This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

The Orillia Silver Band is celebrating 70 years March 22 at 2:30 p.m. at the Opera House. They have put together a different kind of program which has music, of course, and a bit of retrospective of what took place in Orillia during those 70 years.

So they have a piece of music, say,  a movement of Beethoven’s 1st symphony, paired with say, Ruth Watt, Chris Newton and Jim Lewis who will recount the arts and culture timeline.

That is the lead pairing. Mike Hill follows with what’s up with the Mariposa Folk Festival and the OSB will play a Bob Dylan tune. Linda Rodenburg will give us a tour of how higher education evolved and the band will play the Brahm’s Academic Festival Overture. Steve Eyers is the likely person to walk through Gordon Lightfoot’s career, other than Gord, and he and Steve Mceown, Even Steven, will sing Did She Mention My Name.  This all happens before the intermission.

Afterward Lisle, is going start the 2nd half by singing, Shelly Made Me Smile, which  got them on the charts a few decades ago and Dave Town will talk about sports in Orillia and the band will play the Hockey Night In Canada theme. Mayor Steve Clarke is going to talk about City Hall stuff and the band is playing the Anvil Chorus. I don’t know if they see the humour in that, but I had to stop for a second to reset my focus on writing.

Chris Newton is going to return to the stage to talk about the Pav. For those of you who missed that era, it was the premier nightspot (used to be across from the water filtration plant on Bay Street) and a lot of name bands sued to play there. The music will be Bandstand Boogie and the Ken Atkinson Ballroom Dancers will, I’m going to guess, do the dances from back then.

Don’t be late, the show opens with a great piece of music. Walking With Heroes is not a tune the OSB hasn’t done in other years, but as far as I am concerned they could do it every concert.

Get tickets online. If you can’t go, they’re going to do it again April 4 at 7:30 P.M.


The Play

I saw the Orillia Secondary School student production of High School Musical last Friday night. My plan was to see it Thursday, but that day’s strike cancelled the evening show.

It was held in the cafeteria which is located next door to the theater arts classroom and the stage is between the two rooms. It’s a big stage and more professionally outfitted than the other two high schools with a lighting grid and appropriate side stage areas. There are curtains in each room. It looks like a stage instead of an afterthought like the kind school architects had for decades where stages were built into one end of a gym. There is also a permanent lighting grid in the cafeteria.

These things are important to know because this is the first time a play has been done at the school. There have been band concerts previously in the cafeteria.

Despite having a proper stage, it isn’t as big as the Opera House, so with 50 students in the production and sometimes all on stage, it does look a little cramped. They overcame some of that impression by building risers and a bridge in front of the backdrop.

Despite those technical advancements the acoustics area not great. It’s frustrating with government funded projects it almost always seems to be hearing is low on the consideration totem pole. This is not just a school thing. Council chambers have some deficiencies, the OPP auditorium has them, and how many times have you been to an outdoor civic event where presentations are being made with cheap microphones and under powered PA systems? For me it’s almost all of them.

They relied on two speakers in the cafeteria, the main characters wore mics. There was a clarity issue which they adjusted for the second half and improved being able to make out the spoken and sung lines, but I think in the future the school administration might consider a short term rental of some extra PA in order not to drive what’s there too hard and make it possible for the audience to really appreciate what the students are doing.

On the effort side, Patrick Fogarty did this same play a couple years ago. I’m not going to make a comparison (their acoustic issues must drive the teachers nuts), but the story was more fresh in my mind so I had a better idea of what was coming next and could follow along more easily than if it was the first time.

The leads, Ryan LePage, Ani Whalen-McKean, Bella Francis and Jesse Chard did very well, though I think the characters Ryan and Ani have there was greater opportunity to steal scenes, which they did.

The ensemble sounded much better in the second half due to the sound board adjustments made at halftime. They had a nice blend and sang together very well.  The band had a tough job, their little musical segues varied according to musical style and genre. The timing for pick ups and cuts was pretty good, and come to think of it, the back stage crew and cast were very good at scene changes with such short time frames to work with.

The Concerts

Saturday evening started with a concert by the Orillia Concert Band. They performed at St. Paul’s Centre and their guest was Cassie Dasilva. She sang 8 tunes, three each in each half by herself, and one tune with the OCB in each half.

Cassie and Kate Dasilva (Photo by B Aubin)

Every time I see Cassie perform she’s better. She did one new song, Enough, which is the title track (at the moment) of her forthcoming EP album. Her voice is pretty much the same, it’s the other things that go with playing in front of an audience that are improving, and what will ultimately get her in front of bigger audiences in far way places. She has good ability to build rapport with the audience and even though she has played the songs she sang hundreds of times, she can make them sound fresh like she just put them together in the last week. She had her sister, Kate sing with her for one song in the second half which was a nice way to break things up a bit.

Cassie told me she’s going to start putting out one tune per month later in the spring before the whole album is released at the end of the year, so look for those links here in this space. She also said she recorded with a band and I’m curious to see how that works out.

I think the highlight of the OCB’s part in the concert was when they performed Skyfall with Cassie singing. These kinds of things are iffy sometimes, getting the balance between 40 or so musicians and a singer or singers, mic’d or not. In this case it worked out well, and of course it’s such a powerful and well-known tune to perform for all concerned.

Catch Me If You Can is one of those tunes where everyone needs to lock in on tempo and timing or it can go south. It didn’t. It’s also kind of quirky, the arrangement, and I think people enjoyed how the band portrayed it. The other pieces I really liked how the OCB played were Thor and Loki, which is not a movie theme (of which the concert was programmed for), but a tune inspired by the Marvel comic characters, along with The Danny Elfman medley, the Incredibles and Victor’s Tale.

The Orillia Concert Band (Photo by B. Aubin)

I missed the last couple of the OCB’s tunes in order not to miss too much of VK and the Legends of the Deep on stage at the Geneva Event Centre. They were opening for Reay. I got to hear one tune. As I said to Steve and Marnie Van Kessel, it was an up tempo one from their playbook, so they put me on the right path for the rest of the evening.

When Reay got up there, oh boy. You know how different it sounds listening to the name bands performing just about anywhere – especially in smaller clubs? Not so here. Part of the difference has to do with the venue’s acoustics and how the sound board is operated, but those things also depend on the band and how their music is orchestrated and amps on stage are set up.

As a musician you ultimately control what the mixer has to work with and you have to have an ear for how the individual parts each band member plays will sound and its going to sound different from the garage, basement, or other space you’ve been rehearsing in. On top of that people on stage right have figure out how to fit in with those way over on stage left, the drummer has to balance as well. About the only thing mostly in the mixers control are vocals. A lot also depends on knowing when you are in the front seat or back seat sonically for each tune and each part of a tune. This band figured it out. They know their sound well.

One the first count, Mike Brandon always does a great job at the sound mixing board regardless of who is one stage. On the latter, I’ve been anxious to hear the tunes live because of how well done the Butterfly Tongue Revisited album is. Anxious in terms of how well Reay would be able to replicated that sound live. They did very well. The sound was fat and the various instrumental voices were present when needed and blended with the others when needed.

Sean Murray who wrote the tunes and is the front performer is good and together with the others presented themselves as old pros. They are individually old pros at performing, but as a unit they come off as well as any other established rock band.

They played three encore tunes which the audience demanded. There were a little more than 200 in the house at the peak of the night. One of those encore songs was a cover of Interstate Love Song, a tune everyone knows and everyone knows how it should sound. Reay gets an A+ for their rendition. The thing about it though, is how well a million selling song by the Stone Temple Pilots sat amid the songs Sean wrote and Reay performed. They just fit together.

And, Reay had an extra member on stage in backup singer Meredith Warboys. Her work added a nice touch to the songs. On top of everything it has to be nice when the audience applauds when they recognize a tune, as they did many times for Reay’s own material.  Now I want to hear them in a bigger setting with the higher wattage gear.

The Shorts

*  So Tuesday is St. Patrick’s Day. You know what that means. Alex will be at Brewery Bay Food Company starting at 7 p.m.

*  The Cellar Singers have their annual cabaret fundraiser Mar. 28 at St. James’ Anglican Church. It’s called Puttin’ On The Ritz, and each year the members and guest performers put away the stuffy shirts and perform stuff, often with some humour, they wouldn’t normally do at their concerts. Plus there’s food and silent auction. Tickets are $40 and you can get them here. The next concert the Cellars have is May 2 and they’ll be doing Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore.

*  The Orillia Youth Centre has a March Break Open Mic at the Opera House on the 19th from 5:30 to 9 p.m.  It will be in Gord’s Room and this is an excellent chance to find out how you sound on a real stage in a real venue – so to speak. There are quite a few people playing regularly in bands now who started at youth center open mics. I know everyone at these open mics is supportive of each other regardless of developing skill level or experience. To sign up, even if you just want to read something you wrote, dance, or try out your jokes call 705-325-8082.

*  St. James’ Anglican and Tiffin’s Creative Centre are marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II March 24 with Author Ellin Bessner who will read from Double Threat: Jews, the Military and WWII. The event is free to attend, but they’ll take donations.

Mark Douglas & Fay MacKenzie

*  World Storytelling Day is March 28, at least here in Orillia. Storytelling Orillia has Mark Douglas in to talk about the history of the Fish Weirs. Fay MacKenzie has stories about The Narrows and Lake Couchiching, and Mary Lou Kirby will talk about the ongoing effort to protect the wiers and eventually build a museum for one of the oldest man-made constructions in North America. It happens at OMAH and you can get tickets ($15) there, or by phone to 705-326-2159.

*  Congratulations to Lance Anderson. He was the cover story ff the recent edition of Active Life Magazine. You can read it here.

*  The Mariposa Folk Festival just added a bunch of acts. The Weather Station was here last year for Roots North and they’re coming back. Also added are Ryan Cook, Mick Flannery,  Son, The Fitzgeralds, Harrow Fair, Kellie Loder, and Ian Sherwood. Mark Mar. 28 down for the return of Union Duke to Orillia for a Mariposa-in-concert gig at St. Paul’s Centre. Get those tickets here.

*  Have you got Roots North tickets yet? Is just a little more than a month away. They have a great line up for the main stage at St. Paul’s Centre. See Steve Poltz (Mariposa last year), William Prince, Begonia, Wild Rivers, Lydia Persaud and Craig Mainprize. They just added The Hillbirds at a different kind of venue, Jim Ostler Contracting (downtown); also playing venues are Nate Robertson, Sam Johnston, Darrin Davis and Long Range Hustle. Get tickets here.

*  The St. David Choir is doing an Easter Cantata, Once Upon A Tree, by Pepper Choplin, Apr. 11 at 4 p.m. Soloists are Clayton Hannah, Civi Jacobsen and Eric Patterson. Brent Mayhew is directing and the narrator is Richard Bates. Admission is by freewill offering.

*  Have you ever heard Fred Addis at a microphone? He can be funny and I suspect when he’s speaking at OMAH’s fundraiser, Speakeasy Night, telling tales of Orillia’s brush with prohibition, bootlegging and Stephen Leacock you’ll laugh. It happens Mar. 27 at the museum. There’s always lots of food and music by The Big Butter & Egg Men (Will Davis). Tickets are $50 and $75. There are only 40 of the latter and you get special treatment. The monthly history speaker’s night is Mar. 18 at 7:30 p.m. and the Orillia Silver Band’s Neil Barlow and the band’s quintet will be there to play and talk about the 70th anniversary of the band. The annual International Women’s Day Art ShowShe Shoots… She Scores  and Tracey Lawko’s At Risk hanging around to look at.

Art by Bewabon Shilling

*  Lee Contemporary Art has new work by Bewabon Shilling the rest of this week, so get up there and see it,  and Peter Street Fine Arts has new work by a new artist, Marcia Armstrong, featured this month; the opening reception is Mar. 14 at 1 p.m.

*  The Opera House has a number of things coming up. An Evening with Isabelle Meawasige  and performances by the Kehewin Native Dance Theatre of Kehewin Alberta is a look into work to stop the trafficking of First Nations women; it happens Saturday at 4 p.m. Sylvia Tyson, Russell DeCarle and The Good Brothers  have a concert Apr. 3 and Sarah Harmer is in Apr. 15. Get tickets here.

*  Have you got something to say, and hopefully some expertise to back yourself up. The City of Orillia is going ahead with the second TEDx event in October. If you want to be a participant go to the website and fill out some details to get on the consideration list. You have to do so by Mar. 14.

*  Coming up… the Brownstone has a special St. Patrick’s Day  Open Mic Night  Tuesday March 17; the Honky Tonk Zeros are in Saturday… the Hog N’ Penny begins 3 days of warmup for St. Patrick’s Day with Jakob Pearce in Friday night; Saturday Alex Rabbitson is doing The Prelude to Patrick Part 2; Sunday afternoon, 4 to 6 p.m. there is a Ceilidh with Cooper Toots and Henry; Tuesday Geoff Booth and Friends accompany the green beer…  Lake Country Grill has Jitensha playing Mar. 18…  the Jazz Byrds play Sanafir every Saturday evening… MAT’s next film night at the Galaxy is Mar. 18 with the Canadian (Quebec) movie And the Birds Rained Down at 4 and 7 p.m. … Ashley Mac Isaac is playing at St. Paul’s Centre March 17 and you can get tickets here.

(Photos Submitted)

UPDATE: The Cellar Singers are postponing their Putting on the Ritz fundraiser until the fall.

UPDATE 2: The Ashley MacIsaac concert at St. Paul’s March 17 is postponed. Tickets already sold will be good for the new date when it is announced.

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