This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Every year I provide ideas for you regarding buying gifts. This year is no different and maybe more important than others. It’s no secret local businesses have had a struggled being shut down for 4 months. Having grown up in a family retail business I can tell you the Christmas season is the most important for most retail stores. With the business my father owned the 6 weeks before Christmas accounted for more than 50% of the annual sales. So, you should be doing most of your shopping downtown, or with locally owned businesses located elsewhere in town. The chains are going to do OK, but the locals need you right now.

I think we do well here in Orillia. I was downtown Wednesday afternoon and this morning and I noticed the amount of traffic was a lot for a city of our size. I’ve observed cities larger than we are with much less traffic in their shopping areas. I joked I had to park in Cumberland Beach this morning the lots were so full. It’s not a complaint, but a good thing.

On my rounds to the usual suspects to see what kinds of things they had for gift giving I encountered 6 customers already in Manticore Books and there were ten when I left – in a bookstore!  Alleycats Music, which has done a fantastic job expanding from one hole in the wall space to take over the storefronts on either side, had customers in each section and 4 more came in while I was there. Rob Gonfors told me it was not their busy time of the day, but it sure looked like it.

So what can you do for gifts? Gloves, socks and sweaters are fine and useful, but what you can do to make each dollar you spend have more effect is to buy something made by someone who lives here. A good book, a nice painting, or some music is what you will be remembered by.

The Orillia Museum of Art and History has stuff ranging from jewellery, to anything you can paint or draw on, to books by local authors – or about local history – to hockey jerseys (the Younkers) and player trading cards. The latter two items relate to books Dave Town has written – and there are a lot of books. Some of them are longer reads and others short booklets. The stories range from Orillia’s Red Light District to Orillia’s Civil War. There are so many and subjects vary widely It’s hard to list them all, let alone tell you a little about each. Let’s just say anyone who can spin a tale about a forgotten athlete, a forgotten hockey team or a long-gone industry is doing well.

His latest book, Spanish Flu: Orillia’s Ordeal in 1918, is timely, full of anecdotes (things and responses weren’t a lot different than today) and out of stock at OMAH. There are copies at Manticore Books. OMAH also has copies of Fred Blair’s Orillia Early Settlers. Fred recently was given an Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Award for that and other research and books he’s written.

OMAH also has copies of all three Orillia Silver Band CDs. One is all Christmas music; the others – just great tunes and playing. The thing about going into OMAH is you can do it without a clue of what you want to get for somebody and find something unique and interesting – for less than $100.

If that doesn’t work, get a membership to OMAH. There’s a range of benefits, like discounts on things you buy and services OMAH provides, to advance notice of events and special access to those. The best thing is discounts to programs for the kids on a family membership; you can head off the redecorating of the bedroom walls by giving them another outlet, or start your refrigerator artwork collection.

At Manticore, they have mostly all the same books on hand, plus ones written by Sherry Lawson, Daphne Mainprize and SUNonline/Orillia’s own Jim Foster (the hilarious The Crowning of Miss Mariposa). They also have a book you can’t get anywhere else. William Bell’s Five Days of the Ghost is a young adult novel set in Orillia and it’s out of print – except Manticore made a deal with the publisher to get copies as needed, and they sell a lot of them considering you can’t get it anywhere else.

Having most of the same books OMAH has means they’ve got Dave Town’s books, one of which, A Waterfront for Everyone, tells the story of how we ended up with the best waterfront park anywhere.

If the person you are buying for just likes to look at pretty things, you can go to Peter Street Fines Arts, Hibernation Arts, Three Crows Speak Studio, or Tiffin’s Creative Centre. All four are in the Arts District so you don’t have to walk all over Orillia’s half acre –though it seems to me might to be just about a half acre of walking to visit all of them, but you get the point.

Peter Street has their annual 6×6 show up with everything under $100 and a lot of other larger pieces. Same at Hibernation, they have smaller pieces and larger works. The small stuff is a fundraiser for the Mary Rose Bursary. Three Crows has stuff for the walls and a lot of other things (jewellry, etc.) locally made. Tiffin’s has prints and original art by Dave Beckett and paintings by Marlene Bulas, Linda Plourde and Dale Duncan.

Some Of Dave Beckett’s Art At Tiffin’s Creative Centre

Up Mississaga Street and across from the Opera House and the library is Cloud Gallery. It’s in Creative Nomad Studios. They have quite a selection of paintings from the same artists hanging around the building which are smaller in size and range for two to three hundred bucks and up. I think many people overlook Cloud Gallery because, a) they’re new, and b) most of the art they have goes for four or five figures. Aso, a membership to Creative Nomad would make a great gift too.

Kyle Sorensen At Cloud Gallery

By the way, Cloud has an exhibit of Kyle Sorensen’s art up until Sunday. His stuff is a bit like Lawren Harris’s, landscape figures reduced to basic shapes – except more severely and without blended colour tones.

Also, don’t forget to check out Maker’s Market. If you really want to make an impression and spend a couple thousand on a table like no one else will have they can do that, but they also have a lot of smaller locally made items too.

Last, I’m trying to imagine who wouldn’t want tickets to the next Mariposa Folk Festival and nothing’s happening. You can get them here.

I imagine one could take care of their entire Christmas list at any one, or combination of those stores. You’ll make the recipient happy, you’ll make the store owner happy, and you’ll make the artist happy – and I suspect you will also feel happy you did something different of a lasting nature, plus you made your money do quadruple duty.

Orillia Silver Band Performs, Take No Prisoners

I’ve been around performing ensembles similar to the Orillia Silver Band my whole life and there is no way I could predict the performance I saw and enjoyed last Sunday at the Opera House would be as well played.

They’ve been out of action almost since their last Christmas concert two years ago. I know how rusty some of the groups I’ve been part of can be with a two-week layoff and how much rehearsal and practice it takes to get back to we-have-to-pay-this-in-public form.

Not only were they up to par based on their last concert, I think they played much better. Right from the get-go, the National Anthem (which by the way, City Hall, you should be using their version at council meetings), they were awesome.

In my world it is not good enough to start playing a tune near beat one, it has to be exactly on beat one. It’s not good enough to play a phrase, a crescendo or what have you well, but it has to be done exactly the same by everyone. It’s not good enough to get your parts right, they have to fit in with the sound of the others around you – not louder than the others.

The sound of the instruments, brass cornets of various sizes – and trombones, it’s always and trombones – can be harsh, bristly and blatty – just ask any symphony orchestra trumpet player, they all know how to do that and do it regularly. Or, it can be warm, round and smooth, pleasing even. This is the OSB. They sound like velvet would if it were a sound.

And do they play together. From the fastest 16th note runs, to the longest notes, their articulation is excellent. Only one time did I catch a rough entry on a passage by any player or section and I’ll bet no one in the audience caught it. I place the level of execution the OSB displays the same as the best brass and wind ensembles I’ve ever heard – and I’ve heard a lot more from many places than most fans of instrumental music. Most of those others are professional organizations, or dedicated amateurs who devote a few months (not weekends only either) of their lives to one performance objective. There are symphony orchestras, well-known ones, who don’t play as well as the OSB.

What these people of the OSB do with one rehearsal a week and whatever they put in at home is simply amazing, and I think very underappreciated by many. Granted, most concert goers haven’t had the immersion into performing music as I have, and likely wouldn’t know or understand all the intricacies I catch – they just know it sounds good, not necessarily why and how. But, there is a segment of you who don’t go to their concerts, who still appreciate an extraordinary performance and who really should be paying attention to what I say about this band – you really are missing something special.

All that and I haven’t written a word about the OSB guest performers Jazzamatazz. And I’m not going to say a word about them. The Jazz Beens – a name Deb Halbot, Christina Bosco, Ian Munday and Brian Pretty adopted recently – I’ll write and talk about all day.

They started out their first set with Owimoweh (The Lion Sleeps Tonight), which they did at the jazz festival. There are what I think are cheesy arrangements, then there’s the one these folks do. Ian Munday is really good with the lead voice on this.

They, like the OSB, are an excellent performing group. The blend and balance of their voices and articulation is as good as it gets. Their style and sound is a lot like The Singers Unlimited, who were the successors to the Hi Los. In fact the version of Georgia the Jazz Beens did is very similar to the one the Hi Los did. The other comparison is Manhattan Transfer, but there are many differences between them and the other two groups. One being how lush the Singers and Hi Los sounded.

Everything these singers did was at the same level of excellence as the OSB and I think this was the perfect pairing. They sang some of their tunes a cappella and some with Danny McErlain accompanying on electric piano. One of the pieces they did was the theme from A Charlie Brown Christmas, which doesn’t come with words. They replicated the jazz band arrangement with their voices.

Another tune they did, with the OSB to close the concert, was an arrangement of Christmas tunes, written by my friend Ken Norman – which also doesn’t have words. OK, the Christmas tunes do, but this arrangement does not have a vocal arrangement. The Jazz Beens worked out one over the last couple weeks that fit with the band’s arrangement very well.

It really is a joy to hear excellent musicianship. I’d walk across the street to see the OSB or the Jazz Beens – even if all they did were polkas and country western music, two genres, for the most part, I can do without.

The Shorts

  • Did you get a season ticket here for the Orillia Concert Association’s excellent series? You missed the premiere of Peter Stoll’s concerttwo weeks ago, but it’s been recorded and you still have two weeks to watch it. You’ll get the details how when you get your ticket. It’s only $70 and I dare you to find a better Christmas gift to see four concerts of this type anywhere. The next and first in person concert of the series is February 20 with Sonic Escape (Maria Millar, violin and Shawn Wyckoff, flute) at St. Andrew’s, followed by the Hog Town Brass March 27 at the Opera House. The final concert is May 1 with the Toronto All Star Big Band.
  • The Opera House has Barrie’s Theatre By The Bay bringing a production called Revival to the Opera House Dec. 18. Al tickets are available at the box office online.You can still catch last week’s Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Awards program on OMAH’s Youtube channel.
  • The 7th annual Ugly Sweater Bowling Party happens at Orillia Bowl Dec. 17. The beneficiary this year is the Sharing Place Food Bank. Register here.
  • Music… Fionn MacCool’s has; Even Steven is in Dec. 17… The Hog ‘N Penny has Sean Patrick playing Friday night; Thursday nights it’s trivia time at 7:30 p.m. … Zachary Lucky is doing two shows Jan. 14 and 15 at Picnic Snackbar; get tickets here.
  • At the galleries… Hibernation Arts new space in their shop, in the basement, the show is called Underground Art; also see this month’s featured artist (and recent ORAH Award nominee), Norman Robert Catchpole’s work; also see the exhibit called Mary Rose Matted Art which is small, $20, pieces with proceeds going to the bursary fund in Mary’s name; Dec. 16 Alex Andrews is in to play at 7 p.m. ($20); … OMAH has the fantastic, annual Carmichael Canadian Landscape Exhibition  and a stunning exhibit of portraits by D. Ahsén:nase Douglas you have to see… Dave Beckett has a show at Tiffin’s Creative Centre opening Saturday at 10. a.m. … Peter Street Fine Arts has their annual 6×6 show up.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied)

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