By John Swartz
Most of us are consumers of art. We listen to music, read books, admire paintings, watch movies and generally without a passing idea of what it takes to make the things we like.
Sure, most of us learned to play an instrument somewhat decently , so we have an idea of how many thousand more hours it takes to get to level of proficiency of say a Phil Rudd (drummer for AC/DC) and then how many more years it takes to get to where Neil Peart or his underclassmen ascend to.
We might sketch something that looks like a recognizable thing, but know darn well we couldn’t make a Salvador Dali Rolex.. We can write a letter to the editor, but write The Stand?. We could tear up a dance floor after two drinks and know Fred Astaire was something else.
The truth is, the real difference between most of us and those we admire isn’t that much. It’s mostly imagination, learning a skill, and then letting go to create. It sounds not so hard, yet so few of us actually can go there – let ourselves be creative.
Why? There is one more quality artists have, no fear. It’s risky creating. It’s hard to stand alone on a stage (or in the song, the book, the picture) and be on public display, we’re too self-conscious. We open ourselves to the critical eye and we fear that.
If you’ve ever watched a documentary about an artist, listening to them describe what they do, or how they came up with an idea it sounds so simple. But it’s not. It’s the accumulation of simple ideas and making the connection to a bigger thing that usually sets artists apart. The best of the best can communicate what they think and affect great numbers of people, and some other artists fewer.
I think we have in Orillia more than our fair share of great artists. Will McGarvey and Zachary Lucky are a couple. They will be joined by Heidi Strauss and Luke Garwood February 22 at the Opera House to talk about the how and why of what they do at the Orillia Centre for Arts and Culture’s Artist Talk.
Boring, you might think. Not so fast. I know two of them and I can say it will be interesting. They will be interesting. I don’t think the Orillia Centre people would mess things up by matching them with others who have nothing to say.
And that’s the point. In telling their stories they will have something to say you will find interesting, and useful. Most artists I’ve listened to do so in a way which communicates something. Maybe you already knew it, but needed to hear someone else say it. The light bulb goes on and you leave feeling inspired to do something that interests you. It doesn’t have to be artistic in nature in a traditional sense, but as Al Henry said, even the janitor is practicing his art. Whatever you hear that strikes a chord might just come back out of you in a way you don’t expect.
To compliment what the established artists have to say are four others who are at the beginning stage of their art. Visual artist Leo Martyn, dancer Lauren Cookson, and musicians Veda Sharpe and Bayze Murray will be there as well.
It won’t be all words and nothing else, there are three musicians on the menu. The event is from 2 to 4 p.m. and you can get tickets here.
Also at the Opera house soon, Mariposa Arts Theatre begins a two week run of The Art of Dining Thursday night and Murray McLauchlan is playing February 19
He Did It Again
Lance Anderson stickhandled the 9th annual Mariposa Folk Festival Gospel and Blues concert by assembling a cast which fit together like a 4,000 piece jigsaw puzzle which takes 8 to 12 years to complete.
David Vest on piano, Steve Marriner on guitar, Angelique Francis on bass, Al Webster on drums and Lance on Hammond B3 (most of the time) at the St. Paul’s Centre gig was a smaller group than he has put together in the past, but no less fantastic.
I’ve seen some great musicians, from the back of the room, to right up close (I literally sat at Garth Hudson’s feet once) and I’ve played with some great musicians. When I say great, there are two kinds. One is technically proficient, very good at making music in ways others can’t. Awe inspiring at the moment, but a practiced, less genuine performance.
The others are the ones who very disappear inside the music they are making. Yes, they are still on the stage, but when you look at their faces, their body language, they are someplace else. It’s not in a mail it in kind of way. They seem to float in the air with the sound of the notes they are making. I’ve tried to describe it before and that’s the best I can come up with.
Angelique Francis is one of those. You could tell the night was going to be different the instant she had control of a microphone. Then she sang. She has the power and expressiveness of a dozen singers. Those qualities, I think are best displayed when singing blues or gospel music. If you were one of the 330 people in the audience you probably know what I mean just by recalling her rendition of Swing Low. On top of that she sang while playing upright bass, and harp on a couple of tunes.
Half a step to the side were Marriner and Vest. Vest has played the piano for a while, and if you made a list of famous musicians, he likely played on a record or on stage with three quarters of them. Originally from Huntsville Alabama, he’s lived in British Columbia for 15 years. Most of the stuff he played (these concerts are a round robin affair with each person taking the lead on a song) was boogie woogie, crisp, clean and fast. It’s joyful to watch and hear someone play like he does.
Steve has been here before at the summer festival, and once with his band, Monkey Junk, for a Spring Blues Festival. Saturday night he played acoustic guitar. Yes, it ran through the sound system, but there was a difference. The guitar didn’t sound like a typical wired for sound acoustic. Many times it sounded like a solid body guitar. In fact, the tone quality was so different there wasn’t one tune he played where a blind person could say he was playing an acoustic.
It turns out he’s using a fairly new pickup, the Gretsch Deltolux acoustic soundhole pickup, which only came out two years ago this month. It doesn’t look like much, just a flat piece of metal under the strings straddling the sound hole. Having now heard one, I can see more guitarists using one. Steve told me, he can make it sound distorted, fuzzy and gritty just like any other electric guitar running through a chain of pedals.
What can I say about Lance I haven’t said before? He’s still one of the best B3 players on the planet, and can rock a piano as well. Someone seated near me said, “I didn’t know he could sing like that.” Yup, he can.
The highlight for most of the audience was a gimmick. Lance and Vest played what he called a four-hander. It turned into six when Steve wandered over and joined them. I’m sure Angelique Francis could have as well because she’s also known for playing piano, but there wouldn’t have been enough room for 8 hands.
The most interesting thing about concerts like this is they only played it through together once, maybe one or two of the tunes twice, before the concert. Not only do they have to remember which tune comes next (Lance called one out of order) but who is taking the solos, and what are the changes (chords). As a musician, you work even though it looks like you’re having fun. That it all comes together and everyone is moving with the flow of whoever is the lead at any moment is almost like magic happening.
The glue holding it together is center stage where the drums are. Al Webster didn’t play anything flashy but he was solid on tempo and time. There’s really four soloists in front of your drums on a gig like this and lots of room for a train wreck to happen. That this show came off to most people as expertly done is all Webster’s fault.
I’d like to make a proposal. Can Mariposa get Lance to do this once a month? I’d say weekly, but I think we’d all need a little recovery time in between.
* CBC is running their Searchlight contest again. We’ve got two from Orillia to vote for, Zain Campbell and Reay. Each link will take you directly to the page to vote. You can vote once a day and you should right now (I’ll wait for you to come back here) and then do it again tomorrow. The best strategy is to vote for one of them today and the other tomorrow. Voting ends at 3 p.m. Thursday. Actually, if you have two computers you can vote for one, go to your other computer and vote for the other, then repeat tomorrow.
* Congratulations to the CBC Searchlight website builder, you are now tied with the City of Orillia for worst website I’ve ever been to. How bad is it? I couldn’t get it to function on my laptop with Chrome and had to switch to, of all things, Internet Explorer. It’s a good thing I took the time to link directly to the vote windows for Reay and Zain and saved people a bunch of guesses and clicks how to vote for them.
* Lyric Dubee has been busy. A year and a half ago he was up for an ODAC Award for emerging artist. As of tomorrow, Thursday, he’ll have 52 videos to watch and listen to on his Youtube channel because he’s got a new tune, Sudden Death of Stars, going live. Lyric won the International Singer Songwriters Association’s International Entertainer of the Year for 2019. Have a listen to his stuff, I think you’ll find some very polished music.
* The City of Orillia gave grants to a few groups this week. The Canada Day Committee got $2,500 from last year’s Partnership Program and Roots North and the Scottish Fest each got $2,500 from this year’s budget. Starry Night also picked up $1,500.
* OMAH has the annual International Women’s Day Art Show, She Shoots… She Scores and Tracey Lawko’s At Risk hanging around to look at. Sunday Feb. 23 Storytelling Orillia’s monthly, 2 to 4 p.m., has guests who have work in the Women’s show. Feb. 19 is history speaker’s night (7:30 p.m.) and the guest is the Simcoe County Historical Association’s Andrew Hunter Award winner, John Merritt, who was recognized for his paper, The Black Settlement in Oro Township.
* Hibernation Arts has a group show, Love and Nate Robertson, Nathan Yell, is the gallery concert choice for Feb. 27; they also have Bryan McPherson in for the March 26 gallery concert. Lee Contemporary Art has 14 artists participating in the annual Paper exhibit, it’s up this week and opens Saturday at 1 p.m. Peter Street Fine Arts has new work by a new artist, Cameron MacDonald, featured this month.
* 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 email@example.com. And, the monthly jam night happens Feb. 19 at the club hall.
* The Orillia Concert Band’s next gig is Music of the Movies Mar. 7 at ST. Paul’s Centre. Their guest is Cassie Dasilva. Get tickets at the door, $30 for a family and ranging down from there.
* It’s neither here, nor there, but after 9 years Rage Against the Machine decided now is the time to hit the road again. It’s kind of timely. They’ll be playing the Ottawa Bluesfest July 17, Quebec City July 18, Hamilton the 21st and Toronto the 23rd.
* Coming up… the Brownstone has an Open Mic Night every Tuesday; A new band, Bruce Beckons & The Wild Run (Noah Wachter, Alex Rabbitson, Ryan Whitworth and Robert Redwood) are playing Friday night with Sam Johnston opening; Dummy CA, Global Paradise and Sunshine Express play Saturday night; Zachary Lucky is playing Feb. 22 and you might want to get tickets in advance for this one… the Hog N’ Penny has Michael Martyn in to play Friday night… the Jazz Byrds play Sanafir every Saturday evening – and Friday this week… MAT’s next film night at the Galaxy is Feb. 19 with The Peanut Butter Falcon (Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson) at 4 and 7 p.m. … Ashley Mac Isaac is playing at St. Paul’s Centre March 17 and you can get tickets here… the Jubilee Chorale’s annual Sweet Heart soiree is Feb. 23 at 2:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Centre; this fundraiser for Helping Hands is a give-what-you-can admission; they a have a number of guests including Jim Harris and Blair Bailey… The Brechin legion has an acoustic jam hosted by Bluegrass in Brechin Sunday at 1 p.m.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia, Zachary Lucky supplied)