By John Swartz
Last weekend’s Orillia Jazz Festival was a success. It was not the jam packed edition of some years, but it happened, it lived another year because Arts Orillia took over running it and in general the main shows were well attended.
There weren’t as many venues participating, and I didn’t get to more than two gigs not on the main stage at the Opera House. Part of that is timing, there’s an election on, so anything resembling time management at my end doesn’t exist.
Friday night’s event at the Opera House was with Thompson Egbo-Egbo Trio and a troupe of 5 dancers who were, or are, Toronto Metropolitan University students, choreographed by Vicki St. Denys, the associate chair at the Toronto Metropolitan University School of Performance.
It was both good and bad. The first half was a wash for the most part. Right from the first notes from the drums (Jeff Halischuk) the sound mix was off. The audience clearly wasn’t prepared for the overly loud and badly EQ’d sound and I’m sure many thought they’d been pushed back a row or two. Then the bass (Randall Hall) came in and it was an indistinguishable thunderous goo. The pressure waves were on par with outdoor rock festival sound mixes where people a football field away need to feel they didn’t waste their money, but with no cutting off of the lowest frequencies (which creates all the mud, or goo) and this wasn’t outdoors. Most times it was hard to tell the bass lines apart from the bass drum – and both obliterated the work Thompson was doing on the piano.
It wasn’t until about half way through the set the band took care of things themselves, mostly because the music they were playing was more subdued and Thompson’s piano work could be appreciated. That doesn’t mean the bass drum and bass guitar didn’t have too much prominence, it just wasn’t as bad as previous.
The second half had the visual distraction of the dancers to take half the brain away from the overall sound. The trio was in accompanying mode, so they weren’t as hard driving as at the beginning, they just played music which was less busy.
It was difficult to divide attention from the movement and the music because the dancers were very good, it was like watching jazz. They came together to work in unison, broke apart to free-form moves like soloists would do, and came together, and so on.
All through the concert images created by Gram Schmaltz were played on a video screen which complemented the music and the dancers. The last tune’s images were not pre-designed, but more of a video feedback, or digital delay visualization of the dancers which served to show multiple images of each as carbon copies moving in sync with the dancers. It was a good effect and a good way to end the concert.
Later, singer Denielle Bassels was performing at Couchiching Craft Brewing with a trio. They were upstairs, which was full of people, and then a bunch more who had been at the Opera house came in after me. They sounded like a trio should. The room as it is now is a little noisy, but not as much as it could have been. There are some acoustic treatments on the way to improve the sound. Jakob Pearce set up the PA and he either took into account the amount of talk and noise, or got lucky because I could hear the band very well. I don’t know who the guitarist was, but he was really good.
Saturday afternoon I popped into Alleycats Music for an hour to hear John Weston play guitar for an hour. He’s half the Jazz Byrds who play frequently next door at Sanafir. Playing solo is a different game than with other instruments present because you have to carry everything regardless of what the tune you’re covering may have sounded like in the form anyone would know it (which is precisely why no one wants to sit through a drummer playing solo for more than say 3 minutes; OK, 1 minute; yeah, yeah yeah, 30 seconds). Take the Beatles for example, He covered some and hit all the right parts (melody, all the relevant guitar and bass parts) to make a enjoyable rendition. It was kind of like listening to Joe Pass, like I’m doing right now.
Saturday evening, back at the Opera House, Brassworks and assorted guests had a concert. They started with Birdland, a heavy tune for any band to do – well, which they did. Alex Dean was along for the ride playing sax.
Stepping aside for a minute, this year’s festival was like having the spirit of Rob McConnell around, with Alex Dean, and on Sunday Terry Clarke and Neil Swainson playing in town. The latter two played on my favourite tunes from the Boss Brass and Dean was in the band the last decade of the band’s existence.
Dean soloed in just about every tune. The other working musician, Danny McErlain did some great solo work too. The rest of the band are also working musicians, most of them, as in they are music teachers, including the solo singer, Christina Bosco. She’s got a big voice, big enough to make doing Georgia a spectacle, as it should be.
With so many music teachers involved, they have made it a point every year at the festival to have high school band students perform. This time around rather than just bring an entire band in from one of the schools, they had 4 students from each of the schools in town nominated to the Orillia All Star Jazz Band. Alex Dean spent some time with them in a master class earlier in the day and conducted them at the show. They had a good sound happening and it was nicely done.
Then, 7 cast members of the upcoming Mariposa Arts Theatre production of The Rocky Horror Show (opens November 10, and I understand the main floor has been sold out for a couple performances already) were out to do a couple tunes (Time Warp and Hot Patootie) and if this is the teaser, I think it worked. I’m looking forward to see the musical.
Then the Orillia All Star Vocal Ensemble came out for a tune. Again, these were all students for each of the high schools. They were also on stage for the all-hands-on-deck rendition of Copacabana and their voices made it all work.
Sunday afternoon Lance Anderson was at the Opera House for a retrospective show about Dave Brubeck with Clarke, Swainson and Vern Dorge along for the gig. Those three have played on so many recordings I guarantee you’ve heard their work.
As I sat in the audience in the second half, after which the band had already done Unsquare Dance, Blue Rondo and Take Five (crazy enough, they’re all toe tappers even though none are in 4/4) I had a thought about Lance. His piano work to that point was incredible and I reflected on his work in the Oscar Peterson show he does, (and The Band, and Joe Cocker, and Sly Stone tributes), that he can switch from jazz, to blues, to soul, funk gospel and rock at the drop of a hat – and switch from piano to organ and accordion expertly and realized no one should have that much talent. Yet he does. And, he’s got the gonads to lead a band of musicians who have played with most of the famous virtuosos of my time like he does it every day. It’s not just the people he played with, but to cover such iconic piano parts like he originated them is outstanding. He sings too. Not on Sunday, but still.
I’m just glad I was present for the concert. One has not had the chance in the last 20 or 30 years to hear those classic pieces of music played as the greats of the Brubeck band did them and know they did everything right. Pinch me.
We should count ourselves lucky to be able to see anything Lance does as frequently as we do here in Orillia. We all recognize Gord as the bright light of music who used to live right up there on Harvey Street, and we should recognize Lance shares that status. Joe Schmoe might not know Lance’s name, but I guarantee you I don’t know of anyone who can command the presence of the best musicians of any stripe or genre for a gig he’s producing like Lance can.
What a way to close out the festival.
Fans of the music of The Band can see Lance’s The Last Waltz at the Gravenhurst Opera House November 19. The band Lance will have includes Chuck Jackson, Johnny Max, Matt Weidinger and Quisha Wint. They’ve played Peter’s Players 24 times, which is about 20 times more than anyone else has.
Concerts This Weekend
The Orillia Concert Band’s fall concert is October 22 at St. Paul’s Centre. It’s called Bach Meets Bacharach. I think they’re going to play some music by Johann and Burt. It’s at 7:30 p.m. and admission is by donation and it’s also a fundraiser for Information Orillia.
It looks like the OCB is playing the first half and the Orillia Big Band the second. Autumn Debassige will have the OBB back her up on Georgia and The Look of Love.
The Orillia Silver Band’s fall concert happens October 23 at the Opera House. On the menu is Shostakovich’s Folk Festival, Verdi’s The Overture to Nabucco and Ralph Pearce’s Cry of the Warriors. Tickets.
The Dangerous Nutbar Is Still Loose, So
St. Paul’s Centre is having another fundraising concert to aid Ukrainians. This time the donated money will be directed to the Canada/Ukraine Foundation specifically to help refugees who have landed in Canada. I suppose as long as Vlad Putler is on the loose there might be a series of fundraising efforts.
The concert happens at 2:30 p.m. October 29 and once again Mayor Steve Clarke is the emcee. You can get tickets at the door ($25/ $15 for those under 16), or at the office Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you can’t go and still want to donate you can do so online– just type Orillia in the message box for the donation to be counted as stemming from this concert.
Some of the music you’ll hear will be performed by the new Orillia Community Children’s Choir. Peter Voisey will do Going Home, the spiritual that was the basis for the largo section of Dvorak’s New World Symphony. If it’s not a large orchestra your hearing, it’s usually not performed on the original instrument it was written for, the English horn, but Peter is going to use one for this concert.
He’s also going to play Gabriel’s Oboe with Blair Bailey on the newly acquired Bosendorfer piano. Peter, along with Valerie Selender and Blair, John Jefferies (baritone) and Marcie Armstrong (soprano) are be doing some Bach. Julia Johnston, Kathy Brown and Angie Lewis are going to sing an arrangement of a Ukrainian traditional song, Chervona Kalyna, Jim Lewis wrote.
Also happening at St. Paul’s The Call to Action #83 art project’s third exhibit opens on Sunday, October 23 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. There will be a lunch served at new for a small donation.
And St. Paul’s Centre has a pub night happening November 4 at 6 p.m. with Brad Emmons (of Alex). Admission is $10 and you can buy food and drinks and there will be a silent auction. Across Coldwater Street there are some sideways glances to observe, but I had a beer there when Ronnie Douglas played two weeks ago.
The City of Orillia is conducting an online survey to prepare a strategic plan for public art. The survey is available until November 10.
There are three different surveys to choose from depending on whether you are an artist, a youth, or a business person. Several other municipal plans and policies have mention or requirement for inclusion of public art and the result of this project will set some ground rules for funding, development and installation of public art.
There was a warm up survey done in 2021 which had 400 responses. I am surprised so many took the opportunity, it seems to me it has to be one of the most well responded to surveys the City has done is some time.
Consultants Cobalt Connects, a not-for-profit enterprise specializing in public art, has been hired to help figure out how to expand on the feedback from the previous survey.
Orillia artists and arts organizations and other stakeholders will also have opportunity for input.
The Orillia and District Arts Council and Creative Nomad Studios, with support from Canada Council for the Arts has an artist’s presentation and reception from 2 to 5 p.m. November 5 for A Visual Reconciliation – Part One.
Four artists, Xavier Fernandes, Ted Fullerton, Paul Shilling and Julie Tian interpreted from their own cultural background and from their lived experiences the Seven Grandmother Teachings.
This event focuses on the first of the teachings – Bravery – Aakwa’ode’ewin (represented by the bear). The remaining teachings:
Honesty – Gwekwaadziwin
Humility – Dbaadendiziwin
Respect – Manaaji’idiwin
Love – Zaagi’idiwin
Truth – Debwewin
Wisdom – Nbwaakaawin
will be presented at other galleries between November and July 2023.
OMAH’s annual Carmichael Canadian Landscape Exhibition is up. There’s lots of great pieces this year. Also up is Sylvia Tesori’s The Man Who Could Fly; The Girl Who Flies In Her Dreams solo show and The History Of Orillia In 50 Artefacts exhibit. OMAH also has a new, free, weekly event called Music and Mocktails every Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. … Hibernation Arts guest artist this month is Deby Melillo. Catherine Cadieux, Raune-lea Marshall and David Crighton have also got new work hanging around.. Peter Street Fine Arts is featuring works by artists of the Bayside Artists group… Cloud Gallery has Sarah Carlson’s Slow Burn show opening October 21 from 6 to 9 p.m.
- The 8th annual Ugly Sweater Bowling Party happens at Orillia Bowl December 16 from6 to 11 p.m. Derick Lehman organizes this event which has raised $20,000 for the Sharing Place Food Bank. The format is a little different this year; here are only two time frames to choose from. Last year the earlier times slots sold out pretty quickly. Register online.
- I don’t know if you can tell by all the Christmas decorations Halloween is next week. ODAS PARK has a haunting event called the Severn Slaughterhouse happening October 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29. They say it’s family friendly, your experience may vary. This is something they brought in from a company called Northern Screams Attractions of Sudbury. As near as I can tell this company does several of these and most are fundraisers for community groups. Get tickets and book times online.
- The Orillia Youth Centre has Skye Wallace here to do a concert at Creative Nomad October 28 – the day her new album, Terribly Good, is released.Sam Johnston is opening. This is a fundraiser for the Teens On Edge program which covers the cost of and teaches kids to become certified ski instructors, provided they commit to becoming instructors in the program themselves. Some of the kids from the youth center take part in the program. Get tickets online.
- The Orillia Concert Association’s season starts October 30 with the Toronto Concert Ensemble performing at the Opera House. Season tickets are available by phone to the Opera House at 705-326-8011.
- The Opera House has several events happening. October 21 the premiere sowing of the movie The Ace and The Scout is at 7 p.m. Orillia’s Kyle Naylor has a role in it.This WWII story is about two soldiers and Anishinaabe sniper Francis Pegahmagabow; Dwayne Gretzky plays October 27; Second City’s Absolute Best Friggin’ Time Of Your Life happens October 28; Menopause The Musical is in October 29. Go here for tickets.
- Couchiching Craft Brewing has Lyric Dubee in October 22; will Davis and Chris Robinson will be in October 23; Jessica Bowman plays October 27; Rocksteady plays their Halloween party October 29… 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 Sammy playing October 21; Alex Barber plays 1 p.m. October 22 and Steph Dunn at 4:30; Evan Farrell is in at 12:30 p.m. and Rob Watts at 3:30 October 23; Alex Barber returns October 27; Cam Galloway is in October 28… Mike Martyn and Alex Andrews play Saturday night at the Hog N’ Penny; they’re showing movies from the AMC Fearfest all weekend… The Cellar Singers are doing Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Dona Nobis Pacem November 6 at St. James’ Anglican Church (Tickets).
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: Lance Anderson and Matt Weidinger of Matchedash Parish (here at the Mariposa 2018) will be at Peter’s Players November 19.