By John Swartz
Two of our own have received national honours this week. Dan Austin was informed a couple days ago he was awarded the Musicfest Canada National Arts Centre Orchestra Outstanding Band Director for 2022.
The award is named in honour of I. Keith Mann, who died in 2001 and there is only one band director in Canada named each year.
“I was shocked to say the least. I still can’t believe it happened,” Dan said.
Dan went to his first Musicfest Canada when he was a teenager in the 90s as a student at Twin Lakes Secondary School.
“(It) was the highlight of my high school years. I always knew that, when I became a teacher, I wanted my students to have that same experience,” he said.
Dan is a music teacher at Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute and it took ten years to build his music program to the level of qualification for national competition in 2012.
His bands also won a gold medal for the Senior Symphonic Band and a silver for the Orchestra. On top of this, he’s a wicked bass player. Congratulations Dan.
And, Lance Anderson found out Friday he’s on the list of nominees for the Maple Blues Awards Piano/Keyboard Player of the Year. Lance was nominated along with Duane Blackburn, David Vest, Jesse O’Brien and Kenny Wayne (we’ve seen three of those perform here in Orillia). He’s been nominated 10 times and won in 2014.
The awards ceremony is at Koerner Hall in Toronto June 20. Lance will be working that night too as part of the ceremony band along with Teddy Leonard, Al Lerman, Howard Moore, Jim Casson, Alison Young, Mei Kelly and bandleader Gary Kendall.
We’re all keeping our fingers crossed Lance.
Orillia Silver Band Concert
Last Sunday afternoon The Orillia Silver Band had its spring concert at the Opera House. There was a moment during Walkabout, also the title of the concert, when the magnificence of how great this band is was really crystal clear.
At the B section of the march, the lower brass – tubas, euphoniums, baritone and trombones – took over and the ensemble cohesion was perfect. No one player stuck out, the blend among like instruments and clarity of each segment voice was perfectly balanced. The timing execution of the notes was also perfect.
And then the cornets came in. Usually when cornets, or trumpets of any band re-enter a tune the risk is they will dominate the sound and one or two will think they have a solo. Not in this case. They came in together with great balance to the lower brass across the stage and had excellent ensemble blend and balance.
A sound as good as this was is not something you hear every day in a live performance. In fact it’s very rare. Almost the entirety of the rest of the concert was played at that level (there’s always one or two tunes which could have benefitted from one more rehearsal).
Later on in the program there were a few instances of individual cornet players overdoing it, but in the cases I observed they were just a little over the line and not for long, which is also remarkable because if you know cornet/trumpet players, well, they are not known for being aware of their place in the overall sound of a band.
That was mid way through the first half, which closed with Seize the Day, Last week I said it was composed by Paul Lovatt-Cooper, who I think is the best band and wind ensemble composer alive. That’s what the information I had said. It turns out it’s composed by Peter Graham, he’s not too shabby either and he taught Lovatt-Cooper.
So, two things about this tune; brass players can shape the sound with their embouchure (how they shape their mouths). The instruments can sound warm and round, or brash and harsh. Walkabout was as warm as you can get, and Seize was very brassy. Getting an ensemble to make this switch requires a bit of practice.
The other thing was the arrangement, which was based on a number of American Spiritual themes. Right in the middle of it the band started a vamp, which I thought could easily turn into MacArthur Park. What do you know? That’s exactly what it did. I don’t know how MacArthur Park qualifies as a spiritual, but there it was.
In addition, the band members have to adjust their listening responsibilities to the acoustics on stage at the Opera House, as opposed to how things sound at St. Paul’s Centre where they rehearse.
The highlight of the second half for me was Morton Gould’s American Salute. This is celebrated concert piece is based on themes from When Johnny Comes Marching Home.
On the whole, I’d put the OSB on the same level of performance ability as the Black Dyke Mills and Cory bands They are that good.
Staff have organized a couple events for Pride Month. June 11 at 10:30 a.m. has Drag Queen Storytime with guest Auntie Plum. It’s a family oriented literacy program. Registration is not required, but space is limited.
At 7:30 p.m. the same day they have an afterhours 19+ event with Plum Vicious. Tickets are $20 and it is licensed with a cash bar. Proceeds from the comedy show will go toward improving the library’s LGBTQ2S+ collection. It looks like almost $1,000 has been raised already.
First Nations Festival Returns
The Orillia Centre for Arts and Culture is bringing back their popular Gathering: Festival of First Nations Stories event June 9, 10 and 11. The event is free to attend and takes place at the Rama Community Hall. Speakers lined up are Norma Dunning, Lisa Bird-Wilson, Drew Hayden Taylor, Waub Rice, Shanika MacEachern, Armand Garnet Ruffo, Cynthia Wesley Esquimaux, Sid Bobb, Sherry Lawson and Brenda Wastasecoot. Sherry Lawson and Fred Addis put the program together.
The Orillia Centre is also starting a new emerging artist residency with Tomson Highway. Registration opens June 10 for that, and the details will be in this space.
The Friday evening of the event Ronnie Douglas and Ritchie Benson will be playing some tunes. This event started in 2017 and had two years off because, you know.
See the complete schedule here.
Artists and Business (Taxes)
The Orillia and District Arts Council had a professional development series earlier this year. Based on response and requests, they are partnering with the Community Development Corporation for a workshop called Financial and Taxation Considerations for Home Based Businesses lead by Allen Lloyd.
The webinar is geared toward artists and is happening June 8 from noon to 1:30 p.m. and registration is free.
And, ODAC is having their annual general meeting June 15 at Creative Nomad Studios at 5 p.m.
The Orillia Vocal Ensemble is having the concert they meant to have in spring 2020, which is a farewell celebration for founder Roy Menagh. The 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 briefcase 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 (who will be in attendance) and Healey Willan. You can get tickets online.
The Orillia Concert Band has a new conductor, Randy Hoover and a concert June 4 at St. Paul’s Centre at 7:30 p.m. This is a fundraiser for Information Orillia.
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 gets credited to the band’s fundraiser. There is no set ticket price and donations are as much as you can carry in your other briefcase.
Randy is well known having been a music teacher at ODCVI and member of The Sensations (and lots of other bands including the OCB). The music he’s going to conduct includes English Folk Song Suite, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, Nessun Dorma, music from Jesus Christ Superstar, music from West Side Story and Malagueña.
- The Farmers’ Market in Market Square goes outdoors Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. There usually is some musical entertainment. There will also be some markets at night this summer, though dates are not firm yet.
- The Mariposa Arts Theatre is doing The Gin Game at their Bammer Drive rehearsal hall June 9 to 19, with Sunday matinees. It stars Jim Dwyer and Cheryl Van Vliet. Get tickets online.
- Creative Nomad Studios has some new programs for kids. They are about how to be safe and responsible while home alone, learning how to babysit, and small business for kids (i.e. operate your own lemonade stand, etc.). Register for these and other classes here. Also Jake Horowitz’s Sunshine City TV series will be shown June 10 at 7 and 9 p.m. Jake and some of the cast will be on hand. Tickets are available online.
- There is still time to whip something up for Sustainable Orillia’s 2022 Art Contest. The theme is What Will Orillia Look Like in 2050. Prizes are $500, $300 and $200. Submit work to firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Leacock Museum’s K. Valerie Connor Memorial Poetry Contest 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. Find links to entry forms here.
- OMAH has a great event happening online June 16. Charles Pachter has again donated a bunch of prints and original paintings to be auctioned as a fundraiser for OMAH. Previews start June 13 and bidding starts June 16 and closes June 18. There will also be a garden party at Charles’s MOFO Gallery June 18 from 2 to 4 p.m. OMAH also has new exhibits, see The 25th Annual International Women’s Day Art Show with 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. And 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 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.
- Sam Windover is playing Lake Country Grill Saturday at 8 p.m. … Michael Martyn is playing Fionn MacCool’s June 4… The Kensington has an open mic night hosted by Tim Kehoe on Tuesdays from 8 to 11 p.m. … Steven Henry plays Quayles Brewery June 3 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. … SAMMY(Johnston) is ripping it up tonight, May 21, at 9 p.m. at the Bracebridge Hall: she has, I think for the first time, a full band behind her. Get tickets online, or at the door.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Supplied) Main: The Orillia Concert Band in rehearsal at St. Paul’s Centre.