the act of looking over the menu of tunes to see what might stand out I saw pieces by great composers and arrangers like James Curnow, Stephen Bulla and Philip Sparke – and what’s this? Ken Norman? Could it be?

It turns out the OSB is playing a piece called Christmas Sing-Along arranged by an old friend of mine, well, he’s old, but I’ve also known Kenny since the late 70s. He lives in Racine, Wisconsin.

So this is from the small world file. Ken plays in a brass band in neighboring Illinois and has composed or arranged a ton of music for all kinds of groups all over North America. I met him at spring training camp when I was a member of the Oakland Crusaders drum corps.

Swartz, Ken Norman, Joel Alleyne

Since then I usually see him once a year when I’m off over the Labour Day weekend to play at the senior drum corps championships. This was us, along with another great band conductor Joel Alleyne, last summer in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Funny story, my son, Gaelen, marched as a baritone horn player in the Pioneer drum corps from Racine. He was at their spring training camp and he doesn’t know this guy working with the hornline from Adam. At a break Gaelen was talking to the fellow who said, “say hi to your dad.” This completely confused Gaelen because he had no idea his horn instructor in a town many hundreds of miles away from home was someone who knew me, and Kenny picked up on it simply because of Gaelen’s last name (what are the odds of Swartz being a common last name anywhere?).

That’s a situation plaguing both my boys since they were little. I told them they better behave in public because they have no idea how many people know me, and likely them. Of course, as Gaelen extended his involvement in drum corps, he came to learn this applies way beyond Orillia city limits.

Back to the show at hand. I can say the tunes on the list for the OSB are not familiar ones (other than Vince Guaraldi’s Linus and Lucy), other than the arrangers mentioned I’m familiar with. I’m mean, who doesn’t know Jingle Bells, but the arrangement is likely to be something different and exciting. Neil Barlow is no slouch picking great arrangements for the OSB to play, and then having the band play them exceptionally well. I’m pretty sure I’m on safe ground saying this will be a great way to start the last week before the holidays.

Get tickets for the 2:30 p.m. concert online at the Opera House box office, or call 705-326-8011. Also, bring another $15 because the band hopes their overdue-for-delivery CD, Couchiching Classics, will be available at the concert. Of course you could just buy one in advance.

Before we move on, also at the Opera House see Next Generation Leahy Christmas on Thursday evening and the 2019 Canadian Country Christmas Concert is Friday. Get your tickets at the Opera House link above.

OK, Christmas Has Started
(Photo by Aidan Stanton )

St. Paul’s Centre was looking kind of full Saturday night for the Orillia Concert Band’s Christmas Prelude.  Brady Aubin, president and drummer in the band, told me the afternoon concert for the kids was just as full, but a little more animated. He said when the band played their medley from Frozen most of the kids were up and singing, so loudly he heard them from the back of the band and over the drums. The band also played it at night and no one sang, but they did applaud.

St. Paul’s Choir (Photo by Aidan Stanton)

Of the two tunes that weren’t specifically seasonal, Meridian, by Ola Gjeilo, was impressive. Jacquie Dancyger Arnold flipped off whacking things in the back row with the other percussionists to play piano and the St. Paul’s choir stuck around after their 4 tune set to perform the piece. First of all, it’s a great piece of writing, a very attention demanding tune. That said, the performance of it, or any music, is what makes music come alive and all three segments, band, piano, choir, were fantastic.

The other non-Christmas tune was Aaron Copland’s (I hope the slide projection maker is looking in on the spelling of Copland) Fanfare for the Common Man. This is a well-known piece, and yes, you know it. The one issue I’ve had with many performances of it, not just the OCB, is the percussion is written as a dominant voice, and drummers, being drummers, tend to take it as an opportunity to overplay. I have several recordings by famous symphony orchestras who do the same thing, so it’s not like I wasn’t expecting it, but I was hoping. On the whole, it was a good rendition from the band.

Isabel Livey (Photo by Aidan Stanton)

Isabel Livey, a Patrick Fogarty student, played the role of Mel Torme, or is it Nat King Cole, and sang the Christmas Song, to a standing ovation. We’re going to hear more from her with the school’s play in the spring.

And it would be criminal to move on without saying how exceptionally well the choir sang in their first and second half sets. Lots of choirs sing in tune and have good balance, but never seem to get the note time-value execution as perfect. This affects being able to tell what the words actually are as sung. So, thanks for taking care of that for those of us in the back row, we understood the words just fine.

Other  Christmas Stuff

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 Orillia Vocal Ensemble has their annual concert at Thor Motors Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. They raise a lot of money each year for charity and this time it’s for the Sharing Place.

The Leacock Museum has their 4th annual Nutcracker Afternoon Tea December 15 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s in the house and the magicians out there have resurrected Stephen to read his own stuff. The Hawkestone Singer’s Christmas Concert is December 14 at the Hawkestone Community Hall; call 705-503-2833 for tickets.

Jubilee Chorale 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.

Merry Streets Alive Christmas 2019 happens in the Arts District Saturday at 11:30 a.m. 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.

The Shorts

*  The 6th Annual Ugly Sweater Bowling Party  Friday night 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. You should get tickets now.

*  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. 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.

*   July’s Mariposa Folk Festival now has 5 performers scheduled. Today it was announced Australia’s Hussy Hicks and Tré Burt, The Pairs, David Francey, and headliner John Prine was announced a couple weeks ago. Get tickets at reduced rates right now.The Roots North Music Festival has one name, Begonia, lined up for the April event. Tickets are on sale now. Or, get Opera House summer theater season tickets (two Norm foster plays and one more). Did you know ticket vouchers fit into socks – not the ones you are wearing, that would not ultimately be good – and card envelopes?

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

*  The Orillia Museum of Art and History’s Drawliday Festival last Saturday was a great party. There are still a few of the 114 originally decorated tiles left, and a lot of other things you might find useful for Christmas gifts. When you’re done shopping, check out the  Carmichael Canadian Landscape Exhibition , the 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; also featured is the Orillia Fine Arts Association group show… Art and Home is featuring the work of sculptor David Warner and work by returning artist Marie Jose.

*  Coming up… the Hog ‘N Penny has trivia night with Bill Dunlop every Thursday evening; Jazz Trio is in Friday night; Jakob Pearce plays Saturday night… Jakob Pearce plays every Thursday evening at Kensingtons… the Brownstone has the Song Circle with Paul Court, Geoff Booth, Sean Patrick and Alex Rabbiston Thursday night; The Rip Nanciesare in Saturday night; every Tuesday is open mic night… the Jazz Byrds play Sanafir Fridays and Saturdays…  Lake Country Grill has Steph Dunn in Dec. 18 and Even Steven is in Dec. 14… Steph is at Era 67 Saturday evening… check out a video about the story behind the mural you may have had a hand in making at last summer’s Mariposa Folk Festival.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia, and Submitted) Main: Orillia Silver Band, Robin Watson, Randy Hoover (photo by Philip Jackman)

Rants & Raves

Support Independent Journalism