This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

Tonight’s annual Orillia Concert Band Christmas Prelude concert at St. Paul’s Centre is what I normally consider as the start of the Christmas season. The 7:30 p.m. gig is only the first of many happening during the next few weeks.

After stumbling about for a dozen years in other places it was at this concert back in the 90s the first sense I was home came to me. I found a purpose because I found community in the hundreds of voices joining the concert band in Christmas Carols.

I used to think Christmas was not a great time in the worst season of the year. The family and friends I had were miles away – and there wasn’t enough slush in my life, so I moved North (I thought if I had to go elsewhere it would be California where musicians and writers go and forget how to shovel snow and chip ice off windshields).

For all the smarts we think we have, we believe in rituals and superstitions. The church, and I mean the Catholic Church, co-opted many ancient rituals and superstitions into what we call Christmas. For many people Christmas is still all about the religious aspect that never really was, while many others who aren’t religious still practice the traditions because it represents something greater than religion.

Regardless of what any person or group believes, the end result is for a few weeks of the year we are nicer to each other and many people decide for this period of time to actually care about others, the less fortunate. It seems to me that’s a good thing.

For some reason the general good feelings we have about each other come Boxing Day, certainly by New Year’s Day are back to normal as we forget how we felt smiling at each other, holding doors for others, insisting you go next at the 4-way, finding some bit of joy in the antics of kids and helping neighbours shovel their driveways. Maybe the snap back to reality begins with Aunt Karen going on about how Christmas is ruined because Aunt Margaret burnt the dressing again until drunk Uncle Kevin tells her to shut up and then the youngest of the family start crying because they don’t know why everyone is shouting. Maybe its sadness realizing the good times are coming to an end January 2 and the boss (who never seems to be affected by the season as the rest of us are) has to be tolerated daily figuring back into life again.

The pattern is well established, for these next few weeks we’ll be more human than usual. Maybe it’s the music which infects us. The members of the bands and choirs do enjoy performing for you. For some people  it’s the only time of year they’ll go to a concert, maybe because they know all the familiar music. Music does have the ability to make people feel good about themselves, and others.

The concert band will play twice today. A short version of the concert happens at 3:30 p.m. with the Orillia Community Children’s Choir as their guests. The evening concert has the Orillia Vocal Ensemble in to help with the singing bits.

You can get tickets online or at the door. The afternoon gig’s tickets are $10/ $5 for kids and the evening’s $15/$10 for kids. In both cases kids under 5 get in free. If you can’t get to the concert, you can watch it online as it happens, or later. You can even donate some cash to the OCB to cover their streaming costs online.


Next up is Brassworks Christmas concert December 4 at 2:30 p.m. at the Salvation Army Citadel on Coldwater Road. The repertoire will be Christmas music, but from a jazz perspective. They’ll have the 4th Street Jazz Project (a combo), Christina Bosco and the combined choirs of Twin Lakes Secondary and OSS as guest performers.

Brassworks plays their own arrangements, they’ll support Christina when she’s on and team up with everyone toward the end of the concert. Admission is by donation and proceeds will go to the Salvation Army Christmas Appeal.

The Cellar Singers

The Cellar Singers’s Christmas concert is December 11 at St. James’ Anglican Church at 4 p.m. They will do music old and new written by Elmer Iseler, Eleanor Daley, Brian Emery, and Albert Greer. The centerpiece of the concert is Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria. For that they have soloists Alexandra Teske, Autumn Debassige, and Mary-Jayne Van Pypen joining them. You can get tickets online. They’re $25, or $10 if you are under 30.

The Orillia Silver Band has established themselves as the last of our groups to hold a Christmas concert and it’s December 18 at the Opera House at 2 p.m. They have a guest, Tom Hutchinson, performing with them. He’s from the U.K. and is principal cornetist with the Cory Band. In the U.K. he’s probably as well-known as Tom Jones is here because over there brass bands are more popular and they compete nationally and in Europe. The Cory Band is the current European champ. They won it 7 times in the last 15 years and he’s the top horn tooter, so this is kind of a big deal to have him here in town.

You can find tickets online for this concert, or get them at the door.

There’s one more that has a music component, organized by Blair Bailey, but is not the reason for the event. Dressed for Success and Green Haven Shelter For Women are bringing back a live reading of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. It happens December 16 at 7 p.m. at St. Paul’s Centre. The readers will be Don McIsaac, Marci and Kyla Csumrik and Krista Storey. You can get tickets online.

There’s More

There are a couple of Christmas concerts happening at the Opera House which are travelling road shows, rather than locally produced and performed. The Fitzgeralds: A Canadian Christmas is December 9; and a Christmas Panto – Cinderella: Stepsisters’ Revenge is in December 17. You can get tickets for those online.

The Shorts

  • Duck Soup Productions has created a musical revue of Broadway show tunes called Love Yourself and they’ll perform it December 10 and 11 at the Opera House. Tickets are available online.
  • Jay Fallis wrote a book of humourous stories called Ireland Awakening: A Post Covid-19 Travel Story. It tells the tale of a young man wandering the Emerald Isle and the adventures ensuing with the people he meets. It’s available now at Manticore Books.
  • You can still take the City of Orillia’s survey to give feedback about your experience with their See You On The Patio program of last summer. To date there have been 700 submissions, and there will be an interim report on council’s agenda December 7. The survey period is extended so more businesses can contribute. It doesn’t take long to do and you can find it online.
  • Mariposa House Hospice has New Year’s Eve fundraiser happening at Hawk Ridge Golf Club (guess the date). You can get a table for 8 ($1200) by calling 705-327-1610; extension 104, or email
  • The City and the DOMB have a contest happening called the Orillia Discover Downtown Goosechase Scavenger Hunt. It uses the Goosechase app which you can get from Apple, or if you are not a believer the Google Play Store. There are 50 missions to choose from to complete, such as uploading a receipt from a Wednesday night date, finding the Elf and getting a photo, or a photo of your favourite store, etc. There are weekly prizes worth $300 and a grand prize of $1,000 of Downtown Dollars good at most stores. The contest runs to December 31.
  • The Coldwater Studio Tour isn’t until next June, but if you are a n artists and want to participate visit their website to find out how to apply.
  • Couchiching Craft Brewing has Sam Johnston in Dec. 8; Cassie DaSilva plays December 10; Ronnie Douglas is in Dec.16 and Run With The Kittens are back December 17;  Get tickets online for New Year’s Eve with Rocksteady playing; Reay is playing January 28, it’s a fundraiser for the Sharing Place Good Bank and tickets are $15… Mark Stewart plays the Grape and Olive Thursdays from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. … Quayle’s Brewery has Sammy playing December 3; Cam Galloway is in December 4; Jakob Pearce plays December 8 and Darius McCoy December 9… stop into the  Hog N’ Penny to get tickets for their New Year’s Eve party… Washago Lions Jam Night is happening December 14 at the Lions Hall from 7 to 10 p.m. – and December 21 from 7 to 11 p.m.

(Images and Photos Supplied)

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