This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

The music community lost another last Saturday when Chris Friesen died. He played in a number of bands in his short life and is best known for being the front man/guitarist in Adrenechrome and drummer in Gaswitch. He also worked as a tech at Casino Rama, the Geneva and recorded the Terry Savage and the Wonky Honkees album.

I remember seeing him sometime in the fall at the Geneva. We hadn’t met in a long time and we chatted at the sound board when the band took a break, wandered outside, had a smoke and what I recall most is how excited he was to be doing a gig in town and telling me what he’s been up to and will be up to.

It seemed to me every project he was involved in, launching Adrenecrhome albums, promoting a gig the band, or he, had was given full attention whenever I called. “Sure, we’re good for a photo; I’ll round the guys up. Where do you want to do it?”

If you drop by his Facebook page, you’ll get a sense of how many people his life touched. You’ll get a sense of how much he influenced others. It’s funny how one begins to understand the reach a person had in his or her lifetime reading stuff like that. I hope he had a sense of it when he was alive.

A funeral won’t be held until spring, but friends are organizing a celebration of Chris Saturday at the Geneva at 2 p.m. Everyone is welcome, it’s potluck and not formal.

The Consequence And Fallout

When I was 22 I passed through a milestone. It was the last year of eligibility to be in a drum corps. Aging out we called it.  Ten years playing drums on streets and stadiums, a few baseball diamonds, a race track or two, and I think a cow pasture (could have been a spent mine field) for me and a few of the folks I travelled North America with came to mind as each day of summer and each show went from present to past that last competitive season.

The drum corps I was in was fading. We were just a few years earlier the best in Canada and our drum line the best in North America, but we were struggling as many other drum corps, particularly in Canada, were doing. A number of us were used to winning, but that year we didn’t even make the cut at the world championships. In fact we were luck to make it to Birmingham, Alabama to give it a shot.

Our next and last show was to be Labour Day weekend in Jonquiere, Quebec for the Canadian championships. Several of us were anticipating the big blowout on our careers in two week’s time. One last performance and then, who knows?

For me it was a bittersweet season. I passed on an opportunity to go to California and be in the drum corps we took the attention away from for a short time as the best drumline on a football field. They, however, excelled in all the other departments (brass, marching, design effect) and continued to take home all the marbles as National champs. I wondered what if all season long (and for a few years after), but I couldn’t abandon my friends just because the chips were down at home.

So, you can imagine how the news we weren’t going to go to Canadian Nationals went over. The corps didn’t have the funds. There was a lot of disappointment from everyone at the instant of the announcement, followed by the realization creeping in to some of us we had marched our last show earlier in the day and didn’t even know it.

Grown men and women fought tears as we collectively began to understand what just happened.

Now imagine a Grade 12 student in any high school in Ontario today. It doesn’t matter if they are heavily invested into basketball, golf, band, choir or any other school activity, but in this case we’re going to focus on the music.

For some being in the band, the choir, the musical, are the only reason they are still in school. By doing those things they are still learning, mainly how to work together with others to achieve a goal, because those activities only succeed when the worst performer is the best of all the other groups. I used to say to the ‘kids’ when I was teaching, “we only win when our cymbal players are the best of all competitors.” The same goes for the third clarinets, the curtain operator, the set builders, etc., in school activities.

They do compete, though largely in scholastic festivals and competitions against themselves not other schools. The activity chosen is voluntary for the most part, so the effort put in is great, and often rewarded. By osmosis, those kids get a little math, science, English and other subjects crammed into their heads because they still have to be students and taking classes.

So I felt the emotion again for senior students at a school miles away from here where a friend is the band director when he announced on his Facebook page a festival they were to compete in was cancelled, and two others were on the line for cancellation.

Unless you’ve been under a rock, we all are aware school teachers have been on rotating strikes for a while. Our elementary teachers here in Orillia were on the street Monday. Some honked their car horns in support as they passed by, others didn’t, but it was difficult not to notice the picket lines.

What doesn’t get noticed by many is the after school activities are gone for the day. What also isn’t noticed is with uncertainty teachers have regarding whether or not they have to hit the bricks on any given day, making it impossible to plan the activities which for many students make school fun.

Music festivals in most cases are organized and run by teachers. It’s not just band, orchestra, and choir teachers wondering if they’ll have to cancel a planned trip (school trips to museums, galleries, factories, or even Auschwitz where some Orillia students have been planning to go this year may also be on the line) because they won’t be able to work on those days – or at least don’t know if they’ll be able to work those times, but the crew/teachers necessary to administer the events are in the same boat.

Four music festivals have been cancelled, others have sent messages to teachers they may have to cancel. I’ve talked with two music teachers in Orillia and one said so far their plans are a go, the other said a warning regarding one festival been sent.

This is asinine. For our political leadership to be playing a game of one-upmanship with teachers (the province is refusing to negotiate, the rotating strikes are meant to get the government’s attention for the teacher’s request to return to negotiations) in order to score political points with their most ardent supporters is, well, let’s say not leadership by any definition. People on one side aren’t losing sleep, collecting their pay, and on the other trying to do their best and sacrificing pay for the days on the picket line. Meanwhile students are getting their ambitions ripped from them. For senior students their ship is sailing and won’t come back and that’s a shame.

Mural, Mural On The Wall
Craig Mainprize 2019
Craig Mainprize at the 2019 Mariposa Folk Festival

*Congratulations to Craig Mainprize for his winning submission to paint the 8×12 foot mural for the 2020 Ontario Winter Games here in Orillia. His entry was selected by a 4 member jury of the Art In Public Places committee from 9 submitted and the public gets to see it on opening day Feb. 27.

Half the submissions were from artists outside the Orillia area. Jacqueline Soczka said she had inquiries from artists in Ottawa, Sudbury and even from the Montreal artist, Aquil Virani, whose work was the inspiration to commission our own mural.

Craig said, “The whole concept is a bunch of ideas roll in from the athletes,” about what motivates them. He’ll use those ideas to craft the final product. The mural will be installed in the new recreation center – which was the intent for the games, but since it won’t be open the games committee is exploring how to have it present, other than by means of a digital representation. The honorarium to do the work is $4,000.

The Shorts

*  Lance, knock them dead Monday night. Matchedash Parish is performing at the Maple Blues Awards Monday in Toronto. The band is up for an award, and Lance Anderson is up for Producer of the Year.

*  The City has been doing a study about the future of the Leacock Museum. The consultants, TCI Management Consultants, are having a public meeting to reveal draft recommendations and the public is invited to participate at the museum Jan. 30. There are two times, 2 and 6 p.m. Email to RSVP.

*  The Artrepreneur program the city and the county ran for the last 4 months is going public. A number of artists signed up for the 13 week program designed to help them learn about the business side of running their art careers. The program is over and its show and tell time with a showcase at the Opera House Feb. 6 at 6:30 p.m.  

1928 Washago Girls Hockey Team
1928 Washago Girls Hockey Team

*  OMAH has She Shoots… She Scores up and it’s about women’s hockey, coinciding with the Ontario Winter Games here in Orillia. Feb. 1 Tracey Lawko’s At Risk will be up; it’s about birds, butterflies and the environment. The big night is coming Feb. 8, except it’s in the afternoon from 1 to 3 p.m., for the annual International Women’s Day Art Show. The theme this time around is On The Edge.

*  Roots North Music Festival has added Lydia Persaud to the main stage lineup at St. Paul’s Centre for the April event. Get festival tickets here.

*  The 9th Mariposa Folk Festival Gospel & Blues concert Feb. 8 at St. Paul’s Centre is sold out. The summer festival isn’t and they just announced Mavis Staples is going to be performing. The line just keeps getting better. The annual audition concert is in April. Acts that want a shot should go here to apply. The deadline is Feb. 23.

Tree Roots Sointula by Tanya Cunnington
Tree Roots Sointula by Tanya Cunnington

*  Hibernation Arts has a group show by young, under 40,  artists and a collection of work by Tammy Henry; the next gallery concert is with Caleb Kearey-Moreland Thursday at 7 p.m.; the next show, Love, is also a group show and it opens at 1 p.m. Feb. 8. Almost next door in the Arts District at Three Crows Speak gallery, Liz Schamehorn’s work is featured. The boss is calling dibs on the first exhibit of the year at Lee Contemporary Art; Tanya Cunnington’s stuff will be hanging around starting Feb. 6 with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m.

*  The Orillia Centre for Arts and Culture has an event, Artists Talk, Feb. 22 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Opera House. Speakers are Will McGarvey (painter), Heidi Strauss (dance), Luke Garwood (dancer/multi-disciplinary), and Zachary Lucky (musician). Also on board are emerging artists Lauren Cookson, Leo Martyn, Veda Shapre and Bayze Murray. Get tickets at the Opera House box office.

*  A group of people have been working on establishing the Orillia Tool Library and Makerspace. The goal is to have available the heavier kinds of tools (what artists call the dirty arts like woodworking and welding as opposed to painting and well, painting). They have an online survey you can take.

*  Jim Harris is booking musicians for the Farmers’ Market 2020 season. Shoot him an email to .

*  Martin Barre, Dee Palmer and Clive Barker (Jethro Tull) are playing at Peter’s Players Oct. 31. Larry Gowan will be in Feb. 28. You can see Peter’s entire line up and get tickets here.

*  The Opera House has Mariposa Arts Theatre’s The Art of Dining opening Feb. 13. The Mudmen return for their annual concert Saturday. Get tickets online.

*  The County of Simcoe is receiving applications for the 2020 Tourism, Culture and Sport Grant Program. It’s open to municipalities and not-for-profits. You have until Feb. 28 to apply for a share of the $300,000 fund. You can find details here.

*  The Washago Lions Club is planning Canada Day now and would like to hear from vendors, people who can volunteer day of (or before) and musicians. Email Doug Shakell at And, the monthly jam night happens Feb. 19 at the club hall.

*  Coming up… the Hog ‘N Penny has trivia night with Bill Dunlop every Thursday evening; Darrin Davis is in Friday night;  A Lazy Winter Afternoon (tribute to Stan Rogers) is in Saturday afternoon;… the Brownstone has an Open Mic Night every Tuesday… The Jazz Byrds play Sanafir every Saturday evening… MAT’s next film night at the Galaxy is Feb. 5 with Official Secrets (Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes) at 4 and 7 p.m.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia; Submitted) Main: Chris Friesen flanked by Andrenechrome band members Mike Vandyk and Tim Kehoe from 2012.

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