This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Last week I wrote about the City’s pedestrian mall plan. I said the budget for entertainment was not increased from last year, and in fact they have increased the budget.

I was relying on the initial request from the emergency committee of $60,000 in June 2020, and their request in February this year for $60,000.

Well, they came back with another request last July for money. Almost all of the first 60K got parked in the Downtown Tomorrow community improvement plan to make grants available for building patios and the extra money was for the mall operation, which included $12,500 for artists. I had forgotten they had a report in November recapping how last summer went, which also outlined the budget they would request for this year, including $20,000 for artists. This makes it possible for 10 solo artists per week to get one day of work per week, compared to 6 last year.

So some more musicians will get work, but the City expanded the definition of artists for this program to include performances that aren’t musical. So it’s possible more musicians will get work. Applications are now open for artists and for businesses to line up to be venues.

I also checked into the pay scale, which they call an honourarium, but spends the same. The more people in the band, the less each gets, which is not fair. If one musician is worth an amount, then all the musicians should be of equal value – even the tambourine player. The explanation I got was that scale is something the City has been using for years. It’s more a practice than policy. I think bringing it up may see that rectified, but not for this year.

I still think there’s an undervaluing of musicians at play. It’s not just council, or the bureaucracy, but most people in general think it looks easy, so it must be inexpensive. Heck we can all sing in the shower (I don’t, I’m very aware of my limitations). Many people can play an instrument, but few have the proficiency and performance skills developed over years of instruction and practice to be able to get on a stage and do something anyone else wants to hear.

I stumbled on a good analogy, figure out what a plumber charges to work a Thursday or Friday night, or on the weekend, for a typical 6 hour commitment; most musicians would be glad to get half of that because it would be a pay increase.

Vote Now And Often

The CBC is doing their 9th Searchlight contest. You can vote for your favourite musician or band based on the video supplied. You can vote every 24 hours.

There are many dozens of entries just from Ontario. For example, I went through so many pages to find Zain Campbell’s entry I lost count (it’s on the second last page). I was going to make it easy for you and just provide the links for each Orillia area artists entered, but the CBC website is so poorly designed the URLs I saved for each of them only takes you to the front page and you have to scroll through to find them again.

The workaround is to use the search box on the left of the landing page and type in Zain Campbell, or Reay, Shane Cloutier, Eric Kidd, depending on who you want to vote for. Quisha Wint also has an entry. You have until 3 p.m. May 20, so you can vote for all of them. June 1 starts another round of voting from a list of the top 100 vote getters. Then a bunch of judges, all industry suits (only one was a musician) will pick a winner. One of the judges sells cars,  so it’s not necessarily (based on the history of winners) the best examples of music, performance or spiffy video will get to win, but what the judges think will sell.

Public Art Survey
Paul Baxter with a Public Art work in progress.

The Art in Public Places committee is running an online survey you can give your two cents worth to. They are trying to get a sense of where people want there to be art and get some idea of what kind (sculpture, murals, monuments, etc.) If you have difficulty with online surveys (I did it, it’s not difficult – and it can be anonymous) you can email to make arrangements get and return a paper copy.

One of the important questions being asked is who pays for it. There are several options (you can pick all, or one or two). On the list are two items which many other communities do (we do to some extent, but it’s not policy) which is to require a percentage of budgets for construction or renovation of public buildings to be for art, and to require private sector major projects to have a budget percentage for art. Here’s a thought, it’s cheaper to drive a short distance to see public art than it is to fly to Europe to see art in public view.

Good Bye Old Friend

The last Christmas concert the Orillia Silver Band did in 2019 had a piece of music on the dance card, an medley of Christmas tunes called Christmas Sing-Along , written by a friend of mine. I wrote about it then. It’s not the first time one of the groups played some music written by someone I know.

Ken Norman (Photo by Mike Duffy)

I’ve known Kenny Norman since the late 70s. He is from Racine, Wisconsin so it’s not like there was ample opportunity to hang out, but in the summer we always connected somewhere along the line when we happened to be in the same place. It is a drum corps connection, and Ken did arrangements and composed music for more than 60 drum corps over the years, but he also wrote for anyone who paid, particularly brass bands like the OSB.

He also was a historian of brass instruments and owned a huge collection of instruments from different eras. He also could make and repair them. In fact he was responsible for dragging drum corps out of a neat post World War II pastime with crappy instruments to the modern version where the instruments functioned just like trumpets and cornets. He even designed and helped with manufacture of the first bugles with valves so music other than marches could be played on them correctly. The design and manufacture of drum corps instruments got so good because of his input the innovations found their way into manufacturing instruments across the board.

He also led the way for arrangers and composers for wind ensembles. Many currently active ones got their start writing music for drum corps, many of those still do, but Ken was the first.

Last week he had a major stroke. He was in a coma until Sunday when he died. He is an unsung hero and not as well-known as he should be. His departure leaves a giant hole in the landscape. There are tentacles from many of today’s stages and football fields which trace back to him. So long old friend, you will be missed, but not forgotten.

Online Distracters

Jimmy Johnston has a new music available Friday. You can hear a 30 second excerpt of Whenever I Want now and the full tune tomorrow. It will be available on all the streaming services too. He had a new tune out last summer called Low, and you can see the video on his Youtube channel.  He’s making some changes so search for him as James Johnston, or Just James.  He’s been using Bleeker’s recording studio (but Jimmy plays all the instruments) and has a few more tunes he’ll have out as singles this year. You’ll see some usual suspects in the video.

Craig Cardiff fans can watch an online concert Saturday at 8 p.m. He’s doing it from his home in Kanata and you can get a ticket here.

Next week is Canadian Music Week. Well 4 days of starting May 18 anyway. It’s going to all online and you can register now. There are also ways to pay for your attendance with some upgrades so browse through what’s being offered to see if what you really want is free.

The folks at the Lighthouse Soup Kitchen have a fundraiser coming up. May 27 to 29. It’s  an online student art and woodworking auction. Students from Orillia Secondary and Patrick Fogarty are participating, and all students can donate artwork to auction. They want to raise $50,000, which will give the students organizing the event the ability to name the youth wing of the facility. They have a good shot at it because the same people who provided the final $14.5 million building fundraising push, the James A. Burton & Family Foundation are going to match bids 3 to 1, so winning auction bids in total only have to hit $12,500. If you go to the link above and scroll down you’ll see how to get in on the bidding, or to donate artwork

Zachary Luck has another concert online June 13 at 3 p.m. It’s live on Youtube.

Orillia Secondary School music students have their annual spring concert happening June 9 at 7 p.m. It will be online.

The Orillia & District Arts Council’s Mother’s Day video is still up if you haven’t seen it yet. It’s an hour of music and art with Mart Solek, Gaia Orion and the Orillia Storytellers, and Mother’s Day messages from people in the community.

Watch the Roots North Music Festival hour-long video concert featuring Alex Andrews and Marta Solek, Craig Mainprize, Darrin Davis and Amy Jefferies, Sam Johnston, Sean Patrick, and Zachary Lucky. It was shot at St. Paul’s Centre by Tyler Knight and Mark Webster engineered the sound. It’s a pretty good production which exceeds the quality of many other concert videos I’ve seen online. You can watch the concert now, and checkout other Roots North videos on their channel and if you visit their website and have a few bucks you can hit the donate button to support the continuation of the festival next April.

Entries for the Leacock Museum’s K. Valerie Connor Memorial Poetry Contest are open to June 30.  Each category has three cash awards ranging from the $750 top prize in the adult category to $25 for third in the elementary school-age children category. Go here to find out more details and get entry forms.

Nate Mills has a new video installment. I guarantee if you watch, you’ll feel a lot better about your own state of affairs being stuck at home.

Check out Steve Caston’s videos on his Facebook page. The artist, musician and humourist has some new stuff to see regularly.

Max Metcalf  and his band John’s Cottage have some tunes and made some videos to enjoy.

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.

Creative Nomad Studios has a bunch of online art workshops happening, some of them are free. Find out more here.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: Ian Chaplin at the Orillia downtown mall July 2020.

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