By John Swartz
Today would have been Bob Plunkett’s 100th birthday. In better times, maybe the Orillia Concert Band would have had a concert tonight to mark the occasion.
Bob was the first conductor of the OCB. After a career teaching music at Western Tech and Parkdale Collegiate in Toronto and as bandmaster of the HMCS York Navy Band he retired here and bought a house on Bass Lake.
At the 25th anniversary of Park Street Collegiate where Stan was the music teacher, former students were saying it was too bad there wasn’t a band they could play in. Bob thought he was going to retire, maybe fish or boat and Stan had people who wanted to form a band. Stan knew Bob and suggested Bob was the person to lead the band.
Of course Stan played clarinet in the band and helped with the administration of it. Former Packet & Times managing editor Jeff Day, who played in the band, probably ran many stories about the band forming and recruiting members. There were 55 people at the first rehearsal in 1986.
Almost year later in 1987 they hit the stage and that year The OCB started a new community institution, the Christmas Prelude. The concert was for many years the start of the season for all the other Christmas themed concerts. Having grown up with a family retail business I was not a fan of Christmas for most of my life, and it was at a Christmas Prelude I rediscovered I kind of liked it.
The OCB always finished their concerts with a march, sometimes as an encore. There’s a couple reasons for that. One, most marches are not very hard to play, and play well. This gives the audience and the band a good mood to end the night with. Second, There was a trumpet band at Western Tech and with the HMCS York band Bob certainly would have had run ins with most marches and knew the good ones for a sitdown concert. I remember hearing Dambusters many times.
Bob retired from the OCB in 1997. Bob died in January 2002 at the age of 81. A few years later Suds Sutherland wrote a piece called The Plunkett Suite. Suds said each of the four movements were written in styles similar to music he knew Bob liked. The family requested financial donations go to the OCB, which was used to commission The Plunkett Suite. At the funeral the OCB played Trumpeter’s Lullaby which was a piece Bob had the HMCS York Navy Band play often.
One thing I wish I had a chance to speak with Bob about was a couple students of from Western Tech, Lorne Ferrazzutti and Barry Bell who were in the band. I knew of them for many years, but did not meet and become friends with them until after Bob died. Both Lorne and Barry were the first music arrangers and drum and brass instructors for the Toronto Optimists Drum and Bugle Corps, of which I would join the alumni corps in 2009. It would have been interesting to have some inside information on those guys to use on occasion.
It’s not easy starting a band like the OCB. I wasn’t here at the time, but I imagine it took a couple years for the band to get good, and the balance of Bob’s tenure to really get good. He laid an excellent foundation and achieved a level of quality which continues today.
The Orillia and District Arts Council is about to spend the grant money they received to start their art program designed to help women with mental health issues. It will be delivered online and it needs an artist to lead it.
Some of the skills an applicant might have are journaling, sculpting, print making, painting, photography, and knowledge of Indigenous art. Some of the program can be done live, or by video. The workshop leader will have a hand in designing each weekly program and should submit outlines for each.
The Orillia Museum of Art and History’s History of Medicine in Orillia exhibit is up now. All the pieces are from the museum’s archives and they have some stuff about the history of Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, the nursing school and Dr. Trevor McLennan. Accompanying the exhibit are 16 photographs by Dr. Harry Hall called Views From a Canoe.
The QuarARTine online fundraising auction is a little more the $1,000 away for the $10,000 goal. You have until 8 a.m. March 22 to help reach it. The pieces are 6×6 inch tiles painted buy area artists.
Music and Other Stuff
Zachary Lucky has another online concert happening March 28. His Live From Home show is at 8 p.m. on Youtube.
Storytelling Orillia has an online event March 28 from 2 to 4 p.m. The featured guest is Selina Eisenberg of Montreal. She is the past president of Storytellers Canada and is hooked into a network south of the border and in Europe. World Storytelling day happens to be Saturday, as is the first day of spring, but what the heck, our Orillia crew started the whole thing in Canada and they can go a week late if they want to. Email email@example.com for the Zoom link.
Peter Street Fine Arts has new art by Tammy Robinson up.
Steven Henry takes requests Saturday nights at 8 p.m. here. It’s good way to spend two hours.
Joe Huron plays jazz guitar Sunday’s at noon on Facebook. Catch him here.
The Leacock Associate’s annual student writing competition is open to high school and college students aged 14 to 19. There are prizes of $1,000, $700 and $300. Entry details are here, you have until April 15. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details or questions.
The Orillia Silver Band has new recordings to listen to. The Earle of Oxford’s Marche is from The William Byrd Suite. They also uploaded Scott Joplin’s Something Doing. You can find the music on their Facebook page.
Stanton McKinnon, formerly of Terry Savage and the Wonky Honkies, has been writing some music. You can hear it on his Soundcloud page.
Reay has a new video for the song Junkyard. You can watch it and other video they produced here.
(Photo By Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia; Images Supplied) Main: The Orillia Concert Band’s former conductor Bob Plunkett.