This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

What is culture? Around here, this reading space and in our community, most people think of music, art, literature, and customs that lean heavily on artistic expression. Yet, it exists alongside the hockey culture, the save our planet culture, the vintage car culture, the political and economic culture, and so on.

Right now, I’d argue our culture, all of it, is a mess, mostly because of disarray with the latter of the examples above – that and living next door to a culture even more messed up than ours currently is.

What about in Ukraine? Do you think they have any of we what think of as culture happening right now, other than trying to stay alive? They had a different culture four weeks ago (though one has to believe Ukrainians had the sense their culture was in dire jeopardy).

April 3 an event is happening where Our and Ukraine’s cultures will meet. One will be present physically, the other spiritually. The St. Paul’s Centre Eco Justice Committee has organized a concert to support humanitarian relief for Ukrainians called, Song For Freedom. It starts at 3 p.m. and features a number of performers from Orillia and Barrie.  John Jefferies is the referee. I was going to say, as I usually do, stickhandler, but I think in this case you are the people holding the stick and doing the handling.

Patrick Piao playing at the inaugural concert for St. Paul’s Centre’s new Steinway piano in February 2019

Performing are baritone David Jefferies, soprano Alex Tesky, a barbershop quartet from Barrie called Nostalgia Express, a women’s chorus (lead by Julia Johnson; John didn’t have the choir name handy when we spoke, but I believe it’s called Sing It, and that group also operates out of Orillia and Midland, so it may not be just their Barrie group), Peter Voisey and Valerie Selander together on oboe and violin – and also with Blair Bailey as a trio, Sean Patrick, Zachary Lucky, and pianist Patrick Piao.

Also appearing is John MacDonald who will play the Uilleann pipes. The what? It’s an Irish version of bagpipes. Did I just start a skirmish? If you have heard Mike Oldfield’s Ommadawn album, you’ve heard this instrument. It’s also used in Josh Groban’s You Raise Me Up (which sounds suspiciously like Danny Boy, and is because the tune was based on Danny Boy).

The committee is hoping to reach a goal of $10,000 which will be donated to the Canadian Red Cross’s Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal fund. They’ll do this two ways, Ticket sales (available at St. Paul’s office March 28 to 31 between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.) or at the door. Tickets are $25 bucks, $15 for those under 16, and with donations through the Red Cross website. Use that link so your donation gets credited to St. Paul’s event.

They hope to sell out, which means 400 in attendance. St. Paul’s is requiring masks, so if you aren’t comfortable going you can still donate.

The concert is going to end with all the performers on stage doing Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom, which may the only time anyone around here has heard it performed and Lance Anderson is not involved.

February Blues, But In April

Speaking of Lance Anderson, his annual times 10, Gospel and Blues concert which the Mariposa Folk Festival produces, is happening April 9 at the Opera House. This concert has been a favourite of mine since the beginning because it’s a chance to see some great performers from different bands working together. Singers too. Lance always seems to find singers who can steal the show. This time Lance has Selena Evangeline playing microphone.

The band this time around includes the Weber Brothers. These two are the deadliest guitar/bass combination in Canada. Quincy Bullen is going to play keyboards. Get tickets online. I’d do it now and hope there are tickets left. You can come back here afterward.

Still with the MFF, John Prine was to be the headliner for the 2020 festival and unfortunately became the first big name casualty of the pandemic, dying on April 7, 2020. It was also to be the 60th anniversary of the festival. To honour that occasion the festival has two things happening. John Prine’s band is playing the festival, and so too is his son Tommy. And, Lance Anderson is putting something together to celebrate 60 years of the festival. Oh, and ten more acts have been added to the lineup. Tickets for the summer festival are on sale right now.

Also, if you want to volunteer at the summer festival apply now. And if you want to play at the festival – and you are a new band, apply for the Audition Showcase happening May 1 at St. Paul’s Centre.

Rooting Around

April 22/23 is closer than it looks on the calendar hanging up there across the room. That’s’ when the annual Roots North Music Festival happens. The main stage is at St. Paul’s. The shows each evening feature in order – Friday night Craig Mainprize, Terra Lightfoot and Steve Poltz; Saturday Lydia Persaud, Logan Staats and the Good Lovelies.

What I like about this festival is, like the MFF, there are performers you know, and ones you don’t. It also takes performers you may have caught
outdoors in the summer and puts them in a new light, which can be revealing as to what kind of performer they are, rising to the occasion of having to get a trapped and not distracted audience on side. This festival is where Irish Mythen revealed to us just how powerful she is. You and I may have liked her before, but after Roots she moved into that category of great acts not to be missed anywhere.

I was hoping to be able to tell you the schedule for the other venues downtown, but they’re still working on that. Those will be free to attend, but of course the venues hope you’ll spend a little money on a beer or a coffee.  The main stage show passes are available online. Once again, we’ll be here when you get back from getting your passes – there are only 30 left.

Well Look At You

Students and teachers of Park Street Collegiate were going to have their 60th anniversary last year. We all know what happened with that. So, now it’s the PSCI 60 + 1 Reunion .

The big weekend is July 16/17 and there’s a dance. Of course there’s a dance. It’s at the Barnfield Recreation Centre. Even Steven and Pete Sanderson and Friends (including Ron Hill and Liz Anderson) are doing the music. Get tickets online. Check into their Facebook page from time to time for new developments.


The Orillia Centre for Arts and Culture has a weekend of workshops and schmoozing planned for April 8 and 9 at the Opera House. It’s about creating a new community theater project.

They have playwright Marcia Johnson whose Serving Elizabeth was on the Stratford summer schedule in 2021, speaking at a meet and greet the Friday of the weekend at 7:30 p.m. She’ll be joined by Simon Malbogat who is the artistic director of Mixed Theatre Company and Desiree Leverenz, the founder of The Orange Girls theater company.

Saturday’s program starts at 10 a.m. with schmoozing followed by a workshop with Malbogat. Visit the website to register to participate (its fee) or make a donation to the Orillia Centre program.

The Shorts

  • The Orillia Concert Association’s next event is March 27 at the Opera House with the Hogtown Brass. For the first time ever you can get single concert tickets, instead of having to get a season subscription ticket. You still get a break on the price if you get the pass because there is one more concert in May on the schedule with the Toronto All Star Big Band. The Hogtown Brass will play a West Side Story medley at the top of the show. Not terribly important, but I wonder why all the West Side medleys don’t include Mambo – also known as Dance At The Gym? It’s the best instrumental part of the whole score and tailor made for brass ensembles. Other tunes they will be doing are, Malaguena, the Beach Boys God Only Knows and Summertime. The concert starts at 2:20 p.m. Bring your Mask.
Skye Wallace
  •  Our favourite singer, who isn’t from Orillia, but plays here often enough in about ten years some might think of her as an Orillian, Skye Wallace, has a new tune, Everything Is Fine, out this week. Listen to it here, you can watch it too. Everything she’s been putting out lately I like and you can catch those tunes at the same link.
  • Ayden Miller’s band, New Friends have been in California recording and just released a video of one of their new tunes,Right Here. I suspect with the bunch of songs they’ve made lately they’re going to be pretty hot this summer.
  • Pro and amateur musicians can do the Effects of Instrumental Music Practice on the Well-being, Mental Health and Social Support of Student, Amateur and Professional Musicians in Canada survey the Canadian Band Association and the Council of Ministers of Education have initiated. They want to find out how people have been affected according to age and skill level with practicing their art during the pandemic.
  • The feds have a grant program called Commemorating the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (September 30) which will provide up to $10,000 for cultural activities. See the webpage outlining who qualifies to apply and what kinds of projects (commemorate National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, honour children and families of residents who did not come home, etc.). A shortlist of project examples includes ceremonies, creating murals, workshops, speaker’s series and other cultural and artistic activities. The application deadline is April 11.
  • Zachary Lucky’s new album, Songs For Hard Times – vinyl LPs have arrived and you can go to his Bandcamp page to order it, or a CD or digital download – and listen to the album.
  • The City of Orillia is expanding its recreation programs and is accepting proposals for new learning activities. If you have a skill in art, music or other culturally related area you should consider passing on your knowledge. You find a proposal form online.  
  • Mike Hill has a new book out. The Lost Prime Ministers is about the ones we don’t often talk about; Abbott, Thompson, Bowell, and Tupper. You can get a copy at Manticore Books.
  • Liz Anderson is in a band called Sean Cotton and The Acoustic Soul Ensemble and they have a show called Acoustic Floyd happening April 2 at the Canvas Brewing Company in Huntsville. Get tickets online.
  • The Straight Goods (Matt James, Nate Robertson, Peter Sanderson and Steve Parkes) are playing a benefit called Music for Cats 2 at the Moose Lodge May 7. Ronnie Douglas is a special guest for this fundraiser for the Comfie Cat Shelter and tickets are $15 which you can get at Plum Loco.
  • Glen Robertson has a new tune, Are You Woke Yet? on his Soundcloud channel. Just let the playlist run, the next tunes in the cue are very good.
  • OMAH has a 35 piece quilt show called Colour With a U and From Marbles to Minecraft: A Century of Childhood which contrasts childhood in Orillia between the 1920s and the 2020s. Douglas Ahsen:Nase’s excellent exhibit of portraiture is still up, so go see it. In case you are wondering, the annual International Women’s Day Art Show is happening this year, but in April.
  • The Opera House has a great schedule of concerts happening and tickets for summer theater are on sale. See all of it here.
  • Creative Nomad Studios has a number of programs to take part in. Check them out here.
  •  The Kensington has an open mic night hosted by Tim Kehoe on Tuesdays from 8 to 11 p.m.
  • Steven Henry does an online concert Saturday’s at 8 p.m.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: The Hogtown Brass play at the Opera House this Sunday.

Rants & Raves

Support Independent Journalism