This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

There quite a bit to report about Leacock. He’s still mostly dead, and the museum is opening May 21 for the season.

The second floor exhibit space will have a display about Mary Pickford. Some younger readers might be thinking, who?

Well, back in the day when Leacock was the most popular writer in the English Empire, Mary Pickford was known as America’s Sweetheart, a silent film icon. Yes little Gladys Marie Smith of Toronto was the most popular woman in the U.S. and I’m going to guess at the time Canada too.

It turns out she and Stevie were friends.

Mary Pickford

“We don’t have any photos or anything of them together,” said the museum’s new program and event supervisor, Becca Shron. “We couldn’t locate them. Apparently when they hung out it was very low key and secret. I’m not really sure why, but we have evidence of them both talking about the other in a friendly manner and that she came down to his house to hang out.”

While you are there exploring the house and the exhibit, you can vote for who the next exhibit should be about, Charlie Chaplin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and J.M. Barrie.  There is, apparently, a connection to Leacock.

“Groucho Marx also spoke highly of him. It seems that all the comedians of that era hung out together,” said Shron. “It was a new idea having celebrity status, so I think they all kind of bonded over that.”

You can visit anytime the museum is open and putz around the house on your own, or if you need help, they have the answer to that.

“We will be doing guided tours at 11 and at 2 and they book online through the Opera House,” said museum coordinator Jenny Martynyshyn.

The hall part of Swanmore Hall has been leased as a restaurant, which I hear the new folks have done quite a bit with the space. It’s called Fare Restaurant and it will open May 20.

Also on the immediate horizon is the K. Valerie Connor Memorial Poetry Contest. This is open to everyone and there are substantial win, place and show cash prizes in elementary, student and adult classes. The entry fee is $10 per poem, $25 for adults, and elementary kids are free to enter.

The contest closes June 30 and July 17 prizes are awarded and readings by winners on hand will happen at the museum.

In June phone lines will open for registration for a horseshoe club. Details on that will come soon. The actual play starts in July. I wonder, this is a City thing, are the horseshoes going to be rubber tipped, soft and flexible? Further down the road, we can look forward to the Greater than Gatsby event September 24. It sold out the last time they had it, back in the before times.

And, in light of this information, one might wonder, aren’t the Leacock Medal lists due? I wondered the same thing last week. I wondered if I missed an email, or if I got dropped from an email list. It turns out I forgot all about an email on the subject sent in July 2021.  The long list will be announced June 1. The shortlist August 15 and the medal award dinner happens Sept. 17. Up to this year everything was wrapped by the end of the first weekend in June.

New this year, other than the dates are the prize is now $25,000 (I have to start on that book) and everything from the Friday night meet the author’s dinner/reading, to the award dinner and the Sunday brunch is happening at the Leacock Museum. Tickets will go on sale online starting June 15.


Time is moving faster than it looks ever since the weather has warmed up and most official restrictions have gone by the wayside. What seemed like was off in the distance is, holy crap, this weekend.

The Orillia Silver Band has their spring concert Sunday at the Opera House at 2 p.m. The program features music from around the world written by Rutter, Peter Graham, Philip Sparke, Alexandre Luigini and Morton Gould. There’s also a little thing called Argentine Melody written by Andrew Lloyd-Webber for the FIFA World Cup held in Argentina called Argentine Melody on the menu. They will also have Seize the Day by Paul Lovatt-Cooper, who is in my opinion the greatest band and wind ensemble composer of this century.

You can get tickets online.

Roy Menagh

The Orillia Vocal Ensemble is having the concert they meant to have in spring 2020, which is a farewell celebration for founder Roy Menagh. Their May 25, 7:30 p.m. concert features Roy’s favourite pieces. As usual OVE concerts are fundraisers and this time it for the Red Cross Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal Fund and the dance card includes the Ukraine National Anthem and John Rutter’s A Ukrainian Prayer. The OVE does not sell tickets, but if you have an old brief case of sufficient size to hold a suitable donation, bring it.

Blair Bailey is taking over for Roy and he’ll be the one waving his arms around at this concert.

The Cellar Singers have their spring concert May 28 at 7:30 p.m. at St. James’ Anglican Church. They’ll be singing music by Canadian composers Stephanie Martin and  Healey Willan. You can get tickets online.

The Orillia Concert Band has a concert June 4 at St. Paul’s Centre at 7:30 p.m.  This is a fundraiser for Information Orillia. The program features music from the time of King Henry the VII to today.

You can make a donation ahead of time online, or at the door (and if you can’t go, but still want to donate use the same link). Make sure you type OCB in the message box so your donation get credited to the band’s fundraiser. There is no set ticket price and donations are as much as you can carry in your other brief case.

Youth Concert

Last Friday night the Orillia Youth Centre had a concert to raise fund for the Nelson Bella and Jake Beers bursaries. They raised $1,700. The performers were Mitch Sleeman – stage name Lil Durpy , Ethan Mask and Carbrat. Crabrat is actually from St. Catherines not Niagara Falls as I said last week.

Mitch and Crabrat did Hip Hop tunes. I’m a fan of the idea of manipulating the rhyme and rhythm of the English language, but what I can’t understand is, if you have something to say – which most rap composers seem to have a lot to say, why not deliver it in a way an audience can understand? It seems to me, if you take the element of pitch out of the equation, you lose the part that gives us a big clue to what the lyrics are. Diction and enunciation, or lack of, leaves a lot of people behind who otherwise might get more enjoyment out of the music. That said, Mitch did have a pretty funny song about being hungry and the Gung Ho restaurant .

Ethan played an instrumental piece on guitar to start his set. I had no idea he was that good. He used a fingerstyle approach which isn’t the easiest way to play. The remainder of his set he sang, and again, I had no idea he was so good. He sounds a lot like Eddie Vedder. He’s a pretty good writer too.

It also was the case the youth centre gave out a bursary to Ben Cornelisse last Sunday. Congrats to all.

The Shorts

  •  Jake Horowitz’s new cable TV series, Sunshine City, has a premiere event happening June 10 at Creative Nomad Studios. There are 2 showings each day. Get a ticket ($11) for the 7 or 9 p.m. shows here. As the title implies it’s about Orillia, kind of.
  •  OMAH opened new exhibits, see The 25th Annual International Women’s Day Art Show has 112 pieces in the show this year. Upstairs Hospice Orillia is sponsoring Dying Matters: Reflections Of Growth Through Grief. This is an exhibit of smaller pieces by local artists and all of it is for sale. This month’s History Speaker’s Night is with Charlie Ellins who will talk about The Trent-Severn Waterway – Then and Now. Call 705-326-2159 to register and get the link for the online presentation.
Guide Designer David Crighton and OFAA Member MJ Pollak
  •  The Orillia Fine Arts Association unveiled a new arts gallery guide designed and illustrated by David Crighton. Groups backing the guide are Orillia Lake Country Tourism, City of Orillia, Orillia Arts District and Orillia & District Arts Council. It will be available at galleries and you can find out more online.
  •  Tangents has a new tune out. Constant is a well written and recorded tune, and the video is very well done… Glen Robertson has been releasing a steady flow of new tunes which you can hear on his Soundcloud channel, click on his photo and listen to the playlist, lots of good music there… Ayden Miller’s band, New Friends has a new tune, Right Here… Aaron Mangoff has a new EP you can listen to – and buy – here… Danny Webster has a new album out. Late-Night Social Escapade, is the third album under his stage name Livers. Go to his Soundcloud page and give the album a listen.
  • MIchael Martyn is playing at Picnic Sunday and Fionn MacCool’s June 4… The Kensington has an open mic night hosted by Tim Kehoe on Tuesdays from 8 to 11 p.m. … if You like Karaoke Lake Country Grill has it May 14 at 8 p.m.
  • Cloud Gallery is opening a show of Sue Miller’s that just opened… Peter Street Fine Arts has Norman Robert Catchpole’s art in the gallery this month…  Hibernation Arts has Mike Sallows as the guest artist for May; the gallery also has new pieces by Jon Oelrichs, the Bayside Artists, and Tammy Henry Johnson to see.

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

Rants & Raves

Support Independent Journalism