This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Professional musicians, and I don’t mean just the ones making a living at it, there are many who treat their craft with a professional attitude, will always know the difference between a cheap, or mass produced instrument and a well made instrument. A good ear in the audience will too.

Leonard Bernstein, Andre Previn, Joe Zawinul, Peter Gabriel, Placido Domingo and Oscar Peterson are a few Bosendorfer piano owners. Michael Jones was too. In fact, you’ll find Michael’s name listed on the Bosendorfer website as one of their artists right below Billy Joel and Quincy Jones.

I’ve heard Michael play his a few times at his home. Michael’s playing style is such he could get the most delicate sound out of his piano. Michael’s wife, Judy Archer donated the piano to St. Paul’s Centre and last Saturday night there was a concert held, with numerous players, to celebrate the donation and raise some funds.

Michael Jones

The first thing I noticed is the effect of room acoustics. The difference how the piano sounded in the wide open space with as much hard reflective surface as a tour through Jabba the Putt’s head would reveal compared to Michael’s home is incredible. Boy did that piano fill the room with sound. The balance of sound from the highest register to the lowest was incredibly even. Many times I have noticed a difference with sound balance between a player’s right (high end) and left (Low end) hands with the left being weaker sounding.

That’s not just at St. Paul’s. I’ve noticed many other pianos in other settings where the lower tenor and bass sound are not as strong as what is being played on the right hand. That’s not entirely a piano’s fault, but I think its part of it. There is not an instrument in the world that sounds to a musician the way an audience hears it.

First up was Lance Anderson playing Georgia – twice; his phone went off after he started playing. What a sweet arrangement he made. I think he played that piano harder than I ever heard Michael play it. This first impression was all about the fullness of sound across the spectrum. To hear ten notes hang in the air together in balance is quite an experience if one had it before.

Blair Bailey was next. He played Clair de Lune. I think this is a piece of music which gives a pianist/artist the most leeway to pour their heart and soul into. It can sound great, and at the hands of another musician out of this world. I didn’t ask, but I think Blair Bailey must have approach playing it with the idea of milking every ounce and nuance of sound from the Bosendorfer he could. A prime example is the passage linked. Debussy left all kinds of empty space between notes just dying to be filled with the remnants of notes played. When Blair played that part I could hear the reverberations of those notes from the back of the room where I usually sit, as though I was sitting right at the stage.  It’s a moment that will live rent free in my mind for years.

Terry Therian played one of Michael’s songs, Butterflies in Space, and my first thought was about how anyone would have the gumption to try playing anything of Michael’s. His style was complex and filled with musical ornaments to the degree that when I listened to him play his music I often wondered what the task would be to write it down and to learn it. That’s not to say all Michael’s music is beyond most pianists, there’s always someone who is up to it, but this piece was from the mid tier of his work; still challenging and accessible.

Terry told a story of Michael’s from the music book she was using. Michael was filling some downtime playing piano at some conference he was attending, as he often does, and one person stopped to listen. That person said they loved his playing but it sounded too much like Michael Jones and maybe he should think about changing to something more personal. To which Michael obviously said, but I am Michael Jones. The rest of the story is about Michael finally having to show his driver’s license to a still unbelieving listener.

Doreen Uren Simmons evaded the checkpoints at City limits and came to play a movement of Johannes Brahms’s Sonata #3. It’s always great to see and hear Doreen, and she always has something smart-alecky to say to me. She showed how well the Bosendorfer can handle a ton of notes with the kind of clarity few other pianos can match.

Casandra Rutherford (Mark’s daughter) showed us how the thing responds to a modern approach to composing. Her stuff is quirky, taking turns you don’t see coming, and demands a lot of a piano to handle the changes.

Louis Lefaive and his daughter Kelly played twice in the run order, doing some French Canadian styled folk dance music. This kind of thing you usually hear on an upright, or smaller sized piano that’s had a few drinks spilled on it. Louis gets credit for getting the right kind of sound out of the piano, and for the piano responding to the type of playing.

lance anderson
Lance Anderson

Lance returned near the end to play his arrangement of I Want To Hold Your Hand. He said his next album is going to be all Beatles with new arrangements, and if this is the example, I can’t wait to hear it.

It’s rare to find an instrument adaptable to so many things and still sound superior. St. Paul’s has something unique in this instrument; not to mention we do too with so much talent to play it. I can imagine a negotiation with a musician and a concert promoter that’s iffy and the promoter saying, “but we have a Bosendorfer for you to play on,” as the card to play to seal a deal.

The really good news is you can watch the concert online. You can also add to the donations online, use the drop down menu to allocate it from this concert.

Changing Of The Sculptures
Jimi McKee and the Sanderson Monument Crew At The Orillia Recreation Centre

Jimmy McKee’s new piece called, The Automatic Steering Device for the Mariposa Belle, was installed at the Orillia Recreation Center last week. It’s made of casting molds from Dorr Oliver Long, which was located across West Street many years ago.

Is was installed the same day his story pole was removed from the Opera House. I’m still annoyed with how that transpired, the report which left a lot of detail out, and the manner council chose to appease one person’s complaint by using a health and safety excuse. You can find more detail here, and here.

On safety, the report said there were structural concerns, which as I have reported, Jimi said were likely not and could have said so if someone had asked him to have a look or join the inspection.

“I’ve restored the totem pole already,” Jimi said on Wednesday afternoon. It was taken out of the Opera House Wednesday morning just before the same work crew from Sanderson Monuments took the other piece to the rec center.

“I took me, I guess, 4 hours, which included the resin to harden up and painted the colours back on the pole.”

A concern of the report writer was a crack in the ‘art girl’ where a pin connects the clown figure. The crack looked to be about half an inch wide, but as it turns out was a cosmetic flaw than a structural one.

“The girl on the totem pole is in my living room, it’s basically the piece they were complaining about because of the crack,” Jimi said. “I poured resin into the crack, which was only about half an inch in, then I bondo’d it and painted it. The angel on top and the clown have no cracks in it at all. The pin (which allows the top figures to spin) that goes through the girl also goes through the canoe and goes into the top of the main pole,”

“If they’d come to me and I put a flashlight on it, I could have photographed it, but I couldn’t tell until I put the girl horizontally in the shop and poured resin into it. I figured it’s got to go down at least an inch to two inches. Well, I put a total of an ounce of resin in the whole crack. We’re not talking about a serious flaw.”

This whole thing smacks of rushing to avoid the threat the complainer, Skén:nen kénha, who is the administrative director of the  Ontario Presents Contact Ontour event happening right now at the Opera House and St. Paul’s, to make a big deal of this because we’re all, (Jimi, the City, those of us living here) a bunch of racists if the City didn’t take it down.

It’s become more clear to me at each turn, this report was directed to be written in such a way by somebody who didn’t mind getting covered in egg for this rush to act, than whatever might cover them if the allegations, unfounded as they have proven to be, became National news.

I really don’t think the person who wrote the safety report could have missed what even I could see is obviously not concerning, nor the person who signed the main report are to blame for this fiasco. The fact Jimi’s explanation of what the pole represents, included in council’s report and suitably answering the insensitivity and racism charges, was barely touched on during the meeting, glossed over you might say, and then council hanging on the safety aspect as the reason to have it removed so quickly are suspect.

So this big conference. For an event meant to showcase performers and performing groups to promoters and producers. I find it odd that not one email was sent to the arts columnist of almost three decades tenure here about this in advance of what appears to be a significant event. I had to find out by accident the real scope of what is happening, and that one of the marquee names attending is former Coney Hatch and April Wine band member Carl Dixon, and Ballet Kelowna and the Sultans of String would be among the performers at the Opera House and the free to attend sessions at St. Paul’s.

It’s a shame the main focus of the director was to make ill-informed waves about a piece of art, than it was to get some spotlight – which seems to be the point of the conference – on the performers. Can’t wait for the hubbub when the McMichael Canadian Art Collection totem poles come into view.

In the other hand, this is a busy weekend with trying to get out all the stories that came in this week, catch up on one which needs to be done, and attend the Leacock Medal events.  

All the Events That Fits

So in keeping with the Classic Car Show as an event worth covering in this space, Sustainable Orillia has a car show on this weekend at ODAS Park. They’re calling it the largest demonstration of electric vehicles ever seen in Simcoe County. Find more detail here.

Yes Virginia, They Do Make Electric Mustangs

This is the third year for this free event and hours are Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This is happening as part of Sustainable Orillia’s Sustainable Orillia Month activities. September 25 they are holding a conference called Path To Net Zero at 1 p.m. at St. Paul’s Centre. Currant and hopeful politicians have been invited – as well as the public – to discuss the community climate change action plan and what people can do to reduce generating CO2. Its part advocacy and part learning and you can register to attend online.

A third event happening is their Urban Planning Walks. This looks to be a series of tours to highlight the good and the bad of municipal planning, the first of which happens September 24. It will be lead by David Stinson, a professional planner. You can register to join the walk online and there will be three (10, noon and 2) starting at the Port of Orillia.

The Shorts

  • The annual Roots North fundraising concert for the Orillia Youth Centre happens September 17 at Fern Resort with Reay, Billy Pettinger and Ron Hawkins (Lowest of the Low). As in the past Dapper Depot is a major sponsor of this event and 100% of the proceeds go to the youth center. Get tickets online.
Terry Fallis
  • Terry Fallis and Rod Carley will be at Manticore Books Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. to sign copies of their Leacock Medal For Humour shortlisted (and winner in Terry’s case) books.
  • Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. there is a  tribute concert in memory of Wayne Buttery happening at the Stonebridge Wasaga Blues Festival. Wayne’s band along with Gerry Markman covering the guitar parts and Gary French the vocals. Check the schedule because Ronnie Douglas, Blackburn and  Wendell Ferguson are also playing the festival.
  • Check out the details here. about a public art opportunity the City is running. One artist I spoke with was already in designer mode for a few of the 7 installation sites. There is a nice chunk of change available for artists selected to do the work.
  • Arts Orillia (formerly the Orillia Centre for Arts and Culture) has an event at the Leacock Museum happening September 22 at noon. It’s the premier of Heirloom by choreographers Zack Martel and Santiago River. It features new music played by a trio from the Royal Conservatory and mixes dance, circus and juggling into the performance. Tickets are pay what you can and you can order those online. I think most of you know I don’t get excited about dance, but I have enjoyed each of the dance programs the Orillia Centre has put on here.
  • Season tickets are now available online for the Orillia Concert Association’s series of concerts. They’re still only $90 for 5 concerts. The lineup is the Toronto Concert Orchestra (Oct. 30), Christopher Dawes (in November, doing a tribute to Kerry Stratton on the organ at St. Andrew’s), and the Landom Quartet, the Weston Silver Band and the Toronto Mandolin Orchestra in 2023.
  • Our favourite singer, Skye Wallace, has a new album coming in October. You can listen to three of the tunes now on Bandcamp. She’s got a tour happening in Germany right now, and will be touring across Canada in November. I left a snarky comment on her Facebook page that it looked like Orillia got left off the itinerary and she sent a note saying something is in the works on that count.
Irish Mythen at Roots North 2018
  • Mariposa Folk Festival’s An Autumn Paradiseconcert happening October 1 at Bayview Memorial Park in Oro-Medonte and at the Opera House got better this week. Treasa Levasseur has been added to the lineup which included  Aleksi Campagne, Union Duke and Irish Mythen. Dala has been added to the Opera House gig with Julian Taylor. Tickets are available online, or at the Opera House box office.
  •  The 4th Annual Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Awards nominations are now open. I’ll have more on this next week. For now you find nomination forms online.
  • Couchiching Craft Brewing has Madison Mueller playing Saturday at 6:30 p.m.; their Rocktoberfest events start next week with the Bob Taylor Band on September 23, Jeff Young on the 24th, and a beer trivia night September 29; Run With The Kittens does a warm up show October 8 for Will Davis and Chris Robinson on the 8th…  Jamie Drake, along with Jakob Pearce and Alex Golovchenko host a jam at the Grape and Olive Thursday nights starting at 6 p.m. … Quayle’s Brewery has Genevieve Cyr playing September 18 and Steph Dunn September 23… the Kensington has an open mic night hosted by Tim Kehoe on Tuesdays from 8 to 11 p.m. … the Hog N’ Penny has trivia night every Thursday… The Farmers’ Market has family entertainer Andy Griffiths at the market Saturday

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

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