This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

The nominee list for this year’s Orillia and District Arts Council/Orillia Museum of Art and History/City of Orillia Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Awards was released this week. There are 5 categories and 17 nominees.

The Education In Arts/Culture/Heritage category has the heftiest list.

Jessica Allen is a historian from Oro-Medonte and runs an Instagram account – Couchiching_Curations – where she posts photos and clippings about our history.

Steph Dunn you may know as a musician, but she is also a teacher of music, illustration and digital art.

Kate Hilliard is the artistic director of Arts Orillia and she’s brought many artists and dancers to Orillia schools, most recently the Thompson Egbo-Egbo trio spent time with high school music students during the Orillia Jazz Festival.

Errol Lee is new on the scene, Most of his career has been as a performer/teacher in the Barrie and GTA area, but he lives in Orillia now. He’s already performed at one of last summer’s Wednesday evening neighbourhood concerts and in area schools.

Meg Leslie teaches several different visual art crafts and also is part of the team leading a participatory art project at the Mariposa Folk Festival.

Jayne Poolton-Turvey has done outstanding work each year with the Orillia Public Library Remembrance Day exhibits and hundreds of school children make organized trips to the library to see them.

The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 34, with Rick Purcell as president, are nominated for their effort to recognize the Hunter Boats explosion of 1943 and keep the event in the public eye.

The Emerging Artist award goes to someone new on the scene. At first I was shaking my head Sam Johnston didn’t get nominated. Then I was reminded she won this category last year.

Rick Benson is emerging as a blues musician. Based in Rama, Ronnie Douglas has been boosting his career.

Jordyn Nancy Greer is a tattoo artist from Oro-Medonte. So, lots of people are walking around with her artistry in view. She’s so popular you can’t get an appointment until next winter, she’s booked solid.

Raune-lea Marshall isn’t new as in – who? He’s been around doing some prominent work for some time. The criteria for nomination is a 5–year window of activity, which she certainly qualifies for.

M Nowick-Rigelhof has had work in Streets Alive and in the current exhibit popping up here and there, Art Trees of Oro-Medonte (there’s one in the Green Room at the Opera House)

The Heritage Restoration/Renovation and Publication category has 4 nominees. Again, the window of qualification is a 5-year period.

The Orillia Heritage Centre are the folks who restore old cars. They have the Tudhope car which was displayed at City Hall. They’ve also get their hands on other things made in Orillia, toys, boats, etc. and displayed them at events.

The OPP Museum is nominated. Their exhibit changes from time to time and has some interesting things to see.

Lori Oschefski is nominated for her work regarding the British Home Children. She made a presentation at OMAH’s History Speaker Night last year and is the president of Home Children Canada.

Mike and Maggie Best of Jim Ostler Contracting are restoring the old fire hall next door to the post office on Peter Street.

The Event in Arts/Culture and Heritage category has two nominees. The Art Trees of Oro-Medonte project and the Mariposa Folk Festival. It’s hard to believe after all these years the MFF has finally been nominated.

The Qennefer Browne Achievement Award is not exactly a life time achievement award, but the nominees tend to be those who have been at it for many years, or decades.

Mike Rothwell of Alleycats Music has done a wonderful job promoting music in most of its forms, and that includes live music. He also was involved with Roots North on the ground floor and  participates in most of the music events in town.

What can you say about Doreen Uren Simmons that can be said in a family type publication? Not as much as on cable, but still a lot. She is in demand as a piano accompanist and solo performer, not just in Orillia, but at one time in North America. She’s played with just about every group in town and out of town, most recently at the Michael Jones piano dedication concert at St. Paul’s Centre.

Congratulations to all. The award presentation happens November 23 at the Orillia Opera House. Schmoozing is at 6 and the ceremony at 7 p.m. this is a free to attend event.

Concert Reviews
Sam Johnston

Friday, Saturday and Sunday each had concerts happening. First was the Orillia Youth Centre’s gig with Sam Johnston and Skye Wallace at Creative Nomad Studios.  This was a limited seating of 60 affair and sold out. Sam is evolving as a performer and each time I get to see her she’s better than the last.

This time she performed more blues and when the songs weren’t specifically blues tunes, she twisted them toward blues. There are not many who would decide they are ready to cover Stevie Ray Vaughn’s Pride and Joy, or Jimi Hendrix’s The Wind Cries Mary because the pressure would be to throw in all the bells and whistles or go home. Sam, on the other hand didn’t try to present a copy of those tunes, she did them her way, neatly sidestepping the virtuostic playing of the originators and zeroing in on the core of each of the tunes and performing them in a likeable way.

What I like best about musicians is when they abandon the things we identify with a song, usually because of incessant radio play and just go with what their skill level, tools at hand, and view of what makes the song work. The audience responded with surprise almost immediately when Sam started he closing tune, Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive. Sam got a fantastic round of applause when it was over because she didn’t do homage to Disco, but instead created a new interpretation of the lyrics more in line with the overriding blues influence of her set.

Skye Wallace

Skye has not performed here with a band for some time. In truth, she doesn’t need one, so this was like having 4 times more icing on the cake. If anyone who has seen her before thought she was a dynamic performer (and missed this gig with four other musicians to flesh out the parts and add colour) you should see her on stage freed from the responsibility of carrying the whole thing by herself and able to let loose with her inner muse. Not to be diminished are the harmony vocals added to her music, which is even more icing.

After a couple of songs I noticed three of the members of Bleeker had come in and I thought it was interesting they thought this gig was important to see. I hadn’t noticed until Skye introduced her band members that Bleeker’s drummer, Chris Dimas, was part of the band on stage.

She played many of the tunes from her newest album, Terribly Good, and it was good to hear them live. I stumbled on some video clips of this show. They aren’t the greatest sounding, but you can get a sense of performance she gave. The closer was another surprise for the audience. Skye did her version of If I Could Turn Back Time. Yeah, that one. But, this one rocked.

When the youth center isn’t producing concert to raise money for their programs, they do it for others. This time they raised $3,347 for the Teens On Edge skiing program.

Saturday afternoon a fundraiser for aid to Ukrainian refugees was held at St. Paul’s Centre. The highlight for me was the performance of an excellent arrangement of Dovrak’s Goin’ Home from the New World Symphony. Peter Voisey, Valerie Selander, John Jefferies and Blair Bailey were the players. Peter did the arrangement with Jim Paterson. Peter also played his part on an English Horn, which is the instrument originally used for this piece. What was most interesting about the score is how Peter weaved the music between his horn, the violin and organ and John’s signing, there was such a nice flow from one to the other. Normally you’d hear this music played by an orchestra and it’s one of my favourite pieces. I didn’t miss the orchestra, or the power that brings to the music.

One other great performance was a duet between Darrin Davis on sax, with Blair on the organ playing Nessun Dorma. The way most people are familiar with this music is because of Luciano Pavarotti’s performance of it at the 2006 Winter Olympics 19 months before he died. This tune is also on my favourites list and the pairing of unlikely instruments was interesting, but when you think of it, with the saxophone being one of the most expressive instruments and the emotion the song evokes and the power of the organ plus Darrin’s clear tone made for one of the most dramatic moments of the concert.

A surprise was the appearance of Brassworks, juts a sextet of the band who, without a warm up tune to get the blood flowing through the chops, opened the concert with Marche Militaire Francaise. The surprise was John, who produced the concert, didn’t mention to me a couple weeks ago they were on the menu. And I’d be surprised if the players weren’t thinking – ‘what were we thinking opening with that?’ It’s got a lot of fast notes in it.

Sunday afternoon the Orillia Concert Association kicked off their season with the Toronto Concert Ensemble at the Opera House.

The first half was, as one would expect all classical music. Other than Dvorak’s Humouresque, most of the pieces weren’t the kind of stuff you’d say, ‘I know that.’ But the 8 strings played like a machine, well balanced and exactly in time with the conductor, Marcus Scholtes. In the second half, he picked up a violin and soloed on Can’t Help Falling In Love.

The second half was a mixture of popular classical works – Night On Bald Mountain, Palladio – and theater  – I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miz – and pop – the Elvis tune above, Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You (which was a really good arrangement and performance) and Sweet Child Of Mine. That last one could have been the cheesiest letdown because I’ve yet to hear a classical group cover rock well – unless it’s backing up the actual band. This however was a very respectful and cleverly orchestrated arrangement the ensemble played crap out of. I’d guess most of the audience went home thinking, ‘I didn’t know Guns and Roses wrote such nice music.’

The concert association has 4 more concerts ahead – Christopher Dawes on the organ at St. Andrew’s (which if you have yet to hear this instrument, the third largest in Canada, you haven’t lived) on November 27; the Ladom Quartete on January 29; the Weston Silver Band on March 26 and the Toronto Mandolin Orchestra May 3. You can get individual concert tickets this year, but the $90 season ticket is still the best buy. Call the Opera House box office 705-326-8011 to get those.

If negotiations work out there is the possibility of partnering with Arts Orillia for a 6th concert happening in June and that may be included in the season pass.

Packed Weekend Round Six
Art By Gordon Harrison

There’s lots of choice of what to do this weekend once again. Things start Friday night at Cloud Gallery for the opening of the third of their rapid fire solo exhibits. This time with the work of Gordon Harrison. The reception starts at 6 p.m.

Saturday afternoon 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. 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) and the 6 remaining teachings will happen at other galleries between November and July 2023.

Sunday at 4 p.m. the Cellar Singers have a concert at St. James’ Anglican Church. The big piece they are doing is Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Dona Nobis Pacem. The soloists are Jennifer Taverner and Michael York.

They’ll also be doing music by Stephen Chatman, Alexander Tilley, and Albert Greer that reflect Remembrance Day is coming up. The Williams piece starts with a short prayer for peace. It also uses text by Walt Whitman and parts of a speech British politician John Bright gave in an effort to prevent the Crimean War (not the current one, the one from history books).

You can get tickets online or at the door

The Shorts

  • 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. I did the business survey and looked at the others. They’re trying to gauge opinion on participation and finance of public art. The last survey they did regarding public art had 400 responses. The survey only takes a few minutes to do.
  • The Orillia Vocal Ensemble’s first concert of the season is November 9 at St. Paul’s Centre. Sam Johnston is their guest and will formally receive her Roger Andrews Memorial Scholarship Award from the OVE. As usual, the OVE does not charge admission, but will still take your donation and proceeds always go to a charity in town – this time the Couchiching Conservancy.
  • Creative Nomad Studios is finally having their grand opening November 10 from 6 to 9 p.m. The mayor, the old one, or current one, will be there to cut the, if you thought I was going to say ribbon, you are right. Michael Martyn will be playing some music
  • The Opera House has Mariposa Arts Theatre doing the Rocky Horror Show starting November 10. The cast includes Michael Abernethy Laura Bainborough, Patrick Voo and Josh Halbot. I’d get tickets now, they’ve been selling so well for the show in Gord’s Room, this week they started selling balcony seats for all shows.
  • The 8th annual Ugly Sweater Bowling Party happens at Orillia Bowl December 16 from 6 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; there are only two time frames to choose from. Last year the earlier times slots sold out pretty quickly.  Register online.
Art By
Renee van der Putten
  • OMAH’s annual Carmichael Canadian Landscape Exhibition is up. 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. The history side has their monthly History Speaker’s Night November 17 with Douglas Hunter who will speak about the birth of the Group of Seven in the context of A.Y. Jackson’s World War I service. It’s online and you can get tickets by calling 705-326-2159… Hibernation Arts guest artist this month is Renee Van Der Putten and the opening reception is Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. … Peter Street Fine Arts is launching this year’s 6×6 show and the boards are ready to pick up at last year’s fee level; their guest this month is also Renee Van der Putten.
  • Couchiching Craft Brewing has Julien Kelland playing November 5; Will Davis and Chris Robinson November 6 and Jakob Pearce November 10… 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 Ron Whitman playing Friday and Saturday afternoons and Patrick Hunter Sunday afternoon… the Hog N’ Penny has Liz Anderson playing Friday night; Jamie Drake plays next Friday… Sean Patrick is playing part of a line up celebrating the New York club CBGB’s On November 10 at the Queen’s in Barrie.

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

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